- Despite being a male-dominated genre, country music has seen plenty of female superstars.
- Early musicians like Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn all paved the way for future female singers.
- Shania Twain, Miranda Lambert, and Faith Hill have found mainstream success as country music stars.
As they made a name for themselves, icons like Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and Loretta Lynn all paved the way for future female country music stars.
From the 1930s to today, here are the best female country music stars of all time.
Kitty Wells is known as one of the first female country superstars.
Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Muriel Ellen Deason, performing under the name Kitty WELLS, toured with her husband, singer Johnnie Wright, and singer Jack Anglin. But Wells achieved solo success in 1952 with her single “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” which was an answer song to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life,” a song about cheating.
The song catapulted her to fame, with some people calling her one of the first female country music superstars.
After the success of that single, Wells continued to release hits, including “Making Believe” in 1955, “Your Wild Life’s Gonna Get You Down” in 1959, and “A Woman Half My Age” in 1966.
In 1969, she formed the Kitty Wells-Johnnie Wright Family Show with her husband and three children as a family singing act, which toured for years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Wells was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991, and it’s said she paved the way for future female country artists like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Lee Ann Womack.
Patsy Cline became a mentor to other female country stars before her untimely death.
Patsy Cline’s career began in 1957 when she appeared on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” show, singing “Walkin’ After Midnight.” The song instantly made waves on the country charts, rocketing her to stardom. She joined the Grand Ole Opry cast (a weekly American country music stage concert) in Nashville and created hits like “She’s Got You.”
Cline became a mentor to many women in the country music genre, but she struck up a special bond with Loretta Lynn, whom she helped early in her career.
Cline was killed in a plane crash in Tennessee in 1963, at the age of 30. Posthumously, she was awarded the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
Loretta Lynn went from a coal miner’s daughter to a country star.
Loretta Lynn grew up in a cabin in a coal-mining town and was married by the age of 15. Her husband encouraged her to perform at local venues, and she eventually released her first single in 1960 called “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Three years later, she released her first album “Loretta Lynn Sings,” which climbed to No. 2 on the country charts. It wasn’t until 1970 that Lynn reached the height of her career when she released “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which reached No. 1.
The country music star also wrote an autobiography called “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which was turned into an Oscar-winning film.
Barbara Mandrell started touring with Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline before becoming a country superstar.
Barbara Mandrell reached success at a young age. She joined Joe Maphis in his Las Vegas show in 1960 when she was just 11 years old, and toured with Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline at age 13. Mandrell then performed with her family in the Mandrell Family Band until she launched her solo career in 1966, creating hits like “Queen for a Day” and “Playin’ Around With Love.” She really started topping charts in the ’70s, with smash hits such as “Standing Room Only” and “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed.”
Since then, Mandrell has scored six No. 1 hits and 25 top 10 singles. She has also earned two Grammy awards and 11 nominations. She’s also the only woman to win CMA’s Entertainer of the Year award twice.
Dolly Parton has become a cultural icon in the world of country music and beyond.
Dolly Parton started her career in 1967 as part of a duo with country crooner Porter Wagoner, but she soon landed a contract as a solo act. In 1971, she earned her first country No. 1 hit with “Joshua” and followed that up with “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You.” Her first crossover hit was “Here You Come Again.”
Since then, Parton’s music career has turned her into a cultural icon. Throughout her career, she has earned 25 No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts and 54 top 10 hits. She also has eight Grammy awards and 47 nominations.
Her talent expands outside of country music, as well. Parton starred in “9 to 5” and “Steel Magnolias,” and she opened her own theme park, Dollywood, in 1986.
Reba McEntire is often referred to as the “Queen of Country.”
Reba McEntire started performing at rodeos with her family in a group known as Singing McEntires. When the group disbanded, she continued performing at rodeos as a solo act until she was discovered and signed a record deal. “You Lift Me Up (To Heaven)” in 1980 was her first single to reach Billboard’s Top 10, which skyrocketed her to fame.
In 1986, she earned her first Grammy award with “Whoever’s in New England” and was named Entertainer of the Year at the CMAs. Reba was also awarded Female Vocalist of the Year four years in a row, prompting many to call her the “Queen of Country.”
McEntire’s iconic status will be cemented at the CMT Artist of the Year event on October 16. The singer will be presented with the Artist of a Lifetime honour to celebrate her award-winning career achievements.
McEntire’s career doesn’t stop at country music, however. She has also starred in several movies, including “Tremors,” “The Man from Left Field,” and “Is There Life Out There?” She also starred in and produced her own sitcom titled “Reba” for six seasons.
Tanya Tucker became famous for her chart-topping singles.
Tanya Tucker released her first single “Delta Dawn” in 1972 when she was just 13 years old, and it instantly climbed the country music charts, making her a household name. Over the next few decades, she continued to make chart-topping singles like “What’s Your Mama’s Name?” in 1973, “Lizzie and the Rainman” in 1975,” and “Strong Enough to Bend” in 1988.
Shania Twain produced one of the best-selling country albums of all time.
When Shania Twain’s parents died in a car accident in 1987,Twain took a job singing at a resort in Ontario, Canada, to support her younger siblings. At the same time, she continued to work on her original music until she was signed to her first record deal. She released her first album in 1993, which performed poorly. Her second album, “The Woman in Me,” climbed the country charts with songs like “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and “Any Man of Mine.” At the time, she received four Grammy nominations and won one for the Best Country Album.
Twain’s biggest success was her third album, “Come on Over,” which was released in 1997. The album stayed at the top of the country charts for 50 weeks and became the top-selling country album in history.
Miranda Lambert went from reality TV contestant to bona fide country star.
Miranda Lambert first splashed onto the country music scene in 2003 when she appeared on “Nashville Star,” a reality competition show. Although she didn’t win, she did land a record deal and soon after released her first album “Kerosene.” Her second studio album, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200 charts in 2007.
Over the course of her career so far, Lambert has earned two Grammy awards and 16 nominations.
Her latest album, “The Weight of These Things,” was released in 2016 and became her fifth album to win the Album of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Her next album is expected to be released in November 2019.
The all-female Dixie Chicks is one of the most popular country music groups in history.
Dixie Chicks started with sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson busking on street corners in Dallas, Texas, along with two friends – Robin Lynn Macy and Laura Lynch. For years, they performed traditional country music in small venues without much success, until 1995 when the band switched up its members.
In 1995, vocalist Natalie Maines joined the group, and Dixie Chicks released their first album, “Wide Open Spaces” in 1998, achieving their first mainstream success. Songs like “There’s Your Trouble” and “Wide Open Spaces” became smash hits.
Their success continued with subsequent albums, including “Fly,” “Home,” and “Taking the Long Way.” As their discography grew, the band became known for their instrumentals and for creating empowering female anthems.
Lee Ann Womack went from local songwriter to hit country star.
In the late ’90s, Lee Ann Womack was known as a songwriter in the country music scene, but that changed in 1997 when she released her self-titled debut album. The album’s songs “Never Again, Again,” “A Little Past Little Rock,” and “The Fool” became smash hits.
But Womack reached her greatest success when she released “I Hope You Dance” in 2000, which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs charts. That year, she also took home the Single of the Year and Song of the Year awards at the CMAs.
Since then, Womack has been nominated for a Grammy in 2018 for her album “The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone.”
LeAnn Rimes became a country music sensation at age 13.
LeAnn Rimes began her career in country music at age 13 when she released her debut album, “Blue,” in 1996. The album went on to become No. 1 on the Top Country Billboard charts, and Rimes even won two Grammy awards.
Her success continued into the 2000s, with albums titled “LeAnn Rimes,” “Twisted Angel,” and “Whatever We Wanna.” On her 2001 album, “Lady & Gentleman,” she covered songs that were typically played by male country singers.
Over the course of her career, Rimes has had 12 top 10 country hits on Billboard.
Faith Hill has become one of the most recognisable faces in country music.
Faith Hill worked in the periphery of country music for many years: she worked as a receptionist at a music production company and later packaged fan merchandise for Reba McEntire. Hill’s big break came when she was discovered in a Nashville bar called the Bluebird Café.
In 1993, she released her first album, “Take Me As I Am,” which had two hit singles, “Wild One,” and “Piece of My Heart.” The hits kept coming with her subsequent albums, including “This Kiss” and “Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me.”
In 2000, Hill went on the Soul2Soul Tour with her husband, Tim McGraw, and it became the top-grossing country music tour in history, earning more than $US52 million.
Throughout her career, Hill has won five Grammy awards and earned 17 nominations.
Carrie Underwood started her career as a reality TV contestant but went on to become one of the most successful country artists.
In 2004, Carrie Underwood auditioned for “American Idol” during her senior year of college. She went on to win the show’s fourth season and released her first album “Some Hearts” the following year. It was the best-selling album of 2006 and became the best-selling country album of the past decade. The achievements kept coming. At 26, she became the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008.
Throughout her career, she has released several chart-topping singles, which include “Inside Your Heaven,” “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” and “Before He Cheats.” In all, Underwood has earned 15 top hits on the Billboard charts and seven Grammy awards thus far.
Her latest album, “Cry Pretty,” was released in 2018 and focuses on sensitive subjects like gun violence and addiction.
Kacey Musgraves is often considered the future of female country music.
Kacey Musgraves started singing at a young age – she wrote her first song at 9 years of age – but she officially became a country star after her first two albums were released, titled “Same Trailer Different Park” (2013) and “Pageant Material” (2015). Both albums were inspired by traditional country music, but her most successful singles – “Follow Your Arrow” and “High Time” – broke the country mould by mentioning weed and same-sex relationships, something traditional country typically didn’t talk about.
Musgraves reached her greatest success with her third album, “Golden Hour,” which earned her the Album of the Year at the 2018 Grammys. Singles like “Velvet Elvis,” “Slow Burn,” and “High Horse” have seen mainstream success.
Musgraves’ modern take on country music has led some to say she is the future of the genre. She recently used her platform to speak out about gun violence in America, taking to Twitter to advocate for political action.
- Read more:
- The 13 best country music one-hit wonders of all time
- 10 country artists you should be listening to right now
- THEN AND NOW: The most iconic country stars of all time
- 25 country music songs everyone should listen to in their lifetime
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