5 most recognizable voices in American music?


While watching CNNs Larry King interview Johnny Cash a few days ago, I commented to my wife that Johnny Cash probably has one of the five most recognizable voices in American music today. My wife agreed and then asked "Well who are the other four?" After some discussion, we came up with our nominations (in no particular order):

Johnny Cash
Elvis Presley
Ray Charles
Barbra Streisand
Louie Armstrong

This question probably assumes that the singer is quite famous and that their music has been around quite awhile-- or they became really famous really fast. We'd be interested in knowing what other A'Gon members think about these five, or others you would nominate instead for this "top five"? Thanks. Craig
garfish
I hate saying this, but I would toss of Babs and put Michael Jackson up there. I think just about everyone on the planet bought his Thriller album, and people can recongnize his voice extremely readily.

KF
Your list is definitely many famous voices, but of American music today? Maybe American music yesterday. I'll still agree with 'The King', however I may modernize the list just a tad.
(No particular order)

Elvis Presley
Bob Dylan
Bruce Springsteen
James Taylor
Paul McCartney

I'm not saying these are better voices, or even top favorites of mine (some are), but I think if you're talking about most recognizable voices in music TODAY, I feel these voices would be more recognizable to a larger portion of the general public today.

Regards,
John
Bob Dylan has to be one of the top five. Depending on ones age, I agree with Michael Jackson - probably replaces Ray Charles. In the pop world (at least if the song is White Christmas)Bing Crosby probably replaces Streisand.
Bob Dylan has gotta be on that list. And I wouldn't be surprised if coast to coast, Reba McIntire or Shania Twain were on that list. There's a whole lotta ground between east and west.
Is recognizable the only criteria? To who? Just about anyone? Then how about Elvis, Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong.
Get rid of Barbra and put in Willie Nelson. Still Enjoying your 5s Craig? I just recently sold the 3s and bought ML Prodigys. there was just something about panel speakers that i missed. I did make sure that the 3s went to a good home.
The word "today" has me hung up a bit. Recognizable today? Many of today's ears have never heard the King, the Boss, JT or even MJ! The good news is that some of them were fortunate enough to have missed Madonna and Cyndi Lauper (for years, I thought they were the same person - no, just kidding).

At age 40, my ears are slightly older than the average ears that are tuning into the FM waves these days, so I'd keep Elvis, and add Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, Britany and the "Beatles" - yes, lots of young folks recognize the Beatles but cannot name the individuals... sad!!! Interesting how 'American music' includes Bob Marley and Paul McCartney.
I thought this could be be a "generational" thing to some extent-- and my wife and I are pushing the 6th decade. As for the word "today"-- maybe a bad choice-- what I'm trying to get at are the most recognizable singing voices by the general public in America. They could be foreign singers that are popular here.

But even as an old codger, I heartily agree w/Tok2000 that M. Jackson is a strong contender, also Bob Dylan, and how could I forget "Old Blue Eyes" Frank Sinatra. Craig
Wmcmanus: "Interesting" is right - "American" most certainly does *not* include Bob Marley (Jamaican) or any of The Beatles (British). No matter where they eventually came to live after their careers and importance were already assured, they were the artistic products of not only their times, but of their formative surroundings, and America cannot rightfully claim them, despite being the birthplace of rock & roll.
Hi, Craig:

Interesting idea behind your post. I think that, as already noted, the choice of the 5 most recognizable (not the same thing as most famous) singers in American music will have a strong generational bias. Having said that, I think the 5 singers you listed are sufficiently well known to almost all Americans that they constitute the "foundation".

I'll nominate the following additional singers for consideration as among the "most recognizable" (again, not the same thing as famous):
1. Billie Holiday (certainly recognized by all jazz enthusiasts)
2. Ella Fitzgerald
3. Willie Nelson
4. Frank Sinatra
5. Bing Crosby

There are some other names that might also qualify, although some are not Americans, such as Mick Jagger. I can't help think of singers with very recognizable voices such as Roy Orbison, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, etc., although they probably don't qualify as among the "top 5". There are other people with very distinctive voices who, three decades or so ago, might have been included on this list, such as Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughn, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Dylan,Joplin,Sanatra,Etta James,Lou Reed..
Sinatra and Streisand have to be on the list. Nat King Cole still sells tons of CDs and has to be considered. Frankly a top 5 is really tough. You almost have to go to ten. Hard to exclude Dylan and others.
Yeah Dylan, Sinatra, Maybe James Taylor.
okay, how about ella fitzgerald, she has done everything from the great song writers, and even teamed up with satchmo, and not to mention one of the best jazz scatters of all time.
screamin' jay hawkins (hands down winner!!), dylan, johnny cash, roy orbison, billie holiday
Hi Scott-- Your post helped better define what I'm trying to get at, ie distinctive, very well known singing voices-- thanks. I think it's easy to tell that you and I are from the same generation. I'm enjoying seeing others opinions on this, especially those singers that we didn't think of.

Ken-- Yep, the 5s are great and I'll have them forever. If you had to sell the 3As, I'm glad they went to a good home. Willie Nelson certainly has one of those very recognizable and widely known voices.

I also agree with Bing Crosby. I wanted to list Emmylou Harris, but my wife held out for Barbra Streisand. Dolly Parton has another one of those really distinctive and very well known voices. Cheers. Craig
I think it's probably too wide a demographic to imagine what the American public would recognise today-I actually don't think coast to coast,age group to age group you would get much concensus certainly I don't think Johnny Cash would get into a top 5.
If you took the American public today,straw poll age to age I think a guess at the 5 might be (in no order)-
Michael Jackson
Eminem
Frank Sinatra
Elvis Presley
Madonna

I think if you looked at it from a historical and music fans view as the five voices easiest to recognise I would say

Elvis Presley
Frank Sinatra
Nat King Cole
Bob Dylan
Barabra Streisland.

I'm working from the point that these are the five unlikely to be confused with anybody else.
1. Neil Young
2. John Foggerty
3. Al Jarreau
4. Vince Gill
5. Allison Kraus
Hey, let's not forget those who started it all like Bill Monroe. He was the king of bluegrass. Just like Louis was of Jazz and Elvis Rock and Roll. You guys always want to forget bluegrass, but that is music that comes from the heart and soul of America. Country rocks but bluegrass aways rules in my house.

1. Elvis Presley
2. Johnny Cash
3. James Brown
4. Tom Petty
5. Bruce Springsteed
Elvis
Johnny Cash
Frank Sinatra
Willie Nelson
Ray Charles
This is definitely "generational". My list of distinctive, instantly recognizable voices would be (not necessarily in order of talent or ability):

Elvis
Sinatra
Billie Holiday
Muddy Waters
and, to a lesser extent, because his voice has changed so much over the years,
Bob Dylan
Think your original "5" are great Garfish, although might swap Sinatra for Cash or Babs, awful close.

Oh, as for the generation thing, beat you to the big 60 (and wish I hadn't won!)

Grandpa Doug
Per all the above excellent suggestions, I would delete "Babs" and Ray Charles from my top 5 list list and add Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson. To expand the list to top 10, I'd still include B. Streisand and Ray Charles and add Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and Nat King Cole. Thanks. Craig
Bing Crosby
Nat King Cole
Louis Armstrong
Ray Charles
Elvis Presley

BTW, this list is very "era" dependent. Ask a 20 y/o today about Bing, Louis, or Nat and all you"ll get is a huh?.
forgot about Hank Williams another very recognized voice.
Billie Joe (Green Day), the guy from the Smashing Pumpkins, Les Claypool, Trent Reznor, and James Hetfield maybe.
Bob Dylan
Michael McDonald
Linda Ronstadt
Kenny Loggins
Billy Corgan
Eddie Vedder
Robert Plant
Rod Stewart
John Fogerty
Axel Rose
Dianna Ross
Dionne Warwick
Bing Crosby
Jimi Hendrix
Jim Morrison
Janis Joplin
Louis Armstrong

Oh....5???? I thought you said 25! I better stop here then.
Dragon 1952-Robert Plant and Rod Stewart are British.
True!......but American born wasn't specified :P
I still think they could be categorized as American music, though. But...hey!....whatever!...I'll take the hit like a man :)
Ok then but Billy Corgan sounds British!
He does a bit, like that Zwan album though.
Neil Young has an instantly recognizable voice. But then, he's a Canadian. So does he count?

Billy Corgan's a good one though. Still, I was a huge pumpkins fan and even then his voice was a bit grating.

You want grating? Isaak Brock of Modest Mouse. That's some good stuff though. His voice works perfectly with their sound. Too bad about their drummer. He was an integral part of that band.

Well, did I get off topic enough?

B.B.King
Doctor John
Bonnie Raitt
Nat King Cole
Billy Joel

If you recognize Barbara Streisand's voice, you're spending too much time on the elevator or at Democratic fundraisers.
Frank Sinatra
Elvis
Willie Nelson
Michael Jackson
Aretha Franklin
Sorry Johnny you may be 6th
How about Roy Orbison? Has anyone mentioned him yet? He's gotta be up there.
"American Music awards" happened yesterday.   English musician Sting won award of merit at AMAs.   What's up with that?
Johnny Mathis
Mapman, that is absolutely ridiculous, and I share your outrage. Not only is Sting not American, neither is his musical style or influences. Whores!
Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Emmylou Harris, Iris Dement, plenty of others.
Except for one_shot, you guys are showing your (our) age.  Do you really think Americans under 30 know what some of these folks sound like?  They probably do recognize Willie Nelson but not many of the others.  Kurt Cobain is about as far back as some of them go.  And they are the majority.
I assume this combines popularity and distinctive tone (maybe phrasing, too) - If you play a less well known Louis Armstrong song for 100 random people, you'll probably have a pretty high hit rate.  Using those criteria, I'd add Stevie Nicks and Barry White




I love it when a thread from 10 years ago pops up again! 

For pure recognition Adele has got to be near the top if we poll the random public. Short memories rule. Most under 30 could not identify Willie, Johnny Cash, even Sinatra or Ella.

If we are adding iconic voices for this crowd, let's mention Bowie, Freddy Mercury, Tom Waits, Donald Fagen, Van Morrison, Rickie Lee Jones, Chrissie Hynde & Joni Mitchell to the list. Cheers,
Spencer
Nobody mentioned Tony Bennett!

Also, the late great Leon Russell, a very recognizable voice.

Jimmy Durante
Elvis
Johnny Cash
Nat King Cole
Dylan
Roy Orbison

I'm afraid to respond.
but here goes... in addition to some great ones already listed...

Art Garfunkel
Carly Simon
Little Richard
Lucinda Williams
James Taylor

Yeah, good ones slaw---Little Richard!---(and everyone else). Ray Charles has to be the most influential of them all---Steve Winwood, Richard Manuel, Van Morrison, so many others citing Ray as their model. Big Joe Turner is a favorite of mine, as well as Howlin’ Wolf, THE blues singer. Tom Waits is about as unique a voice as I know of, and let’s not forget Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. For Rock 'n' Roll, Chuck Berry's lyrical/vocal rhythms are one of the very pillars of the music.

From the gals, Aretha Franklin is at the top of the list. So are Big Mama Thornton (Elvis copied her recording of "Hound Dog"), Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, and a favorite of mine, Tammy Wynette. In the modern era, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) is immediately recognizable.

John Lee Hooker, Dolly Parton, John Denver, Todd Rundgren, Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefhart - 5 octave range?).
Heard Bing Crosby today on the car radio singing "White Christmas".
Comfort food for your ears. Merry Christmas!
There was so much mythology surrounding Beefheart, wasn’t there? Remember the 1971 Rolling Stone interview in which Don said "The phone’s gonna ring"? And it did! Perhaps he set it up. That five octave range claim was part of his press packet (Warner Brothers excelled at that), and untrue. Interesting guy, he got out of the music business, moved to the desert, and made some real money at painting (artistic, not houses ;-). He asserted Frank Zappa ripped him off, financially.