So we come to the last of our ‘greatest’ questions: Who is Scotland’s Greatest Ever Vocalist? Now if you’ve ever been to a football match or witnessed the pubs empty on a Friday night in Scotland, you’ll know that the Scots love to sing. And we’ve produced some of the best in the business.

To try and list them all in one article might have blown Alec Downie’s brain, never mind his fragile Turkish internet connection. So we have decided to take our time and do this over two weeks.

Today we are looking for suggestions as to Who is Scotland’s Greatest Ever Female Vocalist. Next week, we’ll do the gentlemen. And two weeks from today we will present a final list of 10 great Scottish vocalists for our readers to vote on over Christmas and New Year.

As always, your suggestions are welcome in the comments below and on our twitter, myspace and facebook pages. Here we go…

A Girl Like You – Who is Scotland’s Greatest Ever Female Vocalist?

You’ve made me acknowledge the devil in me.
I hope to God I’m talkin’ metaphorically.
Hope that I’m talkin’ allegorically.
Know that I’m talkin’ about the way I feel.
And I’ve never known a girl like you before.
Edwyn Collins – ‘A Girl Like You’

I’ve been listening with joy and fond memories to a plethora of tracks and trying to work out how to make sense of this task of comparing Scottish female vocalists in some sort of “Greatest” list. As I went along Edwyn’s lyrics came to mind. So I’ve decided to just wing it and talk allegorically about the way I feel and leave others to point out my omissions, positions and agree or disagree with the devil in me!

Lulu, OBE

A young Lulu went to the Barrowland Ballroom and watched The Alex Harvey Soul Band do a cover of The Isley Brother song “Shout”. As an uncomplicated 16 year old, the song stuck in her mind and she went on to record one of the greatest dance floor fillers of all time with her band Lulu &The Luvvers.

For a wee belter of a Dennistoun girl she has done no bad in life. She married a Bee Gee and has had hits in 4 decades. She also knows how to hang. In 1974 she did a cover of Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and shagged the Thin White Duke. In the 80’s she appeared in the video for Ant Rap alongside Adam and the Ants and got nominated for a Grammy. She missed out on the G but did win the “Rear of the Year Award” in 1983. She co-wrote “I Don’t Want to Fight” for Tina Turner and then went to No 1 with Take That with ‘Relight My Fire’. Lulu has been signed to more top labels than Graham Souness has had clubs and is still belting out tunes and looking sexy in her 60th year.

Recommended dose of schoolgirl diva “To Sir with Love” by Lulu


Annie Lennox

I first stumbled across Annie Lennox in the pop-punk band The Tourists. Back then she had an odd beauty, an unusual understated vocal and her intensity stood out as someone who was not there just to be eye candy. The Tourists came and went and Lennox resurfaced as a Ziggy clone dressed in a business suit and banging on a desk in a field of cows. The Eurythmics set the standards for an electro-pop generation and by the time they recorded Sex Crime for the movie 1984, her confidence and commitment meant that understatement was history.

If Scotland can lay claim to having one definitive “Diva” it is Annie Lennox. She performed at the ‘Freddie Mercury Tribute’ concert, singing ‘Under Pressure’ with David Bowie, and her solo career has seen her clutch an Oscar, numerous Brits and a glut of Grammys as she has effortlessly transitioned from being a pop-star into an international icon.

A thoughtful and forceful advocate of HIV and women’s issues, her 2007 album “Songs of Mass Destruction” features a song called “Sing”, a collaboration between Lennox and 23 prominent female artists: Anastacia, Isobel Campbell, Dido, Céline Dion, Melissa Etheridge, Fergie, Beth Gibbons, Faith Hill, Angelique Kidjo, Beverley Knight, Gladys Knight, K.D. Lang, Madonna, Sarah McLachlan, Beth Orton, Pink, Kelis, Bonnie Raitt, Shakira, Shingai Shoniwa, Joss Stone, Sugababes, KT Tunstall, and Martha Wainwright.

Recommended Drag Diva “You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart” by the Eurhythmics


Shirley Manson

Rising from the ashes of Scotland’s lauded “Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie” and a hated job on a makeup counter, Shirley Manson headed west and began her new life as a solo artist. Fate took hold and when her track “Suffocate Me” was aired on MTV’s 120 Minutes, producer and musician Steve Marker saw the performance and thought Manson would be a great singer for his band, Garbage.

The band’s debut album Garbage was released in August 1995 and included the massive singles “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl”, selling over 4 million copies. Garbage recorded the theme song to the James Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’, making Mansun the third Scotswoman to sing a Bond theme, after Lulu and Sheena Easton. Two more albums followed before the band decided to take a break, which has seen Shirley given time to do some cool work with Chris Connelly, Gavin Rossdale, Queens of the Stone Age and Bear McCreary and become an actress in the current US Terminator series.

Recommended Trash Diva track, “I Think I’m Paranoid” by Garbage


Sharleen Spiteri

I was living in Germany in the early 90s I and was on holiday in the US when I picked up a copy of the American version of the Texas album ‘Rick’s Road’, which contained the Al Green song, “I’m So Tired of Being Alone” as a bonus track. It wasn’t available in the UK and so I was gutted when some tube stole it from my car and I had to order another cd from the US just for that track.

Anyway, ‘Rick’s Road’ was arguably the sound of a great band in decline and they survived largely due to a massive French fan base. Roll forward 3 years to 1996 and I am driving in Scotland and the track, “Say What You Want”, comes on the radio echoing Al Green. I remember turning to my wife, who hated Texas, and saying, “That is going to be massive, provided Motown don’t sue”. I got a shrug in return, leaving me wondering if it was only me and Chris Evans who got this. With a wee smug ITYS, ‘White on Blonde’ shifted 1.8 Million copies for 4 simple reasons: great production, great songs, a vocalist that can really sing and the fact that Sharleen finally dumped her Southern fried tom-boy look and became sexy.

I’ve mentioned this before, but as a wee aside, I was backstage at a Texas gig at the Barrowland Ballroom once and got chatting to a mature but funky lady, who I innocently asked, “are you Sharleen’s mum?” to which I got the terse reply of, “No, I am Rita Rusk”, (hairdresser to Glasgow’s elite and Sharleen’s ex-boss). Oops!

Recommended Glasgow Motown – ‘Tired of Being Alone’


Dot Allison

If who you have worked with is a prerequisite to cool, Dot surely must be the coolest singer in this list. Lead singer of the acclaimed band One Dove in the early 1990s, Allison’s career in electro, trip-hop and dance music is nothing short of astonishing. She has collaborated with Death in Vegas, Hal David, Arab Strap, Scottish dance duo Slam, Kevin Shields, Pete Doherty / Babyshambles, Gary Mounfield, and Massive Attack.

Recommended Dance Diva “Diving Horses” from Death in Vegas album “Scorpio Rising”

Eddi Reader

Best known for the song “Perfect” by Fairground Attraction, (a song I have to admit to hating with a passion), there is genuinely a more subtle and vulnerable side to Eddi Reader to be found in her solo work. Her interpretations of Boo Hewerdine songs ‘Patience of Angels’ and ‘Joke (I’m Laughing)’ are beautiful and heartbreaking. Reader also contributed haunting vocals to one of Big Country’s final singles before Stuart Adamson’s death, “Fragile Thing.”

She is the recipient of three Brit Awards and recently showcased the works of Robert Burns for his 250th Anniversary.

Recommended Delicate Diva track, “Joke (I’m Only Laughing)”.

Isobel Campbell

Former vocalist and cello player with Belle & Sebastian, Isobel left the band in 2002 to pursue her solo career. In April 2004, one of the most unlikely collaborations mutated out of Scotland when Campbell released an EP with former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, titled ‘Time Is Just the Same’. They would later release a single of Hank William’s “Ramblin’ Man” and record the album ‘Ballad of the Broken Seas’, which was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Prize

Recommended Dirtying of a Twee Diva, “Keep me in mind, Sweetheart” Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan


KT Tunstall

I was once organising a gig to support The Big Issue in Scotland at The Universal in Glasgow and KT, who had just returned from filming Jools Holland, did a late shift. It was a rowdy, fun night, but sadly I had to intervene and tell the rather drunk audience, who had only paid a fiver each, to “shut the feck up”. That same audience is now rightly paying 40 quid to see her in the Royal Concert Hall. Since 2005 the tracks “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See” are never off the radio no matter where I drive in the US or UK.

KT is a unique talent and her delivery and humbleness is grafted from understanding the toil of many a toilet tour with the Fence Collective. On a personal note, I was once at CMJ in NYC partaking in 6 or 7 too many free cocktails at some swanky fashion thing in the East Village, when I staggered over to see KT perform to a gaggle of US industry folk. At the end of the performance she walked off the stage ignoring the suits and quite rightly said to me in a motherly way, “Alec, you’re too drunk and need to go back to your hotel”.  Sent to bed by KT, a moment to cherish!

Recommended On the Other Side of the Fence Diva track, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”

Adele Bethel

I was putting a CD together for delegates attending the MTV EMAs in Edinburgh and, though now hard to comprehend, I went to Stereo in the West End see if Franz Ferdinand were good enough to be included. I and the 30 people in the room agreed they were but I went home not raving about Franz, but about the opening act and the song, “Johnny Cash” being belted out by a breast bashing banshee of a wee girl, singing with more conviction than I had seen in years. Her name was Adele and the band was the wonderful, Sons & Daughters.

Best Breast Bashing Diva track, “Johnny Cash” by Sons and Daughters

Lorraine McIntosh

Even if you are not a fan, if you pick up a copy of Deacon Blue’s Greatest Hits and play it, you will quickly be saying, “Feck they had a shite load of hits”. Lorraine’s vocals provided a unique foil to that of husband Ricky Ross and is integral to why the band are loved by many fans and why they are still filling halls around the UK.

Recommended Ooh Oo Oh Oo Oh Oo Diva track “Real Gone Kid” by Deacon Blue



Not content to pander to orthodoxy, Horse has pushed the artistic boundaries over the years embracing strings, world and dance music. She has consciously chosen the pursuit of art over commercial success. Extraordinary in her delivery, her songs are often brutally personal and her vocal range bravura.

Recommended “Careful” from “The Same Sky” by Horse

Clare Grogan

Clare Grogan will never compete with other singers like Lulu or Sharleen as a belter, but her charm is infectious. My favourite moment from the whole Frankie Miller Tribute album and gig was watching Clare and Ken McCluskey waltzing together on the Barrowland stage as, with every smile and step, the room got brighter.

Recommended darling Diva track ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ from The Frankie Miller Tribute Album

Emma Pollock

A founding member of The Delgados, she signed a solo recording contract with British independent record label 4AD in 2005 and remains one of Scotland’s most compelling indie artists.

Recommended Chemikal Diva track, “Pull The Wires From The Wall” by The Delgados


Carol Laula

“Clarity of voice and vision marks the work of the finest singer/songwriters, and the music of Scotland’s Carol Laula shows those in abundance.” (Billboard)

Recommended Acoustic Diva track, “Gypsy” by Carol Laula

Karine Polwart

Winner of three awards at the BBC Folk Awards in 2005, Karine was previously a member of Malinky and Battlefield Band. She writes and performs music with a strong roots feel, her songs dealing with a variety of issues from alcoholism to genocide.

Recommended Folk Diva track “The Sun’s Comin’ Over the Hill”

Elizabeth Fraser

Listening to The Cocteau Twins is like discovering an ancient alien Celtic vampire language set to music. Wikipedia says, “Her melismatic vocal stylings and abstract, indecipherable lyrics have generated much debate over the years”, and like them I do not have a clue what she is on about 90% of the time. But what I do know is that it challenges and compels me to listen in a different way!

Recommended new Moon Diva track, Music for Vampires by “The Cocteau Twins”

Tippi Hedron

According to drummer Soup, one thing’s for sure, “For four girls, we make one hell of a noise”. If you are a music snob, leave your pretentious ego in the corner; these girls are Scotland’s answer to The Runaways and a heap of fun to watch!

Recommended punk Diva track, “Heat Seeker” By The Hedrons


Roz Davies

Possibly the coolest, funkiest and sexiest lady ever to strap on a bass and front a band in Scotland and a band much loved by John Peel. Sadly Josephine is no more but we do now have Roz fronting the dazzling Miss the Occupier.

Recommended 13th Note Diva “My Name is Red” by Josephine

Miss the Occupier

Rose McDowall

I put a comment on my Facebook a wee while ago asking, “Whatever happened to Strawberry Switchblade”. The response was amazing given their short career and it seems Rose is still making cool music.

Recommended “we thought of it first White Stripes”, Dolly Parton Diva cover, “Jolene” by Strawberry Switchblade


Maggie Bell

Regarded by some as Britain’s answer to Janis Joplin but probably best know for singing the theme song to Taggart.

Recommended, “There’s Been a Murrrder Jim”, Diva track “No Mean City” by Maggie Bell

Frances McKee

Frances is a singer and songwriter known best for her work in the Scottish indie band The Vaselines, who were perhaps most famously covered by Nirvana in their MTV Unplugged set.

Recommended Grunge Diva track, “Molly’s Lips” by The Vaselines



Next week: Who is Scotland’s Greatest Ever Male Vocalist?