10 Women Whose Music Shaped the World

Meet the artists who changed music forever

By Google Arts & Culture

LIFE Photo Collection

For centuries, women have been left out of the music industry, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. Despite this, there have been numerous female artists who have created music that has left undeniable legacies around the world. Let's celebrate these 10 pioneers...

Billie HolidayThe National Jazz Museum in Harlem

Billie Holiday

A jazz-influenced singer who changed pop music phrasing and tempo, Holiday overcame a very turbulent childhood to become a star in the 1930s and 40s. She died aged just 44 in 1959, winning four posthumous Grammy awards, having changed pop and jazz forever.

Nina Simone (1964-10-18) by Getty Images. Used by permission.SFJAZZ Center

Nina Simone

A singer, songwriter, and piano player whose genre-straddling hits included jazz, soul, gospel, blues, and pop hits. Nina Simone would release dozens of albums in a hugely successful career, and also have massive influence in the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.

Edith Piaf (1946) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection

Edith Piaf

Piaf was a French singer and lyricist, one of the country's most successful musical stars. Her songs were mostly autobiographical, often covering themes of sorrow and loss, all delivered in her trademark tone. Despite dying in 1963, her fame in France, and beyond, still endures.

Dolly Parton (1989) by Kevin WinterLIFE Photo Collection

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is a true country music legend. Instantly recognizable, her incredible songwriting is a testament to her talent. She has sold more than 100 million albums and recorded hits including Jolene and I Will Always Love You.

LIFE Photo Collection

Tina Turner

Known as the 'Queen of Rock'n'Roll', Tina Turner is one of just a few female artists who has made it to the very top in the male-dominated world of rock music. Originally a star in the 60s, it was her incredible 80s solo comeback that cemented her fame.

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Joni Mitchell

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell came to prominence in the mid-60s folk boom. Her innovative and distinctive style mixing jazz, folk, and rock resulted in albums such as Blue, often regarded as one of the best ever made.

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Aretha Franklin

The 'Queen of Soul', Aretha Franklin is widely regarded as one of the best vocalists ever, blessed with incredible power and musical understanding. Her run of hits in the mid 60s includes songs such as Respect and Say a Little Prayer that have become modern standards.

Record album:True Blue (1986) by Sire Records CompanyThe Strong National Museum of Play


Madonna really pushed the boundaries of pop music in terms of both style and content, and the fans loved it. Dubbed the 'Queen of Pop', she has sold over 300 million records and continues to tour and release new music.

Ella Fitzgerald (1958) by Yale JoelLIFE Photo Collection

Ella Fitzgerald

The 'First Lady of Song', Ella Fitzgerald was blessed with a voice like no other. Noted for the purity of her tone and unusual phrasing, her solo career really took off in the 1940s. She quickly established herself as a legend of jazz singing and is still hugely revered.

Kate Bush - RUNNING UP THAT HILL (HQ)Original Source: YouTube

Kate Bush

An English singer and songwriter, Bush hit the big time when she was still a teenager, when she became the first woman to have a self-written number one smash. Fiercely independent, Bush has had a massively successful and innovative subsequent career, entirely on her own terms.

Ike And Tina Turner by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection

Find more stories about women who have changed the arts and culture.

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