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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)
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.
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.
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.
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)-
I think if you looked at it from a historical and music fans view as the five voices easiest to recognise I would say
Nat King Cole
I'm working from the point that these are the five unlikely to be confused with anybody else.
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.
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?
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,
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.
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.