A recent post on Howlin' Hobbit's
blog made me think about all of the singers that I like who can't really sing. I have gotten into heated arguments with friends and family over some of these. People in their fan base love their music so much that they just can't hear the fact that their actual singing isn't very good, but it somehow makes the music work. Still, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, their voices are not "good" singing voices. If you were a teacher in a music class and one of these guys enrolled incognito and then sang for you, you would probably choke.
That does not mean that they shouldn't sing. In fact, many of these performers have a genuine drama in their voices that recreates the song anew.
When I was in musical theater, there were always people in the cast who, when they got a solo, would go "pretty" with it every time, instead of going "character." As a result, their solo would just sound horribly wrong.
Even guys like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, after their voices have long lost the youthful timbre that made them stars, still manage to carry the song with the shear drama of their voices coupled with their ability to interpret.
Here is my top ten list of singers who can't sing but should nonetheless keep singing. If you disagree, just try to imagine each of them singing "Some Enchanted Evening" and tell me it would sound as good as Enzio Pinza. Or, on the other hand, try to imagine Enzio Pinza singing "Walk on the Wild Side" or "Vertigo."
1. Louis Armstrong (of course he can't keep singing because he's dead
2. Moms Mabley (see Louis)
3. Sonny Bono (see Moms)
4. Bono (Okay, I admit I included Sonny Bono just so I could follow him with Bono)
5. Lou Reed
6. Neal Young
7. Marianne Faithful (the older version)
8. Bob Dylan
9. Mick Jagger (Okay, maybe he should stop now)
10. Tom Waits
11. Muddy Waters
12. Carol Channing
13. Johnny Rotten
14. As long as I mention Johnny, why not Joe Strummer?
15. Van Morrison
16. Johnny Cash
17. Leon Russel
Okay, so that's seventeen.