These are the greatest vocal performances of all time, by the best singers ever, in one fan's opinion.
The Top Ten Vocal Performances of All Time, with a Few Ties (This is necessarily a subjective list; if you disagree please feel free to
create your own!)
Chuck Berry best songs and vocal performances: Johnny B. Goode, No Particular
Place to Go, Maybellene, Nadine, Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music,
Downbound Train, Promised Land, My Ding-a-Ling, Little Queenie, Sweet Little
Sixteen, Reelin' and Rockin', Memphis Tennessee, C'est La Vie (You Never Can
Tell), Back in the USA, Let It Rock, School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell),
Wee Hours, You Can't Catch Me, Too Much Monkey Business, Thirty Days (To Come
Back Home), Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Havana Moon
The Three Tenors (Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti) singing
"Nessun Dorma" Please don't say you "don't like opera" until you listen to this
"Nessun Dorma" as performed by The Three Tenors, Andrea Bocelli, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Evancho, Joseph Calleja, Jussi Björling,
Francesco Merli and Mario Zhang
"Trouble of the World" by Mahalia Jackson, "I'd Rather Go Blind" and
"At Last" by Etta James, "Spanish Harlem" by Aretha Franklin, and "I Have
Nothing" as performed by Whitney Houston
"Blue Moon" and "Fever" as performed by
Elvis Presley (the early Sun recordings) and "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead
O'Connor (her amazing cover of a song written by Prince)
(7) "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as performed by Art Garfunkel of Simon &
Garfunkel and later by Elvis Presley in a gospel-infused version during his comeback tour in 1972
"Heartbreaker," "Piece of My Heart," "Down on Me," "Cry
Baby," "Summertime," "Mercedes Benz," and "Try" as performed by Janis Joplin
with Big Brother and the Holding Company
"Love Reign O'er Me" as performed by Roger Daltrey of the Who and
“Stairway to Heaven” as performed by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin
(4) "Whiter Shade of Pale" as performed by Gary Brooker of Procol Harum and "A
Change Is Gonna Come" as performed by Sam Cooke
"Who Wants to Live Forever," "The Show Must Go On" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" as performed by
Freddy Mercury of Queen
"Unchained Melody" as performed by Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous
Brothers and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" as performed by Enya
(1) "Without You" as performed by Harry Nilsson in his otherworldly
cover of a Badfinger song (Nilsson was so good he made the song his own forever)
At the 1968 press conference where the just-formed Apple record label was
announced, John Lennon called Harry Nilsson his favorite American artist, while
Paul McCartney named Nilsson his favorite American "group." McCartney called "Without You" the "killer song of all
time." No one sang the Badfinger classic better than Nilsson, or even came
close, with the possible exception of Mariah Carey. Nilsson's
"Without You" gets my nod as the greatest vocal
performance of all time, followed by Bobby Hatfield's wonderfully moving rendition of "Unchained Melody," Enya's
otherworldly performance of the traditional hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," and the other
songs listed above. The performances appear below on this page.
Harry Nilsson singing "Without You" Paul McCartney called "Without
You" the best
song ever written ...
but Nilsson's highly evocative singing may be even better.
Best Vocals Honorable Mention: "Ooh Baby Baby," "Tracks of My
Tears" and "Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson of the Miracles, "Kissing a Fool" and "One
More Try" by George Michael, "Hallelujah" and "Grace" by Jeff Buckley, "Love Hurts" by
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles, "Hallelujah"
and "Crying" by K. D. Lang, "All By Myself" by Celine Dion, "Superstition" by Stevie
Wonder, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones, "Mercy Mercy Me" and
"What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, "Summertime" and "Cry Me a River" by Ella
Fitzgerald, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele, "Mad
World" by Adam Lambert, "Winds of March," "Foolish Heart" and "Send Her My Love" by Steve Perry of
Journey, "The Thrill is Gone" by B. B. King, "Black Dog" by Robert Plant of Led
Zeppelin, "Candle in the
Wind" and "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" by Elton John, "Dream On" by Steven Tyler of
Aerosmith, "Crying" and "Leah" by Roy Orbison, "God Only Knows" by Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, "One" by
Bono of U2, "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle" by Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses,
"Damn You," "Little Red Corvette" and "When Doves Cry" by Prince, "Born to Run" and "Thunder
Road" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, "Go Rest High on that Mountain"
by Vince Gill, "Ave Maria" and "Pie Jesu" by Jackie Evancho,
"I'll Be There" and "Man in the Mirror"
by Michael Jackson, "Stan" by Eminem and Dido, "Walking on Broken Glass" by
Annie Lennox, "Wild Horses" and "Angie" by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones,
"Wish You Were Here" by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, "My Immortal" by
"Yesterday" by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, "Imagine" by John Lennon, "I Wanna Know What Love Is" by Lou Gramm of Foreigner, "When
I Was Your Man" by Bruno Mars, "Rag Doll" and "Sherry" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline,
"Wicked Game" by Chris Isaac,
"Angel" by Sarah McLachlan, "Lonely Teardrops"
by Jackie Wilson, "On My Own" by Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle, "True Colors" by
Cyndi Lauper, "Oh Very Young" and "Where Do the Children Play" by Cat Stevens, "La Donna e
Mobile" from Verdi’s Rigoletto by Enrico Caruso, "Vissi d’Arte" from
Puccini’s Tosca by Maria Callas
"Smokey Robinson was like God in our eyes."―Paul McCartney
Who was the greatest singer of all time? Jenny Lind was the first superstar
"diva" and she may have been the greatest singer of all time, by public
acclaim. Lind was an opera singer known as the "Swedish Nightingale." She
retired at the height of her success, at age 29, for unknown reasons. Such was
her reputation, that Queen Victoria and the royal family attended her last
performance. When Lind toured the United States in 1850, a century before the
Beatles, her audiences were so huge and so enthusiastic that the American press
coined the terms "Lind mania" and "Lindomania" to describe
the reaction she received. Her American tour produced
around $25 million in "modern money"―an unheard-of haul in
those days―but Lind donated her share to charities, primarily
tuition-free schools. Unfortunately there
are no recordings of her voice. But we do know from newspaper reports that Lind
was adored by her many fans. She was, according to one eye-witness, "literally
'bombarded' with bouquets. She could scarcely make her way out of the orchestra,
there was such a heap of flowers in all possible shapes." A young Emily
Dickinson described Lind's reception by Americans unfamiliar with opera: "how
bouquets fell in showers, and the roof was rent with applause―how
it thundered outside, and inside with the thunder of God and of men―judge
ye which was the loudest; how we all loved Jennie Lind, but not accustomed oft
to her manner of singing didn’t fancy that so well as we did her." And
Lind had a LOT of adoring fans. When she arrived in the United
States, she was greeted at the piers by a crowd estimated at thirty to forty
thousand souls. As for her voice, here is what one music critic wrote after a
Lind performance in Nashville: "The extreme burst of her voice in the upper
portion of its register is far beyond the ordinary range of sopranos, and she
has acquired the power of moulding the higher notes entirely at her will. By
this she is enabled to produce some of the most astonishing effects upon the
listener ... Another of the more special beauties which particularly mark the
voice of Mlle Lind is the unexampled quality and delicacy of its piano ... The
transition from the high to the low notes is rapidly effected and seems as
though it cost her no effort." Other critics noted that Lind's vocal abilities
were so unusual that she seemed to be a ventriloquist!
Enya singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" It's hard to imagine angels singing any better in heaven ...
Dark Horses: If you had to pick one candidate for the best
vocalist of all time, who doesn't get his/her due today, who would it be? My
"dark horse" candidate is Eric Carmen, for his outstanding performances on the
following songs: All By Myself, Never Gonna
Fall in Love Again, I'm Through with Love, Make Me Lose Control, I Wanna Hear It
from Your Lips, Everything, That's Rock 'n' Roll, All For Love, No Hard
Feelings, On Broadway, Sunrise (with a distinct Beach Boys vibe), Almost Paradise
(duet with Merry Clayton), Foolin' Myself,
Change of Heart, My Girl, and Hungry Eyes (which helped revive his career, although it's
not as good as a number of songs he wrote himself), plus
songs he did as lead singer of the Raspberries such as Go All the Way, I
Wanna Be with You, Let's Pretend, Overnight Sensation (Hit Record), Let's
Pretend, Tonight, Don't Want to Say Goodbye, Ecstasy and I Saw the Light Reasoning: In my opinion Eric Carmen is an exceptional vocalist
and an exceptional songwriter. The knocks against him are that he can be "sappy"
and sometimes sings ballads. So what? If you think "All By Myself" is "sappy,"
what about the times you were all by yourself and felt exactly like that? See
what I mean? Obviously there are bad sappy songs, but if a singer can rip my
heart out and put me in his shoes and make me feel his pain for a few minutes
... well, that seems like real art to me. I have no doubt that Eric Carmen is a
real artist in his best songs. And OMG, those vocals! Give the man his due, or
at least find an argument that makes actual sense. Honorable Mention: Eric Burdon of the Animals and War for
"House of the Rising Sun," "(Please) Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "We Gotta
Get Out of this Place," "It's My Life (and I'll Do What I Want)," "Tobacco Road"
and "Spill the Wine," Tom Jones for "I Who Have Nothing," "I'll Never Fall in
Love Again," "Without Love (There is Nothing)," and "Delilah," Robin Gibb of the Bee-Gees doesn't get
enough recognition for his solo work on songs like "I Started a Joke,"
"Massachusetts" and "To Love Somebody," Carl Wilson ditto for his lead vocals on
"God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations," Ron Argent and Colin Blunstone of the
Zombies for "Time of the Season," "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No," Terry
Jacks for "Seasons in the Sun" and "If You Go Away"
Per Rolling Stone: Of all the British Invasion singers, Eric Burdon had
the most physically imposing voice. When he burst onto the scene in 1964, his
voice was "big and dark," says Steve Van Zandt. "He invented the genre of the
white guy singing low." Nor was the depth of Burdon's pitch lost on Steven Tyler
when he first heard Burdon sing "House of the Rising Sun": "I thought, Aha! You
start off the song an octave lower so you can flambé the tail end of it an
One might speculate that hard rock has its roots in that harder, darker edge
created by Eric Burdon and the Animals, when Elvis and the Beatles were squeaky
clean, by comparison, and decidedly less threatening!
Look, I'm surprised as anyone that Tom Jones is on my list! I had long thought
of him as a cheesy lounge act with some sort of strange appeal for elderly and
middle-aged women having something to do with tight
pants and hairy chests that I prefer not to think about. But with the right song
in his hands,
the man can sing with incredible power at the top of his impressive
range. And he is extremely passionate and believable. So I was wrong.
What does the buying public say today? Here are the singers with the most number one
singles on the charts: Beatles (20), Elvis Presley (18), Mariah Carey (18),
Rihanna (14), Michael Jackson (13), Supremes (12), Madonna (12), Whitney Houston
(11), Stevie Wonder (10), Janet Jackson (10). The Best Vocal Performances by
Sam Cooke: "A Change Is Gonna Come," "Unchained Melody," "Chain Gang,"
"Cupid," "Bring it on Home to Me," "You
Send Me," "Another Saturday Night," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Wonderful
World," "Blue Moon," "If I Had a Hammer," "The Great Pretender,"
"Summer Time," "Blowing in the Wind," "You're Always on My Mind," "Nobody Knows
the Trouble I've Seen," "Having a Party," "I'll Come Running Back to You," "One
More Time," "Blue Moon," "Send Me Some Lovin'"
Sam Cooke was called "The King of Soul" and the "inventor of soul music." He
influenced Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Al Green,
among many others. He possessed a wonderfully pure singing voice that has seldom
been matched and never surpassed.
Sam Cooke singing "A Change is Gonna Come" Is this the most soulful performance of all time?
Which Musical Artists are Most Popular with Buyers? According
to Wikipedia, based on total unit sales of albums, singles, downloads and music
videos, the most popular artists of all time are (#1) The Beatles (~600 million
units sold), (#2) Elvis Presley (~600 million), (#3) Michael Jackson (~350
million), (#4) Madonna (~300 million), (#5) Elton John (~300 million),
(#6) Led Zeppelin (~300 million), (#7) Pink Floyd (~250 million), (#8) Rihanna
(~230 million), with seven acts tied at (#9) Rolling Stones, Queen, AC/DC, ABBA,
Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion
Best Vocals Honorable Mention (continued): "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob
Dylan, "Roxanne" by Sting of the Police, "Always on My Mind" and "Angel Flying
too Close to the Ground" by Willie Nelson, "I Walk the Line" and "Ring of Fire"
by Johnny Cash, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Lovesick Blues" by Hank
Williams Sr., "The Needle and the Damage Done" and "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young", Everybody Hurts" by Michael Stipe
of REM, "A Pirate Looks at Forty" by Jimmy Buffet, "Shameless" by Garth Brooks,
"Lightning Crashes" by Ed Kowalczyk of Live, "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco,
"Royals" by Lorde, "Wake Me Up" by Avicii, "Landslide" by Stevie Nicks
of Fleetwood Mac, "Up Where We Belong"
by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, "When a Man Loves a
Woman" by Percy Sledge, "In Your Eyes" and "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel of
Genesis, "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc, "Gloria" by Laura Brannigan, "These Eyes" by
Burton Cummings of the Guess Who, "Danny Boy" and "Scarborough Fair" by Hayley Westenra
of Celtic Women
NOTE: Because this page is about vocal performances, I have not always included
otherwise very worthy contenders like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Pete Seeger and
Woody Guthrie. Their songwriting was, at times, far superior to their voices.
The Best VocalPerformances by Art Garfunkel:
"Bridge Over Troubled Water," "My Little Town," "All I Know," "For Emily,
Whenever I May Find Her," "Kathy's Song," "Bright Eyes," "I Only Have Eyes for
You," "(What a) Wonderful World," "I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will be
Forever)," "America," "Scarborough Fair/Canticle," "The Boxer," "El Condor Pasa,"
"Sound of Silence," "Homeward Bound," "Mrs. Robinson," "Cecilia," "Scissors
Cut," "A Heart in New York," "Rag Doll," "April Come She Will," "Morning Has
Broken," "Crying in the Rain," "The 49th Street Bridge Song (Feelin'
Look―I love Paul Simon, who is one of the greatest
songwriters of all time. But Art Garfunkel has the voice of a human angel, an
ethereal countertenor, the pinnacle of what he calls "tender finesse." If we are
talking about great vocalists, Art Garfunkel is in the highest echelon, along
with Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Steve Perry,
Eric Carmen, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Enya, and a few other immortals.
When we hear that sweet, airy, breathless high tenor, we are hearing one of the truly
great voices of all time. "He is a pure and beautiful tenor voice, and there
really is no one like him," says James Taylor about Art Garfunkel. (But there may be one contender for Art Garfunkel's
throne: his son, James Garfunkel, whose voice is just as sweet and even
Art Garfunkel singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" One of the great voices, emoting one of the greatest songs ever written. The
song has been covered by Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Mary J. Blige, Andrea
Bocelli, Josh Groban, Brian McKnight, John Legend, Roberta Flack, Bon Jovi,
Natalie Cole, Clay Aiken, Charlotte Church, Celtic Women, David Archuleta,
Jackie Evancho, Whitney Houston, Hayley Westenra. Johnny Cash, Fiona Apple, Il
Divo, Tessanne Chin, LeAnn Rimes, Leona Lewis, Luther Vandross, Michael W. Smith
and the Jackson 5 ... but no one has ever sung the song more tenderly and
angelically than Art
The Best Vocal Performances in Rock History according to a Rolling Stone
reader poll: (#1) “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen with Freddie Mercury on lead
vocals and notable falsetto assists from drummer Roger Taylor. (#2) “The Great Gig in the
Sky” by Pink Floyd, sung wordlessly by guest vocalist Clare Torry. (#3) “Twist and Shout”
by the Beatles with throat-shredding lead vocals by John Lennon. (#4) “Love Reign O’er Me” by the
Who with lead vocals by Roger Daltrey. (#5) “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina
Turner. (#6) “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin with lead vocals by Robert
Plant. (#7) “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, sung by Mick Jagger with a
huge assist from backup singer Merry Clayton. (#8) “Child in Time” by Deep
Purple, sung by Ian Gillian. (#9) “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” by Nirvana as
sung acoustically by Kurt Cobain during their 1993 “MTV Unplugged” concert. This is an old folk song also called “In the Pines” that dates back to
at least the 1870s. Cobain credited the song to folk singer Lead Belly, who
recorded several versions in the 1940s, including the arrangement used by
Nirvana. (#10) “With a Little Help from My Friends” by Joe Cocker. The song was
originally recorded by the Beatles.
I have to quibble with the list above, in certain regards. I won't argue with
Tina Turner, a great singer performing a great song, or with Joe Cocker outdoing
the Beatles and bringing the house down. Nor would I ever object to Robert Plant
singing "Stairway to Heaven" in anyone's top ten. But Clare Tory's wordless
vocals, while intriguing and impressively delivered, may be more of a novelty
than actual singing. Perhaps the Beatles and Stones have to be included, and the
choices are certainly worthy, but then where is the King? And in my opinion it's a
unforgivable sin not to include Bobby Hatfield singing "Unchained Melody" and Harry
Nilsson singing "Without You." I would replace the Deep Purple and Nirvana songs
with those two. My revised version of the Rolling Stone list is:
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Twist and Shout,” “Love Reign O’er Me,”
“River Deep, Mountain High,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Unchained
Melody,” “Without You” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” But it seems
like sacrilege to have Joe Cocker and not Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin. So I
am declaring a three-way tie for the final spot and including "Piece of My Heart"
and "Spanish Harlem." But then why not make it a top twenty-five
and add "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, "A Change is Gonna
Come" by Sam Cooke, "Beat It" by Michael Jackson, "Little Red Corvette" by
Prince, "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" by Elton John, "Whiter Shade
of Pale" by Procol Harum, "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream, "Layla" by Derek and
the Dominoes with Eric Clapton, "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, "Born to Run" by Bruce
Springsteen and the E Street Band, "One" by U2, "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles,
and "Tutti Frutti" by the performer who showed the Beatles and everyone else how
to really rock'n'roll, Little
The Best Vocal Performances by Elvis Presley: "Blue Moon" (early Sun recording),
"Fever" (early RCA recording), "Unchained Melody" (such talent!),
"I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "Trying to Get to You," "Love Me,"
"The Thrill of Your Love," "It's Now or Never" (so sweet and so pure), "Crying in the Chapel," "In the
Garden," "How Great Thou Art" (1972 live version), "One Night (with You)," "Any
Day Now," "Peace in the Valley," "That's Alright (Mama)," "Jailhouse Rock," "Joshua Fit the Battle of
Jericho," "Reconsider Baby," "Kentucky Rain," "Hound Dog," "An American Trilogy"
("Dixie"/"Battle Hymn of the Republic"/"All My Trials"), "Without Love (there is
Nothing at All)," "If I Can Dream," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Suspicious
Minds," "In the Ghetto," "Stand by Me," "(I'm So) Hurt,"
"Don't Be Cruel," "Amazing Grace," "Just Because," "Always on My Mind," "I Can't
Help Falling in Love with You," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Surrender,"
"Heartbreak Hotel," "Burning Love," "You've Lost that Loving Feeling," "Can't
Help Falling in Love with You," "Where No One Stands Alone" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight" (the
last song he sang as his last concert in 1977)
Elvis Presley singing a gospel-influenced version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" Please be sure to read Paul Simon's comments (below), made after he heard
Elvis Presley's interpretation of his most famous song!
Elvis Presley performed "Bridge Over Troubled Water" during his triumphant
return after a 15-year absence, at New York City's Madison Square Garden on June
9th, 1972. Having witnessed Elvis's interpretation of his song, Paul Simon is
said to have commented: "That's it, we might as well all give up now."
While I actually prefer the softer, sweeter Art Garfunkel version, it's hard to
imagine a more impressive vocal performance than Presley's. His lower register
is incredibly warm, rich and tender. The power with which he hit the high notes
is truly stunning, on a par with the very best male opera singers. And he put so
much emotion into his gospel-influenced interpretation, without ever sounding
affected. His was a tour de force. No wonder Paul Simon left shaking
his head, in wonder, asking himself: "How the hell can I compete with
that?" By 1972, virtually all of Elvis's peers from the
years of rock were either dead, forgotten, or had
become nostalgia acts. But when
Elvis returned after a decade-and-a-half layoff, he was still the King ... and
rightly so. His 1972 Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden live
album went triple-platinum. His 1973 Aloha from Hawaii live album went
quintuple-platinum and was number one on the album charts. His single "Burnin'
Love," although not one of his all-time best, went platinum and rose to number two on the singles charts. But more
importantly, when Elvis had the right song in hand, no other male singer could
touch his interpretation. His versions of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Blue Moon,"
"Fever," "Unchained Melody," "Love Me,"
"It's Now or Never," "Crying in the Chapel," "In the
Garden," "How Great Thou Art," "Peace in the Valley,"
"That's Alright (Mama)," "Jailhouse Rock," "American Trilogy"
and "You'll Never Walk Alone" are as close to untouchable as male vocals get.
But of course everyone knows about Elvis. But how many exceptional singers has the world never heard of? Here's one good example: Straalen McCallum, a teenager doing a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's classic "If You Could Read My Mind Love":
The Best Vocal Performances of Nat King Cole: Unforgettable,
Mona Lisa, When I Fall in Love (It Will Be Forever), The Christmas Song
(Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), There Will Never Be Another You
Frank Sinatra said that when he went home, he played Nat King Cole records to
relax. The King put Capitol Records on the map, selling the most records by an
individual during the "gap" between Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley. He had the
first TV show to feature a black artist, on NBC in 1956, but due to the racism
of the times, there was no commercial sponsorship and the show did not survive.
But the King did break an important racial barrier, just as Jackie Robinson did.
Best Hot, Fiery and Sexy Torch Song Vocals, Old and New: "Cry Me a River" by
Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Buble, "At Last" by Etta James and Jahmene Douglas,
"I Who Have Nothing" by Ben E. King and Whitney Houston, "Do It Again" by Marilyn Monroe
and Diana Krall, "Fever" by Peggy Lee and Elvis Presley, "Smoke
Gets in Your Eyes" by Dinah Shore and Nat King Cole, "My Funny Valentine" by
Frank Sinatra and Alice Fredenham, "Feelin' Good" by Nina Simone and Carly Rose Sonenclar, "Use Somebody" by
the Kings of Leon and Lascel
Woods, "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers and Luigiano Paals, "Somebody to Love" by
Freddy Mercury and Rachel Potter, "The Rose" by
Bette Midler and Christopher Maloney, "Who's Loving You" by Michael
Jackson and Sam Bailey, "Crying" by Roy Orbison and K. D. Lang, "Nothing
Compares 2 U" by Prince and Sinead O'Connor
#10) Brian and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys sweetly and tremulously singing
"Don’t Worry Baby," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows" and "Surf's Up."
Lou Christie hitting those ultra-high
notes with tremendous accuracy and power on songs like Lightning Strikes and Two
Faces Have I
#9) Robert Plant threatening to shatter glass on Led Zeppelin’s "Black Dog" and
#8) Roy Orbison rending heartstrings with "Crying," "Leah" and "Blue Angel."
#7) Russell Thompkins Jr. of the Stylistics being wonderfully stylish on songs
like "Betcha By Golly Wow" and "You Make Me Feel Brand New."
#6) Steve Perry of Journey hiting interstellar high notes with laser-like
precision on "Wheel In The Sky," "Open Arms," "Faithfully" and "Good Morning
#5) Barry Gibb's breathy falsetto seducing our ears on "Words," "Run To Me,"
"How Deep Is Your Love" and "To Love Somebody."
#4) Robin Gibb's quavering falsetto outshining even his brother's on "I Started
A Joke," "Message To You" and the intro to "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart."
#3) Prince hitting every note perfectly on songs like "Kiss" and "When Doves
#2) Little Richard teaching male singers it's cool to wear makeup, preen and
emit primal screams on songs like "Tutti-Frutti," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Rip
It Up," "Long Tall Sally" and "Lucille."
#1) Frankie Valli's laser-like, accurate, electric powerful falsetto starring on
mega-hits like "Sherry," "Dawn," "Rag Doll," "Walk Like A Man," "Big Girls Don't
Cry," "Stay," "Grease," "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)," "Can't Take My Eyes
Off of You," "My Eyes Adored You," "Swearin' to God," "Who Loves You," "Let's
Hang On," "We're All Alone," "The Proud One," "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine
(Anymore)," "The Book of Love"
The Top Ten Emotive Singers who Slay Us with Heartbreakers and
Tearjerkers: Sam Cooke making us feel his pain on songs like "A Change
is Gonna Come" and "Chain Gang," Levon Helm of The Band making us feel "The
Weight" and forcing us to relive the Civil War in "The Night They Drove Old
Dixie Down," George Michael emoting on songs like"One More Try," "A Different Corner" and "Careless
Whisper," Sam Smith for songs like "Stay With Me" and "I'm Not the Only One,"
Eric Carmen for songs like "All By Myself" and "I'm Through With Love," the Bee
Gees with those tremulous falsettos on songs like "How Can You Mend a Broken
Heart" and "Massachusetts," Hank Williams Sr. for bluesy country songs like "I'm
So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," Adele for soulful
songs like "Someone Like You" and "Rolling in the Deep,"
Mick Hucknall of Simply Red singing songs like "Holding Back the Years"
and "If You Don't Know Me By Now," Janis Joplin ripping out our hearts with
songs like "Heartbreaker" and "Piece of My Heart" Honorable Mention: Dido communicating heartache on songs like
"Thank You" and "White Flag," Eminem for "Mockingbird" and his duet of "Stan"
with Dido, Vince Gill for "Go Rest High on that Mountain," Eric Clapton singing
the song he wrote for his lost son "Tears in Heaven," Five for Fighting (the
stage name of Vladimir John Ondrasik III)
for songs like "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and "100 Years," Sinead O'Connor for
"Nothing Compares 2 U," Johnny Cash with that deep dark baritone on songs like
"Hurt" and "I Walk the Line," Enya on heart-wrenching songs like "Only Time,"
Elton John on songs like "Sacrifice" and "Candle in the Wind," Cyndi
Lauper for songs like "True Colors" and "Time After Time," Jeff Buckley and K.
D. Lang for their covers of "Hallelujah," Simon and Garfunkel for "The Sound of
Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," David Gilmour of Pink Floyd for "Wish
You Were Here," Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys for "God Only Knows," Paul Carrack
of Mike + the Mechanics for "Living Years," Dan McCafferty of Nazareth for "Love
Hurts," Michale Stipe of R.E.M. for "Everybody Hurts," the Verve Pipe for "The
Freshmen," and Tears for Fears, Gary Jules and Adam Lambert for their versions
of "Mad World"
Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers singing "Unchained Melody" Is this the greatest pop/rock vocal performance of all time?
Ten Vastly Under-Rated Singers: K. D. Lang for her magnificent
covers of "Hallelujah" and "Crying," Eric Carmen for "All By Myself," "Never
Gonna Fall in Love Again" and his work as lead singer of the Raspberries, Art
Garfunkel for little-known solo masterpieces like "All I Know" and "Bright Eyes"
not to mention neglected classics like "The Boxer" and "For Emily Whenever I May
Find Her" from his Simon and Garfunkel days, Cyndi Lauper for her four-octave
range and unique voice, not to mention great songs like "True Colors" and "Time
After Time," Toni Braxton for that wonderfully warm lower register and
crystal-clear high notes on "Un-Break My Heart," Leona Lewis for "Bleeding Love"
and "Broken," Burton Cummings for "Stand Tall" and his work as lead singer of
the Guess Who, David Gates for hitting all those high sweet pure notes on
"Everything I Own," "Clouds" and his work as lead singer of Bread, Vince Gill
for songs like "Go Rest High on that Mountain" and "When I Call Your Name,"
Chris Isaak for "Wicked Game," "Please Let Me Down Easy" and a near-perfect
Elvis cover on "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You"
Influential Singers Who Remain Largely Unknown: Sleepy John
Estes (Robert Plant, Bob Dylan), Big Mama Thornton (Elvis Presley, Janis
Joplin), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis,
Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash), Eddie Cochran and Carl Perkins (George Harrison),
Sonny Boy Williamson (Yardbirds), Robert Johnson (Eric Clapton), Muddy Waters
(Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix)
Of course some famous singers have also been quite influential:
"Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been Elvis,
there would not have been the Beatles."―John
"Before Elvis, there was nothing."―John Lennon
"Seeing Elvis was like seeing the messiah arrive."―George Harrison
The Best Vocal Performances by Freddy Mercury of Queen:
"Bohemian Rhapsody," "Who Wants to Live Forever," "The Show Must Go On," "Killer
Queen," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Somebody to Love," "Another One Bites
the Dust," "We Are the Champions," "Radio Ga Ga," "Bicycle Race"
Freddy Mercury of Queen singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" A unique song delivered by a one-of-a-kind singer.
Ten World-Class Singers Who Deserve Every Award They Win: Steve
Perry, Freddy Mercury, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Whitney
Houston, Robert Plant, Roy Orbison, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion
Honorable Mention: Adele, Andrea Bocelli, Maria Carey, Eric Carmen, Dido, Enya, Art Garfunkel,
Andy Gibb, Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Josh Groban, Michael Jackson,
Etta James, Adam Lambert, Cyndi Lauper, K. D. Lang, Prince, Frankie Valli
Steve Perry's voice is like cutting diamonds with lasers; no other male singer
can hit those ultra-high notes with such power and clarity.
Freddy Mercury's voice was like his last name: mercurial. And he was one of the
all-time great performers, to boot.
Janis Joplin was the absolute master of her brand of hard-edged, bluesy folk
Andrea Bocelli has an incredibly rich, warm and luxuriant lower register.
Trivia Fact: Woody Guthrie, the great folk singer who wrote
"This Land Is Your Land," was once a tenant of the Trumps. Guthrie was
a fan of his racist landlords, and wrote angry songs about Frederick
Trump, the father of Donald Trump, accusing him of refusing to rent apartments
to black Americans!
The Top Ten Vocalists Most People Can No Longer Name: Bobby
Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers ("Unchained Melody"), Colin Blunstone of the
Zombies ("Time of the Season"), Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees (better than his more
famous brother Barry on songs like "I Started a Joke"), Eric Burdon of the
Animals ("House of the Rising Sun"), Eric Carmen of the Raspberries ("Go All the
Way"), Morten Harket of A-ha (those otherwordly high notes in "Take on Me"),
Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet ("True"), Michael Hutchence of Simply Red
("Holding Back the Years"), Geoff Tate of Queensrÿche ("Silent Lucidity"), Roger
Hodgson of Supertramp ("The Logical Song") Honorable Mention: Terence Trent D'Arby,
Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners, Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe,
Richard Ashcroft of The Verve,
Bobby "Blue" Bland,
Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods,
Clare Torry hitting all those supersonic high notes on "The Great Gig in the
Sky" with Pink Floyd,
Merry Clayton providing the stratospheric backing vocals on "Gimme
Shelter" by the Rolling Stones,
Joe Sample and Lalah Hathaway,
Phyllis Hyman, Sylvia Moy
Top Ten Male Vocalists: Freddy Mercury, Elvis Presley, Robert
Plant, Al Green, Steve Perry, Little Richard, Prince, Axl Rose, Roy Orbison, Sam
Cooke Honorable Mention: Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, George Michael, Frank
Sinatra, James Brown, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson,
Bruno Mars, Jim Morrison, Bono, Art Garfunkel, Frankie Valli, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash Top Ten Female Vocalists: Janis Joplin, Etta
James, Aretha Franklin, Barbara Streisand, Mahalia Jackson, K.D. Lang, Enya, Annie Lennox,
Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey/Celine Dion (tie) Honorable Mention: Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald,
Christina Aguilera, Dido, Adele, Stevie Nicks, Billie Holliday,
Madonna, Hayley Westenra, Diana Ross, Linda Ronstadt, Pink, Cher, Karen
Carpenter, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Tina Turner Famous Singers of the Past: Orpheus, Erato, Meresamun, King
David, Solomon, Sappho, Cleopatra, Amergin, Taliesin, Taillefer, Caedmon,
Galfrid, Blondel de Nesle, Albert de Rippe, Philip van Wilder, Sir Thomas Wyatt,
Best duets: "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" by Aretha Franklin and
George Michael, "Ever Changing Times" by Aretha Franklin and Michael McDonald, "Seven Spanish Angels" by Ray Charles and Willie
Nelson, "Love Hurts" by the Everly Brothers, "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" by
Simon & Garfunkel, "I'll Fly Away" by Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch, "Stay"
by Bruno Mars and Rihanna, "Don't Know Much" by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron
Neville, "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, "Time to Say Goodbye"
operatic pop by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and
Lionel Richie, "How Great Thou Art" by Jennifer Nettles and John Glosson,
"Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, "Islands in the Stream"
by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, "What Kind of Fool" by Barbara Streisand and
John Legend, "Guilty" by Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb, "Don't Give Up" by
Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher, "Under Pressure"
by Freddy Mercury and David Bowie, "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" by Barbara
Streisand and Donna Summer, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks and
Tom Petty, "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes,
"You're the One that I Want" by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta, "Somethin'
Stupid" by Frank and Nancy Sinatra (father and daughter duet), "Don't Go Breaking My
Heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee, "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and
Stevie Wonder, "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
The Best Vocal Performances by
Whitney Houston: "I Have Nothing," "I Will Always Love You," "One Moment
in Time," "How Will I Know," "Run to You," "Greatest Love of All," "I Wanna Dance with
Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "Saving All My Love for You," "Didn't We Almost Have
It All," "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," "All the Man that I Need," "How Will I
Know," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So
Whitney Houston may be the greatest "diva" of all time, whatever the term means.
But if we are talking about great vocalists and great voices, who cares about
the other aspects of being a so-called diva (looks, glamour, being demanding)?
Whitney Houston had one of the all-time great voices, and when she had the right
song she was virtually flawless. My favorite vocal performance by her is "I Have
Nothing" but any of her top ten vocal performances are contenders.
Roger Daltrey of the Who singing "Love Reign O'er Me" If this doesn't send chills down your spine, you may not be fully alive!
The Top Ten Vocal Performances by Prince: "Damn You," "The
Beautiful Ones," "When Doves Cry," Nothing Compares 2 U," "Little Red Corvette,"
"Thunder," "Love Thy Will Be Done," "Kiss," "Purple Rain,"
"Cream," "Insatiable," "Controversy," "Adore," "Call My Name," "When You Were
Mine," "The Cross," "Somewhere Here on
Earth," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "Raspberry Beret,"
"1999," "Sign O' the Times," "God,"
"Forever in My Life," "Sometimes it Snows in April," "If I Was Your
Girlfriend," "Alphabet Street," "Black Sweat," "Betcha By Golly Wow,"
"Scandalous," "Thieves in the Temple," "Pop Life," "Under the Cherry Moon,"
"Breakdown," and "WE" (okay, it was hard to
stop at ten with such a musical genius!)
The Top Ten Vocal Performances by Janis Joplin: "Heartbreaker,"
"Piece of My Heart," "Down on Me," "Cry Baby," "Mercedes Benz," "Summertime"
(with Jimi Hendrix), "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Me and Bobby McGee,"
"Ball and Chain," and a tie between "Kozmic Blues," "Get It While You Can" and
"Move Over" (a song she wrote herself)
The Top Ten Vocal Performances by Amy Winehouse: "You Know That
I'm No Good," "Valerie," "Back to Black," "Rehab," "Stronger Than Me," "Tears
Dry on Their Own," "Love is a Losing Game," "Fuck Me Pumps," "I Heard Love is
The Top Ten Child Singers and Children's Groups: Angelis,
Jackie Evancho, Judy Garland, Frankie Lymon, Michael Jackson and the Jackson
Five, Little Stevie Wonder, Lulu, Charlotte Church, Christina Aguilera, Ariana
Grande Honorable Mention: Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, Lesley Gore,
Brenda Lee, Tanya Tucker, Donny and Marie Osmond, Bianca Ryan, LeAnn Rimes,
Hanson, Little Stevie Winwood, Charice Pempengco, Partridge Family
The children's vocal group Angelis singing "Pie Jesu" Angelis's voices really are angelic.
The Purest Vocals of All Time (the Most Flawless Vocals Ever):
"Wicked Game" by Chris Isaac, "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor, "Only Time"
by Enya, "Without You" by Harry Nilsson, "Crying in the Chapel" and "Blue
Moon" by Elvis Presley, "Kathy's Song" and "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" by Simon
and Garfunkel, "Good Morning Girl" by Steve Perry of Journey, "Mad World" by
Adam Lambert, "God Only Knows" by Carl Wilson and the Beach Boys, "Holding Back
the Years" by Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, "She's Gone" by Darryl Hall of Hall
and Oates, "Ooh Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson of the Miracles,
"Kissing a Fool" and "One More Try" by George Michael, "All By Myself" by Celine Dion, "Mercy Mercy Me" and
"What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, "Crying" and "Leah" by Roy Orbison, "When Doves Cry" by Prince, "Go Rest High on that Mountain"
by Vince Gill, "I'll Be There"
by Michael Jackson, "Rag Doll" and "Sherry" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons,
"Angel" by Sarah McLachlan, "Lonely Teardrops" by Jackie Wilson, "True Colors" by
Cyndi Lauper, "Oh Very Young" and "Where Do the Children Play" by Cat Stevens, "La Donna e
Mobile" from Verdi’s Rigoletto by Enrico Caruso, "Vissi d’Arte" from
Puccini’s Tosca by Maria Callas, "Ave Maria" and "Pie Jesu" by Jackie Evancho
Josh Krajcik singing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" This may be the most moving performance of a song that I have ever seen ...
the joy on Josh Krajcik's face is something to behold, as is his voice.
Adam Lambert singing "Mad World" This may be one of the strongest statements against bullying ever made,
by a gay musical genius who sings from experience.
Steve Perry vocal performances: "Good Morning Girl," "Home at Last," "Winds of
March," "Foolish Heart," "Oh Sherrie," "When You Love a
Woman," "She's Mine (All Mine)," "I'll Be Alright
Without You," "Open Arms," "Send Her My Love," "Who's Crying Now," "Faithfully,"
"Wheel in the Sky," "Still They Ride," "Don't Stop Believin'," "You Better
Father," "Separate Ways," "Only the Young," "Ask the Lonely," "Sweet and
Simple," "Escape," "Stand By Me," "Message of Love," "Any Way You Want It,"
"Patiently," "Be Good to Yourself," "Girl Can't Help It," "Stone in Love,"
"Lights," "Stay Awhile," "Strung Out," "Cupid," "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'"
Steve Perry is an amazing vocalist. He hits those high notes with laser-like
precision. No male vocalist can sing a Steve Perry song as clearly and as
beautifully as Steve Perry. Elvis Presley may have been a greater vocalist
because he could sing bass and a rich, warm baritone, but when it comes to
hitting those ultra high notes with utter clarity, Steve Perry has no rivals
among the male singers. Celine Dion may give him a run for the money ...
Steve Perry of Journey singing "Good Morning Girl" He hits those impossibly high notes so effortlessly and so sweetly.
Mick Hucknall of Simply Red singing "Holding Back the Years" If you have a functional heart, this song will shatter it.
Billy Joel singing "Until the Night" This gets my vote as the most undervalued song of all time. Whenever it came on
the radio, I would drop whatever I was doing to listen to it.
Billy Joel vocal performances: "The Downeaster Alexa," "Shout (live at Yankee
Stadium with all the growling and falsetto screaming/yodeling)," "Until the
Night," "Vienna," "Captain Jack," "Piano Man," "Scenes from an Italian
Restaurant," "Goodnight Saigon," "The Ballad of Billy the Kid,"
"Say Goodbye to Hollywood," "Only the Good Die Young," "The Stranger,"
"Leningrad," "And So It Goes," "New York State of Mind," "Allentown,"
"The Entertainer," "She's Right on Time," "The Longest Time," "Keeping
the Faith," "We Didn't Start the Fire," "The River of Dreams," "Uptown Girl,"
"Innocent Man," "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)," "Movin'
Out (Anthony's Song)," "Rosalinda's Eyes," "Just the Way You Are," "Everybody Has a Dream," "No Man's Land,"
"Prelude (The Angry Young Man)," "Souvenir," "Under the Boardwalk,"
"It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "She's Got a Way," "Lullabye (Goodnight, My
Angel)," "Stiletto," "Honesty," "Big Shot," "A Matter of Trust," "Tell Her
About It," "I Go to Extremes," "My Life," "Summer Highland Falls," "Shameless,"
According to Billy Joel himself, his top five songs are: "Vienna," "And So It
Goes," "You May Be Right," "She's Right on Time" and "Scenes from an Italian
The most Grammys won by singers: Alison Krauss and Union
Station (27), Stevie Wonder (22), Bono and U2 (22), Beyoncé (20), Vince Gill
(20), Bruce Springsteen (20), Tony Bennett (18), Aretha Franklin (18), Paul
McCartney (18), Ray Charles (17), Eric Clapton (17), Sting (16), Alicia Keys
(15), Ella Fitzgerald (13), Emmylou Harris (13), Dixie Chicks (13), Foo Fighters
(11), Shirley Caesar (11), Adele (10), Chaka Khan (10), Bonnie Raitt (10), Linda
Ronstadt (10), Taylor Swift (10), Cece Winans (10) The most Grammys nominations by singers: Beyoncé (53), Bono and
U2 (47), Dolly Parton (46), Bruce Springsteen (46), Barbara Streisand (42),
Alison Krauss and Union Station (42), Vince Gill (41), Sting (38)
Note: I did not include artists who are primarily non-singers better known for
rap, composing, conducting, playing musicians, etc. This page is about singers.
Elton John playing and singing "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" Elton said he played this song so ferociously because he imagined playing it at his own funeral.
Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees singing "I Started a Joke" Barry Gibb had the most sex appeal, but Robin Gibb had the most moving
Trivia Fact: "The Air That I Breathe" has been covered by the Hollies, the Everly Brothers,
Cliff Richard, Simply Red, Olivia Newton-John, Elvis Presley, Judy Collins,
Julio Iglasias, K.D. Lang, Hank Williams Jr., Bread, Raul Malo and the
Marvericks, and The Pierces; it was originally recorded by Albert Hammond in
The Best Vocals by
George Michael: One More Try (great expressive singing and
storytelling), A Different Corner (amazing vocals, more great storytelling,
wonderful communication of emotion), Kissing a Fool (Sinatra would be proud of
these stellar vocals, or perhaps envious!), Careless Whisper (great singing,
great sax interludes), Father Figure (more great vocals,
mature audiences only), Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me (with Elton John),
Somebody to Love (with Queen; there was only one Freddy Mercury, but there was
also only one George Freakin' Michael!), Faith (great up-tempo song with
dark and light notes), Last Christmas (one of the very best modern yuletide
songs, with Wham!), I Want Your Sex (clever, cool and cheeky), Jesus to a Child
(lovely, tender, pure vocals), White Light (marvelous vocals on what appears to
be a song about a near-death experience), Praying for Time (a song Donald Trump
should listen to!), Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
(high energy fun with Wham!), Monkey (more up-tempo fun with clever lyrics), I
Can't Make You Love Me (wonderfully pure, expressive vocals on a great cover), I
Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) with Aretha Franklin, Let Her Down Easy (more
pure, tender and lovely vocals), Freedom! '90 (good, but not as good as the
songs previously mentioned, in my opinion), I'm Your Man (more high-energy fun
with Wham!), Everything She Wants (with Wham!), The Edge of Heaven (yet another
hand-clapper and foot-stomper with Wham!), Amazing (the amazing vocals may be
better than the rather ordinary lyrics: "going down for the third time," "the
day you walked in and changed my life," etc.), Outside, Fastlove, Too Funky,
Flawless (Go to the City)
I think George Michael was a great vocalist, songwriter and performer. (In fact,
I use the word "great" a lot when I write about him, and that is no
accident.) I do have the feeling that, at times, he may have been trying to be
the male Madonna, or Robin-Thicke-ish imitator of Marvin Gaye. But I think
Michael's real strength―and a considerable one―was
what one might call "sensitive storytelling" or "tugging at heartstrings." And
there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Songs like "One More Try,"
"Careless Whisper" and "Father Figure" are very touching, as the artist puts us
in his moccasins and forces us to walk in them (thinking of the Native American
proverb about how we should learn not to judge). He also had a wonderful touch
with humor and irony, in songs like "Faith" and "I Want Your Sex." None of the
songs above are bad. The ones toward the end are less successful, in my opinion,
but it's the truly great songs toward the front of the list that really matter.
I will leave the last word to his best friend and partner in Wham!, Andrew
Ridgeley: “[George Michael] had a voice that would transport u, he was the
finest singer/songwriter of his generation & has left the best of himself 4 us.”
Wham! began as a "dance protest group" (?) and sold a stunning 25 million
records during its brief existence. I think everyone, including Ridgeley, would
attribute the group's phenomenal success to the phenomenal talents of George
The "Warmest" Voices of All Time: Andrea Bocelli singing "Nessun
Dorma," Elvis Presley singing "Peace in the Valley" and other hymns,
Mel Torme singing "Blue Moon," Ben E. King singing "Spanish Harlem," "Stand By
Me" and "I Who Have Nothing," Barry White
singing "My First My Last My Everything," Marian Anderson singing "Deep River,"
Whitney Houston singing "I Will Always Love You," Barbara Streisand singing "Stoney
End," Art Garfunkel singing "All I Know" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Bill
Withers singing "Lean on Me," Marvin Gaye singing "Mercy Mercy Me," Beyoncé
singing "Listen," Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "Sixteen Tons," Alice Fredenham
singing "My Funny Valentine," Nick Cave singing "Into My Arms," Alicia Keys singing "Fallin'" Honorable Mention: Paul Robeson, K. D. Lang, Adele, Nat King
Cole, Michael McDonald, Michael Crawford, Johnny Cash, Jason Mraz, Jackie
Evancho, Mariah Carey, Karen Carpenter, Michael Bublé, Cat Stevens, Rick Astley,
Josh Groban, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, Bing Crosby
Best performances of "The Star Spangled Banner": Carrie
Underwood at the 2010 Super Bowl, Lady Antebellum at the 2010 World Series, Jim
Cornelison on the tenth anniversary of 9-11 at Chicago's Soldier Field, Marvin
Gaye with a soulful version at a basketball game in 1983, Lady Gaga at the 2016
Super Bowl, Luther Vandross at the 1996 Super Bowl, Jennifer Hudson at the 2009
Super Bowl, Martina McBride at the 2004 World Series and the 2009 AFC
Championship Game, Kelly Clarkson at the 2012 Super Bowl, Jordin Sparks at the
2008 Super Bowl, Faith Hill at the 2000 Super Bowl, The U.S. Military Chorus at
the 2005 Super Bowl, Beyoncé at the 2004 Super Bowl, Whitney Houston at the 1991
Super Bowl during the Gulf War, Jennifer Nettles before the largest college
football crowd ever at the Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016 for a game between the
University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech
Top Ten One-Hit Wonders: "Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler, "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight
Runners, "Take On Me" by A-ha, "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco,
"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil, "True" by Spandau Ballet, "Tubthumping"
by Chumbawamba, "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum (the first song he ever
wrote and, as far as we know, the last), "In a Big Country" by Big Country (who
apparently knew they would only have one hit and named themselves after it), and
"96 Tears" by the aptly named ? and the Mysterians Honorable Mention: "The Freshmen" by the Verve Pipe, "Criminal"
by Fiona Apple, "Get It On (Bang a Gong) by T. Rex, "Layla"
by Derek and the Dominoes, "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, "All the Young Dudes" by
Mott the Hoople, "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, "Do They Know It's
Christmas" by Band Aid, "She Blinded Me with Science" by Thomas Dolby, "Until
the Night" by Benny Mardones, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by the Verve, "Truly Madly
Deeply" by Savage Garden, "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, "Sugar Sugar" by the
Archies (when I heard this song the first time the lead singer sounded exactly
like Neil Diamond), "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band, "I Ran (So
Far Away) by Flock of Seagulls (a band best known for its eclectic hairstyles
which really did look like seagull nests), "Whip It" by Devo, "Video Killed the
Radio Star" by the Buggles, C'est La Vie by Robbie Nevil, "Pass the Dutchie" by
Musical Youth, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, "Turning Japanese" by the
Vapors, "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins, "Book of Love" by the Monotones, "To
Know Him is to Love Him" by the Teddy Bears, "I'm Too Sexy (for My Shirt)"
by Right Said Fred, "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot, "Who Let the Dogs Out" by
Baha Men, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, "My Sharona" by the Knack One Hit Wonders by Actors, Actresses, Comedians and other Celebrities:
"True Love" by Grace Kelly, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" by Jerry
Lewis, "Love Me or Leave Me" by Lena Horne, "Autumn Leaves" by Steve Allen, "Cry
Me a River" by Julie London, "April in Paris" by Count Basie, "The Old
Philosopher" by Eddie Lawrence, "Deck of Cards" by Wink Martindale, "I Just
Don't Understand" by Ann-Margret, "Ringo" by Lorne Greene, "Little Ole Man" by
Bill Cosby, "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris, "Tip Toe Thru' the Tulips with
Me" by Tiny Tim, "I'm Easy" by Keith Carradine, "Don't Give Up On Us" by David
Soul, "Basketball Jones" by Cheech & Chong, "King Tut" by Steve Martin, "Makin'
It" by David Naughton, "Gee Whiz" by Bernadette Peters, "Killin' Time" by Susan
Anton, "Far From Over" by Frank Stallone, "They Don't Know" by Tracey Ullman,
"Respect Yourself" by Bruce Willis, "She's Like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze, "Do
the Bartman" by the Simpsons, "U.N.I.T.Y." by Queen Latifah, "The Chanukah
Song" by Adam Lambert, "Gigolo" by Nick Cannon, "Stars are Blind" by Paris
Hilton, "Dream On" by Neil Patrick Harris, "Ew!" by Jimmy Fallon, "The Hanging
Tree" by Jennifer Lawrence
Leonard Cohen is gone at age 82. And while Cohen may not have been one of the
greatest vocalists, he certainly inspired great vocalists with songs like
"Hallelujah" (covered by nearly everybody, including Jeff Buckley, Rufus
Wainwright, K. D. Lang, Celine Dion, Michael McDonald, Michael Bolton, Bon Jovi,
Bono, Susan Boyle, John Cale, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, LeAnne Rimes, Justin
Timberlake, Pentatonix and Il Divo), "Suzanne"
(covered by Judy Collins, Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Fairport
Convention, Peter Gabriel, Pearls Before Swine and Nick Cave), "Bird on a Wire"
(covered by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Warnes, Joe Cocker, The Neville
Brothers and Katey Sagal), "Famous Blue Raincoat" (covered by Tori Amos), "First
We Take Manhattan" (covered by R.E.M.), "I Can't Forget" (covered by the
Pixies), "Master Song" (covered by Beck), "You Know Who I Am" (covered by Mama
Cass Elliot), "I'm Your Man" (covered by Elton John and Michael Bublé), "In My
Secret Life (covered by Eric Burdon), and "Tower of Song" (covered by U2 and Tom
Leon Russell passed away at age 74. Russell is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He started out as
session player in the 1950's. In the early 1960's he played clubs in the Los
Angeles area with David Gates, later of Bread fame. Russell played on dozens of
hit records, including "Monster Mash," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Help Me Rhonda,"
"This Diamond Ring (Doesn't Shine for me Anymore)" and "Danke Schoen" by Wayne
Newton. In 1969 Russell formed Shelter Records and went solo with songs like
"Tightrope," "Lady Blue," "A Song for You," "Back to the Island,"
"Bluebird," "Roll Away the Stone," "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms," "Watching the
River Flow," "Dixie Lullaby," "This Masquerade" (covered by George Benson) and "Superstar" (covered by the Carpenters).
Who were the greatest male and female vocalists of all time? My personal votes go to Elvis
Presley and Janis Joplin. To understand why Elvis was such a great vocalist, go
back to the uncanny, almost eerie falsetto of "Blue Moon." How many male singers
can sing like that? None that I know of. Then check out his tender, sweet tenor
version of "Crying in the Chapel." But also check out the ultra-low bass G he
hits on "He'll Have to Go." Next, listen to the incredibly powerful high notes
he hits on "How Great Thou Art" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Then listen
to his undervalued masterpiece "What Now My Love" and "It's Now or Never." The
latter is wonderfully sweet ... until the power of Elvis's voice kicks in and
takes the song to another dimension. Now listen to him growl out "One Night."
Finish by listening to his enchanting country-flavored "That's Alright (Mama)"
and gospel songs like "Peace in the Valley." Try as I may, I can't think of
another male singer who can go from nearly infinite sweetness, to ferocity, to
spirituality, to tremendous power the way Elvis could, and did. Granted,
at times he could seem like a cheesy lounge act, but
with the right song he was untouchable. And he sang many great songs, both
originals and covers. As for Janis Joplin, she didn't have Elvis's range, but
she was so incredibly good at what she did that it doesn't matter. Singers would
do better to take on Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, than to challenge Janis
on songs she now owns forever, like "Heartbreaker" and "Piece of My Heart."
If anyone is going to challenge Janis Joplin, it may be her exact opposite,
Jackie Evancho. While it may be too early to tell, at age ten Jackie Evancho was
doing versions of "Ave Maria" and "Pie Jesu" for the ages. If she gets any
better, the angelic choirs may have human competition. Here is a link to my
discussion of The Best
Singers of All Time.
There is, of course, a difference between a great song and a great vocal
performance. Here are my top ten songs, on their own merits, by category. But
when a great vocalist and a great song are combined, magical things can happen:
for instance when Eric Burdon of the Animals belts out the great American folk
classic "House of the Rising Sun" or when Sam Cooke soulfully delivers his
magnificent "A Change Is Gonna Come."
Top Ten Traditional Songs: Danny Boy, Auld Lang Syne, When
Johnny Comes Marching Home, Greensleeves, Shenandoah, Molly Malone, Scarborough
Fair, Waltzing Matilda, Dixie, Yankee Doodle Dandy Top Ten Folk Songs: This Land Is Your Land, Where Have All the
Flowers Gone, Blowin' in the Wind, City of New Orleans, House of the Rising Sun,
Tom Dooley, If I Had a Hammer, Little Boxes, Ohio, Woodstock Top Ten Soul/R&B Songs: A Change is Gonna Come, What's Going On, Mercy Mercy Me, Stand By
Me, Respect, Let's Stay Together, Spanish Harlem,
Dock of the Bay, When a Man Loves a Woman, At Last Honorable Mention: I'd Rather Go Blind, River Deep Mountain
High, Proud Mary, What'd I Say, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Chain Gang, People Get
Ready, Lean On Me, You Make Me Feel Brand New, Fallin', Where is the Love,
Shaft, Lady Marmalade, On My Own, I Believe I Can Fly, Love and Happiness,
Purple Rain, Kiss, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, Bad, Billie Jean Top Ten Spiritual Anthems: Battle Hymn of the Republic, We
Shall Overcome, Oh Freedom, We Shall Not Be Moved, A Change Is Gonna Come,
Strange Fruit, People Get Ready, Peace Train, Alabama, Hold On Top Ten Hymns: Ave Maria, Pie Jesu, Amazing Grace, Silent
Night, Away in a Manger, It Is Well (With My Soul), I'll Fly Away, Peace in the
Valley, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Jesus Loves Me Top Ten Heart-Tuggers or Emotional Songs: Without You, When
Doves Cry, All By Myself, Angie, Wild Horses, As Tears Go By, Eleanor Rigby,
Bridge Over Troubled Water, Who Wants to Live Forever, Wish You Were Here Honorable Mention: Hallelujah, Holding Back the Years, The
Freshmen, Comfortably Numb, One, Hurt, Everybody Hurts, Love Hurts, One Sweet
Day, The Living Years, The Logical Song, Candle in the Wind, My Little Town, I
Will Remember You, Dust in the Wind, Angel, Angel Flying Too Close to the
Ground, Yesterday, Tears in Heaven Top Ten Country Songs: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Mama Tried,
He Stopped Loving Her Today, Crazy, I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, Seven Year
Ache, Independence Day, It's Only Make Believe, Man of Constant Sorrow Honorable Mention: Your Cheatin' Heart, I Fall to Pieces,
By Your Man, El Paso, You Don't Know Me, Seven Spanish Angels, Always on My Mind, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,
Friends in Low Places, Shameless, The Gambler, Amarillo By Morning, The Devil
Went Down to Georgia, Strawberry Wine, Coal Miner's Daughter, I Will Always Love
You, Hurt, The Thunder Rolls The Top Ten Country Songs per Rolling Stone: (10) Mammas Don't
Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, (9)
Jolene by Dolly Parton, (8) Mama Tried by Merle Haggard, (7) You Don't Know Me
by Ray Charles, (6) Stand By Your Man by Tammy Wynette, (5) Blue Yodel #9 by
Jimmy Rodgers, (4) He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones, (3) I'm So
Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams Sr., (2) Crazy by Patsy Cline, (1) I Walk
the Line by Johnny Cash
Top Ten Cover Songs: "Mad World" by Gary Jules and Adam
Lambert, the reggae version of
"Red Red Wine" by UB40, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" by Guns 'n'
Roses, "Hurt" by Johnny Cash, "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley
and K.D. Lang, "Nothing Compares
2U" by Sinead O'Conner, "Proud Mary" by Ike & Tina Turner, "Twist and Shout" by
the Beatles, "Respect" by Aretha Franklin Honorable Mention: the snarly version of "My Way" by Sid Vicious,
"Crying" by K. D. Lang, "Rock
the Casbah" by Algerian singer Rachid Taha, the reggae version of "Wichita
Lineman" by Dennis Brown, the new wave version of "Take Me to the River" by the
Talking Heads, "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin, "With
a Little Help from My Friends" by Joe Cocker, "Hazy Shade of Winter" by the Bangles, "Mister Tambourine Man" by
the Byrds, "Jolene"
by the White Stripes, "I Fought the Law" by The Clash,
"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, "Walk this Way" by Run DMC and Aerosmith, "I Love
Rock 'n' Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, "I Shot the Sheriff" by Eric
Clapton, "With a Little Help from My Friends" by Joe Cocker, "I Heard it through the Grapevine" by CCR,
"I Fought the Law" by the Clash, "Satisfaction" by Devo,
"Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley, "Not Fade Away" by the Rolling
Stones, "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann and the Earth Band,
"Because the Night" by Patti Smith, "Gloria" by Patti Smith, "All Along the
Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix & The Experience, "On Broadway" by George
Benson, "I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles, "I Will Always Love You" by
Whitney Houston, "Both Sides Now" by Judy Collins, "Both Sides Now" by Joni
Mitchell (who wrote the song originally but released her version two years after
Judy Collins made it a hit), "Woodstock" by Crosby, Stills and Nash & Young,
B. B. King is best known for singing "The Thrill Is Gone," his cover of a blues classic written by Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins. Born Riley B. King, he was nicknamed the "Beale Street Blues Boy," which was eventually shortened to "Blues Boy," then to the initials B. B.
The Top Ten Frontmen and Frontwomen: Little Richard, Jimi
Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Freddy Mercury, Mick Jagger,
Michael Jackson, Prince, Robert Plant Honorable Mention: Jon Bon Jovi, Bono, Bon Scott, David Bowie,
Boy George, Alice Cooper, David Coverdale, Eric Burdon, Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain,
Roger Daltrey, Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, Joe Elliot, Aretha Franklin,
Peter Gabriel, Lady Gaga, Rob Halford, Sammy Hagar, Debbie Harry, James Hetfield,
Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Elton John, Brian Johnson, John Lennon, Jerry Lee
Lewis, Madonna, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Meatloaf, Jim Morrison, Stevie
Nicks, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Perry, Iggy Pop, Axl Rose, Diana Ross, David Lee
Roth, Johnny Rotten, Grace Slick, Bruce Springsteen, Gwen Stefani, Sting, Geoff
Tate, Tina Turner, Steven Tyler, Ann Wilson
The Best Guest and Backing Vocals of All Time
Clare Torry using her voice as a supersonic instrument on "The Great Gig in the
Sky" with Pink Floyd
Merry Clayton providing those stratospheric backing vocals on "Gimme
Shelter" by the Rolling Stones, with lead vocals by Mick Jagger
Many years later, Lady Gaga hitting all those crazy high notes in a live
performance of "Gimme Shelter," sharing the stage with Jagger & Co.
David Bowie and Freddy Mercury backing each other up quixotically on the Queen
song "Under Pressure"
Roger Taylor and Brian May hitting those wonderfully high falsetto notes in support of lead
singer Freddy Mercury on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Years later, Adam Lambert stepping in as lead singer for Queen, after Freddy
Mercury's death; Brian May said that only Lambert could match Mercury's
Richie Sambora wailing that single word "Wanted!" on the Bon Jovi song "Wanted
Dead or Alive"
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry providing electric backing vocals on the Run DMC
cover of the Aerosmith song "Walk this Way"
Joni Mitchell singing her own backing vocals on "Song for Sharon"
The rapper Eve on the Gwen Stefani song "Rich Girl"
Gwen Stefani providing powerful backing vocals on the Moby song "South Side"
Nancy Wilson backing up her sister Ann on "Magic Man" and other Heart hits
The Best Harmonies and Best Harmonizers of All Time
Beach Boys: "The immaculate vocal harmony that made them famous was ... a sunny
fortress of euphony" on songs like "Good Vibrations" and "Help Me Rhonda"
Neville Brothers: so smooth, so hip and so good on songs like "Tell It Like It
Is" and "One Love" ... also Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt singing "Don't Know
Vogues: otherworldly yodel-like but futuristic harmonies on "Five O'Clock World"
and "You're the One"
Zombies: eerie early rock harmonies on "Time of the Season" and "She's Not
Angelis: this children's choir lives up to its name, singing like angels on
"Angel," "Pie Jesu," "Morning Has Broken" and "Over the Rainbow"
Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham singing their real-life
breakup song "Go Your Own Way"
The Carter Family: country classics like "Wildwood Flower," "Will the Circle be
Unbroken" and "The Church in the Wildwood"
Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Allison Krauss singing "Go Rest High on that
Mountain," an elegy Gill wrote for his brother
Allison Krauss, Suzanne Cox (The Cox Family) and Cheryl White (The Whites)
harmonizing on the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene"
Allison Krauss & Union Station: heavenly harmonies on bluegrass versions of
"Down to the River to Pray," "I'll Fly Away" and "Man of Constant Sorrow"
The Association: fabulous six-part harmonies on songs like "Cherish," "Never My
Love," "Along Comes Mary" and "Windy"
Everly Brothers: Phil and Don Everly were always pitch perfect on classics like
"All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Cathy's Clown," "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little
Simon & Garfunkel: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel harmonized like human angels on
"Scarborough Fair," "El Condor Pasa" and "Sound of Silence"
Mamas and Papas: impeccable harmonies on songs like "California Dreamin',"
"Monday Monday" and the John Denver song "Leaving on a Jet Plane"
Yardbirds: early rock harmonies on "For Your Love" by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page
and Jeff Beck, among others
Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Gram Parsons harmonizing on "In My Hour of
Honorable Mention: The Temptations, Bee Gees, Four Seasons, ELO, Journey, The
Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash, Queen esp. "Bohemian Rhapsody," Eagles esp. "Seven
Bridges Road," Boyz II Men esp. "End of the Road," Beatles esp. "Because" and
"Paperback Writer," ABBA, The Doobie Brothers, The Band, Yes, Moody Blues,
Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Kansas, The Carpenters, Soggy Bottom Boys, The Staves,
Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Little Big Town esp. "Boondocks"
Cover Wars: Let the Battles Begin!
"Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton was covered by a sassy white boy who did pretty
well for himself, and became known as the King of Rock'n'Roll. But the original
was more bluesy and ballsy.
"That's All Right, Mama" was recorded by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup at the Sun
recording studio in 1954, with Elvis Presley playing guitar. The King wins this
time, with his up-tempo version and sexier vibe.
"I Can't Stop Loving You" was a country song by Don Gibson, covered by Ray
Charles. Needless to say, Ray Charles made the song his own, for all time, and is
the clear winner.
"Me and Bobby McGee" was a country song by Kris Kristofferson, until Janis
Joplin covered it blues-ily, shortly before her death. It became her only number
one hit. Janis rules!
"Dazed and Confused" was a folk song by Jake Holmes, covered by the Yardbirds
and Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant and company are the clear winners here.
"All Along the Watchtower" was another folk song, by Bob Dylan ... until Jimi
Hendrix covered it. Thereafter, even Dylan considered his performances tributes
to the genius of Hendrix.
"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen has been covered by many singers, including Jeff
Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. My favorite version is the killer one by K. D.
"Ave Maria" is a much-covered hymn. My favorite interpretations are by Jackie
Evancho (age 10!), Christina England Hale, Maria Callas, Celine Dion, Andrea
Bocelli and Josh Groban.
"Nothing Compares 2 U" was a Prince song, until Sinead O'Connor recorded a
stripped-down version that became one of the best and most emotional vocals of
"Not Fade Away" was an upbeat song by Buddy Holly and the Crickets, covered by
the Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger playing castanets! I love the Stones, but
Holly wins this battle.
"I Will Always Love You" was a country song by Dolly Parton, covered by Whitney
Houston. This became Houston's signature song, and perhaps the ultimate "diva"
"Respect" was an Otis Redding song ... until Aretha Franklin covered it, making
it her signature song and an anthem of the women's liberation movement.
"Because the Night" was a Bruce Springsteen reject, until the godmother of punk,
Patti Smith, altered the lyrics and turned it into her biggest hit.
"Blinded by the Light" was another Bruce Springsteen non-hit, until it was
covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band and went straight to number one! Mann's the
man, in this battle.
"All By Myself" by Eric Carmen was covered by Celine Dion. While I love both
versions, I vote for Carmen's in a very close decision. Yes, his vocals truly
are that good!
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" sung originally by Art Garfunkel, was covered by
Elvis Presley and many other singers. I give the nod to Garfunkel by a nose over
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan was covered by Axl Rose of Guns N'
Roses. While this may be Dylan's best vocal performance, he can't match the
chops of one of the great wailers in top form.
"Mad World" by Tears for Fears was covered by Gary Jules and Adam Lambert. The
first two are good, but Lambert is the clear winner―both
for the clarity of his voice and the genuineness of his delivery.
"Without You" by Badfinger was covered by Harry
Nilsson and Mariah Carey. Nilsson's version is my number one rock song of all
time, although Carey's version is also stellar. Badfinger is a distant third.
"Layla" by the electric Eric Clapton is pitted against
his acoustic self. Both versions are killer, but I will give a slight nod to the
acoustic version. Clapton rules, regardless of the type of guitar he picks up!
"Red Red Wine" by Neil Diamond was covered by UB40. I love UB40's
reggae-flavored version of the song, so it's my clear winner.
"Proud Mary" by John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival was covered by Ike
and Tina Turner. Both versions are excellent, but the Turners took the song to a
whole new level, energy-wise.
"I Who Have Nothing" was originally sung by Ben E. King and has been covered by
many artists, including Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Joe Cocker. To my
surprise, I like the raw emotion of the Jones version best.
"Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell was covered by Judy Collins, who actually
released her version first. It's a lovely song in two very different flavors, so
I'm declaring a tie here.
"On Broadway" was a hit for the Drifters; George Benson infused the song with
smoky soul and R&B elements. The Drifters were great, but Benson wins this
"Twist and Shout" was an Isley Brothers song, covered by the Beatles. John
Lennon had a cold and his voice was very raspy and almost gone ... but the
result was magic, in one take.
"With a Little Help from My Friends" was a Beatles song, covered by Joe Cocker.
Turnabout is fair play, since the Beatles covered songs themselves. Cocker wins,
The Top Twenty Most Moving, Unexpected and Eye-Opening Vocal Performances
Captured During Talent Show Auditions
(#20) Panda Ross singing "Bring it on Home" to Simon Cowell on The X Factor USA
Lucie Jones, a young singer from a tiny Welsh village, tackles an international
monster by singing "I Will Always Love You" on Britain's Got Talent,
and kills it
James Arthur singing and rapping "(Forgive Us, We're) Young" emotively on The X Factor UK
Carlos Guevara's singing "Gravity" on The X Factor USA
Rion Page singing "Blown Away" on The X Factor USA
Michael Grimm singing "You Don't Know Me" on America's Got Talent
Bella Ferraro singing "Skinny Love" on The X Factor UK
Alex & Sierra singing "Toxic" on The X Factor USA with real
Jamie Archer belting out “Sex on Fire” on The X Factor UK and getting Simon
Cowell to lip-synch while the crowd went wild and sang along
Sawyer Fredericks singing "I am a Man of Constant Sorrow" on The Voice USA
Charlotte and Jonathan singing "The Prayer" on Britain's Got Talent; Jonathan
ignored Simon Cowell's advice to dump Charlotte, but the group did change its
name to Jonathan and Charlotte
(#9) Clay Aiken singing "Solitaire" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" on American
Carly Rose Sonenclar singing "Feeling Good" on The X Factor USA
Elfin and adorable Janet Devlin singing "Your Song" in a lovely
breathless voice on The X Factor UK
Alice Fredenham singing "My Funny Valentine" like a golden-age
chanteuse on Britain's Got Talent
Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent,
and quickly converting all the rolling eyeballs into receptacles of awe and true belief
Katherine McPhee singing "Somewhere Over
the Rainbow" on American Idol
Joshua Ledet singing "It's a Man's Man's
Man's World" on American Idol
Jordan Smith singing "Chandelier" and
"Halo" on The Voice USA
Billy Gilman, a former child star, singing
"Crying," "Anyway" and "I Surrender"
Wé McDonald transforming her squeaky
speaking voice into a soul monster on "Feelin' Good," "Take Me to Church" and
"God Bless the Child"
Jordin Sparks singing "(With) A
Broken Wing" and "I Who Have Nothing" on American Idol
Sundance Head singing soulful, bluesy
country versions of "At Last," "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Me and Jesus"
and "Darlin' Don't Go"
Jackie Evancho's debut at age ten, singing "Ave Maria" and "Pie Jesu" like an
angel on America's Got Talent
Andrew Johnston, a thirteen-year-old victim of bullying, singing "Pie Jesu"
in an impossibly high, sweet register on
Britain's Got Talent
(#3) Haley Reinhart singing "Bennie and the
Jets," "I Who Have Nothing," "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "House of
the Rising Sun" on American Idol
Adam Lambert, another victim of bullying, singing "Mad World," "A
Change Is Gonna Come," "Satisfaction" and "Whole Lotta Love" on American Idol
Josh Krajcik singing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for The X
Factor USA judges Nicole Scherzinger and Enrique Iglesias
Trivia: In addition to winning the Voice 2016, Sundance Head also made the top
eight men on American Idol (sixth season). Give the man a gold star for
versatility, as he competed ably with songs as diverse as "Jeremy," "Nights in White
Satin," "Stormy Monday," "At Last," "Me and Jesus" and "Mustang Sally."
Best Comeback: Billy Gilman (a child country star, after his voice changed he
came back as a pop singer covering songs by Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Roy
Orbison, Queen and Frank Sinatra)
Most Charismatic: Jamie "Afro" Archer and Danyl Johnson
Most Energy: Danyl Johnson
Most Adorable: Jackie Evancho and Janet Devlin
Best Chemistry: Alex & Sierra
Biggest Surprise: Charlotte and Jonathan, Susan Boyle, Wé McDonald, Sundance
Most Eye-Rolling: Susan Boyle, before she started to sing and converted the
audience (and Simon Cowell) to the true faith in her voice
Old Souls: Alice Fredenham and Carly Rose Sonenclar
Best Chance to be the Next Elvis: Adam Lambert
Brian Justin Crum singing "Creep" on America's Got Talent, Paul Potts singing "Nessun Dorma" on Britain's Got Talent, Christina
Grimmie singing "Wrecking Ball" on The Voice USA, Connor Scott singing "Starry
Eyed" on The Voice UK, Cher Lloyd singing "Turn My Swag On" on The X Factor UK,
Jack Vidgen singing "I Have Nothing" on Australia's Got Talent, Max Milner
singing and rapping "Lose Yours/Come Together" on The Voice UK, Taylor Phelan
singing "Sweater Weather" on The Voice USA,
Chelsea Redfern singing "Purple Rain" on Britain's Got Talent,
Sophie May Williams singing "Time After Time" on The Voice UK, Chris
Daughtry singing "Hemorrhage" and "I Walk the Line" on American Idol, Pia
Toscano singing "I'll Stand By You" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" on
American Idol, Carrie Underwood singing "Alone" and "Independence Day" on
American Idol, Jennifer Hudson singing "The Circle of Life" on American Idol,
Jason Castro singing "Hallelujah" on American Idol, Kelly Clarkson singing "A
Moment Like This," "Respect" and "Natural Woman" on American Idol, David Cook
singing "Eleanor Rigby" and "Billie Jean" on American Idol, Kris Allen singing "Ain't
No Sunshine (When She's Gone)" on American Idol, David Archuleta singing "Imagine" on American Idol,
Melanie Amaro singing "I Have Nothing" on the X Factor USA, Rachel
Potter singing "Somebody to Love" on X Factor USA, Mateusz Ziółko singing "When
a man loves a woman" on The Voice of Poland, Trent Harmon singing
"Chandelier" on American Idol, Caleb Johnson singing "Dream On" on American
Idol, Fantasia Barrino singing "Summertime" on American Idol
The Voice 2016 Final Standings/Rankings: Sa'Rayah (#8), Darby Walker (#7),
Courtney Harrell (#6), Austin Allsup (#6), Aaron Gibson (#5), Brendan Fletcher
(#5), Ali Caldwell (#5), Christian Cuevas (#5), Josh Gallagher (#4), Wé McDonald
(#3), Billy Gilman (#2), Sundance Head (#1) ... all winners, no losers!
Best up-tempo and/or "feel good" songs: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by George Michael of Wham!,
"Faith" and "Monkey" by George Michael, "Forget You" by Cee-Lo Green, "Walking
on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves, "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang, "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin,
"Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard, "Whole Lotta
Shakin' Goin' On" by Jerry Lee Lewis, "Shock the Monkey" by Peter Gabriel,
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, "Twist and Shout" by the Beatles,
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, "Book of Love"
by the Monotones, "At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors, "Duke of Earl" by Gene
Chandler, "Come and Go with Me" by the Dell Vikings, "Young Blood" by the
Coasters and as covered by Bad Company, "Rockin' Robin" by Bobby Day and as
covered by Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five, "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida, "Louie
Louie" by the Kingsmen, "Only the Good Die Young" by Billy Joel, "Crocodile
Rock" and "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John," "Rapture" by Debbie Harry and
Blondie, "Roar" by Katy Perry, "(Girls) Run the World" by Beyoncé,
"It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
Best eerie, bizarre and unusual songs: "Israelites (Don't want
to end up like Bonnie and Clyde") by Desmond Dekker & the Aces; "Five O'Clock
World" by the Vogues; "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by the Tokens; "I'm Flying in
Winchester Cathedral" by Crosby, Stills & Nash; "Solsbury Hill" by Peter
Gabriel; "Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle; "Until the Night" by Billy Joel;
"Captain Jack" by Billy Joel; "White Room" by Cream; "Whiter Shade of Pale" by
Procol Harum; "Ghosts" by Dan Fogelberg; "Ghost/Haunted" by Beyoncé;
"Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd; "Ben" by Michael Jackson (a love song to a
rat!); "Every Breath You Take" by the Police (a stalker song that people get
married to!); "Alone" by Heart (an obsessive stalker song sung by a woman: "And
now it chills me to the bone: How do I get you ALONE?"); "One" by U2 (another
bizarre song people get married to, with lyrics like "Have you come here to play
Jesus to the lepers in your head?"), "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young,
"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
The Top Ten Country Music Vocals of All Time
Hank Williams Sr. singing "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Lovesick Blues" and
"Your Cheatin' Heart"
Merle Haggard singing "Today I Started Loving You Again" and "Mama Tried"
George Jones singing "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
Patsy Cline singing "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces"
Johnny Cash singing "I Walk the Line" and "Ring of Fire" (the first a vow to be
faithful to his wife, the second a song written by his mistress June Carter)
Roseanne Cash singing "Seven Year Ache" (she is Johnny Cash's daughter)
Willie Nelson singing "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," "Always on My
Mind" and "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"
Martina McBride singing "Independence Day"
Conway Twitty singing "It's Only Make Believe" and "Hello Darlin'"
Garth Brooks singing "The Thunder Rolls," "The Dance," "The River," "Friends in
Low Places," and "Shameless" (a song written by Billy Joel)
High Honorable Mention: "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell, "King of the Road"
by Roger Miller, "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford, "El Paso" by Marty
Robbins, "Forever and Ever Amen" by Randy Travis, "Amarillo by Morning" by
George Strait, "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and "The Highwayman" by Kris
Kristofferson, "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" by Charley Pride, "Coal Miner's
Daughter" by Loretta Lynn, "Blue Yodel #1" ("T" for Texas") by Jimmy Rodgers,
"Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette, "Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson, "Seven
Spanish Angels" by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson, "Fire on the Mountain" by
Charlie Daniels, "Jolene" by Dolly Parton, "Delta Dawn" and "Would You Lay with
Me in a Field of Stone" by Tanya Tucker, "All the Gold in California" and
"Midnight Choir" ("Will there be Mogen David in Heaven?") and "Broken Lady" by
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, "It Turns Me Inside Out" by Lee Greenwood,
"Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle, "I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift,
"Harper Valley PTA" by Jeanie C. Riley
The Top Ten Gospel Songs of All Time
Enya angelically singing "O Come O Come Emmanuel"
Vince Gill singing "Go Rest High on that Mountain" (a song he wrote for his
brother after his death)
Mahalia Jackson singing
"Trouble of the World"
Aretha Franklin and Joe Ligon of The Mighty Clouds
Of Joy singing "I've Been in the Storm Too Long" with tremendous passion,
conviction and artistry
Elvis Presley singing "Peace in the Valley"
Hank Williams Sr. singing "I Saw the Light"
Patti Labelle singing "You'll Never Walk Alone"
Etta James singing "Amazing Grace"
"It Is Well With My Soul" By Wesley Pritchard and
Gillian Welch with Allison Krauss singing a bluegrass version of "I'll Fly Away"
High Honorable Mention: "Down to the River to Pray" by Allison Krauss, "Mary Did
You Know" by Pentatonix, "Can the Circle be Unbroken" by The Carter Family, "El
Shaddai" by Amy Grant, "People Get Ready" by Al Green, "The Holy City
(Jerusalem) by the Three Tenors, "You Raise Me Up" by Celtic Women, "The Prayer"
by Celine Dion and Josh Groban, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier
The Best Vocal Performances of All Time (Expanded List)
Janis Joplin belting out Heartbreaker, Piece of My Heart, Mercedes Benz, Bobby McGee, Summertime, Down on Me, Move Over, Try, Cry
Baby, Kozmic Blues
(or anything, really)
Amateurs need not apply when Etta James, the "ultimate blues mama," is singing
At Last, I'd Rather Go Blind, I've Been Loving You Too Long, Stormy Weather, I
Just Wanna Make Love to You
Luciano Pavarotti singing Ave Maria, Nessun Dorma, O Sole Mio, Caruso, La Donna
e Mobile, Torna a Surriento, All for Love, It's a Man's World with James Brown
Andrea Bocelli singing Con te Partiro, Nessum Dorma, Ave Maria, The Lord's Prayer with the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir, The Prayer with Katherine McPhee, Time to Say Goodbye with
Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit, Summertime, God Bless the Child, All of
Me, I'll Be Seeing You, Gloomy Sunday, Solitude, For All We Know, Forever Young,
As Time Goes By
Julie London sweetly and smokily singing Cry Me a River, Blue Moon, My Funny
Valentine, As Time Goes By, God Bless the Child, Fly Me to the Moon, Sway,
Perfidia, When I Fall in Love
Aretha Franklin singing Spanish Harlem, Chain of Fools, Respect, Think, Natural
Woman, Nessun Dorma, I Knew You Were Waiting, I Get High, A Change is Gonna
Come, Hold On I'm Comin'
Elvis Presley singing Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, In the Ghetto,
Suspicious Minds, Hound Dog, Burning Love, Teddy
Bear, Love Me Tender, Can't Help Falling in Love, Blue Suede Shoes, Peace in the Valley
K. D. Lang singing Hallelujah, Crying (solo and with Roy Orbison), Constant
Craving, Helpless, The Air that I Breathe, Miss Chatelaine, Full Moon Full of
Love, I'm Down to My Last Cigarette
Whitney Houston singing I Have Nothing, I Will Always Love You, One Moment
in Time, How Will I Know, Run to You, Greatest Love of All, I Want to Dance with
Jackie Wilson "Mr. Excitement" with that four-octave voice singing Lonely Teardrops, (Your Love
Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, (That's Why) I Love You So, Danny Boy,
Chain Gang, Reet Petite
Chuck Berry singing Johnny B. Goode, No Particular Place to Go, Maybellene,
Nadine, Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music, Downbound Train, Promised
Land, My Ding-a-Ling, Little Queenie
Ronnie James Dio singing Holy Diver, Rainbow in the Dark, Stargazer, Last in
Line, Heaven and Hell, Man on the Silver Mountain, This is Your Life, Neon
Knights, The Sign of the Southern Cross
Percy Sledge singing When a Man Loves a Woman with tremendous
passion and conviction; also Try a Little Tenderness, If Loving You is Wrong, Cover
Me, Bring It on Home to Me
Josh Groban singing You Raise Me Up, To Where You Are, Broken Vow, February
Song, The Prayer, O Holy Night, I Believe, Awake, You Are Loved (Don't Give Up),
Brave, Remember Me
Sam Cooke singing A Change Is Gonna Come (the soulful song he wrote after
hearing Blowin' in the Wind), Chain Gang, Cupid, Bring it on Home to Me, You
Send Me, Another Saturday Night, Wonderful World
Barbara Streisand singing Memory, Somewhere, Guilty (with Barry Gibb), Stoney
End, Woman in Love, The Way We Were, Evergreen, People, What Kind of Fool, You
Don't Bring Me Flowers
Marvin Gaye beautifully singing Sexual Healing, Let's Get It On, Mercy Mercy Me, What's Going On (in the
latter he told fathers there was no need to "escalate," only to be shot to death
by his own father)
Martina McBride singing Independence Day, Broken Wing, Anyway, Concrete Angel,
I'm Gonna Love You Through It, This One's for the Girls, In My Daughter's Eyes,
O Holy Night, Do You Hear What I Hear
Alicia Keys singing Fallin', No One, Girl on Fire, If I Ain't Got You, Wild
Horses, In Common, Holy War, A Woman's Worth, Hallelujah, If I Was Your Woman
Bruno Mars singing When I Was Your Man, Stay (with Rihanna), Grenade, Just the Way You Are, It Will
Rain, Locked Out of Heaven, Uptown Funk, Marry You, Gorilla, Count on Me, 24
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones singing (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, Wild Horses, Angie, Miss You, Shattered,
Paint It Black, Sympathy for the Devil, Gimme Shelter, Brown Sugar
John Lennon of the Beatles gently crooning the ultimate peace anthem, Imagine,
belting out Twist and Shout with all those primal screams, or singing Working
Class Hero, Give Peace a Chance, Mother, Instant Karma
Little Richard, who taught Lennon those primal screams, performing Tutti Frutti, Good Golly Miss Molly, Lawdy Miss
Clawdy, Lucille, Long Tall Sally
Paul McCartney of the Beatles singing Hey Jude, Let It Be, Eleanor Rigby,
Yesterday, Penny Lane, All My Loving, Uncle Albert, Band on the Run, Maybe I'm
Amazed, Live and Let Die
George Harrison of the Beatles singing Here Comes the Sun, While My
Guitar Gently Weeps, Dark Horse, My Sweet Lord, Something, What Is Life, Give Me
Ringo Starr of the Beatles singing With a Little Help from My Friends, Yellow
Submarine, Photograph, It Don't Come Easy, The No-No Song, You're Sixteen, Back
George Michael of Wham! singing Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Last Christmas,
Freedom, I'm Your Man, Faith, Careless Whisper, Father Figure, I Want Your Sex
Jimi Hendrix playing and singing All Along the Watchtower, Purple Haze, The Wind
Cries Mary, Hey Joe, Voodoo Chile, Little Wing, Angel, Foxy Lady
Ray Charles singing What I Say, Hit the Road Jack, I Can't Stop Loving
You, Georgia on My Mind
Lady Gaga singing (I Was) Born
This Way, Poker Face, Paparazzi, Edge of Glory, Alejandro, You and I, Monster,
Just Dance, Applause, The Star Spangled Banner, Bad Romance, Telephone, The
Sound of Music
Rihanna singing Stay, Diamonds, Umbrella, Love the Way You Lie, Russian
Roulette, We Found Love, Take a Bow, What's My Name
Beyoncé Knowles singing Halo, Heaven, Jealous, No Angel, If I Were a Boy, Crazy
in Love, Irreplaceable, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Love on Top
Tanya Tucker singing Delta Dawn, Would You Lay with Me in a Field of Stone?,
It's a Little Too Late (To Do the Right Thing), What's Your Mama's Name Child?,
Two Sparrows in a Hurricane
The Everly Brothers singing those amazing harmonies on Love Hurts, Bye Bye Love,
All I Have to Do is Dream, Wake Up Little Susie, Cathy's Clown, Let It Be Me,
Take a Message to Mary
Mahalia Jackson singing Trouble of the World, Amazing Grace, There Is a Balm in
Gilead, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, Elijah Rock
Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable, Mona Lisa, When I Fall in Love (It Will Be
Forever), The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Gene Chandler singing Duke of Earl, Just Be True, Bless Our Love, What Now
James Brown singing (I Got You) I Feel Good, It's a Man's World, Please Please
Please, Get on Up, Papa's Got a
Brand New Bag, Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud, Try Me, Night Train,
Living in America
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth belting out Love Hurts, one of the greatest love
songs of all time, and Hair of the Dog ("Son of a Bitch")
Michael Hutchence of Simply Red singing Holding Back the Years, If
You Don't Know Me By Now, Money's Too Tight to Mention and You Make Me
Feel Brand New
Bruce Springsteen singing Born to Run, Thunder Road, Rosalita, She's the
One, Jungleland, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Glory Days, Dancing in the Dark, Born
in the USA, Backstreets, The River, Atlantic City, Badlands
Tina Turner singing the heck out of River Deep Mountain High, Proud Mary, Nutbush,
Private Dancer, What's Love Got to Do with It, We Don't Need Another Hero
Lou Christie hitting those laser-like high notes on Lightnin' Strikes (Again)
and Two Faces Have I
Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees with their quavering falsettos
singing Words, Run to Me, I Started a Joke, Massachusetts, One, To Love
Somebody, How Do You Mend a Broken Heart, Jive Talkin'
Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons invoking his
powerful falsetto on Rag Doll, Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like a Man,
Dawn, December 1963 (Oh, What a Night), Can't Take My Eyes Off of You
Al Stewart with that sweet, haunting voice singing Roads to Moscow, Time
Passages, Year of the Cat, Song on the Radio, On the Border
Peter Gabriel of Genesis singing In Your Eyes, Sledgehammer, Solsbury Hill,
Shock the Monkey, Big Time, Biko, Red Rain, Games Without Frontiers
Lou Gramm of Foreigner singing I Want to Know What Love Is, Urgent, Juke Box
Hero, Hot Blooded, Cold As Ice, Long Long Way From Home, Double Vision, Waiting
for a Girl Like You
Sinead O'Connor angelically and hauntingly singing Nothing Compares 2U, House of the Rising Sun,
Danny Boy, Molly Malone
Cat Stevens singing Oh Very Young, Peace Train, Moonshadow, Morning Has Broken,
Where Do the Children Play, Wild World, Can't Keep It In
Dan Fogelberg singing Ghosts, The Sand and the Foam, The Reach, The
Lion's Share, Longer, Same Old Lang Syne, Make Love Stay, Netherlands, Power of
Eric Carmen of the Raspberries singing All By Myself, Hungry Eyes, Never Gonna
Fall in Love Again, Go All the Way, I Wanna Be with You, Let's Pretend, I'm
Through with Love
Cher singing Gypsies Tramps and Thieves, Believe, If I Could Turn Back Time,
Half-Breed, I Got You Babe, The Beat Goes On, Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
Sonny and Cher singing I Got You Babe, Bang Bang, The Beat Goes On, It Never
Rains in Southern California
Jackson Browne singing Doctor My Eyes, The Pretender, The Load-Out / Stay (with
David Lindley's falsetto on Stay), Running on Empty, Rock Me on the Water, Here
Come Those Tears Again, Take It Easy
Bob Seger singing Turn the Page, Like a Rock, Night Moves, Against the Wind,
Roll Me Away, Still the Same, Main Street, We've Got Tonight, Old Time
Linda Ronstadt singing Different Drum, Blue Bayou, You're No Good, When Will I
Be Loved, I Don't Know Much with Aaron Neville
Patti Labelle singing Lady Marmalade, On My Own (with Michael McDonald), New
Attitude, Stir It Up
Brad Delph of Boston singing More Than a Feeling, Foreplay/Long Time, Smokin',
Can'tcha Say You Believe in Me, Peace of Mind, Hollyann, We're Ready, Rock &
Roll Band, Let Me Take You Home Tonight
Steve Walsh of Kansas singing Dust in the Wind, Carry on My Wayward Son, Point
of Know Return, All I Wanted, Play the Game Tonight, People of the South Wind
Michael Hutchence of INXS singing Devil Inside, Need You Tonight, Suicide
Blonde, Way of the World, Let It Ride, Shine, Not Enough Time, Never Tear Us
Apart, New Sensation
Johnny Cash singing I Walk the Line (a song in which he pledged to be faithful
to his wife) and Ring of Fire (a song written by his mistress)
Gary Brooker of Procol Harum singing the eerie masterpiece Whiter Shade of Pale
(the most-performed and most-played song in England over the last 70 years)
Simon & Garfunkel singing Bridge Over Troubled Water, El Condor Pasa, America,
The Boxer, The Sound of Silence, Homeward Bound, Cecilia, I Am a Rock, Kathy's
Song, For Emily Wherever I May Find Her
Buddy Holly singing Rave On, Not Fade Away, Words of Love, It Doesn't Matter
Anymore, True Love Ways, Everyday, That'll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy!, It's
Howlin' Wolf singing Smoke Stack Lighting, Back Door Man, Cause of It All, How
Many More Years, Moanin' at Midnight, I Asked Her for Water (She Brought Me
Louis Armstrong singing Hello Dolly, Saint James Infirmary Blues, What a
Wonderful World, When the Saints Go Marching In, Jeepers Creepers, You'll Never
Walk Alone, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen
Hank Williams Sr. singing I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Lovesick Blues, Your
Cheatin' Heart (Will Tell on You), Hey Good Lookin', Kaw-Liga, Cold Cold Heart,
Jerry Lee Lewis singing Great Balls of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On, Wild One,
I'm on Fire
Christian Aguilera belting out the James Brown classic It's a Man's World,
proving that it really isn't any longer, or I Will Be, Oh Mother, Beautiful, Hurt, At Last and
Genie in a Bottle
Eminem rapping on Stan, Lose Yourself, Love the Way You Lie, The Real Slim
Shady, My Name Is, Not Afraid, Headlights, Rap God, Smack That, Without Me,
Cleanin' Out My Closet
Vince Gill singing Go Rest High on that Mountain (a song he wrote initially for
Keith Whitely, then finished as an elegy for his older brother Bob)
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys singing God Only Knows, In My Room, Good
Vibrations, I Get Around, Little Saint Nick, Don't Worry Baby
Smokey Robinson singing Tracks of My Tears, Tears of a Clown, Ooh Baby Baby,
Just to See Her, Cruisin'
George Jones, the most soulful country artist, singing He Stopped Loving Her
Today, She Thinks I Still Care
Neal Diamond singing I Am I Said, Solitary Man, I'm a Believer, Cracklin' Rosie,
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, Cherry Cherry, America, Love on the
Adam Levine of Maroon 5 singing She Will Be Loved, Payphone, Sugar, Moves Like
Jagger, Animals, Don't Wanna Know, One More Night
Blake Shelton singing Austin, Honey Bee, Came Here to Forget, Ol' Red, Hillbilly
Bone, God Gave Me You, She's Got a Way with Words
Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield singing "For What It's Worth"
Elvis Costello of the Attractions singing Alison, Everyday I Write the Book,
Veronica, Radio Radio, She, (What's So Funny About) Peace Love and Understanding
Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates singing She's Gone, Sara Smile, Rich Girl, Maneater,
Kiss on My List, I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)
Sam Smith singing Stay With Me, I'm Not the Only
One, Money on My Mind, Latch, La La La, Like I Can, Omen
Five for Fighting (the stage name of Vladimir John Ondrasik III)
singing Superman (It's Not Easy), 100 Years, All I
Know, The Riddle, Chances, What If
Levon Helm of The Band singing The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,
Up on Cripple Creek, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Ophelia
Ronnie Van Zandt of Lynyrd Skynyrd singing Free Bird, Simple Man, Call Me the
Breeze, Tuesday's Gone, Sweet Home Alabama, Gimme Three Steps, What's Your Name?
John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival singing Fortunate Son, Have You
Ever Seen the Rain, Who'll Stop the Rain, Proud Mary, Green River, Lodi, Run
Through the Jungle, I Put a Spell on You
Melanie Safka singing Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), Brand New Key, What Have
They Done To My Song Ma?, The Nickel Song, Ring The Living Bell, Peace Will Come
Eric Burdon of The Animals and War singing House of the Rising Sun, We Gotta Get
Out of this Place, It's My Life, Bring It on Home to Me, Don't Let Me Be
Misunderstood, Let the Good Times Roll, Spill the Wine
The Vogues yodeling their way to immortality with their eerie Five O'Clock World
Patsy Cline singing Crazy, I Fall to Pieces, Walkin' After Midnight
Amy Grant singing Breath of Heaven, El Shaddai, Agnus Dei, Baby Baby, I Will
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana singing Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come as You Are, All
Apologies, Lithium, In the Pines (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?)
Bono of U2 singing One, Pride, Sunday Bloody Sunday, With or Without You, Where
the Streets Have No Name, Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Brian Johnson of AC/DC singing You Shook Me All Night Long, Back in Black,
Hell's Bells, For Those about to Rock (We Salute You), Who Made Who, TNT, Dirty
Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Thunderstruck
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young singing their haunting version of (I'm Flying in)
Winchester Cathedral, Wooden Ships, Woodstock, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Southern
Cross, Ohio, Teach Your Children, Carry On, Deja Vu
Ron Argent and the Zombies were years ahead of their time with She's Not There
and Time of the Season
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues singing Nights in White Satin, In Your Wildest
Dreams, I'm Just a Singer in a Rock'n'Roll Band, Tuesday Afternoon, Question,
Story in Your Eyes, The Voice
Billy Joel singing Captain Jack, Piano Man, Until the Night, The Ballad of Billy
the Kid, New York State of Mind, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Goodnight
Saigon, Allentown, The Longest Time, Vienna, Honesty
Elton John singing Tiny Dancer, Levon, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Border
Song, Sacrifice, Blue Eyes, Bennie and the Jets, Rocket Man, Funeral for a
Friend, Circle of Life
Enya singing O Come O Come Emmanuel, May It Be, Orinco Flow (Sail Away), Book of Days, Only Time,
Anywhere Is, Wild Child, Storms in Africa
Cyndi Lauper singing Time After Time, Change of Heart, Hatful Of Stars, Who Let In
The Rain, Good Enough, True Colors, Sisters of Avalon, She Bop
Dido angelically singing Thank You, White Flag, Here with Me, Stan, If I Rise,
I'm No Angel, Life For Rent, Sand In My Shoes, Hunter, End of Night,
Blackbird, Don't Leave Home
Madonna singing This Used to be
My Playground, Cherish, Justify My Love, Papa Don't Preach, Like A Prayer, Ray
Of Light, Live To Tell, Take A Bow, Vogue, Angel
Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses singing Sweet Child o' Mine, Patience, Knocking
on Heaven's Door, This I Love, Welcome to the Jungle, Paradise City
Al Green singing Let's Stay Together, Love and Happiness, I'm So Tired of
Being Alone, Call Me, Livin' for You
Prince singing Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, Kiss, Raspberry
Beret, Purple Rain, 1999, I Would Die 4U, Let's Go Crazy, Nothing Compares 2U
Stevie Wonder singing Always, Fingertips, Superstition, Ribbon in the Sky,
Overjoyed, Sir Duke, I Was Made to Love Her, I Just Called to Say I Love You
Otis Redding singing I've Been Loving You Too Long, Dock of the Bay, Try a Little Tenderness,
These Arms of Mine, Respect, Shake, Tramp, A Change Is Gonna Come
Joe Cocker singing an eight-minute version of (I Get By) With a Little Help
from My Friends at Woodstock, and Up Where We Belong with Jennifer Warnes
Roy Orbison singing classic songs like Leah, In Dreams, Only the Lonely
and (of course) Crying
Jim Morrison of the Doors singing The End, Riders on the Storm, Touch Me, Light
My Fire, Break on Through (to the Other Side), L.A. Woman, People Are Strange
Roberta Flack singing The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Killing Me Softly
(With His Song), The Closer I Get to You, Where is the Love (with Donnie
Pink singing What's Going On, Try, Perfect, Just Give Me a Reason, Trouble, probably a random page from the dictionary
Adele singing Rolling in the Deep, Rumor Has It,
Someone Like You, Set Fire To The Rain, Skyfall, Turning
Tables, Chasing Pavements, One and Only, Hello, Hometown Glory, Make You Feel My
Celine Dion wailing All By Myself, the Eric Carmen classic
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple employing his crazy vocal range on Smoke on the Water,
Hush and a ten-minute
version of Child in Time
Roger Plant of Led Zeppelin displaying impressive range, artistry and
storytelling on Stairway to Heaven, Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love, Sea of Love, Kashmir, Dazed and
Confused, The Immigrant Song
Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd singing Comfortably Numb, Learning
to Fly, Wish You Were Here, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Money, The Wall, Dark
Side of the Moon, Mother, Time, Eclipse, Echoes, Hey You
Annie Lennox singing Why,
Walking On Broken Glass, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Missionary Man, Little
Bird, Here Comes The Rain Again, IPut a Spell on
Joni Mitchell singing Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock, Help Me, Both Sides Now, Free Man In Paris, River, Blue, Chelsea
Morning, You Turn Me On, For the Roses
Lara Fabian singing Je T'aime, Broken Vow
Nick Drake singing (When the) Day is Done, Pink Moon, From the Morning, Hazy
Jane I & II, River Man, Time of No Reply, Northern Sky, Thoughts of Mary Jane,
Place to Be, Cello Song, Which Will
Peter Hollens singing Shenandoah, Scarborough Fair, Down by the Salley Gardens,
The Water is Wide, Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Loch Lomond, Hallelujah with Jackie
Jackie Evancho singing Ave Maria, Nessun Dorma, Lovers, Time to Say Goodbye, or some random leaf
of the Yellow Pages
Don Henley of the Eagles singing Hotel California, Desperado, Take It Easy,
Victim of Love, Best of My Love, Life in the Fast Lane, Witchy Woman, Dirty
Laundry, Boys of Summer
Sting of the Police singing Roxanne, Fields of Gold, Every Breath You Take,
Russians, Desert Rose, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You
Michael Jackson singing Man in the Mirror, Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, Bad, Billie Jean,
Beat It, She's Out of My Life, Thriller, Black or White, Ben, Thriller
David Bowie singing Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Modern Love, Suffragette
City, Fame, Changes, Heroes, Young Americans, Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, Let's
Dance, China Girl
Mariah Carey singing Vision of
Love, Love Takes Time, Someday, I Don't Wanna Cry, One Sweet Day, Hero, Fantasy, Loverboy, Dreamlover, Without You,
Bob Marley of the Wailers singing Redemption Song, Red Red Wine, I Shot the
Sheriff, Get Up Stand Up, No Woman No Cry
Jon Bon Jovi singing Bed of Roses, Blaze of Glory, Runaway, Livin' on a Prayer,
Wanted Dead or Alive, Hallelujah, Bad Medicine, You Give Love a Bad Name, I'll
Be there for You
John Cougar Mellencamp singing Pink Houses, Jack and Diane, Cherry Bomb, Hurts So Good,
Rain on the Scarecrow
Katy Perry singing Wide Awake, Firework, E.T., Roar, The One that Got
Away, I Kissed A Girl, The One That Got Away, Part Of Me, Dark Horse
B. B. King singing The Thrill Is Gone, Lucille, How Blue Can You Get?, Why I
Sing the Blues, When Love Comes to Town
Ben E. King singing Stand By Me, Spanish Harlem
Frank Sinatra singing Strangers in the Night, My Way, I've Got You Under My
Skin, That's Life, Fly Me to the Moon, Come Fly with Me, The Way You Look
Tonight, New York New York
Neil Young singing Heart of Gold, Southern Man, After the Gold Rush, Old Man,
The Needle and the Damage Done, Ohio, Rockin' in the Free World
Rod Stewart singing Maggie May, I Don't Want to Talk about It, The
Killing of Georgie, Tonight's the Night, Downtown Train
Steve Perry of Journey singing Open Arms, Send Her My Love, Who's Crying Now,
Faithfully, Wheel in the Sky, Still They Ride, Don't Stop Believing, Mother
Father, Separate Ways
Freddy Mercury of Queen singing Killer Queen, The Show Must Go On, Crazy
Little Thing Called Love, Somebody to Love, Another One Bites the Dust, We Are
the Champions, Who Wants to Live Forever, Radio Ga Ga
Joan Baez singing Diamonds and Rust
Judy Collins singing Send in the Clowns, Both Sides Now, Someday Soon, Suzanne,
Amazing Grace, In My Life, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Carole King singing You've Got a Friend, It's Too Late, So Far Away, Been To
Canaan, I Feel The Earth Move, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Jazzman,
Take Good Care of My Baby
Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac singing Landslide, The Chain, Dreams, Rhiannon, Gypsy, Sara, Gold Dust
Woman, Stand Back, Leather And Lace, Edge Of Seventeen, If Anyone Falls
Michael Bublé singing just about anything with that
incredibly warm, smooth voice of his
Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops singing Baby I Need Your Loving
Jack Bruce of Cream singing White Room, Sunshine of Your Love and
Eric Clapton singing Layla, I Shot the Sheriff, Change the World, Knocking on
Tori Amos singing Silent All
these Years, Crucify, Cornflake Girl, Winter, Carry, Spark, God, A Sorta
Dolly Parton singing I Will
Always Love You, Jolene, Coat Of Many Colors, 9 To 5, Eagle When She Flies,
Romeo, Two Doors Down, Down from Dover
Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart singing Dog And Butterfly, Dreamboat Annie, Straight On,
Barracuda, Crazy On You, Magic Man, Never, Heartless, Even It Up
Sade singing The Sweetest Taboo, Smooth Operator, Your Love Is King, Smooth
Operator, No Ordinary Love, Soldier of Love, Kiss of Life, By Your Side
Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac singing As Long As You Follow, Songbird, The Chain, Don't Stop, Hold
Me, Over My Head, Say You Love Me, Little Lies, Think About Me
Carly Simon singing That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be (We'll Marry),
You're So Vain, Let The River
Run, Anticipation, You Belong To Me
Alanis Morissette singing Uninvited, Ironic, You Learn,
You Oughta Know, Hand In My Pocket, Thank U, Unsent, Hands Clean, Head Over Feet
Fats Domino singing Blueberry Hill
Bette Midler singing The Rose, Wind Beneath My Wings, From a Distance,
Superstar, You Don't Own Me, Hello in There, In the Mood, Boogie Woogie Bugle
Boy, I Put a Spell on You, Beast of Burden, Fire Down Below
Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane singing White Rabbit, Somebody to Love
Mary J. Blige singing Not Gon' Cry
Muddy Waters singing Got My Mojo Workin', Mannish Boy, I'm Your Hoochie Coochie
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits singing Sultans of Swing, Money for Nothing (MTV),
Walk of Life, Brothers in Arms, Romeo and Juliet
Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah, Corpus Christi Carol, Grace, Last Goodbye,
Lover You Should Have Come Over
Chris Cornell of Audioslave and Soundgarden singing Black Hole Sun, Billie Jean,
Say Hello 2 Heaven
Rob Halford of Judas Priest singing Breaking the Law, Victim of Changes,
Painkiller, You Got Another Thing Comin', Paranoid (with Black Sabbath)
Taylor Swift singing I Knew You
Were Trouble (When You Walked In), Love Story, You Belong with Me, Red, Shake It
Roy Davies of the Kinks singing You Really Got Me, Lola, Waterloo Sunset, (Girl
I Want to Be with You) All Day and All of the Night, Come
Van Morrison singing Moondance, Tupelo Honey, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria, Have I
Told You Lately that I Love You, Someone Like You
Allan Clarke of The Hollies singing Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress, The Air
that I Breathe, He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, Carrie Ann, Bus Stop, Stay,
Whiter Shade of Pale
Barry White singing My First My Last My Everything, Never Gonna Give You Up, Let
the Music Play, Practice What You Preach
Curtis Mayfield singing People Get Ready
Eddie Cochran singing Summertime Blues
Survivor belting out Eye of the Tiger
Dusty Springfield singing Son of a Preacher Man, I Only Want to Be with You, I
Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
Joss Stone singing Son of a Preacher Man, I Put a Spell on You, Summertime, Cry
Baby, Piece of My Heart (with Melissa Etheridge), People Get Ready, Here Comes
the Rain Again, Hot Legs (with Rod Stewart)
Steve Winwood of the Spencer Davis Group singing Gimme Some Lovin', I'm a Man,
Higher Love, Back in the High Life Again
Bonnie Raitt singing Nick of Time, Love Has No Pride (When I Call Out Your
Name), I Can't Make You Love Me, Something to Talk About
Boyz II Men singing One Sweet Day with Mariah Carey
Sarah McLachlan singing Angel
Chris Isaak singing Wicked Game
Jim Croce singing Time in a Bottle, Operator, I'll Have to Say I Love You in a
Song, One Less Set of Footsteps
Black Sabbath pounding out Iron Man, Paranoid and War Pigs
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden wailing Fear of the Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name,
Flight of Icarus, The Number of the Beast, Run to the Hills, Trooper
James Hetfield of
Metallica belting out Enter Sandman, Master of Puppets, One, For Whom the Bell
Tolls, Fade to Black, The Unforgiven, Creeping Death, Seek & Destroy, Battery,
Yes singing Roundabout, Owner of a Lonely Heart, I've Seen All Good People, Long
Distance Runaround, Closer to the Edge, Starship Trooper
Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes singing She Talks to Angels, Hard to Handle,
Remedy, Jealous Again
Gordon Lightfoot singing Sundown, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, If You
Could Read My Mind, Carefree Highway
Kris Kristofferson singing Sunday Morning Coming Down, Loving Her Was Easier, Me
and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make It Through the Night
Michael Stipe of REM singing Everybody Hurts, Losing My Religion
Burton Cummings of the Guess Who singing These Eyes, No Time, Laughing, American
Woman, Clap for the Wolfman, and his solo smash hit Stand Tall
ABBA singing Dancing Queen, Fernando, Waterloo, Mamma Mia, The Winner Takes It
All, Take a Chance on Me, Knowing Me Knowing You, S.O.S.
Mike and the Mechanics singing The Living Years
Thom Yorke of Radiohead singing Creep, Fake Plastic Trees
Toni Braxton singing Unbreak My Heart
Luther Vandross singing Never Too Much, Superstar, A House Is Not a Home
Usher singing Gone Too Soon (his tribute to Michael Jackson)
Boz Scaggs singing Lowdown, Lido Shuffle, JoJo, Miss Sun, Look What You've Done
to Me, Breakdown Dead Ahead, Dinah Flo, Heart of Mine
Steely Dan singing Reelin' in the Years, Do It Again, Hey Nineteen, Peg, Deacon
Blues, Rikki Don't Lose That Number, Aja
England Dan and John Ford Coley singing I'd Really Love to See You Tonight, Love
is the Answer, Nights Are Forever
Kenny Rogers singing The Gambler, Lady, Lucille (Don't Take Your Love to Town)
Lee Greenwood singing It Turns Me Inside Out, Somebody's Gonna Love You, Ring on
Her Finger Time on her Hands, She's Lying, Fool's Gold
Merle Haggard singing Momma Tried
David Phelps singing O Holy Night, Nessun Dorma,
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam singing Jeremy, Even Flow, Betterman, Black, Corduroy,
Last Kiss, (Don't Call Me) Daughter
Maynard James Keenan of Tool singing Pushit, Eulogy, Sober, Know Your Enemy, The
Barry Manilow singing Mandy, Weekend in New England
Miley Cyrus singing Lilac Wine, When I Look at You, Wrecking Ball, Jolene, The
Climb, Landslide, Don't Say It's Over, We Can't Stop, Party in the USA, Adore
You, Look What They've Done to My Song
Judy Garland singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, The Man that Got Away, The
Trolley Song (Meet Me in St. Louis), Get Happy, I'm Nobody's Baby, Singing in
the Rain, Danny Boy
Ozzy Osbourne singing Crazy Train, Mama I'm Coming Home, Paranoid, Shot in the
Dark, Bark at the Moon, Flying High Again, Suicide Solution, No More Tears, I
Don't Know, Mr. Crowley
Fred Astaire singing The Way You Look Tonight, Putting on the Ritz, Let's Face
the Music and Dance, Cheek to Cheek
Toto singing Africa, Rosanna, I Won't Hold You Back, Hold the Line, 99, Georgy
Porgy, Stranger in Town
Forgotten, Neglected and Under-Known Singers
Laura Nyro singing Stoney End, And When I Die, Eli's Comin', Wedding Bell Blues,
Stoned Soul Picnic, Sweet Blindness, Walk on By, Time and Love, Up on the Roof,
La La Means I Love You
Terence Trent D'Arby singing Wishing Well, Sign Your Name, If You Let Me Stay,
Dance Little Sister, Delicate, A Change Is Gonna Come
Marion Williams, the great gospel singer, singing We Shall Overcome, I Shall Be
Released, Oh Happy Day!, It Is Well with My Soul, Amazing Grace, Nobody Knows,
Packin' Up, Mean Old World
John Wallace, a hulking bass player, incongruously singing the falsetto
background parts of Harry Chapin's classic song Taxi
Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners singing "Come On Eileen"
Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe singing The Freshman
Richard Ashcroft of The Verve singing
Jack Ely of the Kingsmen singing the indecipherable lyrics of Louie Louie
Donny Hathaway singing This Christmas, A Song for You, For All We Know, The
Closer I Get to You, The Ghetto, Where Is the Love? with Roberta Flack,
Joan Armatrading singing Love
and Affection, Save Me, In These Times, Down to Zero, The Weakness in Me
Bobby "Blue" Bland singing I Pity the Fool, I Ain't Gonna Be the First to Cry, I
Stand Accused, Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone, Cry Cry Cry
Sandy Denny singing Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods singing Darkness, Darkness
Clare Torry hitting all those supersonic high notes on The Great Gig in the
Sky with Pink Floyd
Merry Clayton providing those stratospheric backing vocals on Gimme
Shelter by the Rolling Stones (lead vocals by Mick Jagger)
Joe Sample and Lalah Hathaway singing One Day I'll Fly Away, For All We Know,
Phyllis Hyman singing Living All Alone
Sylvia Moy singing Uptight
(Everything's Alright), My Cherie Amour, I Was Made to Love Her, It Takes Two,
Honey Chile, Here Comes Fat Albert
Talent Show, YouTube and Other Up-and-Coming Singers
Adam Lambert singing Mad World, What Do You Want from Me, Bohemian Rhapsody,
Ring of Fire, Who Wants to Live Forever
Kelly Clarkson singing Miss Independent, Natural Woman
Carrie Underwood singing Independence Day, Jesus Take the Wheel
Clay Aiken singing Solitaire, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mary Did You Know,
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
Leona Lewis singing Bleeding Love, Better in Time, Broken, Echo, My Hands, Run,
Happy, I Got You, Yesterday, Footprints in the Sand, A Moment Like This, I See
Alice Fredenham singing My Funny Valentine, Cry Me a River, Lady is a Tramp, I
Only Have Eyes for You, Crazy in Love, Another Love
Ariana Grande singing Emotions, The Way
Chris Daughtry singing Hemorrhage
Carly Rose Soneclar singing Feeling Good, Hallelujah, Somewhere Over the
Rainbow, My Heart Will Go On, Rolling in the Deep
Haley Reinhart singing House of the Rising Sun, Bennie and the Jets, I Who Have
Nothing, Rolling in the Deep, God Bless the Child, Fallin', Piece of My Heart
Jordan Smith singing Chandelier, Halo, Set Fire to the Rain, Somebody to Love,
Mary Did You Know
Billy Gilman singing Crying, Anyway, Man in the Mirror, When We Were Young,
Fight Song, Rolling in the Deep, All I Ask, One Voice
Wé McDonald singing Feelin' Good, Take Me to Church, God Bless the Child, Maybe,
No More Drama, Home, Love on the Brain
Jennifer Hudson singing The Circle of Life, I Am Changing, the Star-Spangled
Oasis singing Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova
Morrissey singing Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
Jeff Tweedy of Wilco singing Sunken Treasure, Hate It Here
Bianca Ryan singing The Rose, I'm Changing, Piece of My Heart
Paul Potts singing Nessun Dorma
Pulp singing Common People
Jason Castro singing Hallelujah
Pia Toscano singing Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, River Deep Mountain High
Regine Velasquez singing I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing, Chandelier, Titanium
Charice Pempengco singing I Will Always Love You, My Heart Will Go On, I Have
Serena Onasis, singing whistle notes higher than Mariah Carey as a young girl on
O Holy Night
Kyla singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Sam Harris singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Bridge Over Troubled Water
Singers Who May Have Been Better Poets Than Singers
Woody Guthrie singing This Land is Your Land, 900 Miles, House of the Rising
Sun, Pretty Boy Floyd, Vigilante Song, I Ain't Got No Song, Deportee, Do-Re-Mi,
Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad
Arlo Guthrie singing City of New Orleans, Alice's Restaurant, This Land is Your
Land, Motorcycle Song, Pickle Song
Pete Seeger singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone, If I Had a Hammer, We Shall
Overcome, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Little Boxes, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, Wimoweh,
Midnight Special, On Top of Old Smokey
Bob Dylan singing Like a Rolling Stone (the number one rock song according to
Rolling Stone), Blowin' in the Wind (the number one folk song), Lay
Lady Lay, Knocking on Heaven's Door, Tangled Up in Blue
John Prine singing There's a Hole in Daddy's Arm (Where the Money Goes)
Lou Reed singing Take a Walk on the Wild Side, Satellite of Love, Sweet Jane,
Tom Waits singing Downtown Train, (Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night, Tom
Traubert's Blues, Silent Night & Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,
Hell Broke Luce
Randy Newman singing Short People, God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah, Bird on a Wire, Tower of Song, Lady Midnight,
Crucial Moments in Music History: A Musical Chronology (some of the
dates are estimates, or perhaps wild guesses)
42,000 BC — Paleolithic bone flutes found in Germany are the oldest known musical instruments.
3000 BC — Possible date for early
Sumerian hymns and laments.
2285 BC —
daughter of the famous King Saragon the Great, of Akkad, is perhaps the first
ancient poet/songwriter whose name is known today; she creates the first
songbook, a collection of temple hymns.
2100 BC — King Shulgi of Sumer describes himself as a poet and
composer of songs.
2000 BC — The earth's oldest love song may be
The Love Song for Shu-Sin(Shu-Sin
was an ancient Sumerian king). Egyptians are playing percussion instruments.
1500 BC — The guitar, lyre, trumpet, and tambourine are being used by
the Hittites. Harps are being played in Egypt.
1400 BC — The Hurrian Songs are engraved on a clay tablet. This Amorite
tablet contains the earth's oldest notated music.
1000 BC — Possible date for the birth of King David, a harpist said to have written
a number of the biblical psalms.
630 BC — Birth of Sappho of Lesbos, the
first major lyric poet we know by name; her poems were "lyrics" because they
were sung to the strummings of the lyre, a harp-like instrument.
405 BC — The first music critic, Aristophanes, defends Aeschylus'
treatment of poetry and music against the brilliance of Euripides and charges
Socrates with advocating the destruction of the musical and literary traditions
658 AD —
Caedmon's Hymn is the first English lyric still extant today. (All dates
from this point forward are AD.) 735 — Bede's
The Venerable Bede was perhaps the first great English scholar, scientist and
historian. And he wrote a pretty mean song, as well!
1180 — Troubadours appear in Germany and call themselves minnesingers
or “singers about love.”
Sumer is i-cumen inaka
the"Cuckoo Song"and the"Summer Canon"
is one of the earliest surviving Middle English songs for which we have both the
lyrics and the music, along with How Long the Night. 1518 — King Henry VIII, when not beheading his wives, was a musician and
composer who created a royal songbook.
1542 — Andrea Amati of Cremona is credited with the invention of the violin,
sometime between 1542 and 1546.
1564 — Birth of William Shakespeare, who included around 100 songs in his work,
such as "Under the Greenwood Tree" and "Fear No More the Heat O' the Sun."
1565 — Perhaps because girls and women are not allowed to sing during church
services, Italian boys are castrated to preserve their ability to hit the
1579 — "Greensleeves" is perhaps the oldest
English language song that remains popular today. It was mentioned in
1597 — Dafne is the first known opera; it is performed in Florence,
1666 — The first signed Stradivarius violins emerge from Antonio Stradivari's
workshop in Cremona, Italy.
1685 — Births of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel.
1709 — The first piano is created in Padua, Italy in the shop of a harpsichord
maker named Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori.
1742 — Handel's Messiah debuts.
1756 — Birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
1770 — Birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.
1775 — British troops sing "Yankee Doodle" to mock American colonists; the
colonists defiantly adopt the song as their own. American music is coming into
1776 — Despite the ringing words of the American Declaration of Independence,
the slave trade introduces West African rhythms, work songs, chants and
spirituals to America, and they strongly influence the blues and jazz musicians
1815 ― Francis Scott Key publishes "The Star-Spangled Banner." 1824 ― Beethoven premieres his Ninth Symphony.
1846 — Adolphe Sax invents the saxophone.
1873 — Birth of Uncle Dave Macon, the "grandfather of country music." He was
also called the "Dixie Dewdrop." He would become the first star of the Grand Ole
Opry (see 1925).
1873 — Birth of the opera singer Enrico Caruso, perhaps the first great
recording star with 260 commercially released recordings, all of which remain
1877 — The phonograph is invented by Thomas Alva Edison. The rest, as they say,
1897 — Ragtime music becomes popular in the United States, paving the way for
the blues, jazz and eventually rock.
1913 ― Birth of Woody Guthrie, author of "This Land is Your Land" and
hundreds of other folk songs. He would write angry songs about the racism of
Fred Trump, the father of Donald Trump. Guthrie would be an influence on other
singer-songwriters like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Billboard magazine publishes its first chart of popular
vaudeville songs, a precursor of other more influential charts to come.
1922 ― The first commercial radio station in the United States begins
1923 ― The first recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll
Morton and other black
artists. Fiddlin' John Carson records two "hillbilly songs" and creates what we
now call "country music."
1925 ― The Grand Ole Opry begins to air on the WSM radio station in
Nashville, Tennessee. Early performers include Uncle Jimmy Thompson, Bill Monroe
and Uncle Dave Macon (the show's first real star). The Mills Brothers popularize
barbershop quartet harmonies.
1926 — Bing Crosby makes his first record and goes on to be known as the
ultimate crooner. Blind Lemon Jefferson is the first bluesman to enter a major
recording studio. He recorded around 100 tracks for Paramount Records, and more
than 40 records were published.
1927 ― The musical Show Boat debuts on Broadway. It includes the song
"Ol' Man River" and its themes include racial prejudice and tragic love.
1929 ― Rudy Vallee may have been the first American teen idol to be mobbed by
1932 ― Jazz composer Duke Ellington writes “It Don't Mean a Thing, If It Ain't
Got That Swing,” a song that presaged the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s.
1935 — Frank Sinatra earns $12.50 for his first professional performance; he
would go on to earn millions.
1937 — Hank Williams earns $15.00 for his first professional performance; he
would go on to have 11 number one country & western hits, and 35 top tens,
before dying prematurely at age 30. A two-year-old boy runs down the
aisle at his Tupelo church to sing along with the choir; his name is Elvis
1938 ― Roy Acuff joins the Grand Ole Opry.
1941 ― Les Paul builds a solid-body electrical guitar. Peter Seeger and
Woody Guthrie perform together as members of the Almanac Singers.
1942 ― Frank Sinatra is mobbed by bobby-soxers and fears for his safety.
Billboard describes Sister Rosetta Tharpe's vocals, on a re-recording of "Rock
Me," as "rock-and-roll spiritual singing." This is one of the first references
to "rock-and-roll" music, although it was more rhythm-and-blues.
1946 ― His fellow sixth-graders make fun of a weird loner who is "trashy" and
plays hillbilly music on his lunch breaks. His oddbird name is Elvis Aaron
Presley. He is a fan of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
1947 ― Sister Rosetta Tharpe catches another oddbird singing her songs, and
invites a 14-year-old Little Richard to perform on stage with her at Macon City
1948 ― Columbia Records introduces the LP record; hence, albums become possible.
Elvis Presley gets a C in his eighth-grade music class; his music teacher tells
him that he has no aptitude for singing! Elvis later remembered: "I wasn't
popular in school ... I failed music—the only thing I ever failed."
1950 ― Sam Cooke, known as "the King of Soul" and his group the Soul
Stirrers record "Peace in the Valley" and other gospel songs. But the young
girls were more interested in the handsome, charismatic lead singer than the
1951 ― Little Richard records his first single, "Every Hour," for RCA. Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed
begins his "Moondog Show" which broadcasts rhythm & blues music; he coins the term "rock and roll."
Ike Turner's "Rocket
88" has been called the first rock'n'roll record because it
featured a "fuzzed-out, over-amplified electric guitar." It was recorded at the
Memphis studio of Sam Philips, who would soon introduce Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee
Lewis and Johnny Cash to the American public. Ike Turner made a whopping $20
from the record! But as he pointed out, it was the first black music to be
played on a white radio station, and that was a very important breakthrough.
1952 ― Sam Phillips starts the Sun Records label in Memphis, Tennessee.
1953 ― Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, both age 12, begin to sing harmonies
like those of their idols, the Everly Brothers. Elvis Presley wanders into the
Memphis studio of Sam Philips and records two tracks. When asked who he sounds
like, Elvis replied, "I don't sound like nobody." But it turns out that is
exactly what the world was waiting for: somebody who sounded like nobody before
1954 ― Doo Wop climbs the pop charts. "I Got a Woman" by Ray Charles has
been called the first soul record. Sony introduces the first transistor radio.
The first jazz festival is held in Newport. Elvis Presley releases his first single, "That's Alright Mama," on the
Sun Records label of Sam Philips. He really didn't sound like anybody else, and
the song sounds as unique today as it did the day it was recorded. His music was
a fusion of hillbilly country, rhythm and blues, and something entirely new. The
blend came to be known as rockabilly. At the time, Presley was variously billed
as "The King of Western Bop," "The Hillbilly Cat" and "The Memphis Flash."
1955 ― Little Richard teaches the world how to
really rock'n'roll, with his suggestive, raunchy "Tutti Frutti."
It reaches number two on the R&B charts. Bill Haley
and the Comets have the first worldwide number one rock smash with "Rock Around
the Clock." The Comets also release the first rock LP. Rock has arrived.
When Elvis's tour reaches Odessa, Texas, a 19-year-old Roy Orbison sees him for
the first time: "His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing ... I
just didn't know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the
culture to compare it." Or as John Lennon later observed, "Before Elvis there
was nothing." RCA Victor acquires Elvis's Sun contract for the unprecedented sum
of $40,000. It was, of course, a steal.
1956 ― Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" reaches number one on the R&B
charts; he is the first black artist to attract large numbers of white people to
his concerts. Rock is becoming integrated. Elvis makes his first recordings for
RCA in Nashville. His first hits include his first number one pop smash
"Heartbreak Hotel" and a cover of "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins. Elvis's
eponymous first album is the first rock album to reach number one on the
Billboard charts, where it stays for ten weeks. Elvis "the Pelvis" performs "Hound Dog" on the
Milton Berle Show; his bump and grind act is compared to female
burlesque dancers' acts. Ed Sullivan declares Elvis "unfit for family viewing."
Then Elvis appears on the Steve Allen show and attracts 60 million viewers, an
amazing 82.6% of TV viewers, and Sullivan relents. Elvis appears on the Ed
Sullivan Show, is filmed from the waist up presumably to keep young girls
from swooning, and is
crowned the King of Rock'n'Roll. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is warned that
"Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States ... [His]
actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged
youth." Elvis's first movie, Love Me Tender, is panned by critics but
does very well at the box office. Elvis single-handedly accounts for 50% of
RCA's record sales, plus an additional $22 million in merchandise sales. The
music world has never seen anything like Elvis Aaron Presley.
1957 ― Sam Cooke has a number one R&B hit with "You Send Me." Buddy Holly and
the Crickets release "That'll Be the Day." Elvis dyes his hair black, buys
Graceland, and has three more number one singles, to go with four consecutive
number one albums. His Christmas album becomes the best-selling Christmas album
of all time. He makes his second movie, Jailhouse Rock, which includes
what may have been the first music video. Then he receives his draft notice.
Ricky Nelson is the more "acceptable" teen idol.
1958 ― Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson are born. Jimi Hendrix buys his
first guitar, for $5. Eddie Cochrane introduces the bass power chord with songs
like his classic "Summertime Blues." Little Richard gives up the
rock lifestyle to enter a seminary, after releasing 18 hit singles in three
years. Elvis joins the army, ships out to Germany, and "firmly
believes" that his music career is over ... but he has 10 Top 40 hits during his
military service. Billboard debuts its Hot 100 chart.
1959 ― Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper die in the plane
crash; it will become known as "The day the Music died". The first Grammy Awards: winners include Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman,
Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and the poet Carl Sandburg. Elvis
Presley was a nominee.
1960 ― The birth of the Twist and a dance craze. The Shirelles launch the "girl
group" era. Elvis retires from the army then quickly records one of his best
albums, Elvis Is Back! "Elvis's singing wasn't sexy, it was
pornographic." Elvis defined the term "rock star" because the album "conjured up
the vision of a performer who could be all things", in the words of music
historian John Robertson, "a flirtatious teenage idol with a heart of gold; a
tempestuous, dangerous lover; a gutbucket blues singer; a sophisticated
nightclub entertainer; [a] raucous rocker." Presley has already sold 75 million
records. His sixth number one album is county, recorded in Nashville. His gospel
album sells in record numbers, for gospel. He has been described as the greatest
white gospel singer of all time. But he starts making cheesy movie after cheesy
movie and begins to drop out of the limelight, until his comeback in 1968.
1961 ― Sam Cooke signs with RCA and has hit singles with "Chain Gang"
"Cupid," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Another Saturday Night" and "Bring It On
Home to Me" (with Lou Rawls singing backup). Del Shannon's smash hit "Runaway"
introduces an early form of the synthesizer. County singer Patsy Cline crosses over to the pop charts with "Crazy" and
"I Fall to Pieces."
1962 ― Ray Charles records a country album, fusing country with soul.
Decca Records turns down the Beatles! But Decca's loss would be EMI's gain. The Beatles replace George Best with Ringo Starr and release their first
single, "Love Me Do." The Beatles are the first teen idol boy band:
four for the price of one! Bob Dylan, age 20, releases his first album, which bears
his name. The Rolling Stones form and name themselves after a track on a Muddy
1963 ― The Beach Boys dominate the charts with three Top 10 albums. The Beatles have their first number one hit with "Please Please Me."
Little Stevie Wonder, age 13, has his first hit for the fledgling Motown Records
label. Eric Clapton joins the Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock band. Jimi
Hendrix moves to Clarksville, Tennessee and forms a band called the King Kasuals.
Hendrix comes up the idea of playing guitar with his teeth in Clarksville.
Hendrix then moves to Nashville, where he performs on Jefferson Street, the
heart of Nashville's black community and home to a thriving R&B music scene.
Simon and Garfunkel have their first number one single with "The Sound of
1964 ― Merseybeat and other British "beat" bands dominate the charts: the
Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Hollies, the Animals, the Kinks, the
Searchers, Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Freddie and the Dreamers. The Beatles
hold the top five slots in the Billboard singles charts, and perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. Beatlemania has
arrived, and the "British Invasion" is soon in full swing with groups like the
ones previously named, plus the Who, the Rolling Stones and the Zombies.
"Gloria" by Them is one of the first examples of what came to be know as "hard
rock." Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" is released shortly after his
premature death in a shooting. It is considered by many to be his greatest song
and it becomes an anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement. Cooke wrote his
song after hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."
1965 ― Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, to boos and jeers
from the audience. The Byrds' version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" with
surrealistic lines like "Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship" may be
the first example of psychedelic rock. The Rolling Stones have their first
international number one hit with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
Eric Clapton joins John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, briefly. Michael Jackson,
age 7, becomes the lead singer of the Jackson 5. The other members are his
brothers. The tykes sometimes perform at strip clubs to earn extra cash for
their allegedly abusive father.
1966 ― Cream, perhaps the first hard rock supergroup, records the album
Fresh Cream. The group features Eric Clapton, with Ginger Baker and Jack
Bruce. Jimi Hendrix forms The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The two greatest rock
guitar gods now have vehicles geared to their skills. They meet and play
together in London. Psychedelic rock evolves rapidly with Pet Sounds by
the Beach Boys, Revolver by the Beatles, and Bob Dylan insisting
repeatedly, "Everybody must get stoned!"
1967 ― The Monkees are a made-for-TV boy band. They have a string of hits but
never rival the Beatles, which seems to have been their creators' intention.
Jimi Hendrix records early hard rock hits: "Hey Joe," "Purple Haze" and "The
Wind Cries Mary." Cream records the early hard rock classic "Sunshine of Your
1968 ― Cream has the first number one hard rock album, Wheels of Fire,
which is followed quickly another number one hard rock album, Electric
Ladyland, by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix records a hard rock
version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." The Beatles record "Helter
Skelter," which would later turn up ominously in the Charles Manson murders. The
really hip, cool Elvis reemerges on TV, wearing tight black leather in what is
now called his '68 Comeback Special. The soundtrack album makes the Top
10. The King has returned to reclaim his throne, but now there are a number of
contenders and pretenders.
1969 ― Elvis has his 18th and last number one single with "Suspicious
Minds." His old Sun studio buddy, Johnny Cash, the "Man in Black," appears at San Quentin Prison.
Led Zeppelin release their first album, which bears the group's name. The Who
release the first rock opera and the first concept album, Tommy.
Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 are signed by Motown Records, with an assist
by Diana Ross of the Supremes.
1970 ― Jimi Hendrix plays an electrified hard rock version of "The Star-Spangled
Banner" at Woodstock, which draws more than half a million fans. The
Beatles disband. The first four singles of the Jackson 5 all reach number one.
The group soon has its own cartoon and TV show. Michael Jackson is well on his
way to becoming the King of Pop.
1971 ― Women dominate the Grammy Awards, taking all four top categories. Carole
King wins Record, Album and Song of the Year, while Carly Simon takes the Best
New Artist award.
1972 ― Michael Jackson has his first number one solo hit with "Ben," a love song
to a rat!
1973 ― Elvis's Aloha from Hawaii is the earth's first global concert
satellite broadcast and the soundtrack is his last number one album.
1974 ― Patti Smith, the "godmother of punk," releases what is considered to be
the first punk rock single, “Hey Joe.” Elvis wins his third and final Grammy for
the gospel song "How Great Thou Art."
1975 ― Bruce Springsteen releases Born to Run and ends up on the cover
of TIME magazine. Queen releases A Night at the Opera with the
song "Bohemian Rhapsody" among others.The Sex Pistols form in London
and create a new form of music, punk rock. 1977 ― The Bee-Gees rule the disco roost with the soundtrack to
Saturday Night Fever. Elvis has three number one country albums from
1975-1977. Elvis dies on August 16, 1977. The King is dead, but he will live
forever in the hearts and memories of his millions of fans (or perhaps
billions). Elvis holds the Billboard records for the most Top 100 hits (151) and
the most Top 40 hits (114). His 18 number one singles are second only to the
1980 ― The Sugarhill Gang cracks the Billboard Top 100 with "Rapper's Delight,"
which climbs as high as #36. Hip-hop and rap soon go mainstream. U2 releases its
first album, Boy.
1981 ― MTV airs for the first time, debuting with “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
1982 ― Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop," releases the best-selling album of
all time, Thriller. It wins 8 Grammy awards.
1983 ― Michael Jackson moonwalks while performing "Billie Jean."
1984 ― Madonna performs "Like a Virgin" in white lingerie at the MTV Music Video
Awards. Prince releases Purple Rain.
1985 ― Whitney Houston releases her first album, which is self-titled.
Madonna launches her first tour, the Virgin Tour.
1986 ― Aerosmith re-releases "Walk the Way" with the rap group Run-DMC.
1987 ― The Beastie Boys have the first hip-hop/rap record to hit number one on
the Billboard charts.
1989 ― Nirvana performs unplugged on MTV. Grunge rock has arrived. An
8-year-old Britney Spears debuts on Star Search.
1999 ― Lauryn Hill, a hip-hop artist, wins 5 Grammies.
2002 ― The debut of American Idol; Kelly Clarkson is the first winner;
more than 50 million viewers watch the finale.
2003 ― Apple Computer introduces Apple iTunes Music Store, which allows people
to download songs for 99 cents each.
2004 ― Freddy Mercury and Queen steal the show at Live Aid. The punk rock
band Green Day releases American Idiot to critical acclaim.
Game Changers, the Most Influential English Language
Songs of All Time, a Chronology (all dates are AD):
"Caedmon's Hymn" (circa 658) may be the first pop
(i.e., popular) song in Old English to which we have retained the lyrics.
"Sumer is i-cumen in" aka "The Cuckoo Song" (circa 1200) is one of the earliest
surviving Middle English songs for which we have both the lyrics and the music.
It was sung in rounds.
"Greensleeves" (circa 1580) is perhaps the oldest English language song that
remains popular today.
"Yankee Doodle" (1775) was sung by British troops to mock American colonists;
the colonists adopted the song as their own.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" (1815) is published by Francis Scott Key.
"Home Sweet Home" (1823) was one of the first songs to enjoy major success on
the gramophone, being performed by early recording stars: Dame Nellie Melba,
Adelina Patti, and the "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind.
"O Susanna!" (1848) was the first big hit for Stephen Foster, but he only made
$100 from the song, due in large part to widespread piracy at the time.
"Old Folks at Home" (1851) was an even bigger hit for Stephen Foster, with legal
sales of 130,000 copies. But unfortunately he died prematurely at age 38 before
he could cash in.
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1861) with lyrics written by the poet Julia
Ward Howe became an anthem of abolitionists and Union soldiers who opposed the
dreadful institution of American slavery.
"After the Ball" (1892) was the first million-seller and helped establish Tin
Pan Alley as the Mecca of American popular music.
"Happy Birthday (to You)" is written by two schoolteachers in 1893.
"My Gal is a High Born Lady" (1896) was the first ragtime smash hit, and a
precursor of jazz and rock-n-roll songs to come. It was the first mainstream hit
inspired by black music.
"We Shall Overcome" (1901) was a hymn that became an anthem of the American
Civil Rights Movement.
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911) is published by Irving Berlin.
"Show Boat" (1927) is the first hugely popular musical comedy, with lyrics by
"Porgy and Bess" a folk opera written by George Gershwin premieres in 1935.
"Strange Fruit" (1939) performed by Billie Holiday was a stark depiction and
protest of lynchings of African Americans.
"This Land is Your Land" was a 1940 call for equality by legendary folk
singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie.
"I'll Never Smile Again" (1940) was the first Billboard #1 chart-topper,
recorded by none other than Frank Sinatra, age 25 at the time. Girls fainted
when he sang, something that would later happen with Elvis and the Beatles.
"Annie Get Your Gun" (1946) is a huge musical comedy hit for Irving Berlin.
"Rocket 88" (1951) recorded by Ike and Tina Turner has been nominated as the
first major rock-n-roll song. It reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart.
"Hound Dog" (1952) recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton would soon become
a huge smash for Elvis Presley.
"Rock Around the Clock" (1954) recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets was the
first #1 rock song on the US pop charts.
"That's All Right (Mama)" (1954) was the first single for a young truck driver
named Elvis Presley. Rock had arrived and it had found its charismatic King.
"Tutti Frutti" (1955) by Little Richard presaged the Michael Jacksons and
Princes of the future.
"Maybellene" (1955) by Chuck Berry was a pioneering song. Rolling Stone
said: "Rock & roll guitar starts here."
"Heartbreak Hotel" (1956) was Elvis's first hit for RCA Victor. Sam Phillips of
Sun Record Company had sold his contract for a then-record $40,000.
"Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley was a 1957 precursor of the music video with
its energetic dance set and choreography.
"West Side Story" premieres in 1957.
"Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry was a 1958 hit than helped usher in the "rock
"Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan was a 1962 call for peace and brotherhood.
"My Guy" was a 1964 hit for Mary Wells. Written by Smokey Robinson, it was the
first #1 hit for the Motown record label.
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles in 1963 heralded the "British Invasion"
of American popular music.
"A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke was a 1964 call for equality and justice
for African Americans.
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones was an 1965 introduction
to "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll" that scared the hell out of many parents.
"Mr. Tambourine Man" written by Bob Dylan and performed by The Byrds inaugurates
a new genre, folk rock, in 1965.
"Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys was highly innovative sound-wise for 1966.
It and other songs on the "Pet Sounds" album ushered in the genre of art rock,
progressive rock, psychedelic rock and the concept album.
"The Velvet Underground & Nico" released in 1967 has been called the forerunner
of art rock, alternative rock, new-wave rock and punk rock.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was the Beatles' response to "Pet
Sounds" in 1967.
"White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane in 1967 was one of the early songs of what
became known as acid rock. "Purple Haze" by the Jimi Hendrix experience was
another in the same year.
"All Along the Watchtower" was written by Bob Dylan in 1967 and recorded by the
Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" as performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience at
Woodstock in 1969 has been widely acclaimed as the most "electrifying"
performance at the most influential concert in music history.
"Imagine" by John Lennon became an anthem of the "make love not war" movement in
"Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" by David Bowie was one of the early
hit albums of what became known as glam rock, in 1972.
"Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees made the Brothers Gibb the kings of the disco
era in 1977.
"Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang in 1979 has been called the first major
rap and hip hop hit.
"Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Bubbles was, perhaps prophetically, the
first music video to appear on MTV in 1981.
"Rapture" by Blondie and the ultra-pale Debbie Harry is the first #1 song to
"Beat It" by Michael Jackson was the first major music video by a black artist
to rule the roost on MTV in 1982.
"Cats" began its 18-year-run on Broadway in 1982.
"Like a Virgin" by Madonna was a 1984 hit that inspired many young women to
flaunt their sexuality (and their underwear).
"Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid was an 1984 international call for
brotherhood and charity.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana became a grunge anthem in 1991.
"Enter Sandman" by Metallica in 1991 had a similar impact on heavy metal.
"Lose Yourself" by Eminem in 2002 was the first rap song to win an Accademy
Award for best original song.
"American Idiot" by Green Day tops six million album sales in 2004.