Ah, lists. Meant to be discussed, meant to be argued. The latest list to come from the folks at Rolling Stone magazine is “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. It’s a semi-interesting list, with some curious choices as well as some expected ones.
To no one’s surprise, Aretha Franklin tops the list. In her heyday, the Queen of Soul could have sang a TV instruction manual and made it sound soulful. I can’t argue with her placement even though she’s fallen into a super-sized parody of herself in recent years. Thankfully, Patti LaBelle, a singer whose voice is just as strong and has held up better, also pops up further down the chart, although the admission of Mary J. Blige while omitting Chaka Khan is a head turner.
There are plenty of distinctive musical voices here. Some are inarguable. You can’t have a list like this without including Freddie Mercury, whose voice could blow the fur off a farm animal. Actually, if this was my list, I’d have placed him a hell of a lot higher than #18. Otis Redding? Check. Bono? Check. Van The Man? Double check. They even made room for my boys MJ and Prince.
However, no list would be a list without a couple of head-scratchers. While Bob Dylan and Bjork are certainly unique vocalists, I wouldn’t necessarily call them “great” singers. Dylan’s nasal whine is grating on a good day. I’ve always maintained that while he is obviously a genius songwriter, his songs sound a helluva lot better coming out of someone else’s mouth. I personally love Bjork, but while I think her voice is expressive, I think it’s part of an overall package with her music and her visuals. I would pay (or have paid) money to see Nina Simone or Luther Vandross sing without musical accompaniment. There’s a bluesiness or a soulfulness in the voices of John Lennon or Steven Tyler that resonates even when they’re singing the blandest material-hey, no one else could have made me like “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”. But Bjork? Not so much. Unique does not always equal great.
Anyway, since I haven’t been able to get my grubby little hands on a copy of the magazine, I haven’t gotten the chance yet to see what the tributors have to say about the artists profiled on this list. However, you can have a look at the list here and let us know what you think. Is there anyone on the list who shouldn’t be there? Was anyone incorrectly omitted?