Start Your Weekend Right With 5 Great Female Vocalists

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It's hard to get more American than rock 'n roll. Oh, sure, the genre has spread all over the world, with artists from Tokyo to Cape Town, from Liverpool to Perth, picking up the guitars and producing some great tunes. But America arguably had it first; it's ours, we invented it, it helped bring down the Soviet Union, and it still entertains us today.

For this week, it seems appropriate to present five great female vocalists. Not the five greatest, as I'm not the right guy to judge that. I like listening to music but have no idea how it works. No, these are just women in rock that I love listening to, who I never get tired of, and who made their mark on American music.

So, let's get started.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts:  "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" Along with Lita Ford in The Runaways, Joan Jett really brought "bad girl rock" to the fore. She had a lot of neat songs and turned in a lot of great concert performances, where her rich, robust voice offset by her borderline-Goth style and, yes, great looks made her a force to be reckoned with in rock 'n roll. While she's well known for songs like "I Love Rock 'N Roll," my favorite of hers, presented here, is from the 1980 album "Bad Reputation." And, yes, like most guys my age, boy howdy did I have the hots for Joan Jett.


Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart: "Here Comes the Rain Again." From their 1983 album by the same name, this tune really gave Annie Lennox room to run. She has a rich, full voice, and this song gave her a great chance to really let it out. All of their work is worth a listen, but this is my favorite. Annie Lennox lent a neat quality to her and her partner Dave Stewart's somewhat off-beat, yet enjoyable, music.


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Carly Simon: "That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be." This performance comes to us out of the past, in 1971, when Carly Simon put on a well-received live show in New York's Central Park. Aside from Simon's emotion-invoking performance, look at this 1971 audience: Nobody holding up cell phones, nobody recording, just a lot of people enjoying the show. It is under Heinlein's Rule of Least Action that beauty be combined with talent, and in 1971, Carly Simon sure hit that mark. This song is something of a lament, but in the end, it's sort of a backhanded approval of marriage; the protagonist's parents seem to have not had the best relationship, but in the end, she agrees to marry her unnamed fellow.


Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." Back when Fleetwood Mac was riding tall in the saddle, Stevie Nicks was already known for her rich, smoky vocals, along with the fluff and flutter of her stage presence. In 1981 she released her first solo album, "Belladonna," where she partnered with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to produce what may be her best song. On another, rather ironic note, Stevie provided Tom with the idea for his hit song "Don't Come Around Here No More" after overhearing an argument between Stevie Nicks and Eagles guitarist and singer Joe Walsh, with whom she had just broken up. The combination of Nicks and Petty is another reason that we're all sad Tom Petty was taken from us so early, but life is rarely fair.


And finally, I'm going to drop an artist you probably haven't heard of unless you were really into oddball indie rock in the '90s.

Mary Fahl: "Everything's Gonna Be All Right." In 1993, a small, New York-based independent band, October Project, released their first album, also titled "October Project." They followed up with 1995's album "Falling Farther In," both albums featuring their completely self-taught lead vocalist, Mary Fahl. As so often happens, creative differences resulted in Mary's leaving the band and striking out on her own, with a round of concert tours mostly in small venues, and released albums starting with 2001's "Lenses of Contact" and continuing with "The Other Side of Time" (2003) "From the Dark Side of the Moon" (2011) "Love & Gravity" (2014) "Mary Fahl Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House" (2014) and "O For a Muse of Fire" (2015.) Mary also wrote and performed the opening theme song for the 2003 Civil War film "Gods and Generals."

My wife and I have seen Mary perform twice, both in small venues (under a hundred people), and have chatted with her after both shows. She's a lovely person, very talented, completely self-taught in not only vocals but also guitar and piano, and while I have a hard time choosing a favorite from her work, this one comes close. I honestly think she's the best female vocalist performing today.


So, a great weekend again to all you dear readers. Have a drink, have something nice to eat, spend some time with friends and family, and if the occasion calls for it, listen to a few great tunes.

Have any preferences of your own for female vocalists? The comments, as always, are yours!


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