A few days ago, I came across a blog post by Dale that was about Joni Mitchell. She had chosen Joni as one of four female artists that she’d place on a “Mt. Rushmore” type monument to female musical artists. I can see that – she would deserve such a spot! I looked at Dales other posts and saw Carole King (great song writer and performer), Madonna (helped revolutionize pop music – several times) and Dolly Parton (a very talented lady and all-around good person and giving person).
Chatting with Dale in the comments, I wondered out loud who I’d chose for a female musical artist Mt. Rushmore.
It’s not an easy question!
How do you rank artists? By ones that are my personal favorites? By those with the biggest impact? Those who had/have the greatest talent? The most original? Those who charted over a period of decades? Some combination?
So I have thought about it and have my own list. It wasn’t easy. Here are the top four female music artists (pop/rock/etc, not classical – that would be a whole different list!!) that I would place on my Mt. Rushmore. Well, sort of…
Top talent would go to Ella Fitzgerald, the best jazz singer ever. She was contemporary with Bing and Frank, but had more talent than the two of them combined. Hmm. Can I go back that far? If not, runner up, for me, in this spot would be Aretha Franklin.
Ella – Christmas music (Click here if you don’t see the video below)
And Aretha doing Christmas music (click here if you don’t see the video below) (oops, this can’t be inbedded – go to Youtube to watch)
Yes, I am cheating by putting two people in the number one spot… But Aretha is only here if you are looking for post-1960 influence ;)
For impact and being a true pioneer, I will chose Wendy Carlos, the mother of popular electronic music. Switched on Bach started a revolution. And there were soundtracks to films such as Tron and Clockwork Orange. Odd that a field so dominated by men, more than most others in music, there were so many female pioneers. Since there are no videos on YouTube of Wendy, I am going to pick Susan Ciani, another electronic music pioneer. If you are into modular synths, there is the East Coast style, like Wendy, Berlin style, like the band Tangerine Dream, and West Coast, and Susan is one of the biggest West Coast influences. After almost 50 years, she is still performing revolutionary music.
To me it gets tough after this, but I am going to go way, way out and choose Laurie Anderson. Who? She was an avant-garde visual who used her violin in her situational art displays. Later she wrote a long installation and set it to music. The rest is music history and she worked with some huge names. You may not have heard of her, but the artists you like most likely have, and, if not, the artists that influenced them were influenced by Laurie. That being said, she was chosen as a representative of the most original artist, though she is a personal favorite – she is in my top ten favorite artists, male, female, band, etc..
Wow, so who’s next? Do I go with classics, like Tina Turner or Janis Joplin? How about an artist that seems to last forever, like Cher or Madonna? Maybe a New Wave or Punk pioneer, like Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, the ladies of the B-52s or Annie Lennox? (All in my top 20 all around artists!). There are, of course, the ladies that Dale chose, all deserving, particularly (to me) Joni Mitchell. So, who?
Might seem odd, but I am split between two – Kate Bush is a highly influential talent and is super talented. I really like a lot her music. But there are three sisters who formed a band that are in my top five favorite artists of all time.
OK, this is an odd chose, but I will give it to the Roche sisters, Maggie, Terre and Suzzy Roche. Their band, The Roches, is perhaps the most overlooked, underappreciated band in music history. Robert Fripp was a believer and produced their first album. He came back and produced the third album, bringing his band, King Crimson, as the backup band (this was when Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Bill Bruford just reformed the band)! The sisters were all talented and had voices that reached from low baritone to high soprano range. They wrote most of their music, and used a lot of very tight harmonies. They also did some fantastic arrangements of other music, with their Hallelujah Chorus being used in many places – it has become the standard three voice version. Every year I start the Christmas season by playing their Christmas album, We Three Kings. It is my favorite Christmas album, and is mostly arrangements of classic music, but they have a few originals as well.
I’ll leave you with The Roches singing one of their Christmas songs, Star of Wonder.