1980s Female R&B Artists
List of the Best Female R&B Singers of the 1980s
Taking a trip down memory lane to celebrate the incredible talent of 1980s female R&B artists. The 80s marked a significant era for R&B music, and these remarkable women left an indelible mark on the R&B, helping for the future generations of the 1990s and 2000s.
Standout 80s female R&B singers like Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Sade, Anita Baker, and Chaka Khan began their iconic careers in this era. While continuing from the 1960s and 1970s, legends like Tina Turner, Diana Ross, and Aretha Franklin outshine some of the world’s best performers.
These exceptional women, along with many others, defined the 1980s R&B scene with their talent and artistry. Below is a list of the best female R&B singers of the 80s, celebrating their contributions to the rich tapestry of R&B music.
Top 1980s Female R&B Artists
1. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston was one of the most iconic stars during the 1980s and 1990s, becoming known for her powerful vocals and starring in several box offic hits, like The Bodyguard and The Preacher’s Wife.
She was one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with hits like “I Will Always Love You,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “I Have Nothing,” “Higher Love,” and “Greatest Love of All.” Houston’s talent and stage presence made her a global icon in the music industry.
2. Tina Turner
Tina Turner, often referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is one of America’s all-time best singer, songwriter, and actress. With her distinctive raspy voice and energetic performances, Turner became a symbol of female empowerment and resilience. Her notable hits include “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and “Proud Mary.” Turner’s career spanning over six decades solidified her status as a music legend.
3. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson is widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovative artists in contemporary music. With her groundbreaking albums such as Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, Jackson pushed boundaries and blended various musical genres, including pop, R&B, and dance. Her electrifying performances helped shape the landscape of modern pop music.
4. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin, also known as the “Queen of Soul,” rose to fame in the 1960s, becoming one of the most iconic figures in American popular music. Franklin’s incredible vocal range and emotional depth allowed her to navigate various genres like gospel, R&B, and jazz effortlessly. Her signature hits include “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” Her music continues to inspire and influence generations of artists worldwide.
5. Diana Ross
Diana Ross, a singer, actress, and record producer, rose to fame as the lead vocalist of the iconic Motown group The Supremes. As a solo artist, Ross released several chart-topping hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Upside Down.” In the 1980s, she released acclaimed albums of Dianai, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and Swept Away. All helped to solidify her as one of the greatest divas in music history.
Sade is a British singer-songwriter known for her smooth and sultry voice. Her unique sound combines elements of soul, jazz, and R&B, creating a distinctly relaxed and captivating atmosphere. With albums in the 1980s like Promise, Diamond Life, and Stronger Than Pride, Sade’s music captivate audiences worldwide, making her one of the most successful British female artists of all time.
7. Patti LaBelle
With her bold, soulful voice, LaBelle has delivered hit after hit during the 1980s, including “Lady Marmalade” and “On My Own.” She released six albums in the 1980s, and her career spans from the late 1970s with her 1977 debut album to the 2010s. LaBelle’s legendary stage presence and electrifying performances have cemented her status as a music icon.
8. Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan, often referred to as the “Queen of Funk,” is known for her energetic and soulful performances. She has gained thousands of fans with hits like “I’m Every Woman,” “Through The Fire,” “I Feel for You,” and “Ain’t Nobody.” Her versatility as an artist allows her to effortlessly transition between genres such as funk, R&B, and dance.
9. Anita Baker
Anita Baker has been long celebrated for her rich, velvety tone and heartfelt delivery that has made her a beloved figure in the world of R&B and adult contemporary music. Baker’s albums such as Giving You the Best That I Got (1988) and Rapture (1986) have earned her numerous awards and a dedicated fan base.
10. Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole had a versatile vocal range and experimented with various music genres, including R&B, jazz, and pop. Her smooth voice and heartfelt performances made her a beloved artist. Natalie Cole is best known for her hit songs like “Unforgettable,” “Miss You Like Crazy,” and “This Will Be.” She debuted in 1975 with the album Inseparable, and continued in the 1980s with albums Everlasting, Dangerous and Good to Be Back.
11. Deniece Williams
Deniece Williams gained prominence in the 1970s and 1980s. Williams’ powerful and angelic voice made her one of R&B’s most successful crossover artists. With hits like “Free,” “Silly,” “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” she left a lasting impact on the music industry. Williams’ soulful and heartfelt performances captivated audiences worldwide.
12. Teena Marie
Teena Marie had a unique blend of R&B, soul, funk, and rock music in her repertoire. With her powerful vocals and memorable hits like “Lovergirl” and “Square Biz,” Teena Marie established herself as a top artist in the 1980s. Beginning with Rick James, Teena Marie would build her own separate career, finding much success.
13. Stephanie Mills
Stephanie Mills rose to fame in the 1980s after debuting in 1979 with the project What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’. Mills’ voice is often described as dynamic and full of emotion. Some of her popular songs include “Home,” “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” “A Rush On Me,” and “I Feel Good All Over.”
14. Regina Belle
Born and raised in New Jersey, Belle first gained recognition in the late 1980s with her hit single “Baby Come to Me.” Her powerful vocals and heartfelt delivery led her to become a prominent figure in the industry. Belle’s discography includes a range of R&B hits such as “A Whole New World,” her duet with Peabo Bryson for the Disney film Aladdin, and “Make It Like It Was.”
15. Karyn White
Karyn White is an American singer and songwriter who made waves in the late 1980s. White’s smooth vocals and catchy tunes helped her achieve chart success. Her hits like “Superwoman” and “Secret Rendezvous” showcased her unique style and vocal range. White’s talent and passion for music continue to shine through in her performances.
16. Patti Austin
Patti Austin made her debut in the music industry in the 1960s. With a career spanning over five decades, Patti Austin has received numerous accolades, including Grammy Awards and nominations, for her exceptional talent and contributions to the music industry. Her most popular songs include “Baby, Come to Me” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” which topped the charts in the 1980s.
17. Sheila E
Sheila E is a multi-talented musician, singer, and songwriter known for her electrifying performances and versatile musical style. With a career dating back to the late 1970s, Sheila E has collaborated with legendary artists like Prince and Carlos Santana. Her music incorporates elements of funk, pop, jazz, and Latin rhythms, making her a true crowd-pleaser. Sheila E’s breakthrough came with her hit single “The Glamorous Life,” which reached the top of the charts in 1984.
18. Cheryl Lynn
Cheryl Lynn is an acclaimed R&B and disco singer who gained prominence in the late 1970s. She would eventually established herself as one of the most talented 1980s female R&B artists. Her most popular song, “Got to Be Real,” became a disco anthem and remains a timeless classic. Cheryl Lynn’s self-titled album, Cheryl Lynn, saw much critical acclaim and solidified her reputation as a formidable force in the music industry.
Known for her smooth vocals and seductive style, Cherrelle became popular for her duets with the legendary singer Alexander O’Neal. Her hit songs like “Saturday Love” and “Everything I Miss at Home” topped the R&B charts during the 1980s and showcased her sultry voice and undeniable talent. Cherrelle’s albums, including “High Priority” and “Affair,” received critical acclaim and solidified her status as one of the premiere 1980s female R&B artists.
20. Melba Moore
Melba Moore is a singer, actress, and entertainer who has had a successful career since the early 1970s. With her powerful and soulful voice, Melba Moore has become an icon in the R&B and disco genres. Her most popular songs include “This Is It” and “Love’s Comin’ at Ya,” which showcased her remarkable vocal range and ability to deliver emotive performances. Melba Moore’s album A Portrait of Melba received critical acclaim and solidified her place in music history.
21. Phyllis Hyman
Phyllis Hyman made her debut in the music industry in the early 1970s, and her breakthrough came with her self-titled debut album in 1977. Throughout her career, she released successful albums like You Know How to Love Me and Living All Alone, which received critical acclaim. Phyllis Hyman’s most popular songs include “You Know How to Love Me,” “Living All Alone,” and “Don’t Wanna Change the World.”
22. Stacy Lattisaw
Stacy Lattisaw kicked off her career at a young age. She burst onto the music scene in the early 1980s as a teenage sensation. Lattisaw’s debut album, Young and in Love, was released when she was just 16 and featured the hit single “Let Me Be Your Angel.” The song propelled her to stardom and continued to release successful albums like With You and Sixteen, which spawned popular tracks like “Love on a Two-Way Street” and “Jump to the Beat.”
Pebbles gained popularity in the 1980s with her debut self-titled album Pebbles, which featured the hit singles “Girlfriend” and “Mercedes Boy.” She would eventually established herself as a prominent figure in the R&B and pop music scene. Her album Always further solidified her success, with the title track becoming a chart-topping hit. In addition to her musical career, Pebbles became a successful entrepreneur, founding her own record label and managing artists.
23. Joyce Sims
Joyce Sims rose to fame in the late 1980s with her breakout hit single “Come into My Life,” which topped the charts and became an international success. Sims’ debut album of the same name achieved widespread acclaim and solidified her status as a rising R&B star. Her distinctive blend of R&B, pop, and electronic influences set her apart in the music industry. Notable songs by Joyce Sims include “All and All,” “Lifetime Love,” and “Walk Away.”
24. Millie Jackson
Millie Jackson made her mark on the music industry with her bold and unapologetic approach. She released a series of successful albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Caught Up and Still Caught Up, which showcased her ability to tackle taboo subjects with a mix of humor and honesty. Some of Millie Jackson’s notable songs include “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right),” “It Hurts So Good,” and “You Owe Me That Much.”
25. Jody Watley
Jody Watley is an American singer, songwriter, and dancer who achieved success in the 1980s with her unique blend of R&B, pop, and dance music. Watley’s energetic stage presence and smooth vocals made her a standout artist. She is known for her hit songs like “Looking For a New Love” and “Real Love.” Watley’s catchy tunes and captivating performances continue to win over fans.