International Women’s Day (IWD), March 8, is a national holiday and celebration day to honour women’s rights and their achievements which has been endorsed and sponsored by the United Nations since 1975. Ladies are strong but we still need to provide them with more support. There are still social issues globally that have not been dealt with yet, and gender inequality is one of them. For this article, I gathered data on five songs that were written and released in the 20th and 21st centuries and that were made to celebrate femininity and raise awareness of gender inequality.
Carole King – ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’ (1967)
Carole King is one of the most acknowledged and celebrated American female singer-songwriters of the 20th century. Her collaboration with songwriter, Gerry Goffin and producer Jerry Wexler helped her to write the song ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’ which became an evergreen of the soul genre. It was recorded in the American Sound Studio, in Memphis, Tennessee in 1967, endorsed by Atlantic Records and it was intentionally written for the female blues, jazz and soul singer, Aretha Franklin who eventually made the song popular worldwide. At the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, Aretha Franklin performed the song to honour Carole King who was an award-recipient that night. One song that connects two celebrated and acknowledged female singers via their musicianship and friendship as well. Wonderful, is it not?
Helen Reddy – ‘I Am Woman’ (1972)
This is a soft rock classic that Australian singer-songwriter Helen Reddy wrote with Ray Burton in 1971 when Reddy was asked to create an album by Capitol Records, it was eventually released in 1972. Due to its topic, this particular track became well-known and many still consider it a feminine anthem because of its powerful lyrics and its straight-forward message. It may also be credited for the timing of its release, in 1972 the hippie counterculture was still at height, empowered by the Vietnam War and civil right movements that included the support for women’s rights as well. In 2003, in an interview for Sunday’s Magazine, Reddy spoke of her initial intentions when she was writing her song. According to her, she meant to raise awareness of domestic violence and abuse that target women all around the globe. I believe it can be said she succeeded with this, the influence of this song on Western cultures is unquestionable.
Portishead – ‘Glory Box’ (1994)
It is a trip hop tune from Portishead (UK) which was the third and final single of the band that was taken from their debut album Dummy. It was written by Beth Gibbons and Geoff Barrow and it was produced by Adrian Utley. Portishead was not only one of the early representatives of the trip-hop genre that originated from Bristol in the 1990s, but the lyrics of ‘Glory Box’ also supported femininity and put its topic to the foreground once again.
Alicia Keys – ‘Girl On Fire’ (2012)
It is one of the most famous songs of singer Alicia Keys. It was written by Keys, Salaam Remi, Jeff Bhasker and Billy Squier, and it was recorded in three different studios (Jungle City, Oven and Record Plant). In terms of genre, it mainly operates within the RnB, however, it also contains soul and pop elements. Keys often sings about feminine topics, and ‘Girl On Fire’ is not an exception, it sonically embodies the massive mental strength that ladies possess. It is truly a remarkable record that deserves more attention.
The Highwomen – ‘Redesigning Women’ (2019)
It is the debut single of the Tennessean female formation, The Highwomen, which was also included on their debut album that was titled after the band. It was endorsed and supported by Elektra Records and eventually, it was released in 2019. The record received commercial success and it was critically acclaimed all across the globe, especially in western countries. Due to their Tennessean, Nashville-roots, the band is mainly into the country, ‘Redesigning Women’ is also to be put into the same category. If Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’ is to be considered the anthem of the 20th century for women, then ‘Redesigning Women’ could be the new one of the 21st century.
All the above-mentioned records celebrate femininity but also raise awareness of the fact that gender inequality is still an issue and there are still a lot of things ahead to be done in order to help ladies and endorse their rights worldwide in developed and developing countries as well. I believe we will get there where we are supposed to, hopefully as soon as possible. What are your favourite songs from female artists, songwriters?