Happy International Women's day! This is the perfect time to celebrate the trailblazing women who soundtracked our lives and have influenced music makers all around the world.Here are the stories of just a few of the Muse team’s favourite female artists. Learn to play their awe-inspiring music in the Ultimate Guitar or MuseScore catalogs today.
A child prodigy that went on to a formidable career as a pianist, composer and teacher spanning over six decades, distinguished in her own right, despite the fame of her husband Robert Schumann. A pioneer of her time, Clara Schumann was one of the first pianists to perform from memory, aged 13. She composed solo piano pieces, a piano concerto, chamber music, choral pieces, and songs. Clara also premiered many of Robert’s works including her own piano versions of his orchestral works.
She managed to successfully juggle her artistry with being a wife, mother to eight, breadwinner, composer, and well-respected and beloved virtuoso pianist, continuing to perform all over Europe long after her husband’s passing. She has been compared to Chopin and Mendelsson, yet has her own entirely unique style of composition.Clara’s life became the subject of an opera, a play and Novel.
Singer, songwriter, pianist, composer, arranger, performer and civil rights activist. Her music spanned multiple genres from classical, folk, gospel to blues, jazz, soul, R&B, pop, somewhere along the way earning her the moniker “High Priestess of Soul”.
Keyboard mastery combined with her rich and velvety vocal talent caught the attention of the record industry whilst Nina was in her early twenties. Musical influences include Billie Holliday, Chopin, and Burt Bacharach.
The success of her debut album Little Girl Blue led to a new record deal giving her full creative control and allowing her gift as a true musical storyteller to shine through. Her songs had always drawn on her African American heritage and “Mississippi Goddam” was her first foray into addressing racial inequality in the United States. Civil rights messages became the norm in her recordings and concerts, and her political activism rose.
Rolling Stone once named Nina Simone as the 29th greatest singer of all time, and she is considered to be one of the twentieth century’s most influential recording artists in the genres of Jazz, Cabaret and R&B. A grammy award winner in life and posthumously, she also received two honorary degrees in music and humanities. Two days before her death, Simone was also awarded an honorary degree by the Curtis Institute of Music — the very school that had refused to admit her as a student at the beginning of her career.
Singer, composer, lyricist of exceptional talent and still going strong today. Favourite performers as a teenager included Edith Piaf and Miles Davis, and by 19, Joni had performed her first paid gig. Little known early heartbreaking events inspired her early albums yet her vulnerable and poignant lyrics did not not receive wide attention. Until the release of Blue in 1971. Considered to be her most confessional album, the simple rhythmic parts put the focus on Joni’s voice, emotions, songwriting and compositions. Blue has garnered much praise and is considered by music critics to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
With a career spanning over 50 years, Joni Mitchell plays piano and ukulele, and is a self taught guitar player who came up with her own tunings due to a weakened left wrist from contracting Polio as a child. Finding her silver lining, she later created her own nonstandard approaches to harmony and structure in her songwriting.
Joni’s endless list of award nominations and wins include 10 Grammys dating back to 1970 with 9 further nominations. Joni Mitchell asserted her desire for artistic control throughout her career, and still holds the publishing rights for her music to this day.
Singer, songwriter, pianist, novelist, actress, director and was referred to as the “total package” as early as the age of 13. Alicia Keys is one of the most celebrated and talented musicians in the world.
Young Alicia started performing at 4 and playing piano at 7; classically trained, she was composing songs aged 12. By 15 she was signed to her first label but eventually released her chart topping debut album Songs in A Minor with J records under the direction of Clive Davis, who actively encouraged her to be her true and unique self.
Alicia has been nominated for easily over 100 awards since 2001. She is the winner of 15 grammys (of 29 nominations) and a whole host of international awards for music, public service and activism. Separately, she is co-founder and global ambassador for Keep A Child Alive; a non-profit organisation that provides medicine, orphan care, and social support to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa and India, with Alicia actively participating in fundraising through her performances.