Five game-changing female vocalists born in the 1940s

Rock didn't become huge until the 1960s but these female vocalists born in the 1940s certainly helped pave the way for greatness.
Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company
Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company / John Byrne Cooke Estate/GettyImages
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In the mid-1960s, when still a teenager, Marianne Faithfull was something of a cliché. She was Mick Jagger’s mod girlfriend, as blonde as they come. The Jagger relationship opened doors for her to record a few albums, and she proved immediately that she had the vocal chops to record hits. Her cover of the Stones “As Tears Go By” is arguably better than the original. She had a few other hits, but back then, she was reported to have inspired more songs by others - the Stones’ “Wild Horses,” the Hollies’ “Carrie Anne,” and multiple songs by Bob Dylan. After her brief run, Marianne Faithfull seemed to vanish.

She returned a decade later, in the late 1970s, no longer waifish, no longer a sweet-voiced teen. Faithfull had been through a lot during that time, including drug arrests and suicide attempts. And she emerged as a different singer.

This time, there was real gravitas evident in her vocals. Her voice was very different. It was rougher. It was lower. It seemed to carry about 100 years of history so that when she sang a song like “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” about a grown woman who went mad in her sheltered existence, the pain was unavoidable.

Faithfull did not try to hide the imperfections in her weathered voice. If anything, she exaggerated them. She spat in the face of the high gloss image-makers who wanted the equivalent of air-brushed vocals coming from the women they let sing. When she performs John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” she sounds just as authentic as John – not an easy task. On “Why’d Ya Do It?” she sings about sex with the graphic detail that could make Megan Thee Stallion blush.

Then, in 2018, at the age of 72, she released Negative Capability, which featured several recordings of her older songs. That’s where you can hear her late-in-life take on “As Tears Go By,” a stark contrast to teenagers from the swinging sixties.



I remember when I first came across Ann Peebles. In my teens, I was a big fan of Al Green but was entirely unfamiliar with the singer who some called his female counterpart in the world of Memphis soul. More than a decade later, I heard Peebles singing “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” and said to myself – “wow, that’s a bold move to cover Tina Turner like that. But this woman sure can sing.” I found out shortly thereafter that I had it entirely backward. It was Turner covering Peebles.

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Before meeting singer/songwriter Don Bryant who collaborated with her on many of her original hits, Peebles recorded some outstanding covers. She can rave on the Isley’s “It’s Your Thing,” on her debut album, and is right at home with the groove on the Little Johnny Taylor cover “Part-Time Love.” But she really hit her stride when she and Bryant started writing specifically for her voice.

“I Don’t Lend My Man” shows a toughness that you might not expect from the singer Bryant dubbed “99 pounds of soul.” She could handle the jazzy, world-weary soul of “I Needed Somebody,” as easily as the brassy funk/rock of “Run, Run, Run.” Or the sweetness of “Until You Came Into My Life.” Or the quiet foreboding of “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down.” There was nothing Ann Peebles could not make her own.

Must listens: “99 POUNDS” and “I CAN’T STAND THE RAIN”

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