As more and more women begin to enter the country music scene in the 2020s, it’s important to remember the history of women in the genre who pioneered country music even as others tried to stop them. The success of the country singers in the twentieth century, especially in the 1970s, was key to ensuring the success of not only the future of women in the genre but the future of country music as a whole. Today, we take a look back at the most iconic country women of the ’70s who made this form of music what it is today.
1. Dolly Parton
Potentially one of the most famous country women and country singers of all time, Parton began her career as a child in the 1950s but hit her stride as a country artist in the 1970s. Her first number-one single, “Joshua,” debuted in 1971, followed by a series of songs that proved to become some of Parton’s greatest successes and helped her rise to fame, including “Coat of Many Colors,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Jolene.” It was also at this point that Parton found her sound and began to experiment with new genres of music, including her pop era in the latter half of the decade.
2. Dottie West
Dottie West’s career began in the 1960s with her hit song “Here Comes My Baby Back Again,” but her resounding impact on country music comes from her amazing vocal abilities and her confidence. One of her greatest successes was a song she wrote for the Coca-Cola Company, “Country Sunshine,” which she later released as a single. In the latter half of the 1970s, West transitioned into the country-pop scene and recorded albums like When It’s Just You and Me and Classics. She is also known for her impressive range and duets with a variety of artists including Kenny Rogers.
3. Tammy Wynette
Also known as the “First Lady of Country Music,” Wynette’s deep lyrics about loneliness and the more challenging aspects of life touched listeners from all around the world and quickly made her the pinnacle of country music for the latter half of the twentieth century. She began the decade strong with multiple number-one singles like “Run Woman Run” and “Till I Get It Right.” She went on to win Female Vocalist of the Year in 1970, her third time doing so, and continued to top the charts for many years after.
4. Loretta Lynn
With a career punctuated by success in every aspect of the word, it’s easy to see why Loretta Lynn’s overwhelming success earns her a place in country music history. In 1971 alone, five of her songs, in collaboration with Conway Twitty, reached number one, and she charted again the following year. She also won the Female Vocalist of the Year Award, as Wynette did, in 1972, as well as the Artist of the Decade award at the end of the decade, when she released her final album of the 1970s, “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.”
5. Tanya Tucker
Surprising everyone with immediate success as a teenager, Tanya Tucker’s impressive career in the later 1980s and 1990s began with her initial success with her earlier albums in the 1970s. Her first single, “Delta Dawn,” as well as her second, “Love’s the Answer” were immediate hits in 1972 despite Tucker’s age. Her growth only continued as the 1970s progressed with more charting songs like “What’s Your Mama’s Name?” in 1973 and later continued her career in the 1980s in the rock and roll genre.
The clear impact of women in the 1970s in the country music genre is profound and important to remember as we celebrate women everywhere. In a male-dominated field, the ability of talented female artists to produce music has demonstrated the tenacity and perseverance of the creative spirit and serves as a testament to the strength of modern female singers all around the world.
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