California musician Maxine Feldman wrote one of the first totally out lesbian feminist songs in 1976—“Amazon Rising.” And then Judith Casselberry did an updated anniversary version in 2010. Enjoy them below.
About the playlists
A Note from Holly Near
Below are six playlists featuring nearly 600 songs, a broad scope celebrating women in music from Oakland and beyond; women daring to sing lesbian lyrics; women walking feminism right in to a country song; women, who against all odds, stayed above water; women who boldly climbed the charts in mainstream music industry and women who have songs about mother earth, peace, children, water and animals. If you don’t find your favorite on one list, try another, as the artists are spread throughout. I stopped adding songs in Fall of 2022.
As you explore, please note the following:
- Using Spotify makes it possible for us to share these playlists with the most amount of people, free of charge. Consequently, you will need a free Spotify account to hear more than an excerpt of the songs.
- There are over 600 songs in total! Don’t miss out – be sure to scroll each list.
- Many of the early artists are not on Spotify. We got permission from the artists and/or estates to put songs up on the SoundCloud playlist – scroll down. Even with two lists, there are many songs we couldn’t find.
Without a Net
Out and Outspoken
It takes courage to step up and out first. And with great appreciation to Ma Rainey as the mother of up and out, here are some of the women who wrote and sang bold songs without a net, mostly in the seventies and early eighties, before it was safe, popular, or understood in mainstream culture. Before Melissa Etheridge’s first hit in 1988. Before K.D.Lang in 1992. Before Ellen in 2003. One will seldom see the artists on this playlist listed in books about women in music or even lesbians in music. Once in a while Women’s Music icon and dearly loved Cris Williamson makes the cut. Books that leap from Joplin to Gaga are missing some important artists. And yet hundreds of thousands of listeners found these songs without the help of mainstream labels—way before social media. And that is amazing.
Warriors & Healers
A Cultural Revolution
There are economic and career challenges just for speaking one’s mind about race, gender, class, untraditional sexual identity. Against all odds and out of profound necessity, the artists on this playlist were the heartbeat of a cultural explosion that spread out all over the world. Here are just some who in one way or another contributed to rattling the cages and lifting up a choir of change.
Teachers & Giants
Artists Who Came Before Women’s Music
When the needle hit the disc and sound filled the room, the teachers and giants offered up a deep knowledge of tone, range, story, world view, heartbeat, heartbreak, and breath-taking skill. Here are just some of the women artists who early on, in one way or another, broke the sound barriers, the cultural norms, stayed alive in a man’s world.
Pride of Mama Lions
Feminist & Lesbian Songs in the Mainstream
Before and certainly after the Feminist Revolution, women artists worked in the mainstream music industry reaching a world audience. Their songs were full of hands-on-hips-don’t-mess-with-me messages; songs that spoke of birth control, ending domestic violence, equal pay, equality in love, old wounds and newly discovered power. Here are just some of the women artists who in one way or another elevated women’s lives as their songs hit the charts.
The Next Generation
Elder feminists often wonder, “where are the next generation of feminist artists?” This is not because new feminist artists are not out there, but rather their music sounds different than the music of the previous generation and therefore unrecognizable. This is not unlike the way some of the previous generation did not understand rock and roll or anti-war political folk. Here are just some of the women artists who are pushing the beat into the future. Some artists sing lyrics that are bold and often in-your-face. Other have returned to a soft, almost whispering style. Either way, there is a refusal to be boxed into someone else’s idea of what is appropriate, beautiful, singable.
Songs for Mother Earth
Artists from many genres write/sing songs about the earth and sky; songs of peace—or water—or buffalos—or children—or bees—to remind us of the energies of which we are a part. There is a T-shirt out there that reads “NO PLANET, NO PARTY!” Indeed! Here are just a few of the women artists who include the grand universe in their creative vision.