Women’s History Month first began in the late ‘80s as a means to acknowledge the many contributions and accomplishments made by women over the last few centuries. It also serves an important reminder of the many activists and leaders, such as Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, who fought tirelessly for American women’s right to vote. But alas, while the suffrage movement was a progressive step in the right direction, there is still so much to be done to address gender inequality in our society.
That is why this week #SoundingOFF is dedicated to celebrating and honoring some of the musical revolutionaries without a Y chromosome and the albums that continue to inspire and motivate generations of young women.
#1) Ella Fitzgerald – Songs in a Mellow Mood (1954)
Nicknamed the “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald was perhaps best known for her scat-style of singing and helped pave the way for generations of female artists. The album features Fitzgerald singing to the music of Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, among others.
#2) Janis Joplin – Pearl (1971)
It would be pretty difficult to drum up a list such as this without at least mentioning the jubilant sound of Janis Joplin. Her distinguished sound and raw power make her one of the all-time greats… unfortunately, like so many brilliant minds before her, she died at the untimely age of 27 from a heroin overdose.
#3) Donna Summer – Bad Girls (1979)
The five-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter rose to fame during the disco era of the late 1970’s and went on to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on Billboard 200 charts. Among the numerous accolades, Donna Summer would receive throughout her stoic career, her best-selling record, Bad Girls, is perhaps the most memorable.
Following the success of her sophomore album, Summer became addicted to prescription medication, which may have prompted her mental breakdown in 1979. Afterward, one of her sisters and backing vocalists took her to a church in Los Angeles where she reconnected with her faith and began the path of recovery. Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, the album has sold more than four million copies in the U.S. as of 2016.
#4) Patti Smith – Horses (1975)
They don’t call Patti Smith the “punk poet laureate” for no reason. Smith recorded and released her debut album, Horses, by combining her angst-fueled beat poetry with a simplistic rock sound. It also had a major role in kick-starting the ‘70s punk movement.
#5) Chaka Khan – I Feel For You (1984)
Chaka Khan’s fifth studio album, I Feel For You was also the first record she released following the breakup of the Chicago funk band, Rufus in 1983. It was also her first album to channel a more contemporary dance-pop sound. The title track, I Feel For You was written by Prince and features Grandmaster Melle Mel.
#6) MC Lyte – Lyte as a Rock (1988)
In addition to being a hip-hop pioneer, as the first female rapper nominated for a Grammy, MC Lyte wrote her debut album Lyte as a Rock (1988) over a period of several years. It features production by Prince Paul and Audio Two and is often categorized among the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
#7) Tori Amos – Under the Pink (1994)
Following her breakthrough debut, Little Earthquakes (1992), Tori Amos traveled to a hacienda in New Mexico to record her sophomore album with producer Eric Rosse. Featuring hits such as “Cornflake Girl,” “God,” and “Pretty Good Year,” Under the Pink would become her highest-charting album in the UK and would sell more than two million copies worldwide. It also features a noteworthy appearance by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor on the track, “Pas the Mission.”
#8) Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
The Fugees frontwoman’s solo debut sold more than 422,600 copies in its first week, breaking the record for first-week sales by a female artist. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would continue to break records, receiving 10 Grammy nominations, five of which she had won. As of 2013, the album has sold more than 8 million copies in the United States and more than 19 million worldwide.
#9) Ms. Dynamite – A Little Deeper (2002)
Ms. Dynamite is one of the pioneers of the hip-hop movement in the UK. Her platinum-selling debut, A Little Deeper, was such a noteworthy success that it won her the Mercury Prize. Following the success of her breakthrough “grime” rap debut, she released her sophomore album, Judgement Days in 2005. Despite plans for a third album, Democracy, she has continued to release music intermittently but has yet to make her big comeback.
#10) Beyoncé – Lemonade (2015)
The game-changing visual concept album, Lemonade, is perhaps Queen Bey’s most critically acclaimed work to date. The cinematic experience, which premiered along with a 65-minute film on HBO, caused a big commotion with her Black Panther Party-inspired costume design for the song, “Formation.”
Lemonade crosses a variety of different genres and features guest appearances by James Blake, Diplo, Kendrick Lamar, BOOTS, The Weeknd, Just Blaze, and Jack White. The album was released as a Tidal exclusive and couldn’t be added to the playlist.