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Best 70s Female Singers: 10 Voices That Continue To Inspire
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List & Guides

Best 70s Female Singers: 10 Voices That Continue To Inspire

From pure pop sirens to emotive pathfinders, the best 70s female singers continue to influence new generations of stars.

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The 70s is an era that some would rather forget. With a downturn for many Western economies, and the ongoing oil crisis kickstarting the decade, many see it as a rather bleak period in history. But for popular culture there was a real boom in music, cinema and even gaming, as new technologies became both more affordable and more mainstream. If asked to name an iconic artist from the 70s, you may immediately gravitate towards David Bowie’s futuristic reconfiguration of pop culture’s rulebook, Led Zeppelin’s excess-all-areas assault on the mainstream, or Pink Floyd’s transcendence of the laws of time and space… But any Spotify playlist can confirm that the decade delivered some incredible male artists, so take a moment to think about their female counterparts. Who springs to mind? We’ve left no stone unturned in unearthing ten shining gems for our list of the best 70s female singers.

Best 70s Female Singers: 10 Voices That Continue To Inspire

10: Olivia Newton-John

Though many associate Olivia Newton-John with the 1978 blockbuster musical Grease, the British-Australian star had already positioned herself as a popular singer. Prior to her big-screen breakthrough, Newton-John had released eight studio albums and represented the UK at 1974’s Eurovision Song Contest. Her entry, Long Live Love, only came fourth, but the single reached No.9 and No.11 in the Irish and UK charts, respectively.

Must hear: Hopelessly Devoted To You

9: Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog

It would be impossible to compile a list of the best 70s female singers without including ABBA’s frontwomen (sorry, Björn and Benny – we know you were important too). The Swedish four-piece were one of the most successful artists of the 70s and early 80s, topping charts around the world with their disco-driven hits (they even contributed to Olivia Newton-John’s Eurovision loss, thanks to the runaway success of Waterloo). Their position within pop culture remains secure today, with the Mamma Mia! franchise providing evidence of the band’s continued impact on pop culture. They may not be the most technically perfect singers, but Lyngstad and Fältskog’s voices epitomise the sound of the 70s as much as their platform boots and blue-velvet flares define its fashions.

Must hear: Dancing Queen

8: Carly Simon

Perhaps best-known to some audiences for the James Bond theme song Nobody Does It Better, from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, Carly Simon had scored her first major hit five years earlier, in the form of You’re So Vain. The single, which hit the top of the US charts in 1972, gave rise to one of music’s best-kept secrets, as Simon refused to name who she was singing about. Her earliest works contain touches of whimsical soul, with whistling harmonies scattered across her first three albums, but the release of Nobody Does It Better rocketed up the charts worldwide, earning Simon a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The iconic song was later included in AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Songs list in 2004.

Must hear
: It Was So Easy

7: Joni Mitchell

Opening the 70s with her third album, Ladies Of The Canyon, Joni Mitchell went on to dominate the decade’s singer-songwriter scene with a seamless blend of folk, pop, jazz and soft-rock which enchanted audiences on their way down from the hippie highs of the late 60s. Big Yellow Taxi, the only single from Ladies Of The Canyon, remains one of her best-known works, and was one of the first songs to raise awareness of the damage being done to our natural world (“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”). Decades later, Mitchell’s legacy continues to influence a new generation of female singers, with Lana Del Rey covering For Free as part of her Norman Fucking Rockwell! tour.

Must hear: Big Yellow Taxi

6: Debbie Harry

Spearheading the new-wave era in the latter half of the decade, Debbie Harry’s voice remains one of the most distinctive in the genre. With a range that any artist would be envious of, and enough stage presence to win over even the most reluctant gig attendees, Harry was the full package: she used her voice to its fullest, from sultry highs (Heart Of Glass’ verses) right through to grizzly lower ranges (One Way Or Another’s bridge). Powerful and unapologetic both on and off stage, Harry well deserves her a place on this list of the best 70s female singers.

Must hear: Atomic

5: Donna Summer

As the 70s began to deliver the initial wave of disco divas, Donna Summer stepped forward to claim her title of “Queen Of The Disco”. Moving away from the more traditional ballads she had released in the early part of her career, I Feel Love, lifted from her 1977 album I Remember Yesterday, adopted some of the newer production techniques emerging at the end of the decade. Using a Moog Modular 3P for the majority of the track, producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte laid the blueprint for the futuristic sound of 80s synth-pop.

Must hear: I Feel Love

4: Carole King

An unlikely icon, Carole King’s influence cannot be overstated. With over 100 credits on singles that made the Billboard Hot 100, she dominated the charts throughout the latter half of the 20th century. King’s collaborative nature also saw her work with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell and BB King, as well as pairing up with James Taylor to produce her career-defining album, Tapestry. King was the mastermind behind The Shirelles’ 1960 hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow, and included her own version on Tapestry, alongside You’ve Got A Friend and a cover of Aretha Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman. A legendary songwriter.

Must hear: I Feel The Earth Move

3: Barbra Streisand

With a career spanning over seven incredible decades, Barbra Streisand is one of the industry’s best-loved artists. Her early beginnings working in some of New York City’s clubs and theatres allowed her to set her sights on the big time; her vocal abilities became a valuable weapon in her armoury, seeing her take on the role of Funny Girl’s Fanny Brice in 1968, aged just 22. By the end of the following decade, Streisand had released 21 albums and collaborated with other huge artists, among them Donna Summer, Neil Diamond and soul music pioneer Ray Charles. Her place as one of the best 70s female singers was secured long ago, but even now, in the 21st century, Streisand’s elegant voice commands attention whenever it is heard.

Must hear: The Way We Were

2: Diana Ross

Ask anyone to name a female singer from the 70s and they will likely come up with Diana Ross. Her earlier success with Motown group The Supremes laid the foundations for a renowned solo career that earns her such a high position on this list. The 70s saw her release iconic hits such as Touch Me In The Morning and the stunningly sombre UK chart-topping ballad I’m Still Waiting. She also released a duets album with Marvin Gaye in 1973, scoring one of her biggest chart successes in the process. Ross’ solo success continued into the next decade, with her mononymously titled 1980 album, produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards, boasting disco hits such as Upside Down and I’m Coming Out. The 70s simply allowed her to get that party started.

Must hear: The Last Time I Saw Him

1: Stevie Nicks

Perhaps one of the most prominent voices of the decade, Stevie Nicks’ impact on music remains palpable today. Fleetwood Mac’s history is inseparable from that of Nicks and her former romantic partner and bandmate, guitarist/songwriter Lindsay Buckingham’s, but without this tumultuous relationship, the group’s landmark 1977 album, Rumours, may never have been created. Subsequent live performances showed Nicks in an entirely new light: a powerhouse vocalist who delivered every single time – and did so with such emotion that you felt her heartbreak with her. As a solo artist in the 80s, Nicks proved she was just as effective on her own, with the best Stevie Nicks songs further asserting her as a force of nature. Topping our list of the best 70s female musicians, Nicks truly stands the test of time.

Must hear: Edge Of Seventeen

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