OK, so you know how I was peeved about the Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Singers list? Well, I’ve gone and devised one of my own. But I only did 25, because I can’t be sitting here all night, yo.
This isn't a list of the most influential artists or the best songwriters, which I think may have tripped up some voters in the RS list. It's a list of who I think are the best SINGERS. Like, I'm sorry, I know he has a distinctive sound, but when I think Elvis Presley, my first thought isn't, "Wow, that dude could SING." (I think some of you just threw something at me in your head.) Same with John Lennon and Bob Dylan, and yes, Bruce Springsteen. And Mick Jagger. Michael Jackson can hit some high notes and made some seriously catchy tunes, but does he blow you away with his vocals? Not really.
I don’t really know what Rolling Stone’s formula was, but my measure of singing ability is if I can’t sing your stuff in karaoke. Like, Billy Joel? Sorry, I, who suck at singing, don’t exactly have too much trouble with your songs, so that doesn’t make me think of you as one of the artists who belong in the pantheon of good “singing.” You will not be on this list. (But thanks for "Miami, 2017")
Anyhow, since Rolling Stone seemed to exclude singers of standards (The Rat Pack, etc.), I won’t include them here, either (Frank Sinatra would've been in the Top 5, Judy Garland, Top 10, just so you know). But my additions, you will notice, have a * next to them. Enjoy, and don’t hate me too much.
25. Jackie Wilson – I had Steve Winwood and Jackie fighting for this last spot. And then I listened to “Lonely Tear Drops” and, sorry, Steve…
24. Mariah Carey - I didn't put this on here to make Ken happy. I think she's one of the most talented vocalists of my generation who gets overshadowed by the divaness I (and many people) loathe. She's also a genius at picking ridiculously catchy songs, but that's another list.
23. Tina Turner – All you need to hear is “River Deep, Mountain High” and you can’t deny her admittance onto this list.
22. Elton John - Have you ever tried to karaoke "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"? Yeah, good luck with that.
21. Janis Joplin - I get the feeling there were a lot of, uh, sources that led to her gravelly soulful voice, but all the same, she could wail. And awesomely.
20.Robert Plant - Two words: Black Dog. I kinda hate the song (even if the title was apparently inspired by a black Labrador), but it really shows off his raw, kind of crazy range-yness.
19. David Bowie - His voice is sex. Seriously. I know Mick Jagger had the strut and the attitude that women lost their panties over, but Bowie's voice is all he probably needed to get laid back in the day.
18. Stevie Wonder - I’m not talking “I Just Called to Say I Love You” Stevie, I’m thinking more of “ “If It’s Magic,” which is a slow, quiet song, but so nuanced that only people who can seriously carry a tune can tackle it.
17. Frankie Valli - Because I think my father would probably never speak to me again if I didn't mention him. Also, you can't underestimate a dude with the ability to hit high notes better than a woman.
16. Bono - While I appreciate Bono's charity work, I just can't warm up to his personality. His voice, however? Thick with feeling and honesty and awesome.
15. Etta James - "At Last" has become maybe the most cliche wedding/love song of recent years, but it still is chill-inducing due to the rich, sharp voice bringing you the lyrics (the vocal equivalent of high definition, I think). Her “Stormy Weather” kicks ass too. But that's a standard and I shouldn't be talking about that if I can't mention people who may have sang it better...
14. Patsy Cline - "Crazy" is one of the simplest songs you'll ever hear someone eff up in karaoke. Why? Because if Patsy had worn a jockstrap, no one would be able to carry it in terms of oomph in her voice. Just when she gets to the "Worry..." part of the song, you're like "No, I can't do that. All you, Patsy."
13. Little Richard - I'm listening to "Keep a Knockin'" as I type this -- he's out of control and all over the place range wise and it WORKS because he's not afraid to embrace his inner freak.
*12. George Michael - A head scratcher from the original list, in that he wasn't mentioned. He may have the corny Wham! cloud hanging over him, but if you listen to "One More Try," you'll be hard pressed to NOT admit that he is one of the best singers to come out of the 80s.
11. Sam Cooke - Every song he sings seems to have just a little extra-sounding joy slipped in there. I don’t know how you do that, but he did.
10. Karen Carpenter - She may get written off as corny, but she had one of the purest, most haunting voices you'll ever hear. "Merry Christmas, Darling" is proof positive of that.
9. Otis Redding - "These Arms of Mine" is one of my all-time favorite songs, mostly because Otis infuses it with longing in SOUND. I’m not sure I can think of a modern dude songster who can do this.
*8. Jay Black - Like Freddie Mercury, his range was damn near operatic. That he was left off the original list shows some serious ignorance on the voters' part. My guess is they've never been subjected to "Cara Mia." It's the only thing I can think of.
*7. Levi Stubbs - How he didn't make the real list is beyond me. Dude threw every bit of emotion into the vocals on all the Four Tops' songs. His voice made you think everything they were singing about was important, man. "Bernadette" much?
6. Steve Perry - I’m sure you’ve all heard “Don’t Stop Believin’", no? Think of him as a cheesedick all you want, but he will slay you vocally.
*5. Ann Wilson - Um, hi. Have you heard the woman sing, Rolling Stone voter people? Does she get forgotten about because Heart is a sister act? I don't get it.
4. Roy Orbison - If I never have to hear "Pretty Woman" again, it will be too soon, but dude could belt (and make you wish you never even attempted to sing "Blue Bayou" at your birthday party).
*3. Harry Nilsson - That he was omitted on the RS list is mind-boggling to me. Did the compliers of this list never hear "Without You"?
2 Aretha Franklin - I'm not a fan of divas in general, but she has to be up this high because I'm not sure any woman can get near her sheer vocal power and make it sound so effortless.
1. Freddie Mercury - Dude had a seriously sick range. Have you heard people try to karaoke "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Yeah, his voice is kind of untouchable.