It’s been more than 60 years since the women of the Sixties took to the stage and in their heyday, they could sing for millions of people.
Today, thanks to technology and more powerful instruments, there’s more variety, better sound, and a bigger audience.
But even with the advances in technology, the women singers of the 1970s and 1980s remain a small percentage of the world’s popular music.
In an effort to understand how they got there, NPR spoke with a handful of top women singers to hear what it’s like to be a singer, to learn about their careers, and to see how it all started.
In honor of International Women’s Day, NPR’s “Take Me Out to the Ball” series asked some of the women who have been in the music business to share their story.
Their stories are told in this installment.
In the late 1970s, at the age of 22, Gloria Estefan, the singer of the group The Staple Singers, began touring with her sister, Gloria De La Rosa.
Her singing career had taken off in her native Los Angeles, where she was already famous as a musician and actress.
“I wanted to have a career in music and be the star of the show, and it didn’t work out,” she says.
She had just finished high school when she was offered a gig in Los Angeles by an agency.
She decided to pursue her dream and became the first female vocalist in a major country band, The Stamps.
It was a breakthrough for a young woman who had only heard music for the first time.
“When we went on tour, the crowd was the biggest I’ve ever seen in my life,” she remembers.
“There was just this huge amount of energy, and I thought, Well, maybe I’m not the only one.
I didn’t think that was going to happen to me.”
She made it to her first concert, but she was not a huge hit.
“The band didn’t play very well.
And I think it was because they were so young,” she recalls.
“And they just wanted to sing and they weren’t very good singers.”
In the next few years, she began to work with an agent in L.A. and found herself with gigs in New York and Philadelphia.
In those years, Gloria was also living a life of “happiness, success, success.”
“The music business is such a difficult business to do.
I had to be very disciplined and disciplined and I had this big job,” she continues.
“But it was great because it was really a very satisfying and interesting experience for me.”
Gloria began writing her first song in 1971 and her first album, The New York Times’ Favorite Song, in 1973.
The song, “Happy Birthday,” became a hit, which helped propel her career.
“As soon as I had that song on the radio, people were all over the place.
It’s a really simple song,” she tells NPR.
“It’s not complicated.
It just sounds like a simple melody and it doesn’t need anything complicated.”
Gloria DeLa Rosa started singing in 1977, after she graduated from college.
She became the youngest woman to ever perform at Carnegie Hall.
“She was very good, and when I was singing, the audience was really big, and there were a lot of people around me,” she adds.
“At that time, I didn