Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Voices

I started thinking about who my five favourite voices were, and it inevitably turned into a list of 100 voices. What can you do?

Whether we like a singer is one of the most subjective things imaginable and also pretty much a sine qua non for fandom. The voice just stops a lot of us at the door of certain artists. A lot of people find that with Bob Dylan, I'm led to believe. I feel the same way about Bono and Mariah Carey. I can't imagine deriving pleasure from listening to them sing, even if they're, in the former case, emoting their head off in front of a highly proficient band with some perfectly well-written songs, or in the latter case, very technically accomplished.

Still, there are some singers who take the scope for subjectivity away a little - not many people don't like to listen to Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin sing. Some voices are just great.

So, I'm making a list, vaguely along the lines of voices of the last century, people with unique and influential voices, unforgettable, powerful, definitive, expressive, unmistakeable.

These are all voices I love (sometimes more than I love their music), apart, perhaps from Elvis Presley, but really it would just be silly not to have him in this list.

In some cases, these are combined voices.

It turns out the list doesn't contain many of my favourite artists, eg Stuart Murdoch, Gruff Rhys, just because it's not necessarily the singing that elevates what they do, they make the voice work beautifully to deliver their songs, but it's not as such the voice that stops you in your tracks. Also, no Joanna Newsom, not quite, even though her voice does stop you in your tracks.

The list isn't in order of how much I like them, but vaguely chronological - I suppose you can trace the history of how popular songs have been delivered through this list of voices. It's ended up being pretty old-timerish and rolling-stoney, hasn't it?

  1. Paul Robeson
  2. Billie Holiday
  3. Louis Armstrong
  4. Ella Fitzgerald
  5. Hank Williams
  6. Odetta
  7. Judy Garland
  8. Frank Sinatra
  9. Julie Andrews
  10. Johnny Cash
  11. Nat King Cole
  12. Elvis Presley
  13. Jackie Wilson
  14. Roy Orbison
  15. Joan Baez
  16. Sam Cooke
  17. Bob Dylan
  18. Ronnie Spector
  19. Diana Ross
  20. The Beach Boys
  21. Marvin Gaye
  22. John Lennon
  23. Aretha Franklin
  24. Van Morrison
  25. Steve Winwood
  26. Simon and Garfunkel
  27. Steve Marriott
  28. The Temptations
  29. Tina Turner
  30. Dionne Warwick
  31. Dusty Springfield
  32. Merle Haggard
  33. Nina Simone
  34. Joni Mitchell
  35. Crosby Stills and Nash
  36. Janis Joplin
  37. Levon Helm
  38. Mavis Staples
  39. John Fogerty
  40. Stevie Wonder
  41. Barbra Streisand
  42. Glen Campbell
  43. Scott Walker
  44. Al Green
  45. Sandy Denny
  46. Jimmy Cliff
  47. Michael Jackson
  48. David Bowie
  49. Tom Waits
  50. Minnie Ripperton
  51. Bob Marley
  52. Roberta Flack
  53. Bill Withers
  54. Freddie Mercury
  55. Karen Carpenter
  56. Emmylou Harris (and Gram Parsons)
  57. Debbie Harry
  58. Joe Strummer
  59. Annie Lennox
  60. The Proclaimers
  61. Kevin Rowland
  62. Jon Bon Jovi
  63. Michael Stipe
  64. Morrissey
  65. Whitney Houston
  66. Paul Westerberg
  67. Axl Rose
  68. Frank Black
  69. Chuck D
  70. KD Lang
  71. James Dean Bradfield
  72. Kurt Cobain
  73. Eddie Vedder
  74. Jeff Buckley
  75. Beth Gibbons
  76. Lauryn Hill
  77. Liam Gallagher
  78. Snoop Dogg
  79. Thom Yorke
  80. Ghostface Killah
  81. David McAlmont
  82. Eminem
  83. Jeff Tweedy
  84. Lucinda Williams
  85. Beyonce
  86. Ryan Adams
  87. Robyn
  88. Andre 3000
  89. Guy Garvey
  90. Jenny Lewis
  91. Karen O
  92. Martha Wainwright
  93. Jim James
  94. Neko Case
  95. Hamilton Leithauser
  96. Amy Winehouse
  97. Ben Bridwell
  98. First Aid Kit
  99. Laura Marling
  100. Kendrick Lamar

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