Top 12 Best Black Female Singers of All Time


Absolute Best Black Female Singers of All Time

black female singers

Who are the Top Black Female Singers in the history of music?

Top Black Female Singers – Anyway that you look at it black women have made an indelible mark on the history of soul music, and soul singers, R&B Music and R&B singers, race music, black music, black female singers cannot be denied.

These are the women who have taken the industry by storm since the inception of the music industry. From the Blues to Jazz to R&B the riffs, scats, octaves, and emotion black women singers have mastered over the decades have without a doubt played an integral part in the music industry it’s rich history. Like “Soul Food” we have, or at least HAD a plethora of Soul Music to choose from.

Black female singers were there during the highs and the lows of our community from the ins and outs of love go through the Civil Rights movement. If we were to close the music history books today and list the best black female singers of all time is this list complete? Absolutely not, you would literally have to write a book on all the great black women in music, but these are our choices in who we think the top ones are. Do you Agree or disagree? Well, you can be the judge.

Whitney Houston

Only a fool could deny the late Whitney Houston’s amazing talent. She had one of the most spectacular voices of the century and sold millions of albums and singles in a career that spanned 30 years. Top Black Female Singers

Aretha Franklin

The late Aretha Franklin had etched her space in history as the undeniable Queen of Soul. Her career had spanned more than 50 years.

Nancy Wilson

The late Nancy Wilson was always a bit underrated but she made up for it with her Jazz-tinged sexy vocals that won fans worldwide and earned her space as a great singer of many genres, including jazz and soul.

Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick was the Whitney Houston of the 60s, teaming up with Burt Bacharach for some of the most memorable hits in the history of music like I Say a Little Prayer and Walk on By. Top Black Female Singers

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight has one of the most recognizable and BEST voices in R&B. She is still going strong today

Chaka Khan

chaka Khan has solidified her space as one of the premier singers in R&B history. Her range and interpretation is second to none.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole was a multi-dimensional singer that can do standards, soul, jazz and even Latin music. Her troubled past and her poor relationships fueled her talent to incredible heights. Out of all the women on the list, Natalie and Mariah Carey probably has the best range.

Patti LaBelle

Patti LaBelle was never meant to be a gracious and plastic singer off stage or on. She never had a problem rolling on the floor and kicking off her shoes to the delight of fans and singing her heart out.

Mariah Carey

Mariah is not a soul singer or a pop singer she is JUST a GREAT singer. Her unique ability to sing in the whistle register is only matched by Rachelle Ferrell … Mariah is probably the wealthiest woman on the list as she wrote MOST of her smash hits so she will have a great payday for life. Best Black Female Singers

Phyllis Hyman

Phyllis was so incredibly underrated and she deserved SO much more recognition for her amazing voice. ironically her music sounds just as good today as it did 20 years ago RIP.

Sarah Vaughn

Sarah Vaughn was so talented with such great range and wonderful jazzy style that there were times she could sing like a man and bridge a baritone key into a soprano with amazing ease. She was truly one of the best singers in the world.


Ella Fitzgerald

Is there anything that can’t be said about the amazing Ella Fitzgerald?


  1. Most of those women didn’t write songs in the 1960s. If they did, those BMI Writers and Publishers checks would be nuts today.

    You should add soul/disco singer Loleatta Holloway. Her voice was crazy.

  2. Jennifer Lopez is not Black and I can’t believe you could compile a list like this and not include Nina Simone. Have you lost your mind?

  3. Aretha wrote many songs and some of her own hits..”Think”, “Day Dreaming”, “Rock Steady”, “Since You Been Gone”, all sold well over a million copies each plus she wrote “Call Me” and “Dr. Feelgood”..

  4. I think Jennifer Hudson and Oleta Adams belong on that list somewhere, although I can’t deny that for the most part it’s a pretty good lineup.

  5. Great list… much respect to the wonderful singers you’ve listed; I just have to add a few you have overlooked: Ella Fitzgerald (the best female vocalist I’ve ever heard), Billie Holliday, and Sarah Vaughn. Not to mention Lena Horne, Shirley Bassey, Joesphine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Ethel Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and Pearl Bailey.

  6. this list is incomplete to me if Anita fuckin Baker aint on it re you crazy!!!!!!!!!! minnie ripperton, kim burrell, Sade, Shirley murdock definitely deserve honorable mentions and teena marie might be white but she aint no punk

  7. Who complied this list? I understand you wish to pay homage to a few legends, where is Mahalia Jackson or Tina Turner if that’s what you’re doing? I read a few comments about those writing their own material….I don’t think that’s what the writer is trying to convey because ‘singer’ is the key word! Are you considering record sales? If so, then Beyonce should be on there (even tho I don’t think she’s a contender but she has paid her dues)! Also HOW IN THE WORLD could you not include Lisa Fisher, Minni Ripperton, Angela Bofill and Heather Headly? When you say undeniable you mean undisputed or incapable of being denied…correct? Well I can dispute a few of your choices. When I think of a black female that sing….I think quality!

    • This sister knows her music. Go-head Tammy and say that, yes indeed. I do agree, and you must “blow/sang”!
      Also Paulys Copy Writing Business. Hit me up. You are “qualified” Tammy!

  8. Angela Winbush, Angela Bofill, Randy Crawford, Sharon Bryant from Atlantic Starr. I never thought of Jennifer Lopez as a singer nor as blaci

  9. What happened to Anita Baker, Stephanie Mills, Sade, Minnie Ripperton and Ella Fitzgerald should be in the top three. Its obvious the compiler of this list do not really pay attention to black female artist,,,,,Jennifer Lopez, why not Bonnie Raitt also.

  10. How could you leave the legendary Toni Braxton off the list I mean come on! I’m also shocked that Anita Baker was ignored as well SMH!

  11. I get the Jennifer Lopez joke. I immediately knew something was wrong when I saw her name (LOL). I’ve read some of the suggestions that others have entered above and have to admit that many were good singers, but we are talking about the greatest of all time here, so being good is not good enough for this list. Here are some glaring omissions from your list. Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn raised the standard from everyone that preceded them, and set the standard for everyone that followed them. Dinah Washington is simply the most versatile singer ever (black, white, male or female). Check out some of her music and I’m sure you will agree. She could sing anything. Stephanie Mills would run several of your “top 12” off the stage. She would definitely be in any top 10 list I came up with. And While I’m not sure she would make my top 10 list (definitely my top 20), I would also have to mention Teena Marie. Now I know y’all will say she’s white, but she truely loved and fully embraced our culture and gave us some of the most soulful music of a generation. Because of this, many whites dispised her and refuse to give her her props. In many ways Teena was one of us, so i feel she deserves honorable mention.

    • Not to break your bubble but Teena Marie was white. Her influence on the music is called “blue eyed soul.” She died in 2010

    • I think it was Duke Ellington who used to get a lot of flack for accepting white guys into his band, but he just said something like “If they got soul, they got soul”,,,,,Love it.
      Of all dinah Washington is my very favorite.

      I just can’t get down with the disco era plus divas except for a bit of Amy Winehart and early Adele, and both styled themselves after the 60’s divas… can hear it..

  12. Ok, so I thought about this some more and realized that I forgot some others that definitely deserve consideration. Lauren Hill as both a singer and a songwriter needs to be atleast considered for any such list; maybe the top 20? Maysa Leak is in my opinion the greatest singer on the planet right now, she just can’t seem to get any airplay on these highly restrictive radio formats we have now. Adreana Evans, the best singer you probably have not heard of. She has the voice of an angel; seriously. I agree with the person who mentioned Angela Winbush. Also Angela Bofill. My gosh, how could I have forgotten ROBERTA FLACK? Definitely a top 10 consideration!!

    • Thank you for introducing me to maysa. Yes and Roberta I remember so well.
      the styling of most current divas seems to me to be lacking….

  13. In my book Phyllis Hyman should be # one. And I have a newly found love for Melba Moore she the Queen of dance funk and should have been placed some where below 7 on the list

  14. You must be kidding! Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Billy Holiday, Dakota Staton, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Nancy Wilson, Mahalia Jackson, Marion Anderson, Leontine Price, Shirley Bassey, Della Reese , Deniece Williams, Minnie Riperton and many more set the standard for all the singers on your ill conceived list. Many of the women I have listed are not simply among the best ” Black” female voices, but rather among the best voices of all time. Your list might be better labelled some of the top voices in the last 25 years, but it would still be lacking!

    • right on, as we used to say. And don’t forget Anita Baker…….Dinah Washington is my all time favorite….Thank you for introducing to Dakota

  15. Im not understanding why Jennifer Lopez is on this list not only is she not black she also is not one of the greatest singers, what about Minnie Riperton, Anita Baker,Sade Denise Williams and if you are going to stray from blacks you most definitely could not leave out that blue eyed soul sister Teena Marie.

  16. UNDENIABLE? ARE U KIDDING ME? I can agree with maybe half. Maybe! But what about Minnie Ripperton; Sarah Vaughn; Billy Holiday; Tamia;

  17. First who is Rachelle Ferrell? and what does she do for a living?

    Have you ever heard of Ella, Nancy, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Sade, Mahalia, Marion Anderson or Leontine. You must live in cave and are to stupid to read your own Headline…undeniable, Black, of all time. Lopez? you must be related to here or something

    • Umm Sule, you should really do some research. “Who is Rachelle Farrell?” You might as well have said who is George Duke, Pearl Bailey, Boostie Collins, KEM, or Anita Baker? Rachelle has been in the game a long time. She toured with the Duke and KEM, she did a duet with Will Downing, amongst making some of the best love, jazz, socially aware, and soul music in the past 20+ years.
      But don’t mind me, I’m just a huge fan.

      • Ah we all learn about the greats one at a time……that’s the joy of it. I just found 2 I didn’t know.

  18. I totally agree with Sule. Where the hell is Ella, Sarah and Billie. In a list of the “best Black singers” of all time – how could they be missing??!! Someone didn’t do their homework.

  19. Oh yes, there is work to be done. As a classical trained vocalist, Black, and an ethnomusicologist, from the readings I have taken off the internet, it is time something is done about the lack of information. My work is to not only pay tribute to the Black singer but make sure that the “sound” they have created and is much emulated by almost every culture on the planet is preserved for all time and that the world knows (what some take for granted) who were the originators, and how it has impacted American music and culture, and is still a major force in the world today. Stay tuned, because I can prove it.

  20. No one has mentioned Leona Horn, Candi Staton, Dorothy Moore, Jill Scott, but Jennifer Lopez. You could’ve use Seline Deon, not to mention those great that never got their reconition.

    I like to know who took the pole for the votes. Whom ever it was they was certainly off point with J -Lo .

  21. This is not to take away from any of the names listed, but it is just not possible to do this sort of list without acknowledging Diana Ross.
    Are you mad? Lopez? Really?

  22. What an empty and pathetic list this is!! If the great and glorious Mahalia Jackson is going to be snubbed, then this whole list is garbage. Yeah, she may have been a gospel singer, but that shouldn’t ostracize her from being at the top of this list. If she would have broken her integrity, she would’ve buried every one of these singers. How DARE you try to bury her because of her integrity!!


  24. i have a problem with this… where is Nancy Wilson? i seen dionne, phyllis, natalie, even etta… WHERE IS NANCY WILSON IN THIS 12? THIS SHOULD BE REDONE OVER!


  26. Minnie and Phyllis should be a lot closer to #1 (although maybe they are not in a particular order?) . And no mention of Deniece Williams or Angela Bofill???!! Angela winbush is also one of the very best and wait!!! Jean Carn should absolutely be on that list. If you go see her live (even today) you’ll know why. She could go toe to toe with ANY of those mentioned.

  27. J.Lo?????? I had no idea she was BLACK!!!! Really? Does she know she is black? You left out JEAN CARNE and REGINA BELLE!

  28. This list is STUPID. Sarah, Ella, Nancy not on the list = invalid list. And Dionne — she’s good but seriously? Same with Natalie. I’d replace those two easily.

  29. With my music experience, along with being involved in the music industry and extensive record collection, my top 12 would be much different from this. I have already started compiling a list of the greatest 300 black women vocalists. My list is based totally on skills and range. Nothing to do with sales or popularity. The #1 spots should have gone to either Minnie Riperton or Ella Fitzgerald. Their vocal skills are simply unmatched.

    That singer from here in Houston, that’s ‘married’ to the rapper, is not even in my top 5,000. Wait! She’s not on my list at all. [maniacal laughing] I just stumbled across this, looking for something else.

  30. Yeah, J-Lo was a mistake here. She’s Puerto Rican and many PRs are of a wide array of races and mixed race, so I checked out her parents to be sure and they don’t look mixed or black. However, I don’t know her family descent so I can’t say. Plus, you can’t assume that just because someone is Latino/a that they aren’t black. We can be both. My issue is that she isn’t that great of a singer in my opinion. Not to say she isn’t good, her talent just isn’t comparable to the other singers on the list. So it’s a mistake. I would prefer to see Tina Turner on the list. There are others that could also be on the list, but it’s 12, so everybody can’t be on the list.

  31. The Person who should be included on this list is LINDA JONES She sang (Hypnotized … and Not On The Outside) This lady had the best vocal control of any woman . Listen to these songs on Youtube and then tell me who can match her voice. …NO ONE .

  32. Hard to take a list like this seriously when you leave out Ella Fitzgerald, Lady Day, Nina Simone, Lena Horn, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRea, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson while including Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez (no offense but WTF!?!?)

  33. Haha…just because Jennifer Lopez thinks she’s black doesn’t make her black.
    Haha…just because Jennifer Lopez thinks she can sing doesn’t mean she can sing.
    Haha…just because Jennifer Lopez sang a few half-assed songs in the last decade doesn’t mean she is an “undeniable top female singer of all time.”

    Whoever created was either joking, confused, or stupid…I’m gonna go with the latter. The fact that “All-Time” is hyphenated in the title speaks volumes to this person’s intelligence and education. Haha

  34. I agree with John. Linda Jones was one of the best singers ever!! She definitely should be on any list of best or favorite African American female singers.

  35. This list is a joke, right?
    I realize that these things are subjective, but no Ella, no Sarah, no Billie? And that’s just for starters. The only one on your list that even comes close is Natalie.
    The person who put the list together must be about 25 years old. S/he needs to listen to music frome the true greats.

  36. Sade? Really? I wouldn’t even call what she does singing. And while I like Natalie I don’t think her body of work earns her a place on a list like this.
    And how does a list of the top 12 black female singers of all time not include Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday?

  37. So very true! I think he HAS lost his mind.Even if Lopez WERE Black … she can’t sing her way out of a paper bag. Why don’t you add Britney Spears to the list … maybe SHE’S Black and maybe she can sing too. That makes about as much sense as J-Lo.

  38. Thx for that comment! Mahalia Jackson is the Empress of Soul and one of the greatest voices (male or female) that EVER lived.
    Gospel aside, have any of you listened to that voice. While GOD on high was busy running the Universe, he heard Mahalia’s singing and said “Stop everything, I hear my child’s voice and I cannot turn away”. That’s how bad Mahalia Jackson was.

  39. I am really late to this party, but have thought about and debated this topic for years. These are all great vocalists but some do not belong in the top 12, i.e. Anita Baker and Dionne Warwick. If we are talking about pure vocals then you need to add Diana Ross, Stephanie Mills, Yolanda Adams, Nancy Wilson and CeCe Winans. I’m just saying…. By the way, Gladys Knight is my QOS!!!

  40. Not sure if others have mentioned these women, but please consider Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Ethel Waters, Betty Carter, and Sarah Vaughn from a more jazzy/soul background,

    Marion Anderson, Leontyne Price, and Kathleen Battle from the classical world,

    Jennifer Holiday, Melba Moore, and as of late Shirley Murdock from a musical theater background,

    and Shirley Caesar, Kim Burrell, Yolanda Adams, Ce-Ce Winans, or any of the Clark Sisters from a more Gospel perspective if you want your list of black female vocalists to have credibility.

    We’re talking about vocal ability and mastery of vocal craft as a songstress right?

    Several on the list do belong, but many would fall off of a top 12-15 list if we’re being comprehensive about sistas with a special gift!

  41. Donna Summer should have been on this list. She’s, probably, the most versatile female vocalist out of the ones that did make the list. She also, probably, conquered more genres as well. But, of course, any list is a matter of personal opinion. Donna Summer would, indeed, be on my personal list.

  42. Please remove Mariah Carey !!!! She cannot complete with these legendary women….Tina Turner, Roberta Flack..Diana Ross..Donna Summer…etc..

  43. None of y’all know me but just download Rihanna’s discography and them tell me if u still wanna put Jennifer Lopez on this list

  44. If not considered top female black singer, she had to be one of the very hottest, sexiest & incredibly physically fit female singers who really captivated audiences. I am a 60 yr old female that envied her stamina , energy & voice. Loved the power & feeling in her songs. Tina Turner & Cher, what gorgeous powerful women & no matter what age. Just to have the legs let alone the looks! Not sure if someone else already mentioned Tina.
    Karen in Lake Co., Calif.


  45. What happened to Kathleen Battle, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday. It’s foolhardy to attempt to place a 10 limit on such a huge set. It’s even more foolhardy and even contemptuous to limit it to one type of singer as if black female singers only sing R & B.

  46. Overall I like both the women and the male best singers,But for the ladies stepanie Mills would had to be on that list,For the men Jackie Wilson and Otis Redding would have been on my list.

  47. Where is Diana Ross? Tena Marie ain’t black but if Maria Carey is on your list Tena Marie should be on it before her. All female singers come AFTER Aretha Franklin. I strongly suggest that you quit making lists.
    Because you got this all wrong.

    • The list is the best BLACK Female singers, that would omit Teena and Diana Ross? Really? I think YOU got this all wrong. Diana is a phenomenal performer but best black female singer of all time next to Aretha, Gladys, Natalie and Patti???

  48. Kev Ross,
    You wrote an article for RFFocus titled Undeniable Top 12 Best Black Female Singers of all time. This is BS, because your opinion doesn’t make it a fact. You just hear things differently and by a few of the women you included…you don’t hear too well. This is your own little popularity picks of your favorite singers. So I’ll just call a Spade a Spade and burst you silly little bubble. FACTS…show me how this mess is a Fact.

  49. You are asking for a brew ha ha by even attempting to construct such a list. By adding my baby (Whitney Houston) I didn’t have to go ballistic tho. Lol. All of these ladies are extremely talented and even some after mentioned names (in comments) deserve honorable mention. A list like this is relative to taste, time and so many other things.

  50. I agree with everyone name you posted.. Of course there are many more but your limit was 12. Damn!! Folks need to get a life.

  51. Yes Kev I Agree, Yet The List Should Be Top 100 Women Of Pop/Jazz/Soul/R&B/Hip-hop; Donna Summers, Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams, Melba Moore, Barbara Mason, Betty Wright, Patti Austin, Tamia, Syreeta Wright ect……

  52. What about the great gospel singers? Do they not count? As wonderful as Natalie Cole was, Shirley Caesar, Dorthy Love Coates, Yolanda Adams and so many others were/are head and shoulders above IMO.

  53. I don’t agree with this most of this list completely. But, if 12 is actually number 1, then they have it backwards Sarah Vaughn was so much more capable of hitting ranges than dear Ella. I’m not hating Ella I love Ella, just saying.

  54. Ok I would include Mahalia Jackson ,Angela Bofil and Minnie + Anita Baker but no one else. All these new people have not made their bones nor earned the right to be considered as great [none of the newbies] yet because greatness come with longevity folks plain and simple people ! Now where is the list for the Greatest black male singers-my choice of them are & not in this order : Sam Cooke , Otis Redding ,Jackie Wilson ,Michael Jackson , Smokey Robinson, Teddy Pendergrass , Barry White ,Harry Ray ,Nat King Cole ,Levi Stubbs ,Jeffrey Osborne , David Ruffin , Johnny Mathis , Walter Jackson [look him up & listen} , and last but not least the most underrated short lived under the radar singer is…….drum roll please……Don McPherson of the Main Ingredient [u don’t know ?]

  55. How come the list of BLACK female singers lists only United States singers? Are there perhaps no Black female singers in Africa and South America? What isn’t famous in the US just isn’t great or famous, right?!

  56. For me the greatest black female voice by far is that of Linda Womack. Her voice has a unique soulful depth and quality to it that none of her contempories possess,

  57. I realize that all the singers mentioned in the comments, the asking/wondering why they aren’t included and I agree with the fact that all that are mentioned are extremely talented, however the list is naming the 12 best of all times, it should have been titled “12 of the best” which would give the understanding that there are many more but these are the 12 we’ve narrowed it down to which was extremely difficult. I recognize the difference in “sanging” and having the ability to sing, and in “my opinion” the only name that should not be on that list is Mariah Carey, who though she has a pretty voice is not qualified as one of the 12 best black females singers of all time, try to appreciate the difference and the list will make more sense. I would have put Stephanie Mills before Mariah Carey or even Angela Winbush. All I’m giving is my opinion and you know what they say about that, so please keep the hate…

  58. J.Low should not be on list. What happened to Theola kilgard, Kim weston, the channels oh it soooooooooo many. List very incomplete

  59. I think this list is right on target, except for Mariah Carey. I would put Minnie Riperton in her spot. I think while many singers are good, are they unique? How do they stand out?

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