Three Great Ladies of Jazz Who Made Lasting Contributions to American Music

The history of jazz music is overflowing with talent. Musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong often get huge props for their contributions to the art form. However, powerful women also made their fair share of contributions. Let us shine a spotlight on three of the greats.

Ella Fitzgerald

The Queen of Jazz came to the scene with skills most female jazz singers envy. She had impeccable phrasing, enviable intonation, a way with improvisation, and the purest tones ever to come from a singer’s mouth. Whether she was performing solo or collaborating with such greats as Louis Armstrong, The Ink Spots, and Duke Ellington, she was a powerhouse. Most singers can only aspire to the greatness that seemed to come so easily to her.

Billie Holiday

Lady Day was a pioneer of voice. Taking her inspiration from jazz instrumentalists, she developed brand new ways to manipulate tempo and deliver both straight-up lyrics and scat singing. Some would argue that a limited vocal range hampered her singing. She nevertheless made innovations that have established her as a role model for female jazz singers to this day.

Peggy Lee

Not only did Peggy Lee have a great voice, which saw her through six decades of a music career, but she also had an ear for composition. She wrote jazz and popular music for performers as well as films and television. An accomplished actress as well as a singer, she also made appearances on both the big and small screens. Her early days with Benny Goodman’s orchestra developed into a career forever tied to the jazz scene, and her legacy is one both as a performer and as a mover behind the scenes.

Female jazz singers have just as strong a pedigree in the art as their male counterparts do. Today’s women who sing in the jazz clubs of Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; or New York, NY, are taking things in new directions and adding personal spins, but we must acknowledge the contributions of our sister performers from the past.

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