Ten Greatest Female R&B Musicians

Teena Marie Leads the List of Talented Female Instrumentalists

This list of the greatest female R&B musicians features super women who do it all: singing, composing, and producing, as well as playing instruments.

In celebration of Women's History Month, here are the "Ten Greatest Female R&B Musicians."

10
of 10

Bobbi Humphrey

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Bobbi Humphrey. Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

"The First Lady of the Flute,"Bobbi Humphrey, began her five decade career in 1971 releasing her debut album, Flute In. She performed with Duke Ellington, and recorded on Stevie Wonder's 1976 landmark album, Songs In The Key of Life. That same year, Billboard named her Best Female Instrumentalist.

09
of 10

A Taste of Honey

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Hazel Payne and Janice Marie Johnson of A Taste of Honey. Capitol Records

Guitarist Hazel Payne and bassist Janice Marie Johnson composed  the duo A Taste of Honey which won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1979. Their 1978 debut single, "Boogie Oogie Oogie," sold over two million copies and remained at number one for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Their ballad, "Sukiyaki," hit number one on the R&B chart in 1981.

08
of 10

Aretha Franklin

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Aretha Franklin. Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

Aretha Franklin is not only "The Queen of Soul," she is also an outstanding pianist. Franklin has won 18 Grammy Awards and has sold over 75 million records worldwide. She has 100 entries on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, more than any other female artist. "The Queen" was the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 3, 1987, and Rolling Stone named her number one on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She has recorded eight number one albums and 20 number one hits, including five consecutive number one singles  from 1967-1969.

Her long list of awards includes the Presidential Medal of Freedom, National Medal of Arts, Grammy Lifetime Achievement, Grammy Legend, and Hollywood Walk of Fame. She's also performed for the inaugurations of President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, and given a command performance for Queen Elizabeth.

07
of 10

Roberta Flack

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Roberta Flack. Shahar Azran/WireImage

Pianist Roberta Flack made history in 1974 when she became the first artist ever to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year two consecutive times: "The First time I Ever Saw Your Face" in 1973, and "Killing Me Softly With His Song" in 1974. She also recorded the classic duets "Where Is The Love" and "The Closer I Get To You" with Donny Hathaway.

06
of 10

Valerie Simpson

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Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford. Shahar Azran/Getty Images)

Pianist Valerie Simpson teamed with her late husband, Nick Ashford, to form one of the greatest composing/producing duos in music history. They created numerous Motown masterpieces, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" recorded first by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and again by Diana Ross. They also composed "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By" for Gaye and  Terrell," as well as Ross' classic, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)."

Ashford and Simpson began their career writing Ray Charles' 1966 number one hit, "Let's Go Get Stoned." They launched Chaka Khan's solo career in 1978 with "I'm Every Woman" which was later recorded by Whitney Houston. The husband and wife team released sixteen albums together, including four gold discs. and the 1984 number one single, "Solid." Ashford and Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.

05
of 10

Sheila E.

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Sheila E. Paul Natkin/WireImage

Sheila E. (Sheila Escovedo) is the greatest female drummer/percussionist of all-time, working over four decades with a wide variety of stars including Prince, Beyonce, Lionel Richie, Santana, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Herbie Hancock, and George Duke. She's released seven solo albums, and hit number two on the Billboard R&B chart with her 1985 single, "Love Bizarre." Escovedo was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1985. In 2014, Sheila published her autobiography, The Beat of My Own Drum: A Memoir.

04
of 10

Angela Winbush

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Angela Winbush. Monica Morgan/WireImage

Beginning her career as a background vocalist for Stevie Wonder, Angela Winbush emerged as a very successful solo artist as well as a composer, producer and keyboard player for The Isley Brothers, Janet Jackson, and Stephanie Mills. She's recorded three solo albums, and hit number one in 1987 with her single, "Angel." Winbush also released four albums as a member of the duo Rene and Angela, including the 1985 platinum album, Street Called Desire.

03
of 10

Patrice Rushen

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Patrice Rushen. Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Keyboard wizard Patrice Rushen was the first woman to serve as Musical Director for The Grammy Awards (2004, 2005 and 2006), and the first woman to perform as Musical Director for The Emmy Awards, The People's Choice Awards, and HBO's Comic Relief. She was also the first female Musical Director of the NAACP Image Awards, a position she held for 12 consecutive years. Rushen performed as the Musical Director for Janet Jackson’s "janet" World Tour. She released sixteen solo albums between 1974 and 2002, and her 1982 single, "Forget Me Nots," received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

02
of 10

Alicia Keys

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Alicia Keys. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Alicia Keys has sold over 35 million albums and 30 million singles worldwide. The pianist, composer, and producer has won over 100 awards, including 15 Grammys, 17 NAACP Image Awards, 10 Billboard Music Awards, 10 Soul Train Awards, seven BET Awards, and five American Music Awards. She is also an accomplished actress, starring in the movies Smokin Aces, The Nanny Diaries, and The Secret Life of Bees. Keys was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" by People magazine in 2002, In addition to her music and acting, she is devoted to humanitarian causes, including assisting families in Africa affected by HIV and AIDS through the Keep A Child Alive organization she co-founded in 2003.

01
of 10

Teena Marie

Teena Marie. Larry Marano/Getty Images

Teena Mariewas one of the most talented and versatile female artists, excelling as an vocalist, guitarist, keyboard player, composer and producer. She began her 30 year career releasing her debut album, Wild and Peaceful, in 1979 produced by her mentor, Rick James. Two years later, they recorded their classic duet, "Fire and Desire," for his Street Songs album. Marie released fourteen solo albums, including four gold albums and one platinum disc. She received three Grammy nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: "It Must Be Magic" in 1982, "Lovergirl" in 1986, and "Still In Love" in 2005. In 2009, she was honored with the Pioneer Award at the 20th annual Rhythm and Blues  Foundation Pioneer Awards in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Marie passed away from natural causes on December 26, 2010 at her home in Pasadena, California. She was 54 years old