Five Black Women We Forgot About (in Music)

Okay, I don’t know if any of yall forgot about these women but I didn’t even know some of these women were a thing until a few months ago and got mad at my Mom for never mentioning them to me, but I realize as much as she knew about music she didn’t know everything and she also might not have known about these women. Of these women, Betty Davis is the one I knew the least about and is my personal favorite.

Betty Davis

I just love this song so much. It says so much about my Mom’s life and how Black women are never expected to know or care about other forms of music outside of Pop and Spirituals. In the future, I’ll make a list of Black women in different genres of music that people rarely think about like Country and Punk. But I guess she was a part of the whole Afro-Futurist Funkadelic thing that happened in the 70s, which is kinda sad, because we only ever hear about the guys who performed that time of music!

Big Mama Thornton

I have mentioned Big Momma on this blog before. I stumbled across this version of Hound Dog in a Tom Cruise movie years ago and wondered how it was I’d never heard this particular version of the song before. It turns out that the Elvis Presley version is nothing more than a cover song, and although I like Elvis okay, I feel he made a very washed-out version of this funky little song and I prefer this version. She has an incredible voice and I wish more people knew about her which is why I’m putting her on this list.

Barbara Lynn

This is another song (and another performer) I’ve fallen in love with. Now I’ve actually heard this song before, I just didn’t know the woman who sang it. I only discovered the video for this song a few weeks ago, and I don’t remember how I stumbled across it. I tried to find women from different eras of music to show that this is an ongoing problem of forgetting the contributions of women (especially Black women) to American culture. I’m reasonably sure that most people don’t know about these women because I’m a person who makes a point of knowing things about things and I didn’t know about them!

Bernadette Cooper

Bernadette is the lead singer in one of my favorite girl groups from the 80s, Klymaxx. I was a huge fan of their music and didn’t know her name. It turns out that Bernadette not only wrote this song but produced and wrote a lot of songs from the 80s by some of our favorite performers like Teena Marie and madame X. I love this song and every time I hear it, it brings me to tears. Apparently, I’m not alone in that response as this song’s sentiments seem to resonate with a lot of people. It’s a romantic song but it speaks to anyone who misses anyone they love, I guess.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

This too is one of my favorite songs. My Mom definitely knew about this performer but for some reason never talked about her to me much. I stumbled across this video years ago and then promptly forgot that I did so! But I didn’t forget her name, just like I didn’t forget her voice.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 – 1973) is often referred to as the “original soul sister” and “the mother of rock and roll” for too many good reasons to display at once. Among others, Tharpe was among the very first recording guitarists to incorporate heavy distortion on her tracks.

For some reason, there is a long history of Black women guitar players that has been lost to time, and well, we know why. For the same reason that there’s a long list of white female painters whose names no one ever mentions. As in all things, women do extraordinary things, but it’s only men who get all the attention, and then only very specific ones. I hope I can do my part to fix this with one tiny list at a time. Some of these I’ve heard of and some I’ve only encountered for the first time very recently.


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