I've started a BEST MALE VOCAL seperately - if you want to contribute to that, please go that discussion...

I personally think the BEST FEMALE is so much harder than the Best Male, and I already have so many names in mind that I thought I'd wait and see others suggestions.


THANKS to all who cotribute...
Overall vocalist, I don't know, but I can certainly pick a favorite song/vocalist combo. Eva Cassidy's version of Over the Rainbow. Not a tough call for me!
For me, my favorite, range, tone, improv ability which is bottomless and sheer listenability, Sarah Vaughn. Can't argue with any of the above, love Ella too for many of the same reasons as Sarah but less to degree, Sarah was a true genius both vocally and artistically. Not familiar with Jane Fielding but will surely check her out!   And Eva Cassity died much too young. Not to forget Dinah Washington, amazing songstress who also left us too soon. 
Tammy Wynette, runner up Brenda Lee. Newcomer Iris Dement (listen to "Walkin' Home").
Well I'm not too sure that time forgot Ella or Sarah but give it time as all things must pass. Thanks for the link Jperry.  

P.S.  Didn't ever really appreciate Doris Day as a kid, thought her movies, particularly with Rock Hudson were really obnoxious but there was one with Jimmy Stewart "The man who knew too much" which I saw later and kindled an interest in her. She was a really fine singer I must say, my mother loved her and I never knew why until I did.  

The singers in that article, I've never heard of but will surely check out, thanks again for the link!

Jennifer Warnes: the Well, Famous Blue Raincoat, Another Time Another Place. Her voice, timing and instrumentation (tree trunk drum, 19th century accordion...)
All vocalists mentioned are excellent. Also Joan Baez
Joan Sutherland, Cuckoo in Siegfried

Marianne Mellnas, Julsang

Joan Baez, Silkie
@tubegroover "For me, my favorite, range, tone, improv ability which is bottomless and sheer listenability, Sarah Vaughn"

+1.  Couldn't agree more
**If** the question is not intended to encompass opera and classical singers, and **if** the question is not intended to take repertoire into account (those things are not made clear in the OP), my vote goes to Connie Francis.

-- Al

Jperry Jane Fielding kind of reminds me of Margaret Whiting who was it seems a bit more famous than some of the now forgotten girls from the 50's in your link, thanks for that!. Check out "Time After Time" by Margaret very 50's style in delivery typical of white female singers from that era. All these are definitely worth checking out in contrast with today's song stylists and arrangements.

Holy Smokes!  Choosing between Ella, Aretha, Sarah Vaughan?  I can't do it.  

Was always favorable to Big Maybelle!
I'd give it to Linda Ronstadt for her versatility--so many pop styles plus mariachi and Gilbert & Sullivan.  Just amazing.
  1. Newbee is spot on about Eva Cassidy. Been a fan of hers ever since she hit the DC musical scene. She deserves to be mentioned in any discussion about great female singers. Picking only one female vocal is impossible for me. I can’t even pick my favorite female singer. So much depends on the mood I’m in. But when I listen to any of the great ones, their voices can completely take me over, and totally mesmerize me. Among my favorite are: Eva Cassidy, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Ruth Brown, and several more I just can’t think of at the moment. They all had such fantastic recordings, it's Impossible to select one song as my favorite. I’m sure at least 50 songs would tie. For me, my choice of music is dictated by my current state of mind. 
Annie Haslam of Renaissance, particularly on the first three albums: "Prologue - Turn of the Cards."
Obviously, not too many people here heard of French Canadian singer Ginette Reno.
Listen/watch this duet with Céline Dion... Magnificient.

Ann Wilson, circa Little Queen. Listen to Dream of the Archer. I saw her in concert and when she held that note (you'll know it when you hear it) it was chilling.
I'm a total sucker for anything Hannah Reid from London Grammar does. Hannah has power and frailties all at once. My second choice is Sara K ....check out her album Play On Words. Sade is up there and also  Bonnie Paine from Elephant Revival. 
Clare Torry. Clare H. Torry (born 29 November 1947) is a British singer, best known for performing the wordless vocals on the song "The Great Gig in the Sky" by the group Pink Floyd on their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon.
No doubt, Ella and Sarah, an unknown to most, blues and gospel singer Alexis P Suter and I am shocked that no one mentioned the spine tingling Maria Callas.