My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Saturday, July 23

Good & Bad Singers

In past blogs, I’ve written about some of the singers of my youth who were, maybe still are, great. Among the females, Ella first comes to mind. And Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, June Christy, and Rosemary Clooney from way back. The best presently would have to be Barbra Streisand, who spans the past and present, Karrin Allyson, Jackie Allen, and Whitney Houston. Of the men a number of decades ago, Sinatra has to rank number one. But we also have Steve Lawrence, Jack Jones, Vic Damone, and Matt Monroe. Today, there’s the Canadian Sinatra, Michael Bublé.

When I say “great singers,” I mean vocally and stylistically better than anyone else. But what about the singers who were, maybe still are, really bad, relying more, much more, on style points than vocal excellence. Immediately, I think of Louie Armstrong. Louie may have been a wonderful man and musician, but that voice could turn milk sour. And an Armstrong contemporary was Jimmy Durante, he of the big schnozz and lousy pipes. Fred Astaire was a wonderful dancer but not such a good singer. Same with Gene Kelly.

What about females back then who made it vocally on style, not on excellence? I know some people would like to whip me for saying what I’m about to say, but here goes anyway. Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington were not very good singers. Lady Day died at 44 from abuse of alcohol and drugs, but her fan base was enormous. Dinah died at 39, from an overdose of sleeping pills, died with an equally large fan base.

Singers today, both male and female, are almost too shrill to be considered great vocalists. Bob Dylan is vastly overrated, as is Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. Stylists but not necessarily great vocalists? Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart and Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Elvis Presley, Taylor Swift and Madonna. One of the most curious modern singers and performers is Lady Gaga, who stands in both camps, performing outlandishly to appeal to her fan base, yet singing wonderfully well on the old standards she’s done in concert with Tony Bennett. Her version of “Lush Life” may be the best ever.

People’s choices of great and not so great singers varies with the ages of the choosers, the decades during which their vocal tastes were first developed. Mine go back to the Forties. But my criteria for greatness is far more astute than that of much younger and less musically appreciative generations.
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