The Undeniable Top 12 Best Black Female Singers of All Time?

by Kevin Ross - Posted: January 30, 2012 at 1:17 am, Category: Top 10 Features

Chaka Khan

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Chaka Khan has solidified her space as one of the premiere singers in R&B history. Her range and interpretation is second to none. 

  • Emily Mascarenhas-Bennett

    Most of those women didn’t write songs in the 1960s. If they did, those BMI Writers and Publishers checks would be nuts today.

    You should add soul/disco singer Loleatta Holloway. Her voice was crazy.

  • Tonya Gipson

    Jennifer Lopez is not Black and I can’t believe you could compile a list like this and not include Nina Simone. Have you lost your mind?

    • Marquitta Boyd

      Tonya I agree 100% + more.

  • Mike

    Aretha wrote many songs and some of her own hits..”Think”, “Day Dreaming”, “Rock Steady”, “Since You Been Gone”, all sold well over a million copies each plus she wrote “Call Me” and “Dr. Feelgood”..

  • Lynn

    I think Jennifer Hudson and Oleta Adams belong on that list somewhere, although I can’t deny that for the most part it’s a pretty good lineup.

  • Andre Michael Eggelletion

    Great list… much respect to the wonderful singers you’ve listed; I just have to add a few you have overlooked: Ella Fitzgerald (the best female vocalist I’ve ever heard), Billie Holliday, and Sarah Vaughn. Not to mention Lena Horne, Shirley Bassey, Joesphine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Ethel Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and Pearl Bailey.

  • mario

    this list is incomplete to me if Anita fuckin Baker aint on it re you crazy!!!!!!!!!! minnie ripperton, kim burrell, Sade, Shirley murdock definitely deserve honorable mentions and teena marie might be white but she aint no punk

    • Gail Gray

      How could I forget Anita.

  • Tammy Hurt

    Who complied this list? I understand you wish to pay homage to a few legends, where is Mahalia Jackson or Tina Turner if that’s what you’re doing? I read a few comments about those writing their own material….I don’t think that’s what the writer is trying to convey because ‘singer’ is the key word! Are you considering record sales? If so, then Beyonce should be on there (even tho I don’t think she’s a contender but she has paid her dues)! Also HOW IN THE WORLD could you not include Lisa Fisher, Minni Ripperton, Angela Bofill and Heather Headly? When you say undeniable you mean undisputed or incapable of being denied…correct? Well I can dispute a few of your choices. When I think of a black female that sing….I think quality!

  • Tammy Hurt

    Oh yeah and Jennifer Lopez? I’m still scratching my head about that one!

  • Jan

    Angela Winbush, Angela Bofill, Randy Crawford, Sharon Bryant from Atlantic Starr. I never thought of Jennifer Lopez as a singer nor as blaci

  • http://www.radiofacts.com Kevin Ross

    Jennfer Lopez is the JOKE here folks

  • JKA

    Here we go not reading and only looking at photo’s again lol. The J-Lo addition is a joke.

  • Bo

    What happened to Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Sade, Minnie Ripperton and Ella Fitzgerald should be in the top three. Its obvious the compiler of this list do not really pay attention to black female artist,,,,,Jennifer Lopez, why not Bonnie Raitt also.

  • Leilani

    How could you leave the legendary Toni Braxton off the list I mean come on! I’m also shocked that Anita Baker was ignored as well SMH!

  • Phat Man

    I get the Jennifer Lopez joke. I immediately knew something was wrong when I saw her name (LOL). I’ve read some of the suggestions that others have entered above and have to admit that many were good singers, but we are talking about the greatest of all time here, so being good is not good enough for this list. Here are some glaring omissions from your list. Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn raised the standard from everyone that preceded them, and set the standard for everyone that followed them. Dinah Washington is simply the most versatile singer ever (black, white, male or female). Check out some of her music and I’m sure you will agree. She could sing anything. Stephanie Mills would run several of your “top 12″ off the stage. She would definitely be in any top 10 list I came up with. And While I’m not sure she would make my top 10 list (definitely my top 20), I would also have to mention Teena Marie. Now I know y’all will say she’s white, but she truely loved and fully embraced our culture and gave us some of the most soulful music of a generation. Because of this, many whites dispised her and refuse to give her her props. In many ways Teena was one of us, so i feel she deserves honorable mention.

    • https://www.facebook.com/ron.simmons.9277 Ron Simmons

      Not to break your bubble but Teena Marie was white. Her influence on the music is called “blue eyed soul.” She died in 2010

  • Phat Man

    Ok, so I thought about this some more and realized that I forgot some others that definitely deserve consideration. Lauren Hill as both a singer and a songwriter needs to be atleast considered for any such list; maybe the top 20? Maysa Leak is in my opinion the greatest singer on the planet right now, she just can’t seem to get any airplay on these highly restrictive radio formats we have now. Adreana Evans, the best singer you probably have not heard of. She has the voice of an angel; seriously. I agree with the person who mentioned Angela Winbush. Also Angela Bofill. My gosh, how could I have forgotten ROBERTA FLACK? Definitely a top 10 consideration!!

  • wonka

    J Lo really!

  • RonRahn

    In my book Phyllis Hyman should be # one. And I have a newly found love for Melba Moore she the Queen of dance funk and should have been placed some where below 7 on the list

  • Sandi

    You must be kidding! Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Billy Holiday, Dakota Staton, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Nancy Wilson, Mahalia Jackson, Marion Anderson, Leontine Price, Shirley Bassey, Della Reese , Deniece Williams, Minnie Riperton and many more set the standard for all the singers on your ill conceived list. Many of the women I have listed are not simply among the best ” Black” female voices, but rather among the best voices of all time. Your list might be better labelled some of the top voices in the last 25 years, but it would still be lacking!

  • Cat

    Im not understanding why Jennifer Lopez is on this list not only is she not black she also is not one of the greatest singers, what about Minnie Riperton, Anita Baker,Sade Denise Williams and if you are going to stray from blacks you most definitely could not leave out that blue eyed soul sister Teena Marie.

  • Rob

    Anita Baker, Sade, Toni Braxton, Angela Winbush, Regina Belle, Stephanie Mills, Shirley Murdock. They should be on this list

  • Quent

    UNDENIABLE? ARE U KIDDING ME? I can agree with maybe half. Maybe! But what about Minnie Ripperton; Sarah Vaughn; Billy Holiday; Tamia;

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  • Sule

    First who is Rachelle Ferrell? and what does she do for a living?

    Have you ever heard of Ella, Nancy, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Sade, Mahalia, Marion Anderson or Leontine. You must live in cave and are to stupid to read your own Headline…undeniable, Black, of all time. Lopez? you must be related to here or something

  • Frances

    I totally agree with Sule. Where the hell is Ella, Sarah and Billie. In a list of the “best Black singers” of all time – how could they be missing??!! Someone didn’t do their homework.

  • Eileen

    Oh yes, there is work to be done. As a classical trained vocalist, Black, and an ethnomusicologist, from the readings I have taken off the internet, it is time something is done about the lack of information. My work is to not only pay tribute to the Black singer but make sure that the “sound” they have created and is much emulated by almost every culture on the planet is preserved for all time and that the world knows (what some take for granted) who were the originators, and how it has impacted American music and culture, and is still a major force in the world today. Stay tuned, because I can prove it.

  • Joey

    Ummm… Where’s Tina? Donna Summers? Etta James? Wow haha. And I didn’t know J-Lo was Black! lol…..

  • http://facebook.com MS PATRICIA LAZENBY

    No one has mentioned Leona Horn, Candi Staton, Dorothy Moore, Jill Scott, but Jennifer Lopez. You could’ve use Seline Deon, not to mention those great that never got their reconition.

    I like to know who took the pole for the votes. Whom ever it was they was certainly off point with J -Lo .

  • http://www.KarlaWithaK.net Karla With a K

    Chante Moore should definitely be on this list. It’s your list, but you know we take our music seriously. The #10 spot was no place for a”joke.”

  • http://www.atlantacastingandtalent.net michele williams

    Alright KEVIN………… who did yo’ pickn?? How can you put Etta James, Dionne Warwick and Gladys OVER Anita Baker! Beyonce! Mahalia Jackson! AND BILLIE HOLIDAY? REALLY KEVIN? REALLY? I love you, too, my brother!! :) I’m ready to re-do this list whenever you’re ready…… :)

  • andre

    Any list of vocalists without Ella Fitzgerald is incomplete

  • Noor

    This is not to take away from any of the names listed, but it is just not possible to do this sort of list without acknowledging Diana Ross.
    Are you mad? Lopez? Really?

  • KK

    DENIED!! J-Lo?? Seriously? Better than Tina Turner, Ella Fitzerald, Lena Horn, Billie Holiday?

    Undeniably poor list.

  • MC ³

    What an empty and pathetic list this is!! If the great and glorious Mahalia Jackson is going to be snubbed, then this whole list is garbage. Yeah, she may have been a gospel singer, but that shouldn’t ostracize her from being at the top of this list. If she would have broken her integrity, she would’ve buried every one of these singers. How DARE you try to bury her because of her integrity!!

  • R. T.

    You lost me with Jennifer Lopez. We were all good up until then. SMH

  • ANDRE WILKINS

    WHEN IT COMES TO MUSIC, I MUST ADMIT THE 70’S TO THE EARLY 90’S IS WHERE THE REAL R&B WAS. NOT LIKE TODAY THIS MUSIC THEY CONSIDER R&B IS NOT R&B IT’S RHYTHIMIC SOUL…..I SAY THE BEST THAT EVER DID IT..PHYLLIS HYMAN, PATTIE LABELLE, STEPHANIE MILLS, MELBA MOORE…POWERFULL LADIES!!!!!!!!!!

  • Darryl Ennis

    i have a problem with this… where is Nancy Wilson? i seen dionne, phyllis, natalie, even etta… WHERE IS NANCY WILSON IN THIS 12? THIS SHOULD BE REDONE OVER!

  • Darryl Ennis

    NANCY WILSON HAS BEEN RECORDING SINCE 1960. EVEN THOUGH, SHE IS RETIRED NOW, YOU SHOULD GIVE HER DUE! SHE DESERVES IT!

  • Kirk Abernathy

    Minnie and Phyllis should be a lot closer to #1 (although maybe they are not in a particular order?) . And no mention of Deniece Williams or Angela Bofill???!! Angela winbush is also one of the very best and wait!!! Jean Carn should absolutely be on that list. If you go see her live (even today) you’ll know why. She could go toe to toe with ANY of those mentioned.

  • SouthernGirl59

    J.Lo?????? I had no idea she was BLACK!!!! Really? Does she know she is black? You left out JEAN CARNE and REGINA BELLE!

  • apryle.vaughn@facebook.com

    Omg ….it gotta be a joke MIKI HOWARD is not on the list!

  • tony smith

    This list is STUPID. Sarah, Ella, Nancy not on the list = invalid list. And Dionne — she’s good but seriously? Same with Natalie. I’d replace those two easily.

  • tony smith

    Oh, and Stephanie Mills!

  • http://djkoolemdee.blogspot.com DJ Kool Emdee

    With my music experience, along with being involved in the music industry and extensive record collection, my top 12 would be much different from this. I have already started compiling a list of the greatest 300 black women vocalists. My list is based totally on skills and range. Nothing to do with sales or popularity. The #1 spots should have gone to either Minnie Riperton or Ella Fitzgerald. Their vocal skills are simply unmatched.

    That singer from here in Houston, that’s ‘married’ to the rapper, is not even in my top 5,000. Wait! She’s not on my list at all. [maniacal laughing] I just stumbled across this, looking for something else.

  • Carrie

    Yeah, J-Lo was a mistake here. She’s Puerto Rican and many PRs are of a wide array of races and mixed race, so I checked out her parents to be sure and they don’t look mixed or black. However, I don’t know her family descent so I can’t say. Plus, you can’t assume that just because someone is Latino/a that they aren’t black. We can be both. My issue is that she isn’t that great of a singer in my opinion. Not to say she isn’t good, her talent just isn’t comparable to the other singers on the list. So it’s a mistake. I would prefer to see Tina Turner on the list. There are others that could also be on the list, but it’s 12, so everybody can’t be on the list.

  • John

    The Person who should be included on this list is LINDA JONES She sang (Hypnotized … and Not On The Outside) This lady had the best vocal control of any woman . Listen to these songs on Youtube and then tell me who can match her voice. …NO ONE .

  • Sean C

    Minnie riperton best ever!!!! Hands down

  • kevin

    Diana Ross.

  • jonscott williams

    Hard to take a list like this seriously when you leave out Ella Fitzgerald, Lady Day, Nina Simone, Lena Horn, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRea, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson while including Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez (no offense but WTF!?!?)

  • missy

    Haha…just because Jennifer Lopez thinks she’s black doesn’t make her black.
    Haha…just because Jennifer Lopez thinks she can sing doesn’t mean she can sing.
    Haha…just because Jennifer Lopez sang a few half-assed songs in the last decade doesn’t mean she is an “undeniable top female singer of all time.”

    Whoever created was either joking, confused, or stupid…I’m gonna go with the latter. The fact that “All-Time” is hyphenated in the title speaks volumes to this person’s intelligence and education. Haha

  • Pamela

    I agree with John. Linda Jones was one of the best singers ever!! She definitely should be on any list of best or favorite African American female singers.

  • Beverly

    How can you forget Stephanie Mills and Regina Bell?

  • Tem Kuda

    She’s good. But top 12?

  • Tem Kuda

    Dianna Ross and Roberta Flack. These must be in the top 12. I can easily find two to shift out.

  • Jayjay6

    This list is a joke, right?
    I realize that these things are subjective, but no Ella, no Sarah, no Billie? And that’s just for starters. The only one on your list that even comes close is Natalie.
    The person who put the list together must be about 25 years old. S/he needs to listen to music frome the true greats.

  • Dan

    Sade? Really? I wouldn’t even call what she does singing. And while I like Natalie I don’t think her body of work earns her a place on a list like this.
    And how does a list of the top 12 black female singers of all time not include Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday?

  • Dan

    Oh yes, and jonscott williams is spot-on as well. Where is Lena Horne et. al.?

  • Flitcraft

    Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Sarah Vaughn . . .

  • Devin

    So very true! I think he HAS lost his mind.Even if Lopez WERE Black … she can’t sing her way out of a paper bag. Why don’t you add Britney Spears to the list … maybe SHE’S Black and maybe she can sing too. That makes about as much sense as J-Lo.

  • Angie-Gaye

    Thx for that comment! Mahalia Jackson is the Empress of Soul and one of the greatest voices (male or female) that EVER lived.
    Gospel aside, have any of you listened to that voice. While GOD on high was busy running the Universe, he heard Mahalia’s singing and said “Stop everything, I hear my child’s voice and I cannot turn away”. That’s how bad Mahalia Jackson was.

  • Erniet Preston

    TAMMI TERRELL… need I say more???

  • Anonymous

    I am really late to this party, but have thought about and debated this topic for years. These are all great vocalists but some do not belong in the top 12, i.e. Anita Baker and Dionne Warwick. If we are talking about pure vocals then you need to add Diana Ross, Stephanie Mills, Yolanda Adams, Nancy Wilson and CeCe Winans. I’m just saying…. By the way, Gladys Knight is my QOS!!!

  • Anonymous

    missing the greats – sarah, ella and nina

  • Anonymous

    Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Leontyne Price have obviously been inadvertently omitted.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure if others have mentioned these women, but please consider Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Ethel Waters, Betty Carter, and Sarah Vaughn from a more jazzy/soul background,

    Marion Anderson, Leontyne Price, and Kathleen Battle from the classical world,

    Jennifer Holiday, Melba Moore, and as of late Shirley Murdock from a musical theater background,

    and Shirley Caesar, Kim Burrell, Yolanda Adams, Ce-Ce Winans, or any of the Clark Sisters from a more Gospel perspective if you want your list of black female vocalists to have credibility.

    We’re talking about vocal ability and mastery of vocal craft as a songstress right?

    Several on the list do belong, but many would fall off of a top 12-15 list if we’re being comprehensive about sistas with a special gift!

  • Jimmie

    Donna Summer should have been on this list. She’s, probably, the most versatile female vocalist out of the ones that did make the list. She also, probably, conquered more genres as well. But, of course, any list is a matter of personal opinion. Donna Summer would, indeed, be on my personal list.

  • Paul Baylis

    Where the heck is Roberta Flack? Who compiled this dud list.

  • syl

    mariah carey? black female singers…. Mariah Freaking Carey?!!!!

  • Christa

    Please remove Mariah Carey !!!! She cannot complete with these legendary women….Tina Turner, Roberta Flack..Diana Ross..Donna Summer…etc..