joni mitchelle

James Taylor reading a Kool-Aid packet with Joni Mitchell on the porch of her Lookout Mountain cottage, 1971. Photo by Joel Berstein. 

What you see before you is a list that I hope will be read as an intervention. Nearly 50 women who play a role in NPR compiled and voted on this list. It features albums by artists who identify as female — including some by mixed-gender bands, like Fleetwood Mac and X, that, in our view, relied on women’s creativity for their spark. These albums were released between 1964, the year The Beatles invaded America and set in motion what can be called the “classic album era,” and 2016, when Beyoncé arguably ushered in a new period with her “visual album” Lemonade. The point is to offer a view of popular music history with women’s work at the center. The list does not represent an “alternate history.” It stands for music history, touching upon every significant trend, social issue, set of sonic innovations, and new avenue for self-expression that popular music has intersected in the past fifty years.

A New Canon: In Pop Music, Women Belong At The Center Of The Story

Illustration: Chelsea Beck/NPR