Mt. Rushmore of Female Musical Artists

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.

(Click here if you don’t see the video below)

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.. 

(Click here if you don’t see the video below)

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.

(Click here if you don’t see the video below)

24 thoughts on “Mt. Rushmore of Female Musical Artists

  1. Resa

    Very interesting choices, Trent!
    I find it amusing that you put 2 in the first spot, although I admit they are both powerhouses when it came to singing. Aretha is one of my steady choices when working on an Art Gown. Janis is my #1 I listen to.
    The Roches are amazing and I agree that they are under valued.
    OMG love King Crimson! Do they go anywhere?
    I really enjoyed your take on Mt. Music Rushmore!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks, Resa! I wasn’t sure if Dale had a cut off year, and since she did, Ella would not have made the cut, so Aretha it is :) I can imagine you using her music as you do the art gowns – she would add the perfect amount of attitude.
      The Roches are totally underappreciated. Glad you like them.
      I’m very much a prog person, so King Crimson is at the top of my list. This year my secret pleasure has been following Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox doing totally silly lockdown videos.

      Like

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    2. trentpmcd Post author

      Oh, reminds me – you weren’t in New Hampshire recently, were you? Two ladies (I didn’t get names, just a generic “From Canada”), did a quick photo shoot with the model running barefoot down Main Street (November!) in an exotic gown with the 12 foot train (3 m?) billowing in the wind behind her. Someone posted a photo of the artist/designer standing in the middle of the street photographing the model as she ran by. Couldn’t see the artist’s face in the photo. Anyway, seeing the photo reminded me of you and your art gowns.

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  2. Pingback: The Rushmore Thing – A Surprise Result | A Dalectable Life

  3. Prior...

    Hi Trent
    It was nice to read your choices and I followed some of Dale’s Rushmore posts and Marc’s too

    And it was njce but to be honest – I was (and am) getting a little tired of music posts on some of the WP blogs I follow – not too bad but a little while in early December I was getting crabby and thought it felt like YouTube – lol
    Anyhow – combing back to finish the videos here because I do like learning about new artists and if these are your Rushmore choices that says a lot

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Sometimes blogs can get a bit too much like a persons YouTube playlist, but it was a fun challenge. Actually, it was a very difficult challenge! If you don’t know the Roches, look at my comment to Dale with suggested “further listening”.

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      Reply
  4. Dale

    I am so glad you followed through, Trent! This is brilliant! We had very strict criteria for our choices, Marc and I… the artists had to write their own material (or at the very least co-write it) which is why Aretha fell off my Mount – she didn’t write all that much. That said, I love your eclectic mix. So very cool. (I’m doing a conclusion-ish post tomorrow and think I’m going to have to do a Ladies of Country Rushmore after… and who knows if more will follow or not?)

    Now… when you mentioned The Roches (oh. em. gee… what insanely fabulous harmonies) and the baritone to high soprano, I doubted you and googled. I didn’t think women could be qualified under baritone. My bad. I should not have doubted a musician. That said, it landed me on this funny video that I had to share with you https://youtu.be/5kJWMGdJwkk

    Again, so glad you jumped in.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      That is a funny video. The Roaches may go that low for a note or two here and there, but not sounding quite that masculine… Their range does go below Tenor range, but not down to Bass (I think the woman in your video went down to the Bass range!) so that leaves Baritone – some place between Tenor and Bass. Anyway, you should listen to some of The Roches’ music – it is all very good and they should have been far more famous than they are/were (with the exception of the Christmas album, the music of the 90s isn’t as good as the first few albums).

      It was fun, but difficult! And if I couldn’t do Ella or Aretha, I’m not sure who would have gone in instead. All of the others wrote their own music, though Wendy Carlos became famous for playing other people’s music (Bach).

      Looking forward to seeing your recap and a ladies of country, if you do that.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Dale

        I thought so, too :) My goodness she went low! I will definitely be checking out your ladies some more. I truly enjoyed the little snippet you shared.

        I think the “rules” for who is worthy to be on Rushmore can be played with to best suit you ;-) We just established those ones because choosing was so difficult!.

        And yes, I will be doing the country one… ;-)

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        Reply
        1. trentpmcd Post author

          I know the music of I only know a little bit of the music of the McGarrigles and have heard some of Loudon Wainwright’s music. I think I discovered the Roches through the King Crimson connection, since KC was one of my very favorite bands, though I do see that Tony Levin played with the McGarrigles. As to the second generation Roches/Wainwright, soemthign I do need to listen to more of Lucy’s music! I’ve watched some of Suzzy’s videos with her and it is very good. I’m sure the made a great presentation on NPR.

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  5. workinacresnothours

    That’s tricky I love Aretha also Nina Simone & Tracey Chapman(fast car) oh & Yothu Yindi. Wow now my brain cant make its mind which song to be stuck singing. As far as Christmas music goes we love Bing Cosby or any of the old crooners, lol, or any of the children’s choirs that we can find, on record of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      It was tricky. I do like Nina Simone, being a piano player at heart. Tracey Chapman was good,though I only know a handful of her songs. I have to admit that I am not familiar with Yothu Yindi. But coming up with a list is super difficult! I like the “classic” Christmas songs, and besides having a Christmas CD of Bing Crosby’s music (about 25 Christmas songs he sings!), have several CDs with just classics from the 30s, 40s and 50s. But still, The Roches’ Christmas CD is my favorite. Maybe because I “discovered” it the year it was put out and it was one of the first Christmas albums that I bought.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks, Willow. Going through the artists I did think of you when I hit Annie Lennox – talking about her Christmas music with you I think you said she was one of your favorites. Happy Christmas!

      Like

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