Forget your Gagas, your Katy Perrys and your other pop Madonnas: for those of you old enough to have forgotten, or too young to remember, the 1970s saw the rise of some of the best female artists of all time. Here are a few to rediscover, while flagellating yourselves that you neglected them for so long…
1. Linda Ronstadt
Born in Tucson, Arizona, Linda Ronstadt’s career grew out of the burgeoning folk and country rock movement of 1960s and 1970s California, counting The Eagles, Neil Young and Jackson Browne as her contemporaries. Her long career which arguably reached its dizzying heights in the late 1970s and 1980s has not been constrained by musical genre however, and she is widely held as one of the most prolific and accomplished interpreters of multiple musical styles incorporating rock ‘n’ roll, country, rhythm and blues, jazz, mariachi, gospel, opera and choral in her various works. A multiple Grammy award winner, she has supported many new artists in her long career, and remains a prominent advocate for the arts and especially music education in the United States.
Check out her covers (or I should perhaps say more properly, re-interpretations) of The Rolling Stones Tumbling Dice and Warren Zevon’s Poor, Poor Pitiful Me as they appeared in the soundtrack for the 1978 film FM.
2. Stevie Nicks
One half of the tempestuous Stevie Nicks-Lindsey Buckingham song writing dynamic which transformed Fleetwood Mac in their second incarnation and contributed to the phenomenal success of 1977’s emotionally chaotic but musically astounding Rumours album, Stevie also took her raw vocals and ethereal presence into a solo career before rejoining Fleetwood Mac for a number of tacit reunions. Grammy nominated with and without Fleetwood Mac, her voice is inimitable, and has earned her a place in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Check out Stevie on Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon and Gold Dust Woman.
3. Debbie Harry
For many people, Debbie Harry was Blondie. In stark contrast to Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks, Debbie Harry’s career was launched stratospheric from the New Wave Punk scene of 1970’s New York City. No dumb blonde, her killer looks, pure, sensual voice and sassy, streetwise peformance made her an icon; and Blondie’s videos put them at the heart of a late 1970’s, early 1980’s cultural explosion. When I was a kid, our local barber Dave had a poster of Debbie Harry in concert, snarling into a microphone, on the wall of his shop. As a small boy sat on a plank over the arms of the barber chair, it taught me early in life that there were exotic, postitively amazonian women out there, who were nothing like your mother. . .
Check out Debbie at her best on Blondie’s Atomic and Call me.
4. Donna Summer
As a regular at New York’s Studio 54, Debbie Harry may well have danced to Donna Summer, the queen of 1970’s Disco. The genre she largely defined seems too narrow for such a fabulous, soulful singer, with a background in gospel and Motown influences, though she will undoubtedly forever be associated with it. Indeed it is widely held that Donna’s musical collaboration with producer Georgio Moroder marked the beginning of electronic dance music as we know it; though you may well be right to suspect that it has never been surpassed. Sadly the five time Grammy award winner died of lung cancer earlier this year which she may have contracted by inhaling toxic particles following the 9/11 attacks in NYC. Thankfully her musical legacy lives on.
Check out Donna’s iconic Disco tracks I Feel Love and Love to Love You Baby.