The country music genre has been dominated by influential women singers for decades, each bringing her own flavor to the industry. These powerful women have shown extraordinary talent, coming from all kinds of backgrounds, and have earned their pedestals.
Great country singers are known by their first names only – Shania, Loretta, Reba – and no one ever asks, “Loretta who?” Below is an undebatable list of the top 5 greatest women country singers of all time – ranked according to commercial success, the longevity of career, vocals, and influence.
Even if you don’t actively listen to Carrie Underwood, you have definitely at least heard of her – whether that’s because she’s worldwide famous for the depth and value of her songs, or because you’re a fan of American Idol.
She’s one of those people – the ones you can count on as a constant in the world of music. There’s Michael Jackson for pop, and there’s Carrie Underwood on the radio. With her endless streams of inspirational hit after hit, she’s the woman with the most number-one singles on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, and the Rolling Stones-acclaimed “female vocalist of her generation.”
If you’re a music junkie, and big on the oldies, Reba McEntire is a name you would have come across, especially considering her title of The Queen of Country – can’t pretend we don’t know royalty, huh?
Starting off her career as a high schooler on local radios, Reba – as she is mononymously known – went on to release 42 number-one singles. 28 of her total 29 studio albums are certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America, with more than 75 million records worldwide. That makes her one of the best-selling artists of all time!
Miranda Lambert is a Grammy Award winner, which is pretty cool, but it’s even cooler that she started her music career entirely on her own. She funded her own records and released an album on her own at the age of 18, back before YouTube was a thing.
Best known for her albums Kerosene, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Platinum, Miranda Lambert has been topping the Billboard Hot Country charts for years, not only on her own as a solo artist, but also as part of a country group called the Pistol Annies. As of 2018, she has 14 combined Female Vocalist of the Year awards, surpassing Reba McEntire as the most awarded in the category.
No conversation about country music is complete without Loretta Lynn. Her story reads like some fiction novel from the ’20s. She started off as a poorly educated girl from Kentucky and was married off at the age of 13, only to become one of the most prominent musicians of her genre, with a career spanning over 60 years.
She is not only the most awarded female country recording artist but also the only female ACM Artist of the Decade (in the 1970s). Having sold more than 45 million albums worldwide, she has won awards from the Country Music Association as well as the Academy of Country Music.
Dolly Parton may be best known for her work in country music – or perhaps for being Miley Cyrus’s godmother – but she is also an actress, an author, a businesswoman and humanitarian along with it. And not just that, but she has led a life so extraordinary, it has not only been made into films but also serves as university thesis material.
Parton fought her way out of extreme poverty to go on and become one of the most iconic entertainers of her time. She has had 110 charted singles over the last 40 years and a record of 25 songs reaching No. 1 on Billboard (tied with Reba McEntire). She has gathered numerous awards from big names such as the Grammy’s, Academy, Emmy’s, etc. She is also one of only seven women to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. Face it – you just don’t have country music without Dolly Parton.