Rolling Stone recently published their list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. I have no complaints with the top 3 (Aretha, Ray and Elvis respectively) after that, it gets iffy. First of all, John Lennon is number 5. I love the Beatles and while I can certainly see Lennon being on the list somewhere, isn’t 5 a tad high? McCartney is only 11 and, for my money, he was the stronger all-around vocalist (not to mention the more influential … think of all the singers that have grown out of those ‘woos’ that were his contribution to the Beatles’ vocal sound. Granted, he ripped that off from little Richard). Now, if we were doing a list of 100 greatest vocal PERFORMANCES, Lennon’s throat shredding performance on “Twist and Shout” would certainly clock in somewhere in the top ten. But we’re not looking at that, we’re ranking it based on their overall vocal prowess aren’t we? And, quite frankly, I felt much of Lennon’s vocal work throughout his solo career to be a tad unremarkable not too mention nasally… even if the songs themselves were great. And, really, shouldn’t Marvin Gaye (#6) outrank Lennon?
I can also understand the logic of Dylan being on the list, that is as sort of representative of any sort of ‘non-traditional’ vocalist. But, again, the Top 10?
There are also those who should certainly be recognized for their overall contribution as musicians, songwriters etc. (Chuck Berry, Kurt Cobain) who, maybe, don’t necessarily rank among the top vocalist. Another example is Brian Wilson, who may have given us some of the most beautiful vocal arrangements in popular music, did not have the most distinctive voice himself (Mike Love, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine are actually the voices that most people associate with the Beach Boys).
For the most part, however, I think they managed to pick the right people but their placement deserves some questioning:
Roy Orbison (#13) should have been top 10 and his current placement behind Paul McCartney (#11) and Little Richard (#12) is unacceptable.
Smokey Robinson (#20) should have been higher, especially when you consider that he is beaten by Mick Jagger (#16) who, again, should be on the list but is more noteworthy for his abilities as a frontman and a performer.
Freddie Mercury (#18) should have been top 10… sure, Queen may have been campy… but that guy could sing frickin’ anything: Rockabilly, Opera, Hard Rock, Soul, R & B… you name it and Queen probably did a song in that style.
Johnny Cash (#21) again, should have been top 10… as Bono once proclaimed “The most male voice in all of Christendom”
Janis Joplin (#28), I’m not a huge Joplin fan but I’d still put her in the top 10.
Bruce Springsteen (#35) should have, at least, made the top 20
How Paul Rogers (# 55) beat Rod Stewart (#59) and Roger Daltrey (#61), both of whom deserved a slot in the top 20, is beyond me.
How is Joe Cocker only #97?
Mary J. Blige is only 100? I’m not saying she should have been in the top 20 even, but 100 is far too low a placing for the heir apparent to Aretha’s ‘Queen Of Soul’ title (especially when you consider Steven Tyler is 99… I mean, the guy should be on there.. but he shouldn’t beat Mary). Doubters should check out her remake/duet of U2’s “One”.
Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Michael Stipe (REM), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam-sure, he spawned hundreds of DREADFUL imitations but if Cobain can be on here…) Brian Johnson (AC/DC- if Steven Tyler can be on the list so can Brian Johnson… I’m not saying near the top… maybe move Mary up and give him the 100 slot instead), Robert Smith (The Cure- a much better choice than Morrisey for the ‘mopey’ singers). Melissa Etheridge (If Bonnie Rait can be on here… why not?)
I’d probably put Axl (#64) a bit higher (top 40 at least) and I have to say that Bono’s placement (#32) is probably about right even though I would feel inclined to put him in the top 20 (although he’s probably my personal number 1… and that opinion might help to explain some of my other opinions regarding this piece).
So, my fellow music geeks, what do you guys think of the lists? (I’m going to go ahead and assume that Jason is outraged by the omission of Ray Davies and that Neil probably totally disagrees with my stance on Lennon).