View Full Version : Who is the best lead singer in 20th century popular music?

10-08-2006, 11:44 PM
I'm bored so I figure I post something interesting to get things rollin' again. My top 7 (I couldn't knock one of these guys off):

6: Curtis Mayfield. Dude laid down some of the sweetest falsetto soul and R&B ever. Edgy, fearless, and polished. From the impressions, to Superfly, to his final album when he was paralyzed from the neck down(!).

Highlight: Little Child Runnin' Wild--Superfly

5: Steve Winwood. Along with Mayfield, one of the only singers who I can really get into who can still go balls to the wall in the upper register. Traffic and Blind Faith benefitted immesurably from Winwood's sweet and powerful leads.

Highlight: Crossing the Line---Stomu Yamashta's Go sessions.

4: Toots Hibbert: The guy who invented the word Reggae also had the most unique and powerful voice in the genre, and one of the finest in the world. By fusing funk and R&B groove influences into roots reggae with his gritty and powerful vocals, the maytals (basically) debuted as the highlight from the Harder they Come soundtrack. Thirty some years later he's still layin it down. Don't miss it if you get a chance.

Highlight: 54-46 Was My Number--Funky Kingsteon/In the Dark

3: Greg Allman: Although I think the real backbone of the Allmans was older brother Duane, Greg's vocals were what caught record companies' interests of the two brothers abilities. It was Duane's searing slide guitar work that made the band truly unique but it was Greg's vocals that really powered the band to success. One of the most powerful blues and rock vocalists, black or white, and even when the repertoire of the band was weak, Greg's vocals still managed to hold listeners' interest.

Highlight: Whipping Post---Live at the Fillmore East

2: Jack Bruce. Maybe the most overlooked performer in rock music. If you ask me, it was Jack Bruce who was truly the soul of Cream. His writing, bass playing and vocal prowess are all absolutely stellar. Tackling blues, ballads or gritty rock and roll, Bruce has it all. Dude has more balls than just about any other rock vocalist in history. No polish, just grit, soul and range. I just can't say enough about the guy

Highlight: Desterted Cities of the Heart--Wheels of Fire

1: Ray Charles. You can't say enough about the dude. Just rent the movie Ray. Guy had it all. Long live Brother Ray.

Highlight: None of Us are Free--My World

Runner Up: Alice Russell

Since I didn't include any female vocalists, I figured I had to throw her in there. You ask me, if I had to choose between Aretha, Gladis, Janis, (insert any female vocalist here), or Alice, I choose alice hands down. Her bio on her website ain't lyin':

Her style is a predominantly bluesy, soul lament but encompasses everything from funk to gospel to jazz and beyond. Her performances have that rarest of qualities; the ability to captivate the audience and command its attention, creating music that tugs at the emotions and raises hairs on the back of the neck. You really can’t fake what Miss. Russell’s got!

Highlight: Pushin' On---Quantic Soul Orchestra's Pushin' On.

10-09-2006, 10:38 AM
Since Joe's list is primarily classic rock/r&b (with toots thrown in, which I thought was an awesome inclusion), I thought I would add some of my own genres favorites:

king of the Bosa Nova crooners - Joao Gilberto - even on his lame albums (see, Amoroso) Joao still evokes the gentle emotions of Brazilian music.

Most transendant Jazz singer - Billie Holiday - with perhaps Miles as the exception, few jazz players could break down the technical complexity of jazz music, thereby exposing the heartfelt saddness that runs through jazz music.

Most technically talented vocalist - Al Jarreu - Some make the argument for Bobby McFarren, but I'm totally about Al Jarreu. I have a version of him doing Captain Senior Mouse which I can't get enough of (and I don't like the Return to Forever version of that song)

Best up and comer - the Beirut kid - I can't remember his name, but this kid is going to be the next Frank Sinatra - has the hype around him died down now, because I'm still very pro-Beirut.

Some other notables I frequently listen to...

-Amadou and Miriam (I don't like the Manu Chao produced album though)
-Ali Farka Toure
-The gang from the Afro Cuban All Stars