Strong Female Backup Singers

I love to hear strong female backup singers on tracks like Kate Bush backing Peter Gabriel on Don’t Give Up or Yonnick Etienne on Roxy Music’s Avalon.

I also recently discovered Unmarked Road by Doug MacLeod with an amazing strong crystal clear female that is so soulfully pure it’ll bring a tear to your eye.

Anyone know of any other songs like this where a female vocal can sometimes overshadow the main vocalist?

Stevie Nicks and Don Henley - Leather and Lace

Phil Collins and Marylin Martin - Separate Lives

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty - Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

Aretha Franklin and George Michael - I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)

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Great Gig in the Sky from Dark Side Of The Moon probably warrants a mention!


Merry Clayton on Gimme Shelter

  • I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) Meatloaf and Lorraine Crosby
  • Fairytale of New York The Pogues and Kirsty McCall (how different it would this have been if Cait O’Riordan had sung?)
  • Don’t Go Breaking My Heart Elton John and Kiki Dee
  • Woman In Chains Tears For Fears and Oleta Adams
  • Empire State of Mind Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
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Merry Clayton on recording the original Gimme Shelter. Wonderful!

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Agreed. As the story goes, the physical strain of that session resulted in her having a miscarriage. Crazy stuff.

First thing that came to my mind. Let’s give her credit, this was Clare Torry.


Joe Satriani and Grace Potter - Cortez the Killer

Great track


Anything Ninet Tayeb does with Steven Wilson. Some of her contributions aren’t exactly ‘back up’, more like duets, but strong contributions nonetheless. Had the privilege of seeing her with him a couple years back. Powerful.


John Mellencamp and Pat Peterson covering Like a Rolling Stone on the Bob Dylan The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, also released as a B side on his single release of Pop Singer.

Good one, she’s incredible!

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I really like Oleta Adams, especially the Hearts & Flowers album.

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Joe Jackson & Elaine Caswell:

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Thanks, I’ve always liked Woman in Chains but I’ve not really looked into Oleta’s own work. I’ll change that now.

@Kevin_Owen, what album are you referring to? I don’t see it in her discog nor any performance credits?

I think it’s Moving On (1995) and reference to You Need to Be Loved.

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Sorry, It’s the Circle of One album. Hearts and Flowers is Joan Armatrading, another exceptional album.

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Talking Heads - The Great Curve
Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter

If you want strong female vocals generally, check out Hands Off Gretel.