In December 2015, The Telegraph U. K. compiled a list of The 60 Greatest Female Singer-Songwriters of All Time. Some of the names on it won’t surprise you. But some, you think about for a moment…and then say, “Of course!”
Joni Mitchell. Well, she’s a given.
And if we’re going to think traditional singer-songwriters from the early origins of rock, we’ll need to talk about Joan Baez and Odetta.
And even earlier. Peggy Lee found fame at a time when it was rare for a singers to write their own material.
And what about Dolly Parton…with 3,000 songs to her credit spanning more than 50 years in the music business.
Janis Joplin was on the list, too, shaking things up in the male-dominated world of rock. If it weren’t for Janis, would we have had Bonnie Raitt? Or Stevie Nicks? Or Chrissie Hynde?
And of course, there’s Carole King. Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis made the piano a rock and roll instrument. Carole took it somewhere new and made it the vehicle for more personal songs, more introspective insights. (And so did Laura Nyro…whose name was inexplicably left out.)
I’d trace a line from those two women to other piano playing singer-songwriters such as Rickie Lee Jones and Tori Amos.
And what about women who’ve made their names with the power of their words. Poets who also sing. Patti Smith leaps to mind. And P. J. Harvey.
Some singer-songwriters on this list are there with an emphasis on the singer portion of that job description. Women who are blessed with glorious voices and use them so powerfully in their music. k. d. lang. Emmylou Harris. Aretha Franklin. Barbra Streisand.
And then there are those female singer-songwriters whose musical visions take them into unexplored sonic territory. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it perfectly when he said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Kate Bush, I’m looking at you. And you, Björk. And you, Cyndi Lauper.
So when you look at The Telegraph’s list of The 60 Greatest Female Singer-Songwriters of All Time, you're not at all surprised to see Regina Spektor’s name listed. She’s got a way with a melody. A feel for rhythm. The ability to create some stellar wordplay. Great storytelling. And enough quirkiness to keep us all on our toes. What a treat it is for Great Moments in Vinyl to be playing the music of one of the greatest!