Timelapse: Women in Music


Allie Papernick

The widely accepted first female musician on record is Kassia of Constantinople. Born in 805, Kassia’s primary contribution to the music world included composing Byzantine music. Following Kassia, we have seen so many notable female artists who have marked the industry in many ways.

The Jazz Age was filled with many ups and downs, and music during the time reflected the revolutionary environment. Key female artists were able to thrive during this time.

Billie Holiday:​ Billie Holiday began her career performing in small clubs before joining the Count Basie Band. Holiday’s songs, in particular “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child”, remain some of the most popular Jazz songs around the world.
Blanche Calloway:​ From Baltimore, MD, Blanche Calloway was a singer and composer. Before going as a solo act, Calloway recorded with Reuben Reeves and his River Boys. Further along in her career, Blanche created Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys and became the first Black woman to lead an all-male orchestra.

Ella Fitzgerald:​ Ella Fitzgerald is regarded as the “First Lady of Song”. Her first public performance occurred at an Amateur night, and from there her popularity grew. Fitzgerald toured with notable figures such as Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong and eventually came into her own. She has been awarded 13 Grammys and sold over 40 million albums worldwide.

We now flash forward to the 1980s, where some highlights and lowlights include Reagan economics, the development of technology, the Cold War, and, of course, the ladies of the 80s.

Annie Lennox: ​Born in Scotland, Annie Lennox’s audience has expanded throughout time. Her first solo album, entitled “Diva”, showcased in 1992 and sold over two million copies in the US.Madonna:​ Madonna’s solo career began in 1981 when she broke into unprecedented territory for female artists. With a focus on sexuality and the avant-garde, Madonna’s popular songs include “La Isla Bonita”, “Like a Virgin”, “Material Girl”, and “Hung Up”.

Tina Turner:​ A Tenassee native, Tina Turner has been called the Queen of Rock and Roll. Turner’s first #1 single was “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and from there, her audience exploded. Along with music, Turner has released autobiographical books and films.

The 00s introduced several turning points–impactful national events 9/11, the Iraq war, and cultural developments in music and media.

Alicia Keys:​ Alicia Keys began learning about music in her piano lessons at age 7. In between her early start and her current record deals, Grammys, and acting, Keys developed into one of the most popular stars. Keys’ first album, “Songs in A Minor” was released in 2001, and from there audiences have loved singing along to “Fallin”, “If I Aint Got You”, “Empire State of Mind” and many more of Keys’ classics.

Beyonce:​ Houston’s legacy, Beyonce is one of the most successful female artists of the century. Beginning with Destiny’s Child and then going solo, Beyonce’s music has been inspired by Missy Elliot, Michael Jackson, and her own family’s works.

Spice Girls:​ English girl band Spice Girls consists of Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Victoria Adams, Melanie Chisholm, and Emma Bunton. Each assigned a different personality by media networks, Spice Girls became an inspiration for all girl groups (musical and non-musical alike) to follow.

Listen to music by women throughout time here: