Favorite Singers

I know in the old V-I we had a thread for our favorite singers. I thought we had one in this newer version, but I couldn’t find it. I want to use this thread to keep track of our favorite singers. I’m also interested in learning about singers with an original sound or style. I’ll start my list in the first comment post.

26 thoughts on “Favorite Singers

  1. Favorites and/or singers with an original style

    Bootsy Collins
    I said I don’t like Hendrix because he has a goofy sound. Strangely, Collins has a kind of goofy sound, too, but I like the way he sings. I enjoyed his covers of “Cool Jerk” and “Do You Love Me” in the doc, Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
    Chrissie Hynde
    Stevie Nicks: Original sound. I like her. I like her as a lyricists as well.
    Billie Holiday
    Blossom Dearie: I could see how some would find her little-girl voice annoying, but I think it’s an original sound–and I like it.
    John Fogerty: great rock voice
    Bon Scott and Brian Johnson: Great hard rock vocalists. I’m not sure who to choose.
    Ray Charles
    James Brown: Love his voice. If I had to choose the greatest American musician, I might pick him.
    Maurice White: One of my favorite vocalists.
    Daryl Hall: Ditto
    Karen Carpenter: great voice
    Patsy Cline: Ditto
    Gabby Pahinui: I like his drunken style.
    Willie Nelson: original sound
    Robert and Roland Cazimero: I not only really like their singing (and music), but I consider them to have an original sound as well.
    Dennis Pavao: Loved his lower octave voice, too.
    Donald Fagen: Original sound.
    Walter and Wallace Scott (The lead singers for The Whispers)
    Bjork: She’s not so much a favorite, but I appreciate her sound.
    Yukimi Nagano (lead singer from LIttle Dragon) I’m not sure if her sound is super original, but I like her singing. (Swedish-Japanese with a black sound.)
    Glenn Shorrock: (Little River Band)
    Michael McDonald: original sound and style; I like him, too.
    Bobby Kimball (Toto) Great power pop/rock voice. Not as good as Fred Mercury, but in a that same power pop style.

    To be continued…

    Dolly Parton: I actually don’t like the timbre of her voice, but in terms of singing with heart and feeling, she is up there. And that gets her on my list.
    Chuck D: Love his hard sound.
    Sugar Hill Gang: I might like one or two of them more than the others, but I can’t remember right now. (But I want to put them down before I forget.)

    Singers with pure, pristine and powerful sound: Karen Carpenter, Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Mercury,…

    …More…

    Bill Withers:Original sound. His vocals and music sort of sits between a black and white sound.
    Layne Staley: I like his voice.
    Amy Grant: Ditto.
    Russ Taff: His sound wasn’t super original, but it seemed distinctive. I really like his voice. (To me, the lead singer for Kings of Leon kinda reminds me of Taff.)
    Ric Ocasek: original sound, not a voice I necessarily like a lot, though.
    Geddy Lee: I don’t care for his voice, but it is distinctive and original.

    …more…

    Neil Young original

  2. # Singer Favorite Quality Originality Comments
    1 Al Jarreau 8 9 9
    2 Alison Krauss 7 8 6
    3 Amy Grant 6 7 6
    4 Aretha Franklin 6 10 7
  3. Testing:


    # Singe=
    r
    favorit=
    e
    overal=
    l quality
    origina=
    lity
    comme=
    nts
    1 Al Jarreau 8 9 8  
    2 Alison Krauss= 7 9 6  
    3 Amy Grant 7 7 7  
    4 Aretha Frankl=
    in
    7 10 7  
    5 Basia 9 7 8  
    6 Bill Withers<= /td> 7 7 9  
    7 Billie Holida=
    y
    7 7 10  
    8 Blossom Deari=
    e
    6 7 9  
    9 Bob Dorough 6 6 9  
    10 Bob Dylan 3 4 8  
    11 Bobby Kimball= 8 8 6  
    12 Bonn Scott 9 7 6  
    13 Bootsy Collin=
    s
    7 6 8  
    14 Brian Johnson= 9 7 6  
    15 Chrissie Hynd=
    e
    7 7 9  
    61 Chuck D 8 4 8  
    16 David Pack 8 7 6  
    17 Dayrl Hall 10 8 7  
    18 Dennis Pavao<= /td> 9 9 7  
    62 DMX 7 ? 7  
    19 Dolly Parton<= /td> 6 10 8  
    20 Don Henley 7 7 8  
    21 Donald Fagen<= /td> 9 7 9  
    22 Ella Fitzgera=
    ld
    7 10 7  
    23 Eva Cassidy 6 10 5  
    24 Gabby Pahinui= 6 5 10  
    25 Glenn Frey 7 7 7  
    26 Glenn Shorroc=
    k
    9 7 7  
    27 Gregory Porte=
    r
    7 7 7  
    28 Huey Lewis 7 6 6  
    29 James Brown 10 8 10  
    30 Jim Morrison<= /td> 6 6 7  
    31 Jimi Hendrix<= /td> 4 5 8  
    32 John Fogerty<= /td> 7 8 7  
    33 John Lennon 7 6 7  
    34 Joni Mitchell= 6 6 8  
    35 Jose Felician=
    o
    7 7 7  
    36 Karen Carpent=
    er
    7 9 6  
    37 Kenny Loggins= 7 9 7  
    38 Kurt Elling 7 7 7  
    39 Linda Ronstan=
    dt
    6 10 6  
    40 Mackey Feary<= /td> 7 7 7  
    41 Marvin Gaye 7 8 7  
    42 Maurice White= 10 8 7  
    43 Michael Jacks=
    on
    7 9 7  
    44 Michael McDon=
    ald
    8 8 9  
    45 Patsy Cline 7 10 7  
    46 Paul McCartne=
    y
    7 9 7  
    47 Phil Collins<= /td> 8 7 6  
    48 Prince 6 9 8  
    49 Ray Charles 8 7 7  
    50 Ric Ocasek 5 6 8  
    51 Robbie Dupree= 8 7 7  
    52 Robert and Ro=
    land
    Cazimero
    10 9 8  
    53 Robert Plant<= /td> 7 8 7  
    54 Sade 7 6 8  
    55 Sam Cooke 7 9 6  
    56 Sammy Hagar 7 7 6  
    57 Stevie Nicks<= /td> 7 7 8  
    58 Stevie Wonder= 6 8 8  
    59 Walter & =
    Wallace
    Scott
    9 8 6  
    60 Willie Nelson= 6 6 9  
    63 Russ Taff 8 7 6  
    64 Bob Marley 7 6 8  
    65          
    66          
    67          
    68          
    69          
    70          
    1. I actually need to listen to him more, as I’ve only heard very little of him. But I thought he had an aggressive sound, sort of like Chuck D.

    2. This list seems like it was done by a guy on quarantine. Haha

      What score would you give Boy George and George Michael? I think they have a similar voice, and maybe more so of Boy George, pretty distinctive.

  4. …a guy in quarantine after the NFL season!

    My assessment of Boy George and George Michael

    Michael may be a better singer, but I personally like Boy George more. For some reason, Michael’s voice doesn’t really do that much for me.

    # Singer Favorite Quality Originality Comments
    Boy George 6 6 6
    George Michael 5 7 6
    1. I gave you a top twenty list one night at your house and you were rather disdainful. I’m trying to find where I put it; if I find it I’ll share it again.

      1. Your disdain is fine. My issue (as it often is) is that you don’t offer your own list after being disappointed with someone else’s list. Which you’re now doing. 🙂

        Haha. I like how you worded that. I promise not to express any disdain. 🙂

      2. My disdain is fine? OK, that’s good to know. A part of felt like yo wouldn’t be offended if I disliked singers (or anything, really) that you really liked, but I was a little less certain by your post.

        Haha. I like how you worded that. I promise not to express any disdain.

        Heh, well that’s just being honest. I’m going to really disappoint those who think I could control my opinions about such things.

  5. Some obvious names I think you haven’t ranked are Paul Rodgers, Freddy Mercury, Roger Daltrey, and Ronnie James Dio. Maybe W. Axl Rose. Three of these five were in my top 20.

    1. Oh shoot, I thought I included Mercury. I’ll add him in later. I try to rate Daltrey as well. I want to listen to more of Rodgers and RJD before I rate them.

  6. Wow. I found it. I’m a little impressed with myself, because it wasn’t easy, but I somehow knew exactly what to do, and I got it on my first try. I might be in the wrong field.

    I wrote this about 15 years ago in response to a Rolling Stone story on the Greatest Singers of the Rock and Roll Era (so I guess it wouldn’t be too difficult to find exactly when this was). I shared it over dinner with Grace, Penny, and Reid at Reid’s one night. Grace and Penny didn’t have any opinions. Reid wasn’t very impressed. I think he brought up James Brown and Michael Jackson as offending omissions. I said I’ve never been too impressed with their singing, which is still true. 🙂 Man, Reid was almost pissed at my list. I look at it now and there are definitely things I would change — such as some writing choices that today make me shudder — but I think it’s still pretty decent!

    Anyway, disdain away. I mean it when I say I don’t mind.


    The Twenty Greatest Singers of the Rock and Roll Era as evaluated by MKD.

    1. Bob Dylan

    I once sang “The Times They are a-Changin’” for a friend who dislikes Dylan. When I was done, she said, “That wasn’t nearly as hateful, the way you sang it. I like it.”

    I have disagreed with this friend for years about whether or not “Like a Rolling Stone” is a hateful song but the point here is that Dylan does so much with his voice: there’s hate, there’s bitterness, there’s irony, there’s love, there’s bafflement. Perhaps it is impossible for me to separate the singer from his songs, but if it was the songs that made Bob Dylan such a great singer, I can’t think of anything wrong with that. Dylan’s my #1 with no apologies or excuses.

    2. Bruce Springsteen

    Okay, so perhaps this is going to betray a certain bias, because just about everything I wrote about Bob Dylan applies to Bruce Springsteen, except you can multiply the rock and roll factor by three or four. Still, if my reasons for loving Bruce are the same as my reasons for loving Dylan, I can’t apologize. Bruce is not the songwriter Dylan is, but Bruce is the better singer. He does the plaintive wail better than anyone in the world besides Bono, and throw in all the things that make Bruce the Boss and I’m almost tempted to put him at the top of this list.

    3. Paul Rodgers

    Paul Rodgers is the voice of rock and roll. If I were writing this list with the singer’s voice as the only consideration, Rodgers would be number one by a mile. There’s something smoky and sensual, sneaky and outlandish about the way he wraps his cords around songs like “Bad Company” and “Rock and Roll Fantasy” and the ad-libs on “All Right Now” are some of the best ever. I remember when a DJ on a local radio station announced that he had info on the new singer for Queen, and I thought, “Who the heck could replace Freddie Mercury?” When the DJ came back from the commercial and said it was Paul Rodgers, I thought, “Well heck yeah.”

    4. Robert Plant

    When I was young and stupid, I thought Robert Plant was the voice of rock and roll. I was close.

    5. Janis Joplin

    If rock and roll were an evil spirit capable of possessing someone, body and soul, it would have to look like Janis Joplin. The way Janis screamed was almost scary, it was so otherworldly and inhuman. She would have been great even if she had it amped all the way to 10 all the time, but it was those lulls in between the moments of head-spinning that always got me. In the verses of “Piece of My Heart” before she explodes all over the microphone, you hear this incredible longing, as if she were trying to escape whatever power it was that was about to make her rise up into the air. And don’t even get me started on “Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz.”

    5. Freddie Mercury

    My one indelible image of Freddie Mercury is at LiveAid, when Queen had the stage at Wembley. Mercury had the enormous audience waving its hands and clapping together; he owned that house as if it were a little club with forty close friends in the audience. I watched every televised minute of LiveAid and nobody came close to moving the crowd the way Freddie did it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it since, and certainly not on such a large scale.

    6. Paul McCartney

    The Rolling Stone respondents favored Lennon over McCartney by what appears to be a mile. I can understand, and yes, there are John people and there are Paul people, and given the choice, I have always sheepishly, reluctantly, but certainly taken Paul. Paul was the better singer. When people refer to other vocalists’ work as Beatlesque, what they are mostly talking about is Paul. And it must never be forgotten that it was really John who broke the Beatles up. Sure, some people try to fill the world with silly love songs, but what’s wrong with that?

    7. Bono

    Remember at the US Festival when Bono picked up that white flag and climbed the scaffolding next to the stage? That really says it all. When you are the lead singer in what is probably the best band in the world, you probably don’t have to pull such stunts, but then if you never pulled such stunts, your band might never have become the best band in the world. Bono’s audacity is part of what puts U2 there. It’s such a stupid name, Bono (Vox). It’s nearly as stupid as The Edge. Yet that’s the kind of ridiculous, ballsy thing that makes U2 what it is. Can Bono save the world? I don’t know, but I don’t see anyone else stepping up to give it a shot.

    8. W. Axl Rose

    And speaking of audacious, here is W. Axl Rose, once the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses and now, for all practical purposes, Guns N’ Roses in its entirety. There have been great singers in metal bands before, but who ever did what Axl did? The guy took a pretty love song like “Sweet Child o’ Mine” wrapped his incredible vocals around it, and made it somehow pretty, vulgar, sweet, and sweaty all at the same time. I think Slash gets at least fifty percent of the credit, but there’s simply no escaping the ferocity of Axl’s voice. I am one of those people who believes Axl should never sing slow songs (I simply can’t stand “November Rain” or “Patience”, though I do admire the vocal work on both tracks).

    9. Stevie Nicks
    \
    I feel slightly bad about putting Stevie this far up the list, but a recent performance on Austin City Limits reminded me of how dominating a presence she can be. Yes, I think she’s a little bit in love with herself, but then I glorify Bono for the same thing, and Axl isn’t Axl without that massive ego, so the double standard is somewhat damning. Over the past couple of years, a local radio station has played a lot of the Live in Boston version of “Landslide” a song whose beauty and sadness I can’t get over, and sooooo much of that is Stevie’s singing. Early work is very reminiscent of Janis Joplin (which is not a bad thing), but nobody sounds like Stevie Nicks.

    10. Elton John

    I have a weird feeling that Elton should be much higher on my list and much higher on the Rolling Stone’s list. It’s so hard to remember what Elton was sometimes. If I were grading strictly on performance, Elton would probably be first, ahead even of Freddie Mercury on this list. I know I’ve written about this before, but when he sang that cheesy Princess Diana tribute at her funeral, I just couldn’t believe it was the Elton of today: All the sincerity he lacks now came pouring out of my television’s speakers and reminded me of what Elton is capable of. Yes, I lament what Elton is today, but that doesn’t erase what he used to be.

    11. James Taylor

    I guess James Taylor goes in that same category as Paul McCartney, only you’d have some difficulty finding anything silly about JT’s love songs. There’s something else, too, that I haven’t been able to put into words. There’s something about the way he sings his lyrics, a weird phrasing that you might not consider if you were reading the lyrics from a page and had never heard them sung. There’s something strange about the way he sings “Copperline” for example, where there are rests when you don’t expect them and more notes where you expect rests. There’s some of that in “Sweet Baby James” too, plus in that song there’s the thing Taylor is better at than anyone I can think of: the deflation. When, in “You’ve Got a Friend” he sings, “they’ll take your soul if you let them, but don’t you let them…” the whole song simply deflates for a few moments.

    12. Sting

    It shocks and confuses me that Sting does not make the Rolling Stone 100. This simply doesn’t make any sense. I can handle that Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson and Michael Stipe are somehow not there, but what the heck is up with no Sting? Not only is his one of the most distinctive voices in rock history, but it’s just about perfect. Nothing he has done solo can compare to what he did with the Police, but my favorite Sting moment is the entirety of “Fields of Gold” which I sorta thought, when I first heard it, sounded like exactly the right note to bow out on. He didn’t bow out at all, of course, but that would have been perfect.

    13. Ronnie James Dio

    I wrote my list before I looked at how some of the voters voted (RollingStone.com shows the handwritten ballots of 24 respondents) and was pleased to see that James Hetfield of Metallica listed Ronnie James Dio first. If Paul Rodgers is the voice of rock and roll (and he is!), I think Dio is the voice of metal, ‘though cases could certainly be made for Bruce Dickinson (who was on an early draft of this list), Robert Plant, and Ozzy. If you haven’t heard his work on Kerry Livgren’s first solo album, Seeds of Change, you really must. Talk about great ad-libbing in a song’s closing bars. My favorite Dio moment is still probably on Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain.”

    14. Ann Wilson

    I’m slightly surprised by Wilson’s exclusion from the Rolling Stone list. I love female singers, but the truth is that female singers sing like women. Ann Wilson is the first singer I can think of who kept her womanly voice but sang like a man. This might be why she does Led Zep songs as well as she does and why no female-fronted band rocks anything like Heart.

    16. Bob Marley

    I know this sounds weird, but I’d have loved a chance to hear Marley sing some metal. I think he could have pulled it off. This is one of those cases where if I were more fluent in reggae (and if so little of it didn’t go such a long way with me), I might not think Marley as great as I do, because he really did sing a rock and roll version of reggae, if I understand the form the way I think I do. But really, this is another case of one of those distinct voices you recognize immediately.

    17. David Byrne

    David Byrne’s got a weird voice. And he sings bizarrely. For a long time when I was younger, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get all those “same as it ever was” lyrics in “Life During Wartime” and I didn’t get the big suit, and I liked “Burning Down the House” but didn’t know what it was I liked about it. Then sometime shortly after that, I realized that what I was seeing was a guy doing all kinds of different things with his voice and his body, the way so many other musicians did with the instruments they played. I think one sign of greatness is the way other people are obviously influenced by what you’ve done. I think another is the way some artists don’t sound like anything anyone else has done before and how nobody who came after even tried. People use words like inimitable all the time, but to whom can that description truly be applied? I can think of only a small handful, and many of them suck, such as Yoko Ono. David Byrne is remarkably inimitable and great.

    18. Chuck D.

    A voice that could blow up the world. Listening to Chuck D when he’s on is like standing in front of a machine gun.

    19. Joan Baez

    I got to hear Joan live, once. I was at a Lilith Fair show in California and she came on for a few songs with Indigo Girls. It was amazing. It made me think that almost all popular musicians are just schoolchildren playing at music, when there are a very scant few who are the real deal. When a singer can make you think that while sharing a stage with the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Erykah Badu, and Indigo Girls, you know she’s not someone to mess with.

    20. Ozzy Osbourne

    Boy, the twentieth spot on a top twenty is so much tougher to fill than the first or the nineteenth. When you choose someone to be number twenty, you’re basically rejecting everyone else on your master list, and that’s tough to do. I want to make it a ten-way tie for twentieth, but that’s wussing out and I won’t do it. I also hesitate to name Ozzy in this position because it makes it seem like I have some kind of Black Sabbath bias, and I’m not even really a fan of Black Sabbath. Ask me on another day, and Michael Stipe might be here, or Pat Benatar, or Daryl Hall, or Tracy Chapman, but when I compare Ozzy to these other excellent, wonderful singers, there’s a certain something he’s got that they’re missing. Ozzy is a rock and roll icon

    Honorable Mentions

    I did not order the rest of my master list, but I did limit it to a total of forty, so for those who want to know who the also-rans were (‘though I’d like to think of them as the honorable mentions):

    Roger Daltrey
    Phil Collins
    Sammy Hagar
    David Lee Roth
    Michael Stipe
    John Mellencamp
    Billy Joel
    Daryl Hall
    Mark Knopfler
    Don Henley
    Elvis Costello
    Bruce Dickinson
    James Hetfield
    Pat Benatar
    Dennis DeYoung
    Ted Nugent
    Jon Anderson
    Tracy Chapman
    Geddy Lee
    Karen Carpenter

    1. I vaguely remember this conversation. If I’m not mistaken I asked you to clarify if the list represented your favorite singers versus singers that were objectively (or intersubjectively) great–that is, important and great independent of personal taste. And I believe you said it was the latter. I think I might have asked if we were talking specifically about rock/rock n’ roll singers, or if you also include R&B, funk, and soul. I think you also said that you were including those genres. If so, I would definitely be annoyed with this list. I don’t understand how such a list exclude singers from from those genres. Again, if you were listing personal favorites that would be totally different matter.

      By the way, my list primarily reflects my personal taste, although when I assess the overall quality and originality of a singer, I try to put aside my personal tastes.

      I think I’d have a hard time coming up with greatest singers list. Maybe I’ll try this, but I suspect if I do, I’ll probably utilized a tiered system, like I do with NFL teams.

      Perhaps it is impossible for me to separate the singer from his songs, but if it was the songs that made Bob Dylan such a great singer, I can’t think of anything wrong with that. Dylan’s my #1 with no apologies or excuses.

      Separating the singing from the song, including interpreting/expressing a song, can be difficult for me–but in my list, that’s what I tried to do. That is, when I evaluating the degree to which I personally like a singer, I’m focusing on their voice or singing, separate from the quality of the songs they sing. Again, this can be difficult at times, as the two go together. (I would guess this is even harder for singers who sing songs where the lyrics are so important.)

      1. Harder also for singers who write their own songs, I think. Singers who compose their own tunes and write their own lyrics are doing it with their vocal styles and abilities in mind. You could say Dolly Parton’s vocals are better on her cover of “Stairway to Heaven” than Robert Plant’s on the original, but the way she sings it communicates to me that she doesn’t get the song, or that she’s interpreted it a way that makes the song worse. That’s my response to a cover I know you love.

        But this is a valid point. It’s quite possible that Chuck D, admired by us both, would be terrible if he sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Performing one kind of music he’s amazing. Performing another, he might suck.

        Which is another way of explaining why I have Dylan at the top of my list. He wrote some of the most incredible songs I’ve ever heard, and he’s the best singer for them. Uh, usually.

        I don’t know if I still would; my list today would certainly be different, as I said.

        1. I’m going to negate my own point, which I suppose is further proof that separating singer from song is super difficult.

          Usually, nobody makes a singer record a song, whether he or she has written it or not. So maybe Tony Bennett didn’t write “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” but he chose it, and we know it exists largely because it was a good choice for him. Maybe this cancels out the excellence of a song in considering the quality of the singer. Now I’m confused.

      2. Harder also for singers who write their own songs, I think. Singers who compose their own tunes and write their own lyrics are doing it with their vocal styles and abilities in mind.

        I feel like writing their own songs is not really relevant. What’s relevant is whether the song is well-suited for the singer or whether a singer can effectively interpret and sing a song (which is essentially the same thing?). A producer, manager, A&R person, or the singer themselves may be great at pairing singers to songs. I just watched a documentary on Clive Davis. His talent seemed to not only identifying musicians who would be popular, but also in finding the right songs or contexts for those musicians. The latter seemed just as important as the former. Ultimately, he seemed great at identifying songs that would be hits–and that involved both identifying good singers, songs, and good pairings of the two.

        There might be a lot of great singers, who never seem to emerge or really impact listeners because they never really find good songs, particularly songs well-suited for them. I think of the singers featured in 30 Feet from Stardom, who were backup singers, who tried to become lead singers. All of them can sing. But something seems missing with a lot them. Maybe they just never found the right songs. Then again, these singers may just lack something to critical to be memorable singers. An analogy might be the way some actors can be great supporting characters, but never good leads.

        On the other hand, sometimes singers will sing good songs–that are well-produced, and they get hits, but, as singers they’re not really memorable. I’m thinking of boy or girl bands (e.g., Spice Girls). I can enjoy some of these songs without thinking much about the singers.

        You could say Dolly Parton’s vocals are better on her cover of “Stairway to Heaven” than Robert Plant’s on the original, but the way she sings it communicates to me that she doesn’t get the song, or that she’s interpreted it a way that makes the song worse.

        I think this remark points to the degree to which lyrics are important to the both of us. My sense is that lyrics are way more important to you. Because of this, I may have an easier time separating the singer from the song–or at least the lyrics of the song. I might not be very good at evaluating the way a singer brings the meaning of the lyrics to life. Is this a big part of how you analyze a singer? If I do this, I think I’m doing this on a sub-conscious level.

        But this is a valid point. It’s quite possible that Chuck D, admired by us both, would be terrible if he sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Performing one kind of music he’s amazing. Performing another, he might suck.

        (What point are you referring to–that it can be hard to separate the singer from the song?) Off the top of my head, I’d say he would be terrible singing that song–at least if he tried to sing it like Tony Bennett. This issue seems to be about the versatility of a singer. I would say most can only sing effectively within a few genres. Linda Rondstandt is an anomaly in this way.

        Which is another way of explaining why I have Dylan at the top of my list. He wrote some of the most incredible songs I’ve ever heard, and he’s the best singer for them. Uh, usually.

        This goes back to my earlier point about the importance of lyrics and the way singers interpret and bring them to life. Because lyrics are generally not something that is critical to my enjoyment of music, I’m indifferent or “deaf” to the interpretive elements. Your reaction makes me think of someone who is great at reciting the poems you love. They become great speakers or oral interpreters because their reading and the poems make a great match. Again, I can’t think of singers who make me feel this way–but I think I just don’t analyze them in this way, largely because of some deficiency on my part or indifference to this.

        On a side note, if Dylan had not written the songs he sings, would that possibly diminish his status as a singer for you?

        Usually, nobody makes a singer record a song, whether he or she has written it or not.

        After watching the Clive Davis doc, I disagree with this. It’s not that he forced singers to sing something against their will (although maybe that did happen), but that someone else recommending songs to singers can play a huge role.

        So maybe Tony Bennett didn’t write “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” but he chose it, and we know it exists largely because it was a good choice for him. Maybe this cancels out the excellence of a song in considering the quality of the singer. Now I’m confused.

        I’m not clear what’s making you confused. Is it the idea that the song (“I Left My Heart”) could be great, but is only appreciated because a singer made it popular? Or are you touching on the idea that a singer elevate an average song?

  7. i am curious about the limited “We are the world” headliners, (USA for Africa version. not at familiar with more recent reboots).
    Lionel Ritchie
    Michael Jackson
    Willie
    Kenny Rodgers
    Cyndi Lauper
    Stevie Wonder
    Tina Turner
    James Ingram

    1. Of those that I haven’t rated so far, here’s my two cents:

      # Singer Favorite Quality Originality Comments
      Lionel Richie 5 6 7
      Kenny Rodgers 4 6 6
      Cyndi Lauper 4 6 6
      Stevie Wonder 5 6 7
      Tina Tuner 6 7 8
      James Ingram 5 7 6 I mix him up with Jeffery Osbourne.
      1. You have Cyndi Lauper as 3 ratings below Chrissie Hynde for originality. This seems wrong; I would more likely reverse those.

    2. You could be right about Lauper and Hynde; at least the gap may be less than I thought. My ratings are very crude. In this specific situation, I’m familiar with 3-5 Lauper songs, and I haven’t listened to many of them for a long time. And even if I did, that’s only a few songs. And it’s not like I’ve listened to a ton of Hynde/Pretenders songs, either. So my judgments are based on small sample sizes and a memory (of their singing) which isn’t so reliable. Conclusion: Take my judgments with a huge grain of salt.

      On a related note, in doing these ratings, I’ve learned that much of the judgments are relative to other singers. I try not to do this–that is, I try to evaluate singers independently of other singers. But this is not possible, or only possible to a limited degree. And my limited listening experience and limited memory make this process a very rough approximation.

      1. I think you know far more than 5 Cyndi Lauper songs:

        Time After Time
        True Colors
        The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough
        Girls Just Want to Have Fun
        She Bop
        All Through the Night
        When You Were Mine
        Change of Heart
        Money Changes Everything

        That’s ten! She’s an original voice, and I mean this literally. The only singer I can think of who sounds anything like her is Julie Miller, who’s rather a niche artist and came along later anyway.

        She’s the only white singer I can think of who does the Michael Jackson chirps. She does them her own New-York-accented way, but it’s similar.

    3. Oh, man you’re right about knowing more of her songs, although I don’t think I know “When You Were Mine.” Let me listen to her sing for a bit, and I’ll get back to you.

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