Wondering about the leading ladies who ruled the country airwaves in the 70s? So were we. After an extensive journey into this golden era, we've compiled a list of the best female country singers of the 70s. Here they are.
Jeanie C. Riley
Jeanie C. Riley emerged as one of the most remarkable country singers of the 1970s. Her ability to convey deep emotions through her music, coupled with her resonant voice and charismatic stage presence, set her apart as a true standout in a vibrant era of country music.
Riley's breakthrough hit, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” catapulted her to stardom in 1968, but it was in the 1970s that she truly showcased her prowess as a country artist. Bangers like “Country Girl,” “Good Enough to Be Your Wife,” and “Oh Singer,” cemented her place in history.
Jeanie consistently delivered songs that resonated with country aficionados. Her songs featured themes of love, heartache, and the everyday struggles of ordinary people. This, combined with her authentic and relatable performances made her music feel like personal stories shared with a close friend.
Wanda Jackson's impact on country music during the 1970s was so profound, that it solidified her status as one of the era's finest performers. Her distinct blend of country, rock, and gospel, along with her powerful voice and dynamic stage presence, made her a true icon of the decade.
Songs like “Fancy Satin Pillows” and “The Box It Came In” showcased her versatile vocal range and demonstrated her adaptability to the evolving country styles of the time. What set Jackson apart was her charismatic delivery and unabashed emotion, allowing her to convey the heartache, resilience, and strength embedded within her songs.
Known for her captivating storytelling and distinctive vocal style, Gentry gripped audiences with a string of hits that showcased her unparalleled ability to blend country, pop, and folk influences into beautifully crafted songs.
Songs like “Fancy” and “Oklahoma, My Sweet Love” highlighted her talent for crafting relatable and poignant narratives, often delving into themes of love, heartache, and the complexities of Southern life.
Bobbie Gentry's contributions to country music extended beyond her musical prowess. She challenged conventions with her unique fashion sense and lyrical depth, defying genre norms and paving the way for artists who dared to explore new artistic territories.
Lynn Anderson, born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, emerged as a formidable force in country music during the '70s. This iconic woman started her singing journey in the mid-1960s, but her career soared in the following decade.
She established herself as one country music's most significant female artists with hit songs and successful albums. Influence resonated through decades; she embarked on an impressive musical journey until July 30, 2015. Her untimely death at age 67 was due to a heart attack after contracting pneumonia.
Jessi Colter, an American country singer, made her mark in the mid-1970s. As one of the few female artists to make it big during that period, she made waves in the music world.
The surname “Colter” belonged to Jess Colter, a historical figure infamous for his law-evading adventures. This hint of rebellion seeped into her music, too; her hits resonated with listeners due to their raw emotion and unique narrative.
Throughout the 70s, Jessi Colter delivered hit after hit in what seemed like unstoppable momentum. Among these chartbusters was “I'm Not Lisa,” which climbed to number one on country singles charts! There's no doubt that she became an icon among female artists in country music during this time.
Donna Fargo, born Yvonne Vaughan in 1945, emerged from Mount Airy, North Carolina, and stormed the Country Music scene in the 70s. She carved a unique path as a singer and songwriter with her brand of upbeat tunes that appealed deeply to fans across different music genres.
Her chart-shattering hits include “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” and “Funny Face,” which claimed Top 10 positions on country charts and painted her as a crossover success story in pop music. Her songs resonated deeply with many listeners due to their authentic storytelling and catchy rhythms.
Crystal Gayle is an iconic American country music singer who rose to fame in the 1970s. One of her most well-known songs, “Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” was released in 1977 and became a huge hit.
This Grammy-winning artist is widely recognized as one of the decade's most famous female country singers. Interestingly, Crystal Gayle's real name is Brenda Gail Webb. With her unique voice and memorable performances, Crystal Gayle left a lasting impact on the country music scene during the 70s.
Loretta Lynn, the talented country music artist of the 1970s, was chosen as the artist of the decade by the Academy of Country Music. She holds the unique distinction of being the only woman to have received this title.
Known for her powerful voice and memorable songs, Loretta Lynn became one of the most influential women in country music history during this time period. Rising to fame in the late Sixties and early-Seventies, she captured audiences with her heartfelt performances and relatable lyrics.
Renowned for her contributions to country music, Loretta Lynn has been honored by multiple Halls of Fame. She was inducted into more music Halls of Fame than any other female recording artist.
Barbara Mandrell, an American country music singer, and musician, made a significant mark in the industry. In 1979, she was awarded the prestigious title of CMA's Female Vocalist of the Year.
Not stopping there, Mandrell claimed even greater success by being named Entertainer of the Year in 1980 and 1981. She was the first artist to achieve such recognition in both categories.
Her contributions to country music have not gone unnoticed – Barbara Mandrell has earned her rightful place in the esteemed Country Music Hall of Fame.
Anne Murray is a Canadian singer who gained fame in the 70s for her pop, country, and adult contemporary music. She has sold over 55 million albums, making her one of the most successful artists of that era.
Murray is highly regarded as a Canadian country singer and has received numerous honors for her contributions to the music industry. Some of her well-known songs include “Snowbird” and “A Little Good News.” In addition to singing her hits, Murray has also covered songs by other artists, showcasing her versatility as a performer.
Olivia Newton-John was a talented female country singer who left an indelible mark on the music scene in the 1970s. Originally from England (but raised in Australia), she went to the USA to pursue her career in country music. Olivia quickly became a rising star in the industry with her soft and gentle vocals.
In 1973, Olivia Newton-John burst onto the country music scene with her breakthrough hit single “Let Me Be There.” This song solidified her status as a popular country artist and earned her recognition as the best female vocalist of the year in 1974.
Later, she expanded her career into musical movies with hits like “Xanadu” and “Grease,” leaving a bigger mark on her musical career. She continued expanding her musical talents with many hits over the years and awards. All her fans felt her passing in 2022.
Dolly Parton, one of the best female country singers of the 70s, is a music icon. She holds the title of Billboard's All-Time Top Female Country Artist. Dolly's success extends beyond just the 70s – she is the only woman who has achieved number-one records in three decades.
Dolly Parton has captivated audiences with her distinctive voice and memorable hits that have topped various charts. Whether it's “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” or any other classic tune from Dolly Parton's repertoire, there is no denying that she has left an indelible mark on the world of music.
Sammi Smith was a talented country singer who made her mark in the 1970s. She had a successful music career until her passing on February 12, 2005. Sammi Smith is best known for her crossover hit in 1971, “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” which showcased her exceptional vocals and songwriting skills.
Despite being considered one of the most underrated artists in country music, she had several other successful covers like “Today I Started Loving You Again” and “The Longest Walk.” Sammi Smith's contributions to the music industry are not to be overlooked, as she left an incredible legacy with her soulful voice and timeless songs.
Tanya Tucker was a well-known female country singer of the 70s. She started her singing career at 13 years old and quickly made a name for herself with her hit song “Delta Dawn” in 1972.
What's interesting is that Tanya's older sister, LaCosta Tucker, also recorded country music during the same time period.
In addition to her successful music career, Tanya Tucker had a stormy relationship with fellow star Glen Campbell in the early 80s. However, as the 80s began, Tanya's chart fortunes declined. Despite this setback, her powerful voice and memorable songs significantly impacted the country's music industry.
Jody Miller was an incredible singer who made her mark in country, folk, and pop music. She achieved great success and recognition during the 1960s and '70s. She even won a Grammy award in 1966 for “Best Country Performance—Female,” a testament to her talent and skill as a vocalist.
One of her most memorable songs was “Queen of the House,” which became a crossover hit in 1965. Jody Miller had an impressive total of six top 10 singles throughout her career, solidifying her status as one of the best female country singers of that era.
Connie Smith is a talented American country music singer and songwriter. She was born in Elkhart, Indiana. Known for her distinctive contralto vocals, Connie Smith gained fame in the 1960s and 1970s as one of the best female country singers of her time.
Her debut single, “Once a Day,” quickly became a chart-topper, establishing her as a rising star in the country music industry. In an unusual love story, Connie Smith married country singer Marty Stuart in 1997 – even though Stuart is 17 years younger!
Tammy Wynette was one of the most prominent female country singers in the 1970s. Her unique and tearful vocals struck a chord with many women, resonating deeply with their emotions.
Alongside Loretta Lynn, she was known as one of the First Ladies of Country Music. Their contributions to the genre made them pioneers for future generations of female musicians. Tammy Wynette's vulnerable singing style touched hearts all over America and contributed to her massive popularity during this era.
Stella Parton is an influential artist in the American country music scene. As a singer-songwriter, she made her musical debut in 1967 and quickly gained recognition for her chart-topping hits during the country music era of the 1970s.
Stella Parton's talent runs in the family as she is the younger sister of the famous country music icon Dolly Parton. Throughout her solo career, Stella Parton has left a lasting impact on the country music industry with her unique style and powerful vocals.
Linda Martell made history as the first commercially successful black female artist in country music. She broke barriers and paved the way for future African American females in the genre. Despite enduring racist abuse throughout her career, Linda Martell's passion for country music remained unwavering.
Her talent and dedication made her the first black woman to perform on the prestigious Grand Ole Opry stage. One of her notable achievements was when her song “Color Him Father” reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot Chart, further solidifying her impact on country music history.
Janie Fricke was known for her powerful and versatile vocals, which helped her become one of that decade's most popular female country singers.
Janie Fricke's music career took off when she signed with a record label and released several hit songs. Her musical versatility allowed her to tackle different styles within the genre, from traditional country ballads to more upbeat tunes. Janie also collaborated with various artists, establishing herself as a prominent figure in the country music scene.
In addition to singing, Janie Fricke has also delved into songwriting and producing records. Her passion for music goes beyond just performing; she wants to create meaningful songs that connect with listeners on a personal level.
Sue Thompson was a talented singer who made a name for herself in pop and country music. She had some fantastic hits, like “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” and “Norman,” which sold millions of copies back in 1961.
What made Sue Thompson stand out was her breathy, little-girl voice that became her signature style. In the early 1960s, she also released several novelty pop songs that were quite popular.
However, Sue Thompson didn't stop there – she later reinvented herself as a more mature artist. She left an indelible mark on the late 1950s and early 1960s music scene alongside other female vocalists like Connie Francis and Brenda Lee.
Charly McClain is a talented American country music singer from the '70s and '80s. Born on March 26, 1956, in Memphis, Tennessee, she began her musical journey at a young age.
McClain started recording herself when she was nine and formed a band called “Charlotte & The Volunteers” with her brother at 12.
However, it was in the 1980s that she gained significant popularity with a string of chart-topping hits. Some of her well-known singles include “With You,” “Sentimental Ol' You,” and “Surround Me With Love.” Charly McClain's powerful vocals and heartfelt lyrics made her a beloved figure in country music during this era.
The Kendalls were a talented father-daughter duo in the world of country music. Consisting of Royce Kendall and Jeannie Kendall, they achieved great success during the 1970s and 1980s.
Their talent was undeniable, with 18 songs reaching the Top 20 on the Billboard country singles chart. Jeannie Kendall, in particular, emerged as one of country music's most remarkable female stylists during this time.
History shows that The Kendalls were not just any ordinary duo – they became the most successful father-daughter duo in country music history. Their remarkable career included three number-one records and an impressive collection of 22 top singles and 11 top 10 hits.
Jeannie’s incredible vocal abilities and chart-topping hits impacted the country music scene. Their legacy continues to live on through their memorable songs, showcasing why they were among the best female singers of the era.
Melba Montgomery is a well-known American country music singer and songwriter. In the 70s, she gained recognition for her duet recordings, showcasing her strong vocal abilities. Before this era, Montgomery was mainly known for her work as a duet singer.
She emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s as one of several talented female singers in the country music scene. Along with her success as a singer, Montgomery has also made a name for herself as a songwriter.
Margo Smith is an American country and Christian music singer-songwriter who succeeded greatly in the 1970s. One of her most notable achievements was the release of her single “Still a Woman” in 1979, significantly impacting the country music scene.
Margo Smith is considered one of the best female country singers of the 70s and was even ranked #79 on the list of the 100 Greatest Women. Her unique blend of country and Christian music resonated with audiences, and she became known for her powerful vocals and heartfelt performances.
Emmylou Harris is one of the most influential female country singers of the 70s. Her powerful voice and captivating performances made her a standout in the music industry. She released numerous albums and singles throughout her career, showcasing her talent for country and folk music.
In the mid-70s, she rose to stardom and became one of the biggest names in country music. One of the critical moments in Harris' career was her collaboration with Gram Parsons, which greatly influenced her musical style during this time.
She also worked with notable artists like Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt, creating unforgettable musical collaborations. Emmylou Harris remains a respected and celebrated female vocalist even today, leaving a lasting impact on the country music genre.
Sandy Posey is an American popular singer known for her success in the 1960s. She had hit singles like “Born a Woman” and “Single Girl” in 1966, which showcased her unique style that blended country and pop music.
Although often described as a country singer, Sandy Posey's music also crossed the pop genre. She was associated with the Nashville country sound of the 1960s and 70s, which gave her songs a distinct flavor liked by many fans.
Sandy Posey was featured in Elvis Presley's sessions at Moman's American studios, further cementing her place in music history.
Top Female Country Singers Of The 70s, Final Thoughts
In conclusion, the 70s was an incredible decade for female country singers. From the iconic voices of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn to rising stars like Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell, these women shaped the genre with their talent and passion.
Their music resonates with fans today, solidifying their status as some of the best female country singers ever.