My Favorite Singers – Part Deux

Senior service
Junior dissatisfaction
Though it may be second hand
It’s by no means second rate
—“Senior Service,” Elvis Costello

A short while back, I posted a list of my Top 25 Favorite Singers. As noted there, that was a list of singers from the rock, blues, soul, pop era. Also as noted in the other post’s preface, certainly Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and their ilk are deserving. However, I am the wrong guy for that job. I suspect there are plenty of lists out there for those folks. 

Some commenters wondered how I could even come up with 25. The easy part was thinking of 25; the hard part ranking them. But I actually thought of 50 or 60 and knew all along (and I think mentioned) that I would post my second 25 list. The artists on this list are by no means second-hand or second-rate. But as in the first list, their singing has provided me much pleasure over the years. 

  1. Don Henley – Imagine the Eagles songs without him. “Desperado.” “Hotel California.” A great voice that few can imitate. I tried to sing “Best of My Love” at karaoke. Big mistake. Next time – Lou Reed.
  2. Paul Rodgers – I profiled him just a short while ago. His is a name largely unknown to the general public. But his voice powered songs by Free and Bad Company. An unparalleled career.
  3. Annie Lennox (pictured above) – She burst on the scene as part of the Eurythmics. They seemed odd. They were. Although I think it was just part of their image. One of the great female rock singers of all time.
  4. Levon Helm – Would the Band sound like the Band were it not for him? Could anyone but a Southerner have brought the pathos to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down?” Special nod here to Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, his equally great singing partners.
  5. John Fogerty – For all intents and purposes, Creedence Clearwater Revival were a Fifties band stuck in the Sixties. Fogerty had that whole southern swamp thing in his voice. How the hell does a guy raised in California sing like that and write “Proud Mary?” Springsteen worships this guy.
  6. Jackie Wilson – Wilson was one of the seminal singers of the Fifties. Everybody who was anybody listened to him and copied his style. Van Morrison sang “Jackie Wilson said it was Reet Petite.” Yeah.
  7. Bonnie Raitt – Ms. Raitt proved a long time ago she is more than just a blues singer. She can sing just about anything and break your heart. She left Cambridge long ago for the West Coast but she’s still one of ours. Oh and an excellent slide player too.
  8. Paul Simon – Sure, one could argue that Art Garfunkel has the better voice. But I like Simon’s. Plus I’m such a drooling fanboy that if I ever met him he’d probably have to call security to get me to stop bugging him.
  9. Marvin Gaye – I know, I know. He should absolutely be on the Top 25. One day I’ll reconsider both lists and maybe shift people around.
  10. Chuck Berry – More hero worship from yours truly. Chuck Berry is the mothafuckin’ man. If he had never existed I would have no purpose in life and be wandering in the desert searching for meaning.
  11. Thom Yorke – Is there any more distinctive singer? An unusual, beautiful voice. I do not listen to enough Radiohead. One day I will do a series and immerse myself in their stuff.
  12. Dionne Warwick – I mentioned in an earlier post that Carlos Santana said he learned how to phrase on his guitar by listening to her sing. Her Bacharach/David songs especially are classic.
  13. Aaron Neville – Everybody knows the Neville brothers, yes? Aaron has the purest, sweetest voice you’ve ever heard. Tell it like it is.
  14. Steve Winwood – At fifteen years old he was being routinely compared to Ray Charles. He still sounds great. Traffic will get their due on this site one day.
  15. Smokey Robinson – I don’t know if people totally get how pivotal Smokey was. He sang, he wrote, he was a Motown executive. Ahead of his time.
  16. Little Richard – The Beatles met Richard while he was on tour in England, well before they were a household name. You wanna know where McCartney got it from? He totally admits it.
  17. Jim Morrison – The Lizard King. Much of the continued mystique about The Doors is the Morrison persona, style and voice.
  18. James Taylor – Boy I just love this guy’s voice. Warm, distinctive. Good guitar player too. Another Boston guy, he and old chum Raitt played together at Fenway Park recently. Homecoming.
  19. Curtis Mayfield – Gee, Mr. Music Enthusiast. Thanks for finally getting around to him. Great singer and admired by guitarists from Hendrix to Clapton.
  20. Prince – What could this guy NOT do? He was a terrific singer, songwriter, arranger and guitarist. Add in one dirty mind and you have a hell of a performer.
  21. Dion DeMucci – Known as Dion, he killed it on every song he sang. He’s even fairly recently sung blues. As of this writing he is 78 years old and is one of the few remaining artists of the early days of rock and roll.
  22. Eddie Vedder – Like Michael McDonald he has that “coal cellar voice.” Deep. Manly, one might say. I remember seeing a documentary about Pearl Jam. Once those guys heard his audition tape it was pretty much all over.
  23. Chrissie Hynde – Again, distinctive. Ballsy, bluesy (but not a blues singer), powerful. If the guy in the song was fucking with her, you felt it. She and Ray Davies produced a kid but were too volatile together.
  24. Jeff Buckley – If you’ve listened to him, you know. Clichéd though it may seem, I must add “Hallelujah” to my Spotify list, if only for the three people who may not know his version.
  25. Peter Gabriel – If I know my readership, this guy is on everybody’s list.

Honorable mention: Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown, David Ruffin, James Brown, Justin Hayward, David Crosby, Steve Marriott, Roy Orbison.

Some of these singers from the early era of rock are featured in my Indispensable 150 series which starts here.

32 thoughts on “My Favorite Singers – Part Deux

  1. While you’re right it ultimately comes down to individual taste and a combination of the artist’s voice and their music, between your two lists, I got you got pretty awesome artists there.

    As a huge Beatles fan, I find it pretty cool you put John Lennon as your no. 1 – not even sure I would have done that, though I agree he was a great vocalist and music artist!

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    1. It wasn’t an easy choice and frankly, there could have been others from that list. But when I listen to old stuff like “Anna,” through stuff like “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” to “Julia,” it just blows my mind. Add in that falsetto, and man, you got something.

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    1. No, they’re all working here, dude. I logged out so it wouldn’t see me as me if you know what I mean. I used two different browsers on my laptop. Both brought those up. Tried on my Kindle. No sweat. Maybe try another browser? If it still craps out, let me know. I’ll ask CB if he can give it a shot.

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        1. Don’t get too carried away with the complexity of the thing CB. I only have so many brain cells left. BTW, Hack was having that problem from the Word Press reader, the feed. He was good to go from a browser. I followed my own blog to go into the reader to see what would happen but it worked fine for me. Technology. gotta love it.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought you were kidding with Flo. You said ‘Flo Jenkins.’ That’s the shitty singer that Meryl Streep played in a recent movie. I think you meant Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine.

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        2. 25 K Tel disco hits for VC. Relating to your take. I was listening to a late night radio show that Randy Bachman hosts. He was doing a show on Neil Young (both Winnipeg boys) and he mentioned Paul Rodgers.

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        3. You would have dug the show Doc. Bachman was talking about the gear Young still uses on his guitar after all these years. Old School. From everything I have gathered Randy is one real nice guy. He related a story where he was playing a certain song and Rodgers was off stage in tears relating to the song.

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        4. It’s interesting but I just had this discussion with someone else about old Neil. And you will not like this but while I dig Neil, I am not a fan of his guitar playing. He sounds like somebody that just plugged in and cranked up. Good in its own crude way but I’d never spend any time learning any of his solos.

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        5. Not being from the musician school. I hear you. Your quotes are bang on as far as “plugged in and cranked up”, “crude way”. I guess that’s why i like him. I certainly didn’t warm to his playing or singing right away. Same as Dylan. Like I said, Randy was hitting on all these things. I guess Bachman has or is inducting Neil into the Canadian Rock Hall of Fame.

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        6. Yeah, actually I formed my tastes in guitar players long before I could even play or play competently. So very little of my preferences have to do with how technically competent or proficient the guy is. Either he resonates – I like that word – with me or he doesn’t. Clapton, Allman, Beck, Gilmour, Hendrix, BB- none of those guys could read music or was technical the way jazzers are. But those are my guys because they make you feel something. Intense players. I started learning Gilmour’s “Money” solo. Half of it’s recycled blues licks. But man does it ever sound good. Maybe when I eventually do a Neil series I’ll listen to his playing again. Maybe he’s got it goin’ on and I didn’t pick up on it.

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        7. Good stuff Doc. I like all those guys you mentioned (Couldn’t read music, unbelievable). There are so many good players. I think Gilmore is overlooked because of the music he played and band he was in. I love his playing. Neil is just different from these guys and it’s what you said on your earlier comment. He’s not shy. I have a take on the Paladins coming up and their guitarist is a guy named Dave Gonzalez. I love his sound. Leans towards SRV. Check out ‘Keep On Lovin’ Me Baby”. Back to the singers. No Neil on the list.

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        8. Oh, yeah. The great majority of rockers either can’t read music at all or can do so at a rudimentary level. There’s no correlation at all between ability to read ad ability to play. My own reading skills are rudimentary. Guys in a band like Zappa’s pretty much have to do it and guys and gals in studio environments have to be able to sight read or no job. I actually think Gilmour gets the love. He’s number 14 (I checked) on Rolling Stone’s latest top 100 list. I’ll check that guy out you mentioned. As to Neil’s singing, well, let’s just say he’s a great songwriter. Heh. But truthfully, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts with Neil. Somehow it all works. That said, I’m a fan of his but not a mega-fan.

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        9. I remember a producer saying something to Neil in a session about his voice not doing it for the cut. Neil just said ‘It’s my style man” End of conversation. I’d pay more attention to Doc’s list than those other wannabes. Stroll time. Maybe a little Hendrix. I took one of yours and Earls recommendations for a walk last week. The Black Keys ‘Thickfreakness’. Very cool! Roger Wilco over and out.

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  2. Never heard of Aaron Neville (or the Neville brothers). Looked him up on WikiPedia, nothing there rings any bells. I did recognise his most popular song on Spotify (Tell It Like It Is) but I’m not sure if I’ve heard his version. Don’t think I’ve ever heard Hercules, the second most popular Aaron Neville song on Spotify. Looks like Neville and his brothers never made an impact in the UK.

    P.S. Still no Greg Lake. That’s unforgivable!

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    1. The Nevilles are well-known but not A-list well-known if you know what I mean. They’ve been around forever. They’re very much a soulful New Orleans troupe. One of my favorites by them is a song called ‘Congo Square’ which I posted a short while back. As to Greg Lake, no disagreement there. I’ll add him (and Roy Orbison) to the honorable mention list. That’s still pretty high because 1 – 50 on my list is infinitesimal increments. BTW, I did listen to Cleo Laine. She’s good but you’re right, not my cup of tea. Give Aaron’s ‘Tell it like it is’ a shot, see what you think.

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  3. That’s so weird! I use Google Chrome as my go to, and if I locate your posts through the WordPress reader (followed sites) button, none of the links work. Now if I load your site up via the google search engine all of the links work. I’ll just have to remember to search for your site by Google. It’s a few extra clicks, and a shame because I use WordPress reader to follow new posts on all my favourite sites. No biggie! Great post btw

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    1. Odd. I just tried following myself and then going into my posts via Reader. My thought was that maybe there was a glitch there I could report to WordPress. But no, couldn’t get it to fail there either. Chrome is no longer my default browser. Ever since I went to Windows10 it has issues. So I use this ok browser called Edge that Microsoft has.

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