exceptional voices of female singers (non-classical)
What I'm talking about here is what critics of classical singing refer to as "the instrument": the exceptional beauty or uniqueness of the timbre of the voice qua voice. For the moment, put aside preferences w.r.t. repertoire, interpretation, performance, style, delivery, etc., and just consider the *sound* of the voice. We're *not* talking about favorite female artists here, because that kind of preference is based on a whole amalgam of factors.
I suspect some of the top figures in the category I've tried to define often aren't very popular among audiophiles, because of those many other factors.
My first three nominations: Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Eva Cassidy.
Based on the purity and sheer beauty of her voice, I would cite Judith Durham, best known as the lead singer of The Seekers although she has had a distinguished solo career as well.
Following is a brief excerpt of comments about her provided by a British gentleman whose bio is shown at the end of an article he wrote entitled Judith Durham: The Voice of the 20th Century. Obviously some of what he has to say in this paragraph and in the rest of the article is debatable, as well as being subjective to a considerable extent, but his comments are not without foundation IMO.
Judith Durham (of the Seekers) is the greatest of them all. The voice of the twentieth century, in my not very humble opinion. Clarity, spine-shivering (I’ve already used “spine-tingling” and I’m all for a bit of variety), astonishing purity – all that is obvious straightaway. But listen to The Carnival is Over or the amazing Just a Closer Walk and you hear a vocal beauty which is unique and reaches a level no one else can get near to. Callas is just a tear-jerker by comparison; Carpenter just a female crooner; Piaf just a screeching Gallic banshee. Judith Durham combines a bold, even brash, confidence in her own ability with a deeper humility which lends her remarkable sound an even more profound character.
I listened to an interview of Judy Collins where they were taking callers..a caller was explaining that in school, his teacher had a program that could show waveforms and compare voices with them. According to the caller, his teacher said Judy’s voice showed almost perfect form. FWIW.
I could probably add another voice or two every day for quite awhile (I love female voices), but above left out a few that simply MUST be included: Aretha Franklin, Arlene Smith (of The Chantels---you have GOT to hear her sing "Maybe"), Brenda Lee, Peggy Lee, Wanda Jackson, Ruth Brown, Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Kasey Chambers, Dusty Springfield, and Judy Garland.
Apparently none of you have heard Tierney Sutton, a very classy jazz singer with incredible backup musicians. She recently did an album of classic Joni Mitchell songs with Mark Summer and Turtle Island String Quartet “After Blue “. Give her a listen!
Thanks very much, John (Roxy54). Here are some videos of Judith Durham with The Seekers, which provide about as good an indication of the quality of her voice as one is likely to find in a YouTube video of a 1960s recording:
On last CBS Sunday Morning show, was introduced to singer Marilyn Maye. Ms. Maye sings in the classic style of the 30s and 40s. She was hitting her stride at the time of the British Invasion in the mid 60s and got lost in the shuffle. She is till going strong, in her 90s, and can be found on YouTube.
Hi Al, Thanks for the heads up. I'm a little ashamed to admit that at 63 I have heard of the Seekers, but nothing beyond that except for maybe Georgy Girl. I just ordered a best of CD with the songs you mentioned from Amazon prime for 8.99. John