Best female singer ever

If you had to select who YOU thing it would be?? I couldn’t, as there are so many fantastic ones over the ages, and my mood dictates who I want to listen to at that time. But here are ones that I feel these have to be included in the discussion:

Eva Cassidy
Dinah Washington
Etta James
Nancy Wilson
Sarah Vaughan
Lena Horn
Carmen McRay
Yma Sumac (I’m not into her style of music, but what a voice)

And, I do not like opera, but I am sure some female opera singers need to be included.

So, what do you’ll think? Who do you think should be in the discussion. And, can you determine who you think is #1??

#1: Whichever one is singing now, on the stereo - but particularly live. Not referring to the below artists - just mean that any decent singer singing in front of me live is #1 in the moment.


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I knew I was forgetting someone, ELLA!! And I had just been listening to her (in fact, she is the one who made me create the topic. Duh, old age affecting my short term memory. But NOT my enjoyment of great music. I know people love Joni, but I never was able to get into her as a singer. But I love a number of her songs done but other singers.

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I suppose if you’re talking about singing prowess taken in isolation from the other parts of the female artist’s arsenal, then, yeah. But Joni is a true artist in many ways (considers herself a painter) and it is hard for me to separate her singing from her songs. Saw Ella in her early 70’s and she still had “it”. Now THERE’s a SINGER : )

Taking aside other aspects, focusing on vocals (so hard to pick one, and trying to add to your list):
Roberta Flack (bridge of troubled water is mesmerizing)
Mavis Staples (her participation on the weight on the last waltz is fantastic)
Jane Monheit

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I now Joni is a great singer, but something about her voice makes it difficult to listen to her. Same with Barbara Streisand. I know she is also a great singer, and I like her softer stuff. But, when she sings loud, which seems to be most of the time, I can not enjoy her at all. I have no idea why, but it is what it is.


And then we have Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Annie Halsam, Emmy Lou Harris, Joan Baez, Chakka Kahn, Robin Holcomb, etc. I do agree with BadBeef’s description of Joni Mitchell as a painter of tone and song. Well put Mr. Beef!

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You are not the only one. I find Barbra Streisand yells a great deal of the time.


Cassandra Wilson to name a more current one.


Minnie Ripperton. What range! Life was too short.

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Is everyone merely identifying singers they like or are they suggesting each person they name is the “Best female singer ever?”

I see a lot of good singers in this thread, but few which qualify as “best” even in their limited genre, let alone best overall.

Best ever: Ella


Great singers. Love all, except Annie Halsam and Robin Holcomb, as I haven’t to my knowledge, listened to them. Will have to search for them, and give them a listen. Thanks, love finding new singers and groups to listen to. I might be 68, but I love exploring new music. Definitely not stuck to a certain era of music like my parents were.

Another I’m not familiar with, although I have seen her name. Will have to give her a listen. Thanks for the lead.

Oh, yeah. It’s tragic that she died so young, and that we have so little of her music. Just like Eva Cassidy. Minnie was 31 when she died, Eva 33.

Define “Best” ; )

Whoever can do Queen of the Night “best”?

Liz Schwarzkopf?

…commence sub-thread ; )

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Yes, Ella for me too. Doesn’t really need explaining, and I’m not sure I could if I tried.

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We each have our own definition, none more right, or wrong, that any of the other.s For me, it’s a measure of how good I think the voice is on its own, plus the ability to bend and alter it where needed to better reach our emotions, and our understanding of the song, to give us that ultimate WOW factor.

Ella just reaches the inner soul, and grabs it.

Janis Joplin :+1: