Forgotten: 8 Black Ladies of R&B and Blues You Probably Never Heard Of

HBO recently aired a biographical film about the life of Bessie, a famed blues woman of the early 1920’s. Bessie had a dynamic voice and a dynamic stage presence but many of us didn’t know her name until the film aired a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a list of other blues and R&B beauties worth knowing.


Willie Mae Thornton

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born in Ariton, Ala. on December 11, 1926. She was a singer and songwriter, who originated the song “Hound Dog” which Elvis Presley later remade. She even played the harmonica and was a self-taught drummer.

Koko Taylor is known as "Queen of the Blues"

Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor was discovered by Willie Dixon in 1962, shortly after she got her first recording contract. One of her most famous songs is “Voodoo Woman” and she is widely known as the “Queen of the Blues” in music circles.

Katie Webster is known as "The Swamp Boogie Queen"

Katie Webster

Katie Webster is a blues singer and pianist, nicknamed the “Swamp Boogie Queen.” She led her own band but also opened for Otis Redding and played in his band after being noticed by him in 1964.


Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette scored her first top 10 R&B hit titled “My Man, He’s a Lovin’ Man” when she was just 16-years-old. After being signed to Atlantic Records, she too went on tour with Otis Redding and is widely known for her fusion of rock, blues, country and soul, funk and gospel. In 2015, she released a new album,Worthy.


Barbara Lynn

Barbara Lynn is a blues singer and guitarist who’s best known for her 1962 chart topper, “You’ll Lose A Good Thing.” Barbara Lynn toured with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye.

Zakiya Hooker is the daughter of Blues legend Lee Hooker.

Zakiya  Hooker

Zakiya  Hooker made her first public appearance in 1991 at the Kaiser Center Theatre in California. Since then Zakiya, daughter of blues legend Lee Hooker, has gone on to perform with Etta James, John Hammond, Taj Mahal, Charlie Musselwhite and many more.

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