We used to put some stock into Rolling Stone Magazine’s opinion, until we took a closer look at their selections for the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. We were shocked to see that only 52 songs by women had made the list.
492:Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
491: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock N’ Roll
485: LaBelle – Lady Marmalade
482: Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
476: Aretha Franklin – Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
475: The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go
466: Missy Elliott – Get UR Freak On
454: The Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack
446: Salt-N-Pepa – Push It
439: Gladys Knight and the Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia
419: Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billie Joe
418: Donna Summer – I Feel Love
412: Rihanna (ft. Jay-Z) – Umbrella
409: The Shirelles – Tonight’s the Night
404: The Shangri-Las – Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)
369: Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly With His Song
367: Martha and the Vandellas – Nowhere to Run
359: Little Eva – The Locomotion
352: Lavern Baker – Jim Dandy
348: The Supremes – You Keep Me Hangin’ On
339: Bonnie Raitt – I Can’t Make You Love Me
332: The Supremes – Baby Love
331: Patti Smith Group – Dancing Barefoot
316: Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
306: Madonna – Like a Prayer
305: Blondie – One Way or Another
289: Blondie – Call Me
288: Joni Mitchell – Help Me
284: The Dixie Cups – Chapel of Love
269: The Ronettes – Walking in the Rain
267: The Crystals – He’s a Rebel
259: Blondie – Heart of Glass
252: Aretha Franklin – Chain of Fools
242: Dusty Springfield – Son of a Preacher Man
241: Patsy Cline – I Fall to Pieces
236: M.I.A. – Paper Planes
219: Dolly Parton – Jolene
199: The Chantels – Maybe
194: Amy Winehouse – Rehab
189: Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man
171: Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now
167: Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
165: Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares to U
148: Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee
126: The Shirelles – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
118: Beyoncé (ft. Jay-z) – Crazy in Love
104: Donna Summer – Hot Stuff
85: Patsy Cline – Crazy
70: Dionne Warwick – Walk On By
40: Martha and the Vandellas – Dancin’ in the Street
22: The Ronettes – Be My Baby
5. Aretha Franklin – Respect
Although we appreciate these women and recognize that their work is worthy of the honor, shame on you, Rolling Stone. Only 10% of your 500 Greatest Songs of All Time are by women.
Add injury to insult, the blurb write-ups about the females differ greatly than the ones written about the men. Look at Patti Smith Group, Madonna, and Blondie as examples.
We recognize that Blondie is technically a band that includes men, but we put them in the "52 group" because of Debbie Harry. Regardless if Blondie belongs on the list or not, it seems that masturbation and sex are important topics for inclusion when it comes to discussing female artists. Compare those to this one that discusses both the lyrics and the music behind The Clash’s Train in Vain.
Or how about this Jay-Z plug, who coincidentally gets a credit on two of the female contenders. Both Beyoncé and Rihanna have to share their title with him, as if either haven’t released multiple songs over the course of their careers that are worthy of a stand-alone credit.
Take a gander at this weak-ass review of Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It. The woman survived domestic violence. She lost all her money, royalty rights, and label to the jerk-wad abuser. At 44 years-old, she fought back and relaunched her career with the release of Private Dancer (1984), and this is all you can manage to say about the single that became her first and only No. 1 hit in the US?
In our book, Rolling Stone discriminates against women, and we no longer value that rag’s opinion on anything music-related. Out of respect for all the female artists who have clawed their way in, thru, around, and above this industry, we’re rearing up to say - Hey Rolling Stone, we can give you at least 198 women you overlooked for your 500 Greatest Who Gives a Shit What You Think List of All Time, but let’s just start with these twenty.
NOTE: The list is numbered, but those numbers don't represent a ranking.
1. Alanis Morissette - Ironic
To not include anything from Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album, Jagged Little Pill, is a travesty. Released in June 1995, it topped the charts in 13 countries, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and was nominated for 9 Grammys, winning five including Album of the Year. At the time, Morissette was the youngest artist to nab the honor. Rolling Stone even ranked it No. 327 on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. You Oughta Know, Hand In My Pocket, Mary Jane, You Learn – there are several great songs to choose from.
Ironic was written by Morissette and Glen Ballard and released as the third single from Jagged Little Pill. It hit No. 4 on Billboard Hot 100. It's so good that many didn’t notice, despite the title’s suggestion, that most of the situations aren’t actually examples of irony but rather bad luck. Some raked Morissette over the coals for the “oversight,” though one might argue that singing a song about irony without using examples of irony could be viewed as ironic.
2. Pointer Sisters - Neutron Dance
Written by Allee Willis, Neutron Dance is from the 1983 Pointer Sisters album, Break Out. Featured in the movie Beverly Hills Cop, the song was released in November 1984 during the height of the Cold War. Ruth Pointer sang lead vocals but originally didn’t want to do the song because of the association the word neutron had with the neutron bomb, which had been dominating headlines. She tried to convince Willis to change the lyrics, but to no avail. Later Pointer admitted she was glad she had recorded the song.
Neutron Dance became the fourth hit from Break Out, peaking at No. 6 on Billboard Hot 100. It was the group’s final Top 10 song, and its commercial success created unexpected tension on an international level. The Russian Government named Willis one of the most dangerous people living in the United States because they misinterpreted the lyrics as saying, “A powerful nuclear explosion is approaching; it will annihilate everyone; who cares if you have no car, no job, no money; just dance, dance, dance.”
3. TLC - Waterfalls
Written by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Marqueze Etheridge, and Organized Noize for TLC's 1994 album, CrazySexyCool, Waterfalls is the first hit song to reference HIV/AIDS. In 1995, the music video won MTV's Video of the Year, making TLC the first black artist or group ever to win that award.
Waterfalls earned two Grammy nominations (Record of the Year and Best Performance by a Duo or Group), landed in the Top 10 in 15 countries, spent seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100, and was ranked No. 13 among VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 Years and No. 10 on Billboard’s list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.
4. Carole King - (You Make Me Feel Like ) A Natural Woman
Of the four songs Aretha Franklin has on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman isn’t one of them. It was written for Franklin by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and released as a single in 1967. It hit No. 8 on Billboard Hot 100 and has become one of Franklin’s signature songs. In 2015, she performed it at the Kennedy Center Honors to honor award-recipient Carole King.
King recorded the song for her landmark album, Tapestry (1971), which won four Grammys, has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, and is ranked No. 36 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The lead singles, It’s Too Late and I Feel the Earth Move, spent five weeks at the top of the charts. Either could easily be a contender for a greatest songs list. We chose (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman because Peggy Lee, Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, and Gloria Estefan (to name a few) have all covered it and because Rolling Stone seems to favor Aretha Franklin songs. There’s nothing wrong with honoring the Lady of Soul’s work. We’re just spreading the love by giving some credit to Carole King.
5. Mariah Carey - Vision of Love
Vision of Love is the debut single from Mariah Carey’s 1990 debut album, Mariah Carey. Released on May 15, 1990, the song spent four weeks at No. on Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop and landed on the charts in 11 other countries.
Vision of Love was the first time the world had ever heard Mariah’s whistle register, and it’s commonly credited for making melisma popular. Rolling Stone even credited the song for inspiring an entire American Idol vocal school, for better or worse, and for influencing virtually every other female R&B singer since the 90s. So, why a song with that kind of impact was not included on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list is unclear, other than they seem to discriminate against female artists and diminish the value of their work.
6. Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes
Bette Davis Eyes was written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon. DeShannon recorded it for her 1974 album, New Arrangement. The original version has an R&B feel but didn’t have much commercial success.
Kim Carnes released her version in 1981 from the album, Mistaken Identity. Recorded in one take and with a synthesizer-based arrangement, the song landed at the top spot in 21 countries and won a Grammy for both Record and Song of the Year. It was Billboard’s biggest hit of 1981, spending nine weeks at No. 1, interrupted only once by Stars on 45. Actress, Bette Davis, then 73 years-old, wrote Carnes, DeShannon and Weiss thank you letters for making her relevant again. When they won Grammys for the song, she sent them roses.
7. Cyndi Lauper - True Colors
True Colors was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. The demo was a piano-based gospel ballad and originally about Steinberg’s mother. It was first offered to Anne Murray, who passed on the recording. Cyndi Lauper took it and stripped the arrangement of the song into something stark and simple. It was released on Aug. 28, 1986 from her second studio album, True Colors.
Landing on the charts in 16 countries and spending two weeks at the top spot on Billboard Hot 100. True Colors was nominated for a Grammy and became Lauper’s last No. 1 hit. It has become an anthem for the gay community and was used to help raise money for the Human Rights Campaign. Years after the song’s release, Lauper co-founded the True Colors Fund, a non-profit to help fight LGBT youth homelessness.
8. Ann Peebles - I Can't Stand the Rain
Ann Peebles wrote I Can't Stand the Rain with her husband Don Bryant and Bernie Miller. Released in 1973, it hit the charts in 13 countries and reached No. 6 on Billboard Hot R&B. The song might not be good enough for Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, but John Lennon told Billboard Magazine that "it was the best song ever."
Over the years, many artists have covered I Can’t Stand the Rain. To name a few, Eruption released a version in 1978, Tina Turner recorded it for Private Dancer (1984), Missy Elliott used it in her 1997 debut single The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), and Seal has it on his 2008 album Soul.
9 Janet Jackson - Nasty
Nasty was released by Janet Jackson from her third studio album, Control on April 15, 1986. The single peaked at No. 3 on Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop. It was written by Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and was born out of a self-defense situation and became an autobiographical account of confronting abusive men.
There are several Janet Jackson songs that could have been included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. We chose Nasty because the line “My first name ain't baby, it's Janet – Miss Jackson if you're nasty" has been used in pop culture in countless forms, Britney Spears, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and the Glee Cast have all covered the song, and it appears in the video games DJ Hero 2, Dance Central 2, and Lips. VH1 ranked it No. 30 on their list of 100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 Years, and it’s listed at No. 79 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Pop Songs.
10. Wilson Phillips - Hold On
Written by Carnie Wilson, Chynna Phillips, and Glen Ballard, Hold On was the lead single from Wilson Phillips's 1990 album, Wilson Phillips. The song landed on the charts in 10 countries and was nominated for a Grammy. It hit No. 1 on Adult Contemporary, and though it topped Billboard for only one week, it was named Hot 100 Single of the Year for 1990 and is rank No. 15 on Billboard’s 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.
In 2011, it was featured in the movie, Bridesmaids. Wilson Phillips made a cameo performance, reminding some about and introducing others to the brilliance of that song.
11. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
I Will Always Love You was originally recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973. Released in 1974 from the album Jolene, it was written as a farewell to her partner and mentor, Porter Wagoner, after Dolly had decided to pursue a solo career. The song reached No. 1 on Billboard Hot Country in 1974, then again in 1982 when she re-recorded it for the soundtrack to the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Landing at the top spot twice with one song is rare, a feat, at the time, that only Chubby Checker’s The Twist had accomplished.
Though recorded by several artists, including LeAnn Rimes and Linda Ronstadt, most people think Whitney Houston, even over Dolly, when it comes to I Will Always Love You. Recorded for the 1992 movie The Bodyguard, Whitney’s version spent 14 weeks at No. 1, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time and the current record-holder for best-selling single by a female artist. After Whitney’s death in 2012, it re-entered the charts again, making it only the second song ever to reach the top three on Billboard Hot 100 during separate runs.
Though Dolly Parton is ranked 219 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time for Jolene, Whitney Houston doesn’t make the list for anything – not Greatest Love of All, not Saving All My Love for You, not I Wanna Dance with Somebody, not How Will I Know, and certainly not I Will Always Love You. How insulting, Rolling Stone. Tsk you!
12. Bette Midler - The Rose
Written by Amanda McBroom, The Rose was made famous by Bette Midler with her recording for the 1979 movie, The Rose. The song hit No. 1 on Cashbox Top 100, spent five consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Adult Contemporary, and peaked at No. 3 on Billboard Hot 100.
The Rose was one of seven options Midler had chosen for the soundtrack from a pool of over 30 songs. The song won her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, beating out artists like Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. It was never nominated for an Academy Award because it wasn’t written for the movie, but it won a Golden Globe and is ranked No. 83 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs.
13. Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart
Total Eclipse of the Heart was written by Jim Steinman and made famous by Bonnie Tyler for the 1983 album, Faster Than the Speed of Night. The song spent four week at No. 1, made Tyler the first and only Welsh singer to hit the top spot on Billboard Hot 100, and was ranked No. 6 for Billboard’s Song of the Year for 1983 and No. 5 in the UK.
The song was originally about vampire love and had been titled “Vampires in Love,” but in interviews, Steinman says that Total Eclipse of the Heart had been written for Bonnie Tyler to sing and Bonnie Tyler alone.
14. Pat Benatar - Love Is a Battlefield
Love Is a Battlefield was released in September 1983 from Pat Benatar’s album, Live from Earth. Written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman, it topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts for four weeks and peaked at No. 5 on Billboard Hot 100. It’s her second American million-dollar hit and is tied with We Belong as her highest charting single.
Love Is a Battlefield won Benatar her fourth consecutive Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance, it’s been used in multiple movies and media, and VH1 has it ranked No. 30 on their list of 100 Greatest Songs of the 1980s.
15. J.J. Fad - Supersonic
Written by Juana Burns, Juanita Lee, Fatima Shaheed, Anna Cash, and Dania Birks, Supersonic was first recorded in 1987 with J.J. Fad’s original line-up and released as a B-side to Anotha Ho. In 1988, the band’s new line-up re-recorded the song and released it from their debut album, Supersonic.
The 1988 version stayed on Billboard Hot Dance for eight weeks, peaking at No. 10. It hit No. 22 on Hot R&B, was certified gold, and earned J.J. Fad a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance, the first time in history an all-female rap group had been nominated. Since its release, Supersonic has inspired and been used by several artists, including Fergie in Fergalicious and Eminem in Rap God.
16. Reba McEntire - Fancy
Bobbie Gentry wrote and recorded Fancy in 1969. It was included on the 1970 album, Fancy, which earned a Grammy nomination. According to Gentry, the song was her strongest women’s lib statement, and it became a crossover hit, peaking at No. 26 on Hot Country and No. 31 on Billboard Hot 100.
Originally producers didn’t want Reba McEntire to cover Fancy, but she did anyway and released it in 1991 from her Rumor Has It album (1990). Her version hit No. 8 on Hot Country, but the radio edit ended after the third verse, before Fancy makes it off the street. In 2014, Iggy Azalea used Reba’s version in a mashup released on the internet. Steven King’s Duma Key references the song and uses part of the lyrics for the book’s foreshadowing.
Gentry is ranked No. 419 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time for Ode to Billie Joe, but we think Fancy is among her best work, and Reba McEntire shoots a little more grit and a whole lot of passion into this fantastic song.
17. Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
Written by Lee Hazlewood, These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ was recorded by Nancy Sinatra and released as the second single from her album, Boots (1965). Originally Hazlewood didn’t want Sinatra to record the song, stating that “it wasn’t really a girl’s song.” Sinatra called bullshit and convinced him to let her give it a go. Released in December 1965, it became an international hit, topping the charts in seven countries including No. 1 in the U.S. on Billboard Hot 100. Sinatra recorded a promotional video, now a music video, that played on jukeboxes across the country to help promote the song.
Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ has been used in a ton of movies and TV shows, including Full Metal Jacket (1987), Now and Then (1995), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), and Ocean’s 8 (2018). Dozens of artists have covered the song, including Megadeth, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Jessica Simpson. Goodyear used it in an ad campaign selling “wide boots” tires, and Pitchfork Media ranked it 114 in their list of the 200 Best Songs of the 1960s.
18. Etta James - At Last
At Last was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the 1941 musical movie Sun Valley Serenade. Glen Miller Orchestra recorded it several times, hitting No. 9 on the singles chart in 1942.
Etta James released a version from her 1960 album At Last! that has proven the test of time. Released in April 1961, it was her second No. 2 Hot R&B single and soon became a cross-over hit, landing at No. 47 on Billboard Hot 100. The passionate vocals and beautiful orchestra arrangement has made the song one of the most popular tunes played at weddings. Countless artists have covered it, including Beyoncé, Céline Dion, and Aretha Franklin, but no artist owns At Last more than Etta James.
19. Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen
Edge of Seventeen was written by Stevie Nicks and released as the third single from her 1981 debut solo album, Bella Donna. Just missing the Top 10 on Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at No. 11 but landed at No. 4 on Billboard Mainstream Rock.
The song features a 16th-note guitar riff, played by Waddy Wachtel, and was inspired by the death of her uncle and the murder of John Lennon, both happening in the same week. According to Nicks, the ‘white winged dove’ represents the spirit leaving the body and the title came from a conversation Nicks had with Jane Petty, Tom Petty’s first wife. Jane said the two had met ‘at the age of seventeen’ but Nicks heard ‘edge of seventeen’.
20. Jackie DeShannon - Put a Little Love In Your Heart
Jackie DeShannon wrote Put a Little Love In Your Heart with her brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday. The song was released in June 1969 and is DeShannon’s highest-charting hit, reaching No. 4 on Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on Adult Contemporary and rivaling the success of her signature song, What the World Needs Now Is Love, which should also be a contender for Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Annie Lennox and Al Green recorded a version for the 1988 movie, Scrooged that landed at No. 9 on Billboard Hot 100, No. 2 on Adult Contemporary, and became a Top 40 hit in several countries. But, no matter how many artists cover Put a Little Love In Your Heart, it will always be Jackie DeShannon’s song.