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Best Jazz Singers Female of All Time

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13 Nov, 2023

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Female singers have redefined jazz throughout its history. From Billie Holiday’s sensuous tones to Ella Fitzgerald’s bright improvisations, these Jazz Queens have shaped music. Explore the Top 10 Jazz Female Singers who set the path for future generations and enriched jazz.

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Jazz female singers

Jazz, a genre celebrated for its intricate rhythms and emotional expression, has been enriched by the contributions of numerous talented female singers. These women have shaped jazz and left an enduring impact on the global music scene.

Jazz can be traced to African–American communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although male musicians dominated the scene, classic female jazz singers began to shine through with their distinct styles, captivating voices, and innovative approaches to the genre.

These women navigated the challenges of their time, breaking through racial and gender barriers to make significant contributions to jazz. Jazz female singers have exhibited remarkable versatility and creativity, from early blues-inspired sounds to contemporary fusions with other genres.

Top 10 jazz female singers

Ella Fitzgerald

 Ella Fitzgerald
An image credit example from a Britannica
  • Birth: April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book” (1956).
  • Famous songs: Summertime, A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Cheek to Cheek
  • Singing style: Known as the “First Lady of Song” and the “Queen of Jazz, Ella was also recognized for her impeccable phrasing and a vocal range that spanned three octaves. Her voice was clear, pure, and expressive. Her scat singing was legendary, and her collaborations with jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong are timeless.
  • Awards and achievements: Winner of 13 Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. The first African-American woman to secure a Grammy, she also obtained the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday
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  • Birth: April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
  • Nationality: American
  • Debut album: “Billie Holiday Sings” (1945).
  • Famous songs: Strange Fruit, God Bless the Child, Lady Sings the Blues.
  • Singing style: Often referred to as “Lady Day,” Billie’s expressive and soulful voice made her a jazz icon. A unique phrasing and emotional intensity characterize her. Her voice had a haunting quality that made her one of the most distinctive voices in jazz.
  • Awards and achievements: Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, she was considered one of the greatest jazz vocalists ever.

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan
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  • Birth: March 27, 1924, in Newark, New Jersey, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Hot Jazz” (1946).
  • Classic songs: Lullaby of Birdland, Misty, Whatever Lola Wants
  • Singing style: With a three-octave vocal range, Sarah Vaughan’s voice was a force of nature. Her versatility allowed her to transition between jazz, pop, and opera effortlessly.
  • Awards and achievements: Winner of four Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, she was nicknamed “The Divine One” for her exceptional vocal talents.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone
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  • Birth: February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Little Girl Blue” (1958).
  • Classic songs: Feeling Good, I Put a Spell on You, Sinnerman.
  • Singing style: Merging jazz with blues, soul, and classical music elements, her deep, husky voice was powerful and passionate, and her piano skills were equally remarkable.
  • Awards and achievements: Nina was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her classic song “I Put a Spell on You.”

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Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee
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  • Birth: May 26, 1920, in Jamestown, North Dakota, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Rendezvous with Peggy Lee” (1948).
  • Classic songs: Fever, Is That All There Is? Why Don’t You Do Right?
  • Singing style: Known for her sultry voice and smooth delivery, she was not only a singer but also a talented songwriter and excelled in various genres, including jazz, blues, and pop.
  • Awards and achievements: Received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Her song “Fever” remains a classic and earned her critical acclaim.

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington
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  • Birth: August 29, 1924, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Dinah Washington Sings Fats Waller” (1957).
  • Classic songs: What a Diff’rence a Day Makes, Unforgettable, This Bitter Earth.
  • Singing style: Commanding and versatile voice that spanned jazz, blues, and R&B, she is known for conveying deep emotions through her singing.
  • Awards and achievements: Placed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance.

Norah Jones

Norah Jones
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  • Birth: March 30, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Come Away with Me” (2002).
  • Classic songs: Don’t Know Why, Come Away with Me, Turn Me On.
  • Singing style: Blending jazz with folk, country, and pop elements, she has a voice that is soulful and soothing, with a distinct jazz influence.
  • Awards and achievements: Winner of nine Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for “Come Away with Me.”

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith
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  • Birth: April 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: Known for individual tracks rather than full albums. “Downhearted Blues” (1923) was one of her early hits.
  • Classic songs: Downhearted Blues, St. Louis Blues, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.
  • Singing style: One of the most influential blues singers of the 1920s and 1930s, her powerful, deep voice conveyed various emotions.
  • Awards and achievements: A pioneer in blues music, she is often called the “Empress of the Blues.”

Carmen McRae

Carmen McRae
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  • Birth: April 8, 1920, in Harlem, New York, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Carmen McRae” (1955).
  • Classic songs: Skyliner, The Man I Love, Miss Brown to You.
  • Singing style: She is known for her distinctive voice, witty phrasing, and ability to interpret lyrics in a unique manner. A skilled pianist, she had a long and successful career, earning acclaim for her albums and live performances.
  • Awards and achievements: She was nominated for several Grammy Awards and revered for her contributions to vocal jazz.

Anita O’Day

Anita O’Day
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  • Birth: October 18, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
  • Nationality: American.
  • Debut album: “Songs by Anita O’Day” (1952).
  • Classic songs: Sweet Georgia Brown, Honeysuckle Rose, Tea for Two.
  • Singing style: Anita O’Day was a true jazz improviser and renowned for her bold and innovative approach to jazz singing. She is a master of scat singing and is known for her sense of rhythm and adventurous spirit.
  • Awards and achievements: Received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts; she is known for her influential contributions to jazz.

FAQs

Who are the top 10 jazz female singers?

Here are the famous female jazz singers:

  1. Ella Fitzgerald
  2. Billie Holiday
  3. Sarah Vaughan
  4. Nina Simone
  5. Peggy Lee
  6. Dinah Washington
  7. Norah Jones
  8. Bessie Smith
  9. Carmen McRae
  10. Anita O’Day

Who was the female jazz singer of the 30s?

During the 1930s, Billie Holiday, also known as “Lady Day,” was a prominent and influential female jazz singer. Some of her notable recordings from the 1930s include classics like “Summertime” and “Strange Fruit.”

Who is the famous queen of jazz?

Ella Fitzgerald is often referred to as the “Queen of Jazz.” She earned this title due to her immense contributions to jazz music, extraordinary vocal talent, and significant influence on the genre.

Who was the greatest female jazz singer?

Often referred to as the “First Lady of Song” or the “Queen of Jazz,” Ella Fitzgerald is one of history’s greatest female jazz singers. Her remarkable voice and versatility over five decades in the industry have earned her acclaim from critics and audiences.

Who is the empress of jazz?

The title “Empress of Jazz” has been associated with Bessie Smith, a pioneering and influential blues singer. Bessie Smith is often called the “Empress of the Blues” for her significant contributions to the blues genre. Her powerful and expressive voice and ability to convey emotions made her a trailblazer in the early evolution of American blues and jazz.

What language does Anita O'Day sing in?

As an American jazz singer, Anita O’Day primarily sang in English.

What language does Billie Holiday sing in?

Billie Holiday, an American jazz and blues singer, primarily sang in English.

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