There’s no way our Women of Memphis Music playlist is definitive – even though it is literally four of songs written by and featuring Memphis women music-makers. Inevitably there are so many more that we missed, but that just helps to prove the immense impact Memphis women have had on our music scene – since the beginning!
We’d love to hear from you if your favorite artist isn’t represented on this list – head over to IG and let us know! We’ll keep adding songs and look to spotlight more artists Memphis music lovers need to know. (And if you’re like, hey! Where’s the hip hop?? We’ve got a dedicated mix coming your way later this month!)
We couldn’t pick favorites – we love every track in this mix! – but we pulled out a few that just feel like essential listening. Here they are:
Memphis Minnie “When the Levees Break”
Lizzie Douglas, better known as Memphis Minnie, was a pioneering figure of the early blues and has been described as “the most popular female country blues singer of all time.” Among her signature tracks is 1929’s “When the Levees Break,” a song about the upheaval caused by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Decades later, Led Zeppelin would put their own iconic spin on the track, bringing even further attention to one of Memphis music’s first big female stars.
Ann Peebles “I Can’t Stand the Rain”
An absolute classic from an absolute queen, “I Can’t Stand the Rain” was originally released in 1973 and quickly became a Southern soul standard. Ann Peebles co-wrote the song with her husband, a multi-talented singer and songwriter in his own right, Don Bryant. Soon after its release, John Lennon famously called it “the best song ever,” which is high praise coming from one of the greatest songwriters in history. Peebles was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2014.
Julien Baker “Faith Healer”
There’s so much to love about Julien Baker but we’ll start here: even with her massive success, she hasn’t turned away from the musicians, collaborators and spaces in Memphis that helped to make her the artist she is today. Her latest album, the lush Little Oblivions, was largely tracked at Cooper Young studio Young Avenue Sound, and has gotten rave reviews everywhere from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone. This track, “Faith Healer,” was the first single from the album and gave us our first taste of this richer sound from Julien, who in spite of leaping to fame as a singer-songwriter came up playing in bands in Memphis. One thing hasn’t changed: her gift for writing songs that slay you, every single time.
Talibah Safiya “A Wild One”
It’s no secret that we stan the South Memphis Angel. Naturally, we struggled to pick just one track of Talibah’s for this playlist, but “A Wild One” is a perfect starting place for her music. It’s smart and funny, a little raunchy, a lot playful and just straight up neosoul magic. Talibah is a native Memphian who spent time in NYC stretching her creativity as a singer, songwriter and artisan-entrepreneur (have you checked out her jewelry line Pretty Bull or latest venture Mama’s Sundry?) and came back home to take it to the next level in 2016. She’s been prolifically releasing music ever since and we can’t get enough.
If you were somehow under the impression that the music created by Memphis women isn’t as aggressive and muscular as their male counterparts, then the all-female punk trio Nots should put that notion to rest. First formed in 2011, the group has earned nation-wide acclaim with their distorted, politically-charged music that borrows from punk, electronica, and hard rock in equal measures. Although their most recent album “3” has plenty of worthy bangers to choose from, the song “Reactor” from their debut album finds them in all of their rowdy glory.