Skip to content

Soulful Voices: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 1

Spread the love

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”  Ella Fitzgerald

Soulful Voices: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 1 … Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald – Summertime


Women have contributed an impressive, far ranging body of work to the soulful sounds of Jazz music and, over the next several Saturdays, I’ll share songs from some of the best female jazz voices we have enjoyed listening for many, many years. Each week, I’ll share between 8-10 of the greatest female jazz vocalists with you. This week we have 10 of the best ladies of jazz; the creme de la creme of the genre. I have not placed them in any particular order but will add the names and music organically each week with all the best eventually included in this series of songs. For their full biographies, I’ll link to their Wikipedia page or personal websites. Enjoy the music and come back for more. Above, The First lady of Song, gifted jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald opens with a rendition of one of her most famous songs. The talented Nancy Wilson who, in addition to Jazz, experimented early in her career with pop and R & B, follows with a great song.

“I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close order drill, or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.”  Billie Holiday

Soulful Voices: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 1 … Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Carmen McRae – Body and Soul

Billie Holiday known also as Lady Day had a horrible childhood and poured all her pain and anguish into her powerful bluesy jazz songs. Strange Fruit is a classic and speaks of the horrors of a dark period in American history – lynching. Carmen McRae developed her musical chops singing in NY Night clubs. She is considered a protege of Billie Holiday. Body and Soul sizzles under her technical mastery.

“When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder and I don’t even notice.” Sarah Vaughan

Soulful Voices: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 1 … Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan – The Sassy One

Ernestine Anderson – Moanin (BBB 1967)

Interestingly, even though “Sassy” Sarah Vaughan , who started her career singing and playing piano in church, is included in many top ten lists of Jazz divas, she didn’t always accept that jazz was her musical style, however, her musical choices/body of work includes some of the most loved jazz songs. Ernestine Anderson started her illustrious musical career at age 12 singing with the Russell Jacquet big band. She enjoyed critical acclaim but, during hard times in the 1960s, she moved to Europe, returning in the 1970s to continue performing her popular songs.  More Below! 🙂

“There is only one heaven, one earth and one queen (me) Queen Elizabeth is an impostor.” Dinah Washington

Soulful Voices: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 1 … Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington –  What Difference A Day Makes

Shirley Horn – Here’s To Life (1992)

Dinah Washington aptly known as “Queen of the Blues” for her blues and R&B songs, started her musical journey as a gospel singer in Chicago. Born Ruth Lee Jones, she took on the new name while performing with Lionel Hampton and her star grew brighter as she continued to showcase her unique voice.  Shirley Horn sang and played piano as a child in Washington DC and built her career performing in local clubs including one she owned in the DC area. In the 1980s, she ventured outside DC and grew a worldwide following.

“I sing the songs that people need to hear.”  Etta James 

Soulful Voices: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 1 … Etta James

Etta James – At Last

Nina Simone – Ain’t Got No…I’ve Got Life

Originally from South Carolina, Etta James moved to New York as a young lady and tasted early success with her hugely popular song “Don’t Go to Strangers.” Even as she struggled with addiction, she continued to perform her songs including the ever memorable: At  Last; an ode to her personal struggles and triumphs. Nina Simone was a talented singer from even her early childhood days in the church choir. Her musical strength continued to flourish especially during the civil Rights movement when she wrote and performed protest songs. She moved to Europe in the 1970s and only returned occasionally to perform in the USA. Her contribution is fierce. Enjoy!

Stay Inspired! What are your thoughts? What music are you listening to this weekend? Do you have any favorites you’d like to share? Which new voices would you recommend? Do share! Thank you.

*Please bear with me as I continue to catch up on your blogs and commenting… Thank you all for your patience!

For More: Women’s Lives & Issues 

Positive Motivation Tip: Music is fuel that feeds our soul. It can be both passionate and poignant, divinely inspired or disconcerting. Either way, it touches something inside us… Celebrate soulful sounds.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS:  All Photos Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Etta James  via Wikipedia and/or via Flickr  Some Jazz quotes from

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

37 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/06/2012 2:51 am


    • 03/06/2012 7:47 pm

      TY for the smiling face… Happy always! 😉

  2. 03/06/2012 4:10 am

    I LOOOOOOOVE this music – thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    • 03/06/2012 7:47 pm

      TY Stuart! Glad you enjoyed the songs… love them too! 😉

  3. 03/06/2012 4:24 am

    Marvelous, and right on!

    • 03/06/2012 7:48 pm

      TY for your feedback! Haven’t forgotten you… 🙂

  4. 03/06/2012 5:03 am

    Oh, wow! Wonderful selection!

    • 03/06/2012 7:48 pm

      TY Madhu! This was a joy to do as I got to listen to their phenomenal voices again … and again! 😉

  5. 03/06/2012 8:51 am

    I grew up listening to all these Ladies–my mother and her sisters love jazz. I can’t think of any other music that speaks to my soul as much as their music. Thanks for this great collection. Makes me want to take out my Nina Simone this afternoon . . .

    • 03/06/2012 7:49 pm

      Yes, I have always loved Jazz too and this was an honor to do; their voices are fantastic!

  6. babs50nfab permalink
    03/06/2012 10:23 am

    Love them all and happy to say I’ve seen Ella, Nancy and Etta live. All incredible performers who just LOVE music. We also saw a play about Dinah Washington called, ‘Dinah Was’. It was an amazing look into and behind the scenes of what really went on back in the day.
    Can’t wait for more Elizabeth! Thanks

    • 03/06/2012 6:18 pm

      TY for your comment Barbs! It has been a fun one to do and I look forward to adding and learning more over the next several weeks. 🙂

  7. 03/06/2012 8:51 pm

    Looking forward to new installments on this theme. Thanks, Miriam

    • 03/06/2012 9:09 pm

      TY Miriam and glad to see you visit again. I’m looking forwrad to the series and getting to learn more about women in Jazz. Have a great week ahead! 🙂

  8. 03/06/2012 8:57 pm

    a fabulous post. looking forward to Part 2. . .

    I’m having a difficult time keeping up on comments and reading posts, thanks for sticking with me!

    • 03/06/2012 9:11 pm

      I’m so behind too… it is a real challenge. TY! 🙂

  9. 04/06/2012 12:22 am

    When this amazing women sings, the world seems to stop and all hear is their great voice and the beating of your heart. Indeed they touched and soothe our soul. Beautiful my friend.

    • 12/06/2012 6:55 pm

      TY IT! They are fantastic singers and their voices soothe the soul. 🙂

  10. 04/06/2012 2:09 am

    Wonderful post full of wonderful voices!!

    • 12/06/2012 6:56 pm

      TY Willowdot! You inspired this post for me… and i appreciate your honest feedback.

  11. 04/06/2012 5:38 am

    This is the first time I’ve actually seen live footage of Billie holiday and Nina Simone. I knew what Billie looked like of course because I there are photos on my c.d.s. Nina Simone, on the other hand, I had no idea what she looked like. I only know that distinct voice.

    • 12/06/2012 6:57 pm

      I’m glad you got to meet the ladies of song. Do come back for more on Saturdays. 🙂

  12. 04/06/2012 8:06 am

    Le sigh. I love all these leading ladies. Such powerful voices!

  13. 04/06/2012 11:09 am

    Wow!!! An awesome post. I really appreciate all of the videos. Can’t wait until I have some uninterrupted time to listen to each and every one of them in succession. I have invested in CDs by each and every one of these ladies because their vocal abilities and soul are so amazing. Very well done. ~ Ayanna Nahmias

    • 12/06/2012 6:58 pm

      TY Ayanna! I hope you find some time too… I’m having some challenge with that one… Glad you enjoyed this. 🙂

  14. richard permalink
    04/06/2012 6:15 pm

    all the greats.. check out Betty Carter if you haven’t.. Although you can stop at Billie and that would be ‘nuf said…

    • 04/06/2012 7:25 pm

      TY! Love Betty anyway!

    • 04/06/2012 7:32 pm

      TY for your feedback! Love Betty too and will be featuring her soon. 🙂

  15. Madelaine permalink
    05/06/2012 6:42 pm

    Ella is my all time favorite… her duets with Louie!

    • 12/06/2012 6:59 pm

      TY! It was truly an amazing duet. Loved it too. 🙂

  16. 08/06/2012 9:07 am

    Love your selection. So glad that I was able to see Ella in concert. She sang as effortlessly as we talk. I would have loved to have seen Billie and Etta, heck, would have loved to have seen them all. Some very legendary ladies here.

    • 12/06/2012 7:00 pm

      Would have loved to see them all… but then it would mean we’d be much older too. TY! 🙂

  17. 10/06/2012 9:14 am

    Pinned this, saw other pinings of your material. Are you pinning, or others pinning you? Haven’t quite figured out how to find people or who to follow or who is following me. Stay strong, you help me keep my strength.

    • 10/06/2012 9:23 am

      When I went to look at the last pin you mentioned, it led me to others posts from my blog that people had pinned. Quite surprised. I was not aware of them at all… We are in a global village now. 😉


  1. Soulful Sounds: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 2 | Mirth and Motivation
  2. Soulful Sounds: The Greatest Ladies Of Jazz – Part 2 | The Blog Farm - A Growing Blog Community

Your Comment is Appreciated!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: