The 20 Greatest Female Country Singers Of All Time
Besides playing a key role in the popularity of country music, these singers have become legends in their own right. In this list, I’ll be going over the top 20 female country singers of all time.
1. Dolly Parton
Over the course of a long and highly successful career, Dolly Parton has cemented her place as an icon of the country music industry. With over 100 million record sales, including 25 Billboard no. 1, and 44 Top 10 country albums, Parton is one of country music’s greatest artists of all time. She has also won many prestigious awards including 11 Grammy awards.
While she may have achieved her sales peak in the 1970s and 80s, her music continues to be celebrated today. Parton wrote many of her greatest hits, such as “I Will Always Love You”, “Coat of Many Colors”. “Jolene”, and “9 to 5”.
2. Shania Twain
The best-selling female singer in country music history, Shania Twain has sold over 100 million records. Her third studio album became the best-selling studio album of any artist and included some of her best-known hits such as “You’re Still the One”, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” “From This Moment On”, and “That Don’t Impress Me Much”.
Twain has received five Grammy Awards, a World Music Award, and is the only female singer to have three consecutive albums that are certified Diamond. Besides being one of the most successful country female singers, Twain is credited with leading the country-pop crossover.
3. Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood rapidly rose to prominence after winning American Idol in 2005. The only country artist to debut in the Billboard Hot 100, Underwood has sold over 70 million records and won numerous accolades.
Her hits include songs such as “Cowboy Casanova”, “Before He Cheats” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel”. She has also enjoyed notable success as a gospel singer and is famous for her wide vocal range and power.
4. Reba McEntire
A legend of the country music industry, Reba McEntire has been active since the 1970s. During her long career, she has sold over 75 million records and has had 25 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
Her hits include songs such as “(You LIft Me) Up to Heaven”, “I’m Not That Lonely Yet” and “Can’t Even Get the Blues”. McEntire is noted for incorporating other genres into her music.
5. Patsy Cline
Although Patsy Cline’s career was tragically cut short at the age of 30, her eight-year recording career cemented her place as one of the most influential singers of the 20th century. She was also one of the first country music singers to cross over to pop music.
Cline is famous for songs such as “I Fall to Pieces”, “Walking After Midnight” and “Crazy”, which is regarded as a country music classic. Cline had a powerful contralto voice and was acclaimed for the emotion she brought to her singing.
6. Tammy Wynette
One of the most famous country stars of the 1960s and 1970s, Tammy Wynette was known as the “Heroine of Heartbreak” due to the emotional delivery of her songs. Her most famous song is arguably “Stand by Your Man”, which also proved controversial with feminists.
Wynette had many other hits, including “Singing My Song”, “My Man (Understands)”. “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and “Til I Can Make It on My Own”, all of which topped the Billboard country music chart. Wynette continued to enjoy success into the 80s.
7. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is a modern-day pop icon who got her start in country music when she moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 14. Over 200 million record sales have made her one of the best-selling musicians of all time. She has also garnered numerous accolades during her career.
The holder of 58 Guinness World Records, Swift is a leading crossover artist and songwriter whose career has spawned hits such as “Love Story”, “You Belong with Me”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood”.
8. Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert rose to prominence after winning third place on the Nashville Star television program. Since then, she has won three Grammy Awards, six Country Music Association Awards, and has received more Academy of Country Music Awards than any other artist.
She has released 14 albums and her hits include “Me and Charlie Talking”, “Kerosene”, “The House That Built Me”. “Heart Like Mine”, “Automatic”, “Fastest Girl in Town”, and “Bluebird.”
9. Martina McBride
Martine McBride got her big break thanks to Garth Brooks who offered to make her his opening act if she got a recording contract. She signed to RCA Records in 1991 and quickly became known for her powerful soprano voice.
During the course of her career, McBride has transitioned to crossover sound, with five No. 1 singles on the Billboard country chart and one No. 1 single on the adult contemporary charts. She has 14 Grammy Award nominations. “Safe in the Arms of Love”, “Wrong Again”, “I Love You”, “There You Are” and “This One’s for the Girls” are some of her best-known songs.
10. Loretta Lynn
In a career spanning six decades, Loretta Lynn has succeeded in becoming the most awarded female country singer ever. A country music legend, she has 18 Grammy Award nominations and 3 wins to her name, as well as seven American Music Awards, and 12 Academy of Country Music Awards.
Her famous hits include “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)”, “One’s on the Way” and “Fist City”. A Kennedy Center Honors recipient, she was also the first female country singer to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
11. Faith Hill
With sales of over 40 million albums, Faith Hill has become one of the most successful country music artists. Her first two albums yielded three number-one hits, while her two subsequent albums enabled her to achieve mainstream success.
These albums resulted in huge crossover hits such as “Breathe” and “The Way You Love Me”. Hill is a highly awarded singer, with many awards under her belt. Her other hits include “This Kiss”, “There You’ll Be”, and “Mississippi Girl”.
12. Sara Evans
Sara Evans is a county music singer and writer who has sold over six million albums and has had five No. 1 hits. She has incorporated different country styles in her music, shifting towards a more contemporary country music identity before moving to a more rock and pop-inspired sound.
Critics have described her as a vocal powerhouse with an easily identifiable voice. Her number one singles include “Born to Fly”, “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Real Fine Place to Start”.
13. Linda Ronstadt
Hailed by critics as the greatest vocalist of her generation, Linda Ronstadt is one of the most successful female singers of all time. While she has achieved great success as a country singer, Rondstadt also performed songs in many diverse genres such as rock and Latin.
During the course of a career where she sold over 100 million albums, she also accumulated many awards. She is known for her considerable vocal range, clear voice, and definitive interpretation of famous cover songs. Her hits include “Blue Bayou”. “It’s So Easy” and “When Will I Be Loved”.
14. June Carter Cash
June Carter Cash was not only a famous country music singer and songwriter but also achieved success as an actress, dancer, and comedian. She released just three solo albums, including “Press On” for which she won a Grammy.
Many of her songs were duets with her husband Johnny Cash. A five-time Grammy Awards winner, Carter Cash’s hits included “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “Jackson” and “Jukebox Blues”.
15. Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves has had a highly successful country music career, winning six Grammy Awards and seven Country Music Awards.
She self-released three solo albums, but it was her fourth album Golden Hour which shot her to fame and earned her four Grammy Awards. Some of her hits include “Space Cowboy”, “Butterflies” and “High Horse”.
16. Emmylou Harris
During the course of her long career, Emmylou Harris has succeeded in gaining 48 Grammy Award nominations, winning 14 times. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and has also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her songs such as “Together again” and “Sweet Dreams” have topped the country charts. She achieved her greatest success after partnering with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt for the album Trio.
17. LeAnn Rimes
Since coming to prominence as a country music singer at the age of 13, LeAnn Rimes has sold over 37 million records and has over 40 singles that have reached international charts.
Apart from country music, she has also had significant success with pop, Christian, and other genres. Her hits include pop numbers such as “How Do I Live” as well as “I Need You” and “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.”
18. Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss’ talent was recognized at an early age and she recorded her first song at the age of 14. Possessing a soprano voice that has been described as angelic, Krauss has earned 42 Grammy Award nominations, winning 27 times, making her the most awarded female artist ever.
She has released 14 albums and has been featured on numerous soundtracks. Her music often includes bluegrass influences. ‘Steel Rails”, “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart”, and”Stay” are some of her hits.
19. Kelsea Ballerini
Kelsea Ballerini began songwriting as a child and her first two albums have yielded seven charted songs. She has succeeded in scoring four No. 1 singles, including her debut single which made her the first artist since Carrie Underwood to do so. Her hits have included “Love Me Like You Mean It”, “Dibs”, “Peter Pan” and “Legends”.
20. Trisha Yearwood
Trisha Yearwood is a country singer who rose to fame following the success of her debut hit single, “She’s in Love with the Boy”, which topped the Billboard country singles chart in 1991. She subsequently had many other major hits, including “Walkaway Joe”, “The Song Remembers When” and “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)”.
Yearwood enjoyed further commercial success, while her 2005 studio record “Jasper Country” became her fastest-selling album in the United States.
The enduring talents of these ladies have been a major reason for the appeal of country music. which they have succeeded in bringing to new audiences around the world. Many female country artists have transcended their genre and topped international charts. While country music has developed greatly thanks to their efforts, these iconic singers will be remembered by fans of music for decades to come.
Dolly Parton Featured Image (Left) by: Curtis Hilbun, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Shania Twain Featured Image (Right) by: Condé Nast (through Vogue Taiwan), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons