Published on March 29th 2010 by Leon Shepherd

My Top 10 list of the greatest black female singers is based upon a combination of 4 factors: (1) Voice quality and singing style, (2)Record Sales, (3)Grammy Awards, and last but certainly not least, (4) The ability to uplift, comfort, and pull emotions from deep within the human soul. So, without further ado, let the top 10 debate begin.


10. Natalie Cole


Natalie Maria Cole (born February 6, 1950) is a singer, songwriter and performer. She achieved success in her early career as an R&B star, but smoothly changed her repertoire toward a more pop and jazz oriented musical style in the early 1990s. She has won 9 Grammy Awards. Memorable hits include, “Our Love”, “This Will Be”, and “I’ve Got Love On My Mind”.


9. Alicia Keys


 Alicia Augello Cook (born January 25, 1981), better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, is a recording artist, musician and actress. She has won 11 Grammy Awards and has sold over 30 million albums worldwide, establishing herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time. Memorable hits include, “Fallin”, “No One”, and “A Woman’s Worth”.


8. Mariah Carey


Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1970) is a singer, songwriter, record producer and actress. She has won 5 Grammy Awards and has sold over 175 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. Her 18 number-one singles, are the most for a solo artist. Memorable hits include, “Vision of Love”, “Emotions”, and “Fantasy”.


7. Tina Turner


Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock, November 26, 1939) is a singer and actress whose career has spanned more than 50 years. She has won 8 Grammy Awards and her achievements in the rock music genre have earned her the title “The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Her records have sold over 200 million worldwide. Memorable hits include, “Private Dancer”, “Better Be Good To Me”, and “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”


6. Anita Baker


Anita Baker (born January 26, 1958) is an R&B and soul singer-songwriter. Baker has won eight Grammy Awards, and has four platinum albums and two gold albums to her credit. Baker’s rich and entirely distinctive alto voice has invited comparisons that range beyond the world of contemporary pop to include mention of such legendary jazz figures as Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. Memorable hits include, “Sweet Love”, “Caught Up in the Rapture”, and “Giving You The Best That I Got”.


5. Chaka Kahn


Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens; March 23, 1953) is a singer-songwriter who has won 10 Grammy Awards.  Before launching a solo a career, Kahn was the featured vocalist in the funk band Rufus with Chaka Kahn that had several hit songs, including, “Tell Me Something Good”, “You Got The Love”, and ‘Sweet Thing”. Kahn’s memorable solo hits include, “I’m Every Woman”, “What Cha Gonna Do For Me”, and “I Feel For You”.


4.  Gladys Knight


Gladys Maria Knight (born May 28, 1944), known as the “Empress of Soul”, is an American R&B/soul singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman, humanitarian, and author. She has won 11 Grammy Awards, and is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips. Knight has won 11 Granny Awards. Memorable hits include, “Neither One of Us”, “Midnight Train to Georgia”, and “Friendship Train”.


3. Patti LaBelle


Patricia Louise Holte (born May 24, 1944), best known by her stage name of Patti LaBelle, is an R&B and soul singer-songwriter and actress. She is renowned for her passionate stage performances, wide vocal range and distinctive high-octave belting. Labelle has won 2 Grammy Awards and has sold over 50 million records. Her memorable hits include, “New Attitude”, “Stir It Up”, and “If You Asked Me To”.


2. Whitney Houston


Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is a singer, actress, and former fashion model. Houston has won 6 Grammy Awards and is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums and singles worldwide. Memorable hits include, “You Give Good Love”, “Saving All My Love for You”, and I Will Always Love You”.


1. Aretha Franklin


Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is a singer, songwriter and pianist commonly referred to as The Queen of Soul. Although renowned for her soul recordings, Franklin is also adept at jazz, rock, blues, pop, R&B and gospel music. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Franklin No. 1 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time. Franklin has won 18 Grammy Awards and has sold over 100 million records. Memorable hits include, “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Rock Steady”.

Music | Comments (45)

45 Responses to “Top 10 Female Singers”

  1. Patrina B Says:

    That’s a pretty good list they are all great singers

  2. Shack Says:

    Okay ladies – You didn’t jump on the Luther Top Ten as much as expected but there should be a TON of Comments on this list…which needs work.

    Sometime Leon tries to “bait” us with obvious omissions but NO LIST OF FEMALE VOCALISTS WOULD BE COMPLETE WITHOUT DIANA ROSS, STEPHANIE MILLS and SADE in my opinion.

    Don’t consider Tina T. a great vocalist but a great entertainer! Alicia Keyes is rated too low and Mariah Carey is okay but not a Top Tenner.

    Natalie C. is a little like Whitney. Both ladies greatness has been hampered by drugs!

  3. Leon Says:

    Thanks Patrina!

  4. Leon Says:

    Diana Ross is one of the most successful singers, but never was considered a great singer. As a matter of fact, many people have stated that Florence Ballard was the best singer in The Supremes.
    The same applies to Sade, who happens to be a favorite of mine. Great style, great performer, and very successful, but not considered a great singer. Case in point: a recent article came out that asked, “Can Sade really sing?”
    Stephanie Mills, awesome singer, but career was short-lived.
    Whitney & Natalie Cole had phenonemal success prior to any drug related issues.
    Tina Turner, fit all all of the judging principles to be a top tenner.
    Keep in mind that the last factor to be considered in the top ten is the ability to pull emotions from deep within the human soul.

  5. Shack Says:

    GG – Can You give me a litle help!!

  6. grapevine Says:

    Diana Ross belongs on this list, she had a very successful career once she left the supremes. So should Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston should be several numbers lower, maybe 9 or 10.

  7. Shonee Says:

    Aretha, Natalie and Mariah are not one of my favorites AND I think Patti is the best singer/performer on this list.

    My favorite, Jill Scott..she doesn’t fit in any of the 4 combo factors?

    Finally, Im glad that Beyonce is NOT on this list..I had to say it.

  8. Leon Says:

    Nice hearing from you Shonee.

    Jill Scott is a favorite of mine too. She’s won 3 Grammy Awards & has sold 15 million records. Although impressive, the others have more accolades and have sold more because they have been singing/performing longer.

  9. Shack Says:

    Please list Dionne Warwicke’s stats. Although not a favorite of mine she should knock one of the TT ladies off…probably Natalie, Tina or Mariah. Like several of you have voiced, I’d take Jill Scott over these three and would definitely take Stephanie Mills over Tina (she was round long enough!

    Whomever said Sade could not sing should be assasinated! Janet Jackson is the only one who fits that category. Beyonce is multi-talented but I agree she’s not a TT in this category!

  10. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    Very interesting list and comments…Aretha is the only one that I think is in the right place. I don’t think Natalie Cole, Tina Turner or Anita Baker should be on the list. Although, I like them all. I do think that Diana Ross belongs on the list. Minnie Riperton, Patty Auston, Jill Scott, and Dionne Warrick. Alicia Keys is in the wrong place on the list. Great list Leon.

  11. Leon Says:

    Well Shack, you fought hard to remove one of the top-tens, and you may have succeeded with Dionne Warwicke.
    Dionne stat’s: 5 Grammy Awards, & over 100 million recoreds sold. She could possibly bump N. Cole from the top 10.

    On the other hand, you severely underestimate the success of Mariah & Tina.
    Mariah: 5 Grammy Awards and over 175 million records sold. Her 18 number-one singles, are the most for a solo artist.
    Tina: 8 Grammy Awards and over 200 million records sold.

  12. Leon Says:

    Hey Lenora, I was waiting for your input regarding the list. As I mentioned to Shack in an earlier comment, you both have a point regarding Dionne. N. Cole now seems questionable. But Tina Turner’s numbers (Grammy’s & Record Sales) are just too strong to be left off the list. Thanks for your feedback.

  13. Ghop Says:

    Chaka Khan should be AT LEAST No. 3 on this list – though I’d put her No. 2!

  14. Leon Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Ghop!

  15. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    Sade is a great singer. You should hear her live :-)

  16. Leon Says:

    I believe you Lenora. Shack has told me the same thing.

  17. Shack Says:

    Leon – This is seemingly the best lists yet in terms of responses.Everyone’s opinions are solid and valid!

    Tina T’s. voice and style just don’t do it for me. When I think of her I only entertain two songs – Proud Mary (w Ike)and What’s Love Got To Do With It(Solo). Her remaining body of work is not as impressive as the others in your TT regardless of grammys and sales.

    That’s why I have Sade, Ross, Mills, Scott even Toni Braxton ahead of her mentally. We must also menstionthe GREAT ladies of the past somewhere in this discussion. B. Holliday, S, Vaughn. E. Fitgerald and others from the 40s & 50s.

    Ms. Lenora – You’re okay with me!!!
    Ms. Joi – Still waiting on a reply about the tatoos!

  18. Shack Says:

    Lenora also cited Minnie Ripperton. Which made me think of Phyllis Hyman. Who knows where they would rank had they lived. There are several more in this category including: Patti Austin, Angela Bofill, Mary J. Blige, Deniece Williams, Lauren Hill, Evelyn King, Brandy, Cherl Lynn and how could we forget the Diva of Disco Donna Summer(no S)!! I’m sure we still forgot someone who’f fit this TT.

  19. Shack Says:

    Point of clarification – By “This Category” referenced above I mean a 2nd Tier – just below the original Top Ten.

  20. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    Shack you’re alright with me also. I thought of the exact same people. There are so many great singers past and present. They would have to be broken down in age order or decade order or something. Superb job Leon.

  21. Joi :-) Says:

    Leon, great list!!! :-) I cannot dispute any of the people that u listed, nor can I think of anyone else who was not mentioned. U did an excellent job with your top 10′s. :-) I know that these individuals will not make the T.T., but I love India Arie, and Lauryn Hill. I do not know about “sales” or anything like that, but in terms of who does it for my soul. India first, then Lauryn (before ya’ll shoot me, I’m speaking in terms of Lauryns music “before”). Great job Leon! :-) and Shack… meet me in the T.T.’s about tatt’s…… Have a great day all. :-)

  22. Leon Says:

    Thanks Joi! And welcome back!

  23. Big Myk Says:

    You forgot about Mary J. Blige Youknow she shoul dbe here maybe instead of Mariah or Alicia keys and Lauryn Hill a short lived career but a fantasic talent.

  24. Leon Says:

    Myk, Mary J. almost made the list. And I agree with you regarding Lauryn Hill.

  25. Shonee Says:

    @ Shack (I think)..people need to know that before Anita Baker (whom I like) and Mariah (not a favorite) there was Sarah Vaughan and Minnie Riperton..their voices were incredible!!

    Chaka Khan, Toni Braxton, Mary J Blige and Bille Holiday are also favorites of mine.

  26. Lyn Says:

    Great list Leon and Number One is right on I love Aretha Franklin. Although you will say I know nothing about that. LOL

  27. Leon Says:

    Lyn, I’m pleased to know that you can relate to Aretha. lol

  28. Desiree Says:

    I love the list – just want to say…Shack – in my opinion – Whitney Houston is AMAZING – regardless of her personal struggle with drugs. According to the four factors being considered, she more than qualifies for this list.

  29. Leon Says:

    Welcome to BlackTopTens, Desiree. Thanks for your positive feedback, and thanks for recognizing the four factors that were considered to make the list; proving, as you so wonderfully stated that is Whitney is AMAZING, and more than qualifies for this list.
    Excellent comments! Thanks for sharing!

  30. Shack Says:

    Ms. Desiree – Hello I am “Old School Shack” and I just remember that sweet, innocent 19 year old in 85′ (she had almost become Saundra on the Cosby Show) who then DOMINATED the rest of the decade and was clearly the hottest female vocalist to come along in years. She was destined to become an ICON!

    Then some years later, I recall the disgraceful, class less, farting creature on Being With Bobby Brown and how “ghetto” she had become as a person, mother and wife.

    I never said she shouldn’t be in the TT but had she played it right, she may have eclipsed Aretha as the No.1 Diva of all time. Instead she became what I like to call Ghetto Personified!

    Remember “Crack Is Whack”

  31. Straaw Says:

    Where is Minnie Riperton? Alicia Keys ain’t even close to no top 10. Chaka Khan Should be higher. Diana Ross might deserve some consideration. Nancy Wilson. Ella Fitzgerald. What! scat singin’ don’t count. What about Lena Horne? ain’t heard enough of her. This one has got to be top 10: Amel Larrieux deserves it.

  32. Straaw Says:

    Amel Larrieux was the lead singer in Groove theory before she went solo.

  33. Leon Says:

    Straaw, Minnie Ripperton’s career was unfortunately cut short before she was able to accumalate a highly successful recording career. If the list was based solely on a singers octave range, she would be at the top of the list.
    Regarding Alicia K., please read the criteria to be considered for the list. (The heading above the top-tens.) Alicia K. has accomplished more in a shorter period of time than some of those ahead of her on the list. She’s definitely a legitimate top ten female vocalist.
    Amel Larrieux, deserves no consideration. Again read heading/criteria to be considered for the list.

  34. jamar Says:

    Not a bad list, although there are a few that I dont think quite belong ie. Whitney H, Patti L, Tina T,(whom I am a fan of) and Alecia Keys(the most undeserving)

  35. jamar Says:

    Although Im not a huge fan, Aretha definitely belongs at #1,but Chaka, Natalie, and Gladys are exquisite

  36. Jamar Says:

    I just wanted to add an observation. Of the vocalist listed here Natalie has the most diverse Grammy wins and nominations. She has won Grammy’s in R&B,Jazz, Traditional Pop,and Pop collaboration as well as being nominated in Pop, and Gospel.Chaka also has a diverse list of nominations.Both are amazingly gifted vocalist.

  37. Leon Says:

    Jamar, very good observations.

  38. BrothaGAR Says:

    Natalie and Chaka are my favorites on the list.
    One more observation: Natalie even had a number one dance song with Livin For Love….Jazz, Pop, R&B, she has jumped around different genres before sticking with the Jazz/Pop music…
    As much as I like Alicia Keys, I feel like she should not be on the list. Someone like Erykah Badu who makes you think after hearing her songs should replace Alicia Keys. I know Alicia Keys has the record sales and Grammy’s, but I still say that India Arie was robbed the year Alicia Keys won her five Grammy Awards for the Songs In A Minor Album….Honorable Mentions: Stephanie Mills, Lauryn Hill and India Arie….Overrated Artist: Mary J. Blige (good but not great)

  39. BrothaGAR Says:

    Natalie and Chaka are my favorites on the list. These two ladies can SANG just about anything.

    As much as I like Alcia Keys, I do not think that she belongs on this list….She has the sales and the Grammy’s; however, I believe that India Arie was robbed the year Alicia won those 5 grammy awards for the Songs In A Minor album.

    My personal top ten would look like this.

    Aretha Franklin
    Natalie Cole
    Chaka Khan
    Gladys Knight
    Patti Labelle
    Stephanie Mills
    Erykah Badu
    Dionne Warwick
    Nancy Wilson
    Teena Marie

  40. Addi Says:

    Tina should have been number one or at least second! she is amazing lady! singer and performer! i guess many americans don’t respect like European people do

  41. bkoutlaw2 Says:

    Great list. I’ve been reading some of the comments and I notice that alot of the commentators like Tina Turner but don’t think she should’ve made the cut. ARE U CRAZY??? The lady’s voice is like NO OTHER. RAW. POWERFUL. STRONG. I suggest they go and seek out her stuff with Ike… go all the way back to the 1960′s. Then dive more into her solo career. Even on her rock-n-roll songs Ms. Anna Mae is serving up pure SOUL straight from the pulpit! I’ve seen this lady in concert 4 times and she is a TRUE vocalist. She don’t need to do “runs” & “riffs” and such. Like Gladys Knight, the VOICE is soulful all by itself.
    Tina doesn’t sing like a woman. Her delivery is that of a man’s.
    I actually would’ve placed her higher on my list.

  42. Leon Says:

    Great comments, bk.
    And I agree with you 100%.

  43. Shack II Says:

    bk”"” & Leon – You may have hit on why Tina T. doesn’t do it for me. Although she oozes soul, power, rawness etc. I like a woman to sound feminine, like Stephanie, like Patti, like Whitney, before her fall. In my opinion, Aretha and Chaka (and a few others) have consistently demonstrated ALL these attributes over the years. Perhaps Tina’s a bit too masculine for my taste. But thats what great about this blog, we can ALL express our opinions, agree and disagree but consensus dictates (as evidenced by each of the 40+ VALID comments submitted) that each singer referenced has a dedicated following and extraordinary Godgiven talent!!

  44. Leon Says:

    Great feedback Shack!

  45. bkoutlaw2 Says:

    Hey Shack, I feel u. I think Tina has always been an acquired taste for many here in the U.S. I know as a kid I likened her more to James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding more than Aretha or Diana Ross. But for me, this is what drew more to her. The fact that as a female, she stood alone. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my females to showcase femininity in their voices and sing pretty and all. But I also gravitate to those who just let it all out and didn’t follow the rules, like Tina, Etta James, Nina Simone and such. Tina always reminded me of a preacher doing his sermon at Sunday service: kinda hoarse and shouting notes.