Many of the best female country singers of the 70s had such a unique style, and created such memorable music, that it heavily influenced the genre (and you can see some of that influence in contemporary country music even today). So let’s take a look at some of the best singers from the 1970s that are still beloved by country fans worldwide.
Best Female Country Singers of the 70s
Let’s of course start with the talented Dolly Parton.
Dolly Parton, born in 1946, is a name that most any country music fan knows. Her career began to peak in the late 60s, but her chart success really started to explode as the 70s rolled on. Songs like The Seeker, You’re the Only One, and Coat of Many Colors were released during that decade. But, her most successful and popular song, Jolene, is what really caught people’s attention. Parton’s songs were often about experiences she had through the years. These particular songs flaunt her raw talent.
Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas is my personal favorite. Struggling with mental health, I can relate to just feeling like every Christmas is a depressing, ‘hard candy’ Christmas. But, you can’t let sorrow bring you down. That’s really what this song is about, and I enjoy listening to it every holiday season.
It’s not just Parton’s talent that turned her into a remarkable influence, though. During the 70s, it was still an extremely conservative time in country music and in America for women. However, Miss Parton’s always been anything but conservative. She is well known for her flashy clothes, “trashy” makeup (as some would put it) and being extremely curvy. During that time, Parton’s style was especially new and bold, so in turn, she got made fun of and talked about.
However, being extremely secure in her body and her talent, Parton has always been the woman she wanted to be. She dresses the way that makes her happy and does not let other people’s opinions affect that. In 1977, in an interview with Barbara Walters, she was asked about the way she dressed and the makeup she wore. She made it quite clear that she was happy in her own skin, regardless of who made fun of her.
Dolly is a national treasure in many eyes. From her talent to her confidence, she is a role model to the females that followed in her footsteps. She continued her successful career decades later, even opening her own attractions close to her hometown in the Great Smoky Mountains. From dirt poor to filthy rich, she is a force to be reckoned with.
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Tanya Tucker, a true inspiration and a ‘wild filly’ of a woman, began her singing career when she was just 13 years old. Her first single, Delta Dawn, reached the top ten of the country music charts immediately upon release. It remained her most popular and memorable song. The 70s continued to be filled with songs like What’s Your Mama’s Name, Blood Red and Going Down, and Strong Enough to Bend. It was a memorable start to her career.
After more than five decades on stage, she continues to release new music and perform. In an interview with CBS (below), she said she began at the young age of 9, but the world wasn’t ready for her. However, she soon pursued her dreams and pushed through the barriers that wanted to have her perform “age appropriate songs.” She didn’t care about her age; she just wanted to sing. And she did just that!
My personal favorite, Two Sparrows in a Hurricane, is more of a slower paced song. However, her strength and voice are showcased in the melody. Though it was released later, it’s a testament to Tucker’s timeless passion and musical abilities. Her voice is unforgettable, and the lyrics are beautiful and emotional.
In the 80s, loneliness began to earn Tucker a wild reputation. She even struggled with alcohol and cocaine for some time. But, she became an inspiration to us all as she worked to fight her addictions and afflictions. Tucker continued her career as a driven woman, through children, addiction, and health issues. She came out the other side as a wild, but fabulous role model for women and little girls all across the country.
Olivia Newton-John, a young woman from Cambridge, England, stormed into the country music industry in 1973 with a hit single, Let Me Be There. Shortly after its release, Newton-John won a Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocalist. However, there was quite a bit of outrage when she beat out Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, and Dolly Parton for the Grammy and won Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards, as Newton-John was nowhere near a traditional country music singer.
However, that didn’t stop Miss Olivia. The 70s in country music were a time of breaking tradition and exploring possible sounds, lyrics, and people. And Newton-John did just that. Seven ended up being Top 10 Hot Country Songs hits from the years 1973 to 1975. These songs opened up the possibilities of songs being both country and pop successful. Many female artists came to follow in her footsteps.
While not an original, Take Me Home, Country Roads is my favorite song performed by Olivia Newton-John. Her voice is lively and extremely delicate when singing the lyrics to this song. She puts her twist on a timeless classic. One of her 1972 performances of the song lives rent free in my head.
Sadly, Newton-John passed away in August of 2022, breaking the hearts of millions. But the legacy she left won’t soon be forgotten. She opened a world of close-mindedness and brought opportunities that not many female artists had been offered before. They still, to this day, continue to benefit from the changes she made in country music history.
Barbara Mandrell is best known for her successful career during the late 70s and on into the early 80s. During a time when men dominated country music, Mandrell watched her role models through the 60s break their way through the barrier. In the early 60s, she began touring and performing with several country music legends, and her career only expanded from there. Although her singing career didn’t really begin until 1969, with a cover of I‘ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now).
Mandrell is well known for fusing R&B and soul music with country music, creating a colorful version of soulful country music. Her voice is a breathy, beautiful sound that captures the hearts of fans. Mandrell’s song, I Was Country Before Country Was Cool, is a personal favorite. You can tell from the lyrics and vocals how passionate she is, especially with the song. It really speaks to those who feel the same.
Not only did Mandrell sing, but she acted, too. After an amazing couple decades, she retired from her singing career. She spent some time on several shows, hosted her own show, Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters, and even began acting in a few movies. During her career, she suffered a memorable car accident that stained her mind and led to several interviews. It’s still discussed to this day when you hear Barbara Mandrell’s name.
But, even through a few trials and tribulations in her career, Mandrell paved the way for many women to have successful careers. Her legacy is that of a successful artist and a well-rounded entertainer. But, it wasn’t just her that shaped her legacy, but what she accomplished for future artists. With many awards, an autobiography, an incredible record of songs, etc., she will forever be an important part of country music’s history.
Jody Miller, born and raised in Blanchard, Oklahoma, began her career in the early 1960s. She first appeared as a folk/pop singer, showing up on Tom Paxton’s TV series. Her career took off, and she received the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for the song Queen of the House in 1966.
In the 70s, she continued to put out amazing recordings of both originals and covers, like House of the Rising Sun or (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Her extremely unique voice put a spin on even the most well-done classics that wasn’t expected during that time. Her success continued as she emerged as a Christian music artist, later being inducted into the Country Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1999.
After spending some time in semi-retirement, Miller continued her career. It seemed as though not much would stop this amazing artist. Other female country music artists followed suit, exploring different genres and having the confidence to give their career a shot. It is all because of the influence and steps that women like Miller took.
With a remarkable career spanning over 60 years, Loretta Lynn is still gracing the country music industry with her presence. Lynn’s career began in the early 1960s, when she cut her first record, I’m a Honky Tonk Girl, in 1960. She became part of the industry, recording and performing throughout the 60s and on, her first No. 1 hit being released in 1970.
But, Miss Lynn isn’t known solely for her hits. No, Lynn is also known for the splash she made in the conservative country music industry. She’s known for singing about topics that are, simply put, controversial in the music industry. Many of her songs touched on subjects like birth control and the double standards for men and women. There came a time when country music radio stations blacklisted her music and ended up banning nine of her recordings.
Even so, Lynn pushed on to become one of the most famous women in country music history. Songs like my personal favorite, Coal Miner’s Daughter, made Lynn the star she is today. She has an innumerable number of hits, topping charts across multiple genres. She is also known for dueting with some of the most well-known artists in country music, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and Dolly Parton, to name a few.
Not only does Lynn have an extremely successful music career, she also has a successful career in the movie industry. The film, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” received seven Academy Award nominations, several Golden Globe awards, and so many more. Her risque personality broke typical standards within the industry, right alongside Dolly Parton’s. Her contribution allows women in country music to continue to be heard and not shut down for unpopular opinions. Lynn’s contribution is invaluable.
Connie Smith, another influential American country music singer/songwriter, is well known for her contralto vocals. Some even describe her voice as very similar to Patsy Cline’s. Other artists still consider Smith to be an influence on their own vocal stylings. After beginning her career at a young age, Smith was discovered in 1963.
While her singing career seemed to have peaked in the late 60s, the 1970s were still a productive time in her career. Through both decades, Smith won numerous awards and topped the charts several times. She went on to duet with many popular artists, like Merle Haggard and George Jones. Her vocal delivery has been described over the years as extremely emotional. She’s been referred to as a heroine of heartbreak.
Not only was her voice a prize won by fans, but she is also considered to be one of the greatest musicians in country music. In fact, in 2002 she was ranked one of the top ten on CMT’s special 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. Her personality is that of a confident, beautiful woman who wants to make a greater world.
Fighting through the tough times in her life contributed to her legacy. In an interview, she revealed that she grew up in an alcoholic household. It led her to be extremely shy when entering the music business. She struggled with the pressure of leaving her children during her career. However, she was able to overcome and have a successful career and continue to be an amazing mother after becoming a Christian in 1968. Standing by her beliefs and herself creates an incredible inspiration for us all.
Donna Fargo, born in 1945, spent her early adult years as a teacher. She performed in local clubs, meeting her manager and husband in 1966. Fargo had recorded two singles by the middle of the 1960s. But she is best known for a string of hit songs through the 70s. They crossed between country music radio stations and pop music stations. On that list are songs like Funny Face.
Fargo has an especially unique voice and a thick southern accent. Personally, I think I’ll Try A Little Bit Harder is one of the best records she’s released. It’s an extremely emotional song that really showcases her vocals and accent. You can just tell when you hear Fargo in any song that she has this amazing, raw talent that can’t be suppressed.
During her time on the top hit charts, Fargo received a number of awards for her performances. In just 1969, she received five awards for The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A. But, she didn’t stop there. Fargo went on to receive several more awards, from Grammy Awards to Country Music Association awards. She was even inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Fargo continues her successful career to this day.
Lynn Anderson, a country singer and television personality, is well known for being one of the first crossover artists to date. Not only did she have a successful country music career, she also did very well in the television production industry on “The Lawrence Welk Show.” Her first major hit, Ride Ride Ride, was released in 1967, and her career continued to thrive for years after.
However, there are not many records compared to her best and most popular, Rose Garden. While not a complete original, she created an epic recording of her version. After Rose Garden, Anderson continued to release a number of chart-topping hits on different charts across several genres of music. Anderson is also known for quite a few amazing duets.
But Anderson didn’t just stick to singing, either. She spread her talents across the entertainment world, making appearances on several television shows, including “The Tonight Show” and “The Brady Bunch.” The 70s were an extremely busy time in her career. But, for a short time in the 80s, she left the entertainment industry and raised a lovely family. Soon, she was back at it when she released her 29th album in 1983.
Lynn Anderson is a fine example of “you can have it all.” She made a successful career from nothing, went on to raise a family and continue that career. Up until her death from a heart attack in 2015, she created a legacy that women of any career can learn from. Like others of the same lifestyle, she is a magnificent role model.
The lovely Tammy Wynette, fondly referred to as the “First Lady of Country Music,” is one of the most respectable women in country music history. She is well-known for pushing her way into a male-dominated industry, and doing so very well. Unfortunately, Wynette was, both praised and criticized for her many controversial songs, specifically Stand by Your Man.
Wynette dueted with many spectacularly famous artists throughout her career. The most impressive and well-known of which were with her husband, George Jones. Together, they were often referred to as the “President and First Lady” or “Mr. and Mrs. Country Music.” However, her successful career is not owed to her husband, and it’s important that it be made known. While they provided the world with unforgettable duets, Wynette very successfully stood on her own two feet.
Divorce left her struggling for some time, but never stopped her. Wynette, once again, began standing on her own, rebuilding her successful solo career. In ’76, she made her way back to the top of the Canadian and American country charts with the hit single ‘Til I Can Make It On My Own. Sadly, Wynette began to struggle with substances, but again was able to pull herself from the bottom and climb back out of the hole.
Wynette lived a life that many women can relate to; fighting for success, only to have their success stomped on by their partner or spouse, suppressed and trying to claw their way out. She was able to find a balance between love and career, and she was extremely open about this fact. She, even in death, is an example of what can be done regardless of your struggles. It shows women that success can come at any age, for however long you’re willing to fight for it, no matter what they’re going through.
It was difficult for women in the 1970s to make a name for themselves in country music. But the best female country singers of the 70s were able to break through and find long lasting success. Each of them has left a legacy behind in one way or another. They paved a path for all other women in country music to follow. These incredible country music pioneering women won’t soon be forgotten.