The Greatest Singers

March 10, 2010

Many years ago, two hopeful young singers were in a dirty van, crossing the border into NY state.One without a passport, they rejoiced in somehow having conned their way into that big land. For they were on their way together to New York City, to play a few -small in reality, but big in their minds and hearts- folk clubs. They prepared and wrote songs together, they rehearsed with their broken down guitars, they schemed and planned and smoked all the malboro lights they could. They drove and drove and with each mile passed, they reveled in their young and free selves. They talked, they played games. They decided, avid music listeners, one rather passionate, one warmly scientific, to draw up a list of their shared sentiments: Pop Music’s Best Singers.

Well they beamed over Stevie Nicks and all she had taught them about interpretation, about having a true and distinct nature in your music. Dumbstruck by Aretha. Argued over Janis Joplin (on this, if nothing else at that early stage of their friendship, they firmly disagreed). Who else had made the list? The details of these kind of memories tend to fade, they do. Did Robert Plant make the cut? Surely, he may be the greatest. Marvin Gaye?A no-brainer was Freddy Mercury, any live performance heard of his would knock anyone right off their chair, and into the corner of a room heaving and crying with joy and pain all at once…no? Well youth is dramatic. And wonderful. And sometimes so hard. Which is why its good to sing, if you can 😉 They drove into their own future and considered what had led them there, and who they would pay homage to was of great importance. That was the reason for all of it.

Today I would add so many, because the sound of a beautiful, or raw, but powerful musical human voice never gets old, or unmoving. So here are a few I was thinking of today:

Sam Cooke….I came to this one very late. But I don’t feel like i missed out, i love the idea that I’m picking up pebbles along the way for as long as I live, never will i tire of discovering! (pictured above)

here’s a nice song to start with….TROUBLE IN MIND

Roy Orbison…

Tom Petty called him “probably the greatest singer in the world.” Another of his fellow Traveling Wilburys, Bob Dylan, said he had “the voice of a professional criminal.” Roy Orbison shared rockabilly roots with Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley — he recorded the bopping “Ooby Dooby” at Sun Records in 1956 — before his soaring, symphonic vocals brought a new level of majesty and mystery to rock in the early Sixties. “Songs like ‘Leah’ and ‘In Dreams’ start out challenging, then just climb and climb into the stratosphere,” says protégé Chris Isaak. Dion, who toured with Orbison, says that he actually sang very softly: “I’d be two feet away, and when he hit those high notes, it was quiet and heartfelt. But the emotion would go through you like a power drill.”
(excerpt from Rolling Stone’s “The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time”)

Bobby McFerrin…

just saw someone post a video of him today….i had no idea. Glad to have picked up a stone today and put it in my pocket. I will need it someday i am sure. check it out: Drive

Who’s your favorite, who do you carry?

It’s years later, and so much has passed, but in a few days the two old friends will get in a van again, and drive and smoke and get on with their latest journey, now not so shy and demure but arrived at a somewhere, for now, a somewhere dreamed up so long ago on a road trip to New York City. The singers who influenced them will be in their voices every night, un-shakeable. Our biggest dreams start to come true in those little moments when they spark, and we feed them with our shared human history.


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