Today, black female musicians like Doja Cat, Beyonce, and SZA inspire young women and have a hold on the music industry.
Their followings are massive, and their songs are on the radio every single day, but the road they walk on was paved by the beautiful black women of the 80s that dominated fashion and culture at the time.
In honor of their glamorous and moving contributions to the music industry that have empowered women over the decades, this is a list of the seven best 80s black female singers.
Possibly the queen of 80s pop, Ms. Houston is a legend and rightfully makes it onto every dance playlist. Whitney Houston officially stepped onto the music scene when she was only 22 releasing her first four albums between 1985 and 1992, reigning over the 80s.
Her debut, self-titled album topped the charts with Saving All My Love for You and How Will I Know both reached number one and stayed at the top of the charts for 14 weeks in a row.
Her second album, titled Whitney, was another massive hit and gave the world the gift of I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), which has become a staple on the dance floor for decades.
The mark Whitney Houston left on the music industry will never fade. Over her life, she recorded seven studio albums, all of which went certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold, immortalizing her voice and lyrics into the music world forever.
With more than 200 million records sold worldwide, she is one of the best-selling artists of all time. The Guinness Book of World Records has named her the most awarded female artist of all time, a title that still stands today and exemplifies her grip on musical culture.
Despite her death at a young age, Whitney’s music continues to touch people and make them move on the dance floor.
Unfortunately, when we hear the famous name Janet Jackson, many minds go to the catastrophe at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. But Janet has contributed so much more to the music industry than that unfortunate incident, and she has handled it with grace despite unfairly receiving the brunt of the criticism.
Her brother, Michael Jackson, dominated the charts, but Janet was no slouch during the 80s either.
With the help of her brother, the baby of the Jackson family released her self-titled debut album in 1982. The album did well but was decimated by the success of her second album titled Control.
Control was nominated for three Grammy Awards and nine American Music Awards and won two of the AMAs. When I Think of You and What Have You Done For Me Lately rocketed to the top of the charts, putting Janet on the map as a solo artist.
Janet Jackson is an icon in the music industry, not just for her music, but for her resilience through the ups and downs the industry puts women through.
The Pointer Sisters
The women that got everyone excited in the early 80s, the Pointer Sisters, is a singing group from Oakland, California.
They rose to stardom via their ability to blend into any genre with ease. They appeared on Sesame Street and the Grand Ole Opry and went on to win a Grammy, just to give you an idea of their range.
Bonnie, Ruth, Anita, and June Pointer were the members of the initial Pointer sisters, but not all stayed in the group.
All in all, the group performed from the early 70s to the 2010s before their careers seemingly ended. But they left their fingerprints all over the music industry with classics like I’m So Excited that played on the radio incessantly.
The group began to split up in the late 80s, some desiring solo careers while others stayed in the group. Those that stayed went on to produce five albums in the span of a few short years.
Despite their fade out, their music is still predominantly listened to in the US. When President Barack Obama was running for office, he used their song Yes We Can Can. He based his platform of positivity and roll-up-your-sleeves attitude on this slogan, which carried him into the oval office.
This legend is best known for leading the famous singing group “The Supremes” in the 1960s. The group recorded many songs that people still listen to today, but Diana Ross always had extra star power.
After helping form the Motown genre, she eventually broke away from the group. The Supremes’ first number one hit was Where Did Our Love Go, which helped bridge the gap between blues music and the pop music of the time.
Ross was eventually named the Female Artist of the Year in the mid-70s, and her career only grew from there. At the beginning of 1980, she had already sold more than 100 million records and was a huge success.
During her solo career, she produced many hits, including I Still Believe and Endless Love, which continue to crush the souls of romantics worldwide.
Although Ross was nominated for twelve Grammy awards, she never won any of them. Nevertheless, she is an icon in the music industry and paved the way for many black female artists on this list.
Often forgotten, but an incredible artist in the 80s, LaDonna Adrian Gaines, also known as Donna Summer, recorded some amazing hits that still play on the radio today. Summer grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and was dubbed the “Queen of Disco” in the late 70s.
But Ms. Summer could do more than just disco, and she moved into the sphere of R&B as the 70s came to a close and she felt disco ending. Even with this culture shift, her music remains some of the most popular dance jams ever made.
She continued to create music and release albums even as she dabbled in the world of musical theater. Her music was popular in America, but she also managed to break through in the European music market and had significant success over there as well.
Despite being called the queen of disco, Summer was able to break into different genres. She eventually returned to her dancing roots, where she continued to make dance music for her loyal following.
After her long battle with cancer that ended in 2012, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and given her own musical, immortalizing her legacy.
Tracy Chapman has one of the most unique voices in music to this day and has touched almost all of us with her sincere lyrics and melodic crooning. Her voice transcends stereotypes and cuts deep when you listen to her emotional music.
She is best known for her songs Give Me A Reason and Fast Car, which come off her debut album. She got her big break in 1986 when she was introduced to a manager at Elektra records that helped her break into the industry.
Her music has gone multi-platinum, and she is a four-time Grammy Award-winning artist that continues to touch lives. Her music also broke into European charts, and she became popular over there too.
Chapman’s career began to fall off after she performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday celebration. Despite this, she continues to release albums that don’t garner extreme attention but still exemplify her incredible singing voice and lyrical genius.
What’s Love Got To Do With It, Proud Mary, and The Best are just a few of her insanely famous songs that not everyone knows but are taught in music schools across America as classics.
Tina Turner is a legend in the music industry and made way for young black female artists to rise to their success today. Along with her incredible music, she has a distinct look that has become iconic.
Despite her career beginning in the 50s when she was just a teen, Tina’s solo career didn’t take off until 1983, when she recorded a cover of Al Greene’s Let’s Stay Together, which became an immediate hit and had people wanting more.
After her success on the charts with her cover, she released the hit album Private Dancer, which had some of her greatest hits on it. The album won four Grammy awards and sold more than 20 million copies, solidifying her place in the music industry.
Top Black Female Singers of the 80s, Final Thoughts
Artists like Whitney Houston and Tina Turner topped the charts, set the trends, and built the foundation of powerful black women in music.
Without these incredible ladies, I shudder to think about where music would be today. What would we have done without Ross’ I’m Coming Out to kick off the decade, or The Pointer Sisters’ Jump (For My Love), to teach us that people should work for our affection.