Slick Lesbian Singers Through History 1910 - 2020s

Discover some Sapphic singers you should listen to: from 'Ma' Rainey to King Princess. Hi-fiving some slick lesbian singers throughout history: queer Queens of the blues, French resistant agent, an Andrew sister...

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Lesbian Singers

My three passions (equally) are:
Music, Movies and Fashion!

Though I had crushes on female singers, oddly when sussing out who I was, I didn't seek Sapphic lyrics unlike movies. I didn't sing out loud and proud to Katy Perry's kitschville city, "I kissed a girl, and I liked it", perhaps tarnished by marketed, faux lesbians = t.A.T.u.. My beecharming slick mixtapes were... New Order, St Etienne, Coldplay, The Smiths, Erasure, The Killers, Hot Chip, The xx, [STOPPPP ME!], with a mix of slit-your-wrist operatic arias, old-skool blues and whimsical Cole Porter.

Yet, when some of my music heroes came out as queer / bi e.g. ...

... Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, Andy Bell of Erasure, Morrisey, Pet Shop Boys - inside I was so dancing with J.O.Y! Seldomly, I heard about female singers coming out - wowhoo to Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes (What's Up), Joan Jett, and the new kids on the block. For me it's not about Sapphic lyrics but it would be ace to see for example female singers taking their girl to award ceremonies, mentioning them in interviews, so it just becomes a norm.

Definitely, there were some surprises while collating this list!

The Sapphic Blues Singers

1932 map of Harlem nightclubs show Gladys' Clam House & The Cotton Club, Source:

During this research I was stunned to discover that some of the queens of blues were friends of Dorothy and had lady lovers. This pose of bi and lesbian singers included Ma Rainey, who got arrested for indecency at an all-girl party while married to a man, Gladys Bentley, a "bulldagger" in full white tuxedo and top hat, and less overt Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. Their costumes were lavish and lyrics, sometimes sexually suggestive to the point of being dirtier than the dirtiest modern rapper! For example, Lucille Bogan bellows: "I've got nipples on my titties as big as the end of my thumb/ Got somethin' 'tween my legs'll make a dead man come!".

I so want to see Robert Philipson's documentary "T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness: Queer Blues" (2011). At first I was shocked on reading that Gladys Bentley "changed" her sexual orientation and revealed this through an Ebony magazine interview. It was during, 50s America with The Lavender Scare and McCarthyism. I also take it with a pinch of salt, as some say, she was a PR queen, ahead of her time! Check out Singing the Lesbian Blues in 1920s Harlem

The Sapphic Cabaret Singers
Being half German, I am fascinated by the Weimer cabaret scene of the jazz age but it was surprising to learn how singers differently reacted to the Nazis regime. The great Marlene Dietrich refused to return to Berlin to star in Nazi propaganda movies and from America helped fund Jews and French dissidents escape from Germany to America also performing in morale-boosting shows for Allied troops abroad while Josephine Baker gallantly risked her life as a French resistance agent. Both deservedly received a French Légion d'honneur. The bad: French cabaret singer and "the most painted woman in the world" Suzy Solidor was convicted by the Épuration légale as a collaborator and was exiled from France. Swedish actress Zarah Leander consciously moved to Berlin and starred in ten UFA films which were vehicles for Goebbels' despicable Nazi propaganda. Check out Lesbian experiences under the Nazi Regime and Lesbians who defied the Nazis.

The Totally Left Field!
Maxene Andrews of the legendary harmony group Andrews Sisters lover was her adopted daughter! At first I was astounded to discover this but then my heart-missed-a-beat as to why. At the time same sex marriages were illegal. Bizarrely by adoption her life long partner would be able to sign healthcare documents for when Maxene was badly ill in hospital and ensure she would receive her rightful inheritance.

Sapphic Singers: Pepi Litman

Pepi Litman

Yiddish Vaudeville Singer: 1874 – 1930

Pepi Litman was a popular Yiddish male impersonator, vaudeville singer who spent her life busting through borders between genders, race, and languages ... more

Slick Yiddish Track: Giter brüder nit gechapt (1907)

Sapphic Singers: Claire Waldoff

Claire Waldoff

German Kabarett Singer: 1884 – 1957

During the 1910s and 1920s Claire Waldoff was a famous kabarett singer (singing Berlinisch (Berliner slang)) in Berlin and who preformed with Marlene Dietrich. When the Nazis... more

Weimer Track: Ach Jott, Wat Sind Die Männer Dumm ("Oh, God, How Stupid Men Are")

Sapphic Singers: Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey

Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey

African-American Blues Singer: 1886 – 1939

Gertrude, 'Ma' Rainey is known as "The Mother of Blues". She started off on the vaudeville circuit and then in the 1920s, wearing short cropped hair and a tuxedo she... more

Out Track: Prove It on Me Blues (1928)

Sapphic Chanteuse Singers: Marie-Louise Damien

Marie-Louise Damien

French Chanteuse Singer & Actress: 1889 – 1978

Marie-Louise Damien's stage name was Damia but she became known as "la tragédienne de la chanson" ... more

Slick Track: Tu Ne Sais Pas Aimer (You don't know how to love) (1930)

Sapphic Singers: Clara Smith

Clara Smith

African-American Blues Singer: 1890-1940

Clara Smith was billed as the "Queen of the Moaners". She started off on the vaudeville, cabaret and speakeasy circuits. In a ten year career she recorded over... more

Bluesing-it Track: "Strugglin' Woman's Blues" (1927)

Sapphic Singers: Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith

African-American Blues Singer: 1894 – 1937

Bessie Smith is known as the "Empress of the Blues" and became the highest-paid black entertainer of her day. She made 160 recordings in all and some were accompanied by... more

Fav Tracks: Back Water Blues, Downhearted Blues - TOO many!

Sapphic Singers: Alberta Hunter

Alberta Hunter

African-American Blues Singer: 1895 – 1984

Alberta Hunter singing and songwriting career spanned four decades performing in America and across Europe. She started out singing in a seedy brothel which was run by... more

Bluesing-it Track: Got the Blues So Bad (?)

Sapphic Singers: Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

African-American Singer & Actress: 1896 – 1977

Ethel Waters started on the black vaudeville circuit > joined a carnival > Harlem nightclubs. Her career break came in 1925 with her first hit, "Dinah". She is a lady of numerous firsts:... more

Slick Track: ❤ Stormy Weather & Miss Otis Regrets

Sapphic Singers: Corina Freire

Corina Freire

Portuguese Singer & Actress: 1897 – 1986

Corina Freire was the first Portuguese woman to perform at the Paris Olympia Theatre and, at the Portuguese Embassy, in London (1934) she sang for Winston Churchill and the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor ... more

Slick Track: As Giestas

Sapphic Singers: Gwen Farrar

Gwen Farrar

English Duettist / Singer: 1897 – 1944

England's first great female double act? "Gwen" (Gwendoline) Farrar found fame, after WW1, as a revue / Vaudeville with on-off duettist Norah Blaney (a pianist and singer)... more

Slick Track: I Ain't Nobody's Darling / Second-Hand Rose

Sapphic Singers: Lucille Bogan

Lucille Bogan

African-American Blues Singer & Songwriter: 1897 – 1948

Lucille Bogan a.k.a Bessie Jackson was considered as one of "the big three of the blues", along with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith who were all open, to an extent, about... more

Dirty Track: Shave 'Em Dry" (?)

Sapphic Singers: Suzy Solidor

Suzy Solidor

French Cabaret Singer: 1900 – 1983

Flamboyant Suzy Solidor was a legendary yet controversial French cabaret singer and socialite who brightened up the Parisian nightlife. Early in 1930, she became a popular singer and... more

Melancholic Track: Ouvre (?)

Sapphic Singers: Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

German-American Singer & Actress: 1901 - 1992

In the 1930 movie Morrocco, a tuxedo-clad Dietrich gave cinema and, us, one of the first on-screen lesbian kisses. Femme fatale... more

Track for Mummy & Daddy (Scottish Officer): ❤ Lili Marleen (1944)

Sapphic Singers: Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

African-American Singer & Performer: 1906 - 1975

Josephine Baker, a.k.a "Black Venus", the "Black Pearl", was a hugely popular African-American entertainer in Europe particularly in her adopted home of France, French Resistance... more

Tres chic Track: La Vie En Rose (1969)

Sapphic Singers: Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley

African-American Blues Singer: 1907 – 1960

Described by an observer as a "masculine garbed smut-singing entertainer" Gladys Bentley was a talented blues singer, pianist, and entertainer during the Harlem... more

Bluesing-it Track: Ground Hog Blues (?)

Sapphic Singers: Hildegarde


American Cabaret Singer: 1906 - 2005

For 70 years Hildegarde (born Hildegarde Loretta Sell) charmed audiences in America and Europe, sold in the hundreds of thousands records, appeared on the cover of Life magazine (1939) and had her own Hildegarde shade of lipstick and nail polish, created by Revlon! ... more

Slick Track: Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup (1935)

Sapphic Singers: Zarah Leander

Zarah Leander

Swedish Singer & Actress: 1907 - 1981

Controversial Zarah Leander was a Swedish singer and actress who was one of the most celebrated female screen idols in German Nazi Cinema 1936 – 43, playing... more

Track: Ein Paar Tränen Werd Ich Weinen Um Dich (?)

Sapphic Singers: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

African-American Blues Singer: 1915 – 1959

A total heroine of mine, Billie Holiday, a.k.a "Lady Day" is one of the greatest singers (with Ella Fitzgerald) ever, ever, ever. She was an American jazz and swing... more

Fav Tracks: Lover Man, Lady Sings The Blues, God Bless the Child... too many!

Sapphic Singers: Maxene Andrews of the Andrews Sisters

Maxene Andrews of the Andrews Sisters

Swing Singer: 1916 - 1995

Maxene Anglyn was the middle sister of The Andrews Sisters who were an American close silky smooth harmony group and icons of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. Selling... more

Boogie Track: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (1941)

Sapphic Greek Singers: Sotiria Bellou

Sotiria Bellou

Greek Rebetiko Singer: 1921 – 1997

Sotiria is remembered as one of the greatest traditional Rebetiko performers of all time. Sometimes called the “Greek Blues,” Rebetiko, was an influential genre of Greek music ... more

Slick Track: Συννεφιασμένη Κυριακή ("Cloudy Sunday" - inspired by the execution, on a Sunday morning, of a group of resistance fighters by the Nazis)

Sapphic Singers: Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield

English Pop Singer: 1939 – 1999

Dusty Springfield was an iconic figure of the Swinging Sixties. She was one of the best-selling UK singers of the 1960s and made one of the biggest impressions... more

Slick Track: Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield What Have I Done To Deserve This (1987)

Sapphic Singers: Lesley Gore

Lesley Gore

American Popular Singer: 1946 – 2015

Surely, every teen girl knows that feeling "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to..." Number one hit and Grammy nominated "It's My Party" was sung by Lesley Gore, at the age of 16!... more

Popular Track: It's My Party (1963)

Sapphic Singers: Joan Jett

Joan Jett

American Indie-Rock Singer: 1958

As frontwoman for the Runaways (1975 - 1979), Joan Jett became a Grrrl trailblazer in the boystown world of rock music and, went on to become one of the most... more

Kick-ass Track: I Love Rock N' Roll (1982)

Sapphic Singers: k.d. lang

k.d. lang

Canadian OUT Lezza Singer (Bravo): 1961

Four-time Grammy Award-winning singer / songwriter and openly out, k.d. lang has been merited with an Order of Canada and Alberta Order of Excellence.

Slick Track: Barefoot (1928) (Featured in Salmonberries Movie)

Sapphic Singers: Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman

American Folky Singer: 1964

Folky Tracy Chapman is a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award-winning singer / songwriter.

Popular Track: Fast Car (1988)

Sapphic Singers: Alison Goldfrapp

Alison Goldfrapp

English Indie Singer: 1966

Electro Alison Goldfrapp (vocals, synthesizer) is one half of the electronic music duo Goldfrapp (with Will Gregor). Their stealth tracks like Ooh La La and Lovely Head have been featured in countless movies and TV series.

Fav Track: Number 1 (2005)

Sapphic Singers: Héloïse Letissier

Héloïse Letissier

French Pop Singer (& slick dancer): 1988

Tres cool, Héloïse sings under the alter-ego Christine and the Queens. She has won various awards including 2017 NME Awards Best International Female Artist.

Slick Track & Vid: Tilted (2014)

Sapphic Singers: Romy Madley Croft

Romy Madley Croft

English Electro Indie Slick Singer: 1989

Indie Romy Madley Croft is a guitarist and vocalist for uber cool, The xx. In 2009, The xx won the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year with their debut album xx.

Fav Track: VCR (2010) ❤

Sapphic Singers: King Princess

King Princess

American OUT Singer: 1998

For the 50th anniversary of the first Pride parade, Queerty online magazine named King Princess among the fifty heroes "leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people".

Popular Track: 1950 (2018)

Faux Lesbian Pop Singers & Staged Girl-on-girl Pop Star Kisses

Not only do staged / fake girl-on-girl pop star kisses sell records and score video views but fake lesbian duos do too :(

Fake girl-on-girl lyrics - ironically, in the anthemic "I Kissed A Girl" by Kate Perry (2008) music video - there's no wlw kissing in the music video! BTW the song title "I Kissed A Girl" was originally penned in 1995 by


American singer Jill Sobule. Interesting to compare lyrics: Jill Sobule's vs Kate Perry's. (Coolest "Kiss" song = Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer) It wasn't the faux kiss between Rita Ora and Cardi B in the "Girls" (2018) music video (85 M+ views) but the "Girls" lyrics that got openly gay female artists like Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko to take to social media to call out what they perceived to be offensive lyrics.

Music video girl-on-girl pop star kisses - For sure, faux lesbian kisses in music videos shoot up the "views". Though Rihanna and Shakira repeatedly sing "I’d do anything for that boy" and the song is clearly about a man, in the music video for "Can't Remember to Forget You" (2014) they are sapphically writhing around each other and hilariously, between walls! Moreover, look to the voyeur (camera) and not to each other. Who are they trying to turn on.. a girl or a boy? So far the video has been viewed 1.2B times!

Staged, fake girl-on-girl pop star kisses - Lest we forget publicity stunt girl-on-girl pop-star kisses: Madonna infamously kissing Britney at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards and in 2010 when Miley Cyrus shared a same-sex kiss with one of her dancers during her performance on Britain's Got Talent.

And then there was legendary "lesbian" duo t.A.T.u. ... Any type of wlw representation is empowering - right?

Sapphic Singers: t.A.T.u.


Russian Musical Duo: 1999

Some hearts missed-a-beat to t.A.T.u. - a sexy young Russian "lezza" pop duet comprising Yulia Volkova and Elena Katina. It was a marketing scam! Did Yulia Volkova really say on Russian TV "Yes, I would condemn [my son], because I believe that a real man must be a real man... God created man for procreation, it is the nature. The man for me is the support, the strength of... I won't accept a gay son." Source: NME.

Popular Track: All the Things She Said (2002)

Sapphic Singers: Fanxy Red

Fanxy Red (formerly FFC-Acrush)

Chinese K-pop Group: 2017

An all girl... 'Boyband'? Styled on Korean boy bands - Fanxy Red comprises... "meishaonian" ("handsome youths"), who are girls. The creator of FanxyRed, Zhou Xiaobai, was inspired by award winning Chinese pop star Li YuChun (stage name Chris Lee) who has a "boyish look" and, specifically searched for similarly androgynous boy band members.

Popular Track: Sanlitun Girls (2020)