If you have not been reading my most recents posts this is the fourth consecutive on the topic of Women in Music, and more specifically relating to the world of Cover Songs. Today I have compiled a list of Women whose songs have capture the imagination of enough artists to record, over and over and over again. This list is different than the songs that were originally sung by women, or the list of Singer/Songwriters.
Todays list include all genre and if we look at them it is also different from the list of the most covered performers. As the singer of the songs, most often you are not the author of that song, but sometimes you may be. So, before I get to the list let me explain what I mean by that last statement.
These are the most covered performers of all time
At the top of the list is Judy Garland. She was not a Songwriter but her original song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” has been recorded by 2015 other artists. “Over the Rainbow” has been recorded by 1541 artists. She has four more songs at over 100 artists as well as another 15 of her songs performed at least once.
Billie Holiday’s original song “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” has been recorded by 664 artists and she did not have a hand in writing that one. However a song she co-wrote “God Bless the Child” has 504. These songs and several others place her at #2 on the list. These (in order) are the next names on the list; Ethel Merman, Ethel Waters, Abbie Mitchell, Gertrude Lawrence, Mitzi Green, Emily Laurey, Doris Day and Adele, no not that one-Adele Astaire. The only artists in the top 20 to have written all or a majority of their original songs are, as noted Billie Holiday followed by Édith Piaf at #12, Joni Mitchell at #15 and Peggy Lee at #17. These last three names also appear on The Top 10 Most Recorded Women Singer/Songwriters.
Before I get to the list of the most recorded songwriters I think a little history is in order. While I tend not to include music outside the major genre, notable women composers and lyricists predate any of them. I have looked up “Women Composers” and found the top names such as Hildegard von Bingen who lived from 1098 to 1179 and is the first “identifiable” female songwriter. Francesca Caccini (1587-c1641) and Barbara Strozzi (1619-77). The only names I recognized on the list were Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-47), Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-53) and Amy Beach (1867-1944) as I have referenced them before. Keeping in mind by saying composers these names also often wrote lyrics as well.
A name that is not on the list is Carrie Jacobs-Bond (born August 11, 1862, died December 28, 1946) who I have mentioned in a couple of my past posts. She was a prolific writer and known as quite a good singer, but primarily she is remembered for writing some 175 songs. “I Love You Truly” , “Perfect Day” and “Just Awearyin’ for You” are her most popular songs, she was a tireless worker composing her last song at age 84. In the days before recorded music, she sold over 25 million copies of her manuscript of “I Love You Truly” and reportedly made over one million dollars in royalty payments by 1910 at age 48. Why so much money? She was a very smart person, making sure she copyrighted all her songs in her own name and did not sell her songs to anyone. In the years that followed her initial success, Man or Women, she maintained a much more than usual control over who initially recorded her music as well.
For the past lists I have gone beyond Seondhandsongs.com for reference’s, the only problem with that is that there are very few dealing with women songwriters. The only credible source apart from Secondhandsongs.com was JoniMitchell.com and this focus on one artist may or may not skew the numbers. I can’t find any comparable empirical data, even for Carole King’s songs. While I have not verified all the numbers from Joni’s site and can say that I have cross referenced many that don’t appear on the secondhandsongs.com database. Today I have chosen to list the names in the order they appear on Secondhandsongs.com. The numbers for Joni Mitchell are from their database only and therefore places her further down than you would see on my other lists.
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Some notable names to follow are Mariah Carey 708 covers, Felice Bryant 708 covers, Peggy Lee 695 covers and Katy Perry with 690 covers.