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Black Queens of Song: List of Black Female Singers Who Rule the Airwaves

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Black Female Singers
15 Jan, 2024

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With their amazing vocals, catchy tunes, and social messages, black female singers have put out amazing songs that have dominated music charts.

We celebrate and explore the lives and careers of 10 iconic black female singers and chronicle their backgrounds, struggles, subsequent achievements, and legacy. We discuss the songs and albums that made them famous and discover awards and honors they received for their musical contributions.

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Greatest black female singers

Black women singers have played a pivotal role in shaping the music industry across genres. Black female singers first started in the 1920s with Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith recording and popularizing the blues, a form of music that expressed the hardships and joys of African-American life.

Music has since evolved considerably over the decades. In the 2010s and 2020s, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Solange, Janelle Monáe, Lizzo, and others have continued to innovate and excel in various genres of music, from dancehall and rap to indie and pop. From jazz and R&B to pop and hip-hop, these top black female singers have dominated charts, broken barriers, and paved the way for future generations.

Top 10 famous black female singers

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston
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  • Birth date and place: Whitney Houston, an iconic American singer and actress, was born on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey.
  • Famous albums and songs: Houston’s self-titled debut album, released in 1985, catapulted her to international fame with hits such as “Saving All My Love for You” and “How Will I Know.” The 1987 album “Whitney” solidified her status as a music powerhouse, featuring iconic tracks such as “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.” The soundtrack of “The Bodyguard,” released in 1992, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, featuring the timeless ballad “I Will Always Love You.”
  • Awards: Houston won six Grammy Awards, including the prestigious “Album of the Year” for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack. Houston also won numerous American Music Awards, MTV Movie + TV Awards, and Billboard Music Awards. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020 immortalized her impact on the music industry.
  • Life journey: Whitney’s family had a musical background. Whitney’s mother was gospel singer Cissy Houston. Whitney’s destiny in the world of music seemed preordained. From her early days singing in the church choir to becoming one of the best-selling music artists of all time, Houston’s ascent to stardom was meteoric.

    However, her personal struggles with drugs and problematic relationships cast a shadow over her career in later years. Despite these challenges, Whitney Houston’s enduring vocal prowess ensured she connected with audiences emotionally. Her tragic passing in 2012 marked the end of an era.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin
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  • Birth date and place: Aretha Franklin, often hailed as the “Queen of Soul,” was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Famous albums and songs: Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough came in the 1960s with albums such as “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” (1967) and “Lady Soul” (1968). Iconic songs such as “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Think” became anthems of the civil rights and feminist movements. The live album “Amazing Grace” (1972), recorded in a Los Angeles church, is regarded as one of the greatest gospel albums ever.
  • Awards: Aretha won 18 Grammy Awards, including the first-ever Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1968 for “Respect.” Franklin received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, cementing her status as a cultural icon.
  • Life journey: Born into a family deeply rooted in gospel music, Franklin’s early exposure to the church choir laid the foundation for her extraordinary singing career. She lost her mother at an early age. Franklin’s powerful and soulful voice and piano skills made her a force in the music industry. Despite personal struggles, including failed marriages and health issues, Franklin’s resilience and musical genius prevailed. Her impact on the civil rights movement and her contributions to soul, gospel, and R&B music earned her the utmost respect and admiration. Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16, 2018, leaving behind a legacy that inspires and uplifts generations of music lovers.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey
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  • Birth date and place: Mariah Carey, one of the most celebrated and successful vocalists of her generation, was born on March 27, 1969, in Huntington, New York.
  • Famous albums and songs: Her self-titled debut album, released in 1990, introduced the world to her incredible five-octave vocal range. Iconic albums such as “Music Box” (1993), “Daydream” (1995), and “The Emancipation of Mimi” (2005) showcased her versatility and songwriting prowess. Hits such as “Vision of Love,” “Hero,” “Fantasy,” and “We Belong Together” have become anthems that define Mariah’s legacy.
  • Awards: Mariah won five Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 1991. Her single “We Belong Together” earned three Grammy Awards in 2006. Beyond Grammys, Carey has received Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards, and a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
  • Life journey: From facing early challenges in her career to becoming one of the best-selling music artists globally, Mariah’s story is one of triumph. Her ability to navigate musical genres, from pop and R&B to hip-hop and gospel, showcases her adaptability and innovation. While her life has seen its share of ups and downs, Mariah’s focus on her artistry and dedication to her fans have sustained throughout her career.

Etta James

Etta James
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  • Birth date and place: Etta James, the legendary blues and R&B singer, was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, California.
  • Famous albums and songs: Etta’s debut album, “At Last!” (1961), remains an iconic record, featuring the timeless ballad “At Last.” Her other famous albums include “Tell Mama” (1968) and “Burnin’ Down the House” (2002). Etta’s repertoire includes hits such as “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Tell Mama,” and “Sunday Kind of Love,” each showcasing her powerful and versatile vocal delivery.
  • Awards: Etta won six Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award 2003. Her signature song, “At Last,” got her into the Grammy Hall of Fame. James was also honored with various Blues Music Awards and received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
  • Life journey: Etta grew up in a troublesome environment and found solace and inspiration in gospel music during her early years. Battling drug addiction and incarceration, Etta faced challenges that shaped her personal life. However, her artistry and powerful voice remained a constant force. James’ ability to seamlessly navigate various genres, including blues, R&B, gospel, and rock, solidified her status as a versatile and influential artist. Despite facing health issues later in life, Etta James continued to perform and record music until her passing on January 20, 2012.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner
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  • Birth date and place: Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee.
  • Famous albums and songs: Tina’s breakthrough came with Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep – Mountain High” (1966). However, her solo career soared with the release of “Private Dancer” (1984), featuring the chart-topping “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and “Private Dancer.” The album marked a powerful comeback, solidifying Turner’s status as a solo superstar. Other hits such as “Simply the Best” and “Proud Mary” showcased her dynamic vocal range.
  • Awards: Tina won multiple Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “What’s Love Got to Do with It” in 1985. Tina received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2005 and was invited into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • Life journey: Tina’s early years with Ike Turner were marked by professional success but personal turmoil. Overcoming an abusive marriage and financial hardships, Tina’s decision to break away and forge her solo path is remarkable. Her comeback in the 1980s not only showcased that her incredible talent had not diminished but experienced a resurgence. Tina’s autobiography, “I, Tina,” opened a window into her life, inspiring those facing adversity.

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Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald
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  • Birth date and place: Ella Fitzgerald, often called the “First Lady of Song” and the “Queen of Jazz,” was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia.
  • Famous albums and songs: Ella’s collaborations with legendary musicians such as Louis Armstrong produced unforgettable albums such as “Ella and Louis” (1956). Ella’s “The Cole Porter Songbook” and “The Songbook Sessions” showcased her interpretative prowess and mastery of the Great American Songbook. Iconic songs include “Summertime,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and her scat singing masterpiece, “How High the Moon.”
  • Awards: Ella won 13 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. Fitzgerald received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and was honored with the National Medal of Arts in 1987. She was recognized for her contributions to jazz with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ highest honor in 1979.
  • Life journey: Ella grew up in Yonkers, New York. Coming from a troubled childhood, she subsequently became one of the most revered jazz vocalists. Growing up in challenging circumstances, she found solace in dancing and singing. Discovered at a talent show in 1934, Ella soon became a vocal powerhouse.

    She performed at top venues, breaking down racial barriers. Ella’s impact on jazz and popular music is immeasurable, and her career spanned over six decades. Her warm and melodic voice continues to captivate audiences. Ella is a timeless and enduring figure in the history of American music.

Chaka Khan

Chaka khan
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  • Birth date and place: Chaka Khan, born Yvette Marie Stevens, came into the world on March 23, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Famous albums and songs: Chaka’s breakthrough came as the lead singer of the band Rufus with hits such as “Tell Me Something Good.” Her solo career skyrocketed with the release of the album “Chaka” (1978), featuring the anthem “I’m Every Woman.” Other notable albums include “Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan” (1975) and “What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me” (1981). Iconic songs such as “Ain’t Nobody,” “Through the Fire,” and “I Feel for You” have become timeless classics.
  • Awards: Chaka won 10 Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Vocal Performance for “Ain’t Nobody” in 1984. Khan received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, which honored her contributions to the music industry. In 2019, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Rufus.
  • Life journey: Raised in a creative and diverse environment, Chaka Khan’s early exposure to music set the stage for her incredible career. From her early years as a member of the funk band Rufus to her solo success, Khan’s stage presence and vocal prowess set her apart. Chaka Khan’s discography is a fusion of funk, soul, and R&B, showcasing her powerful voice. Battling personal struggles, including drug abuse, Khan overcame adversity and emerged as a symbol of strength.

Diana Ross

Diana Ross
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  • Birth date and place: Diana Ross, the iconic American singer and actress, was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up in the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, Ross’s early exposure to gospel music in church laid the foundation for her extraordinary career.
  • Famous albums and songs: Diana’s discography spans decades and encompasses various musical styles. As the lead singer of The Supremes, hits like “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” became Motown classics. Her solo career took off with albums like “Diana” (1980), featuring the chart-topping “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out.” The timeless ballad “Endless Love,” a duet with Lionel Richie, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” are among her most beloved songs.
  • Awards: As a member of The Supremes, Diana achieved widespread success. Her solo career earned her several Grammy Award nominations, culminating in a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Beyond music, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 for contributing to the cultural landscape.
  • Life journey: Rising from humble beginnings, Diana became an inspiration, breaking racial and gender barriers in the entertainment industry. Her transition from The Supremes to a solo career marked a pivotal moment in music history. Despite facing challenges, Diana maintained her grace and poise, earning her the title of “The Boss.” Her influence extends beyond music, with successful forays into acting and a lasting impact on popular culture. Diana remains an enduring symbol of elegance and talent, and her legacy inspires generations of artists.

Beyoncé

Beyoncē
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  • Birth date and place: Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born on September 4, 1981, in Houston, Texas.
  • Famous albums and songs: Beyoncé’s discography is a testament to her versatility and innovation in the music industry. As a member of Destiny’s Child, hits such as “Say My Name” and “Survivor” propelled her to fame. Her solo career took off with the release of “Dangerously in Love” (2003), featuring chart-toppers like “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy.” Other iconic albums include “B’Day” (2006), “I Am… Sasha Fierce” (2008), and the surprise visual album “Beyoncé” (2013). Memorable songs such as “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” “Formation,” and “Halo” have solidified her status as a global pop icon.
  • Awards: Beyoncé’s has won 32 Grammy Awards, a record for the most Grammy wins by a female artist. She has also won MTV Video Music Awards and BET Awards. In 2021, she made history by becoming the most-awarded singer in the NAACP Image Awards. Beyoncé received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and the Billboard Millennium Award for her significant contributions to the music industry.
  • Life journey: She was raised in a musical family, which resulted in early exposure to performing arts. From her early days in the girl group Destiny’s Child to her solo success, she has consistently pushed boundaries and redefined the industry’s standards. Her influence extends beyond music with successful acting, entrepreneurship, and activism ventures. Beyoncé’s visual albums, such as “Lemonade” (2016) and “Black Is King” (2020), showcase her commitment to storytelling and social issues. As a cultural icon, she uses her platform to advocate for equality, empowerment, and justice.

Rihanna

Rihanna
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  • Birth date and place: Robyn Rihanna Fenty, known globally as Rihanna, was born on February 20, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados.
  • Famous albums and songs: Rihanna’s discography is a fusion of pop, R&B, and reggae, showcasing her ability to reinvent her sound. Her debut album, “Music of the Sun” (2005), introduced her to the world with hits like “Pon de Replay.” Subsequent albums such as “Good Girl Gone Bad” (2007) featured chart-toppers like “Umbrella” and “Don’t Stop the Music.” “Rated R” (2009), “Loud” (2010), and “Anti” (2016) demonstrated her versatility with hits such as “Rude Boy,” “Only Girl (In the World),” and “Work.”
  • Awards: Rihanna has won multiple Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and Billboard Music Awards. In 2016, she received the MTV Video Vanguard Award for outstanding music and pop culture contributions. Beyond music, Rihanna’s influence extends to the fashion and beauty industries, with her Fenty brand garnering acclaim for its inclusivity and innovation.
  • Life journey: Discovered in Barbados as a teenager, Rihanna quickly rose to prominence with her distinctive voice and captivating stage presence. Beyond music, Rihanna’s success in the fashion and beauty industries, with Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty, showcases her business understanding. Raised in a modest household, her journey from the Caribbean to international superstardom is a testament to her talent and resilience. Rihanna’s journey from a small island in the Caribbean to global superstardom is an inspiration, as is her ability to evolve continually in the entertainment world.

FAQs

Who are the Top 10 black female singers?

  • Whitney Houston
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Mariah Carey
  • Etta James
  • Tina Turner
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Chaka Khan
  • Diana Ross
  • Beyoncē
  • Rihanna

Who is the most successful black female singer?

Aretha Franklin is the most successful black female singer of all time. With her captivating voice, Arethra enthralled audiences worldwide and gained critical acclaim as well as success as a solo black female singer.

Who has the most powerful female voice?

Aretha Franklin has the most powerful female voice. Following her 1967 single “Respect,” she established herself as the Queen of Soul and the greatest ever pop, rock, and soul vocalist of all time.

What black female singer has 10 Grammys?

Among female African-American singers, Beyonce is the only black female singer with more than 10 Grammys. As of 2023, she has 32 Grammys.

Who was the first famous black female singer?

Mamie Smith became the first black artist to make a vocal blues recording in 1920. She is considered a pioneer.

Who was the most famous African-American singer?

Whitney Houston, often referred to as “The Voice,” is the most famous African-American singer with over 220 million records sold worldwide. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) deemed Houston the best-selling female artist of the 20th century in the R&B genre.

How did Aretha Franklin earn the title "Queen of Soul"?

Aretha Franklin earned the title “Queen of Soul” through her unparalleled talent and powerful voice to infuse emotion and passion into her performances. Her iconic hits like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Think” solidified her status as the Queen of Soul, and her influence resonates to this day.

What are some notable songs by Mariah Carey?

Mariah Carey has an impressive catalog of hits spanning several decades. Some of her notable songs include:

  1. “Heartbreaker” (1999)
  2. “We Belong Together” (2005)
  3. “Touch My Body” (2008)
  4. “Obsessed” (2009)
  5. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994) – a holiday classic.

What are some notable achievements of Whitney Houston?

Whitney Houston had a remarkable career with numerous achievements. Here are some notable highlights:

  1. Record-breaking albums: Her debut album, “Whitney Houston” (1985), became the best-selling debut album by a female artist then.
  2. Grammy awards: Whitney Houston won numerous Grammy Awards, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “I Will Always Love You” and Album of the Year for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack.
  3. Acting career: In addition to her music career, Houston had a successful acting career with notable roles in films like “The Bodyguard” (1992), “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), and “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996).

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