The process of compiling a top 5, 10, 25 or 205 list is out of my comfort level as my tastes ebb and flow and evolve over time. In the spirit of lightheartedness, I will give it a shot. There are singers who have made an indelible impression on me, more than 5, with their artistry and the uniqueness of their instruments.
Maria Callas was not a love at first hearing, but over time her voice has grown on me. No one has ever sounded like La Divina. She was and remains one of a kind. Those eyes are pretty fabulous too!
If velvet sang, it would sound like Jessye Norman. Is she a soprano? A mezzo soprano? Who knows, and who cares! Norman bends and shapes her voice around whatever she is singing, and yet her voice always remains familiar.
When I first heard Astrud Gilbert on the iconic orange and black recording featuring her husband, singer and guitarist João Gilberto and saxophonist, Stan Getz, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. Lip sync to Astrud. Bossa nova singers like the legendary Elis Regina were great, but Astrud Gilberto defined how singers sang and sing Bossa nova. “Corcovado (Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars) and “The Girl from Ipanema” just don’t sound right unless they are sung in that alluring breathlessly off key fashion.
They say that Billie Holiday left a beguiling scent trail of gardenia in her wake. That could be because she wore gardenias in her hair. What a voice! Of everyone on this list, perhaps Billie Holiday’s voice is the most familiar to my ears. It’s not just the familiar texture of her voice, her extraordinary phrasing and her vulnerability that move me. I feel in her songs and especially in the way she sings them that Billie Holiday is my ambassador; an ambassador for all women.
I grew up hearing Linda Ronstadt as my father was a fan, and I became one too. She has fearlessly covered the musical waterfront including Soft Rock, Country, Gilbert and Sullivan, Big Band, Mariachi and Salsa music with style and elegance. I would know her voice even if it was a needle in a haystack.
I’m a rule breaking troublemaker and will hear about it from WBJC’s Web-keeper, Diana Ross. However, I must add one more familiar female voice. Can anyone say “The Way We Were?” Pianist Glenn Gould was a rabid Barbra Streisand fan, so I’m in good company. No one sounds like Babs!
Astrud Gilbert, Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday, Jessye Norman, Linda Ronstadt, Maria Callas, top5