[To read an introduction to The Great Voices Project, click here.]
As a tenor, I have always been amazed by guys who are able to sing powerful bass. Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys has one of the most powerful bass voices ever recorded. Seemingly limitless in how deeply he can sing, his voice has provided the foundation for not only the Oak Ridge Boys, but also Elvis Presley and the gospel quartet the Stamps.
Probably most famous for his “fun” parts in such hits as “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue,” Sterban is able to take a very powerful bass voice and make it blend perfectly with a group, providing a much needed foundation for quartet singing. While he spends most of his time singing within the confines of the harmony in the group, it is when he steps out and has solo parts (even if they are just a couple of words) that the power of Sterban’s voice is best heard.
I have said before that I’m not sure Sterban has ever sung his lowest note, but his voice is more than just extremely deep. It is also powerful and under control. No song shows that better, as well as showing off Sterban’s amazing low register, than “Bad Case of Missing You.” Unfortunately, there is no video of that song on either YouTube or Vimeo. So, enjoy Richard’s amazing and fun voice on “Bobbie Sue.”
Two words: Unchained Melody. If that was the only recording of Bobby Hatfield’s voice we had, he might still land on this list. However, as one half of the duo The Righteous Brothers, Hatfield’s amazing voice was constantly on display in the 1960s.
Along with Bill Medley, Hatfield turned out 5 top-five hits in the 1960s, including “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” which is reported to be one of the two most played songs in the history of radio (“Yesterday” is the other). While both Hatfield and Medley had amazing voices, when The Righteous Brothers recorded “Unchained Melody” it was, in reality, a solo effort by Hatfield. That one song puts him on this list, apart from his partner, though both had great voices.
Able to sing with amazing control, Bobby Hatfield wasn’t blessed with power, but was blessed with an uncanny ability to hit every note with precision. While he blended perfectly with Medley on The Righteous Brother’s many hits, Unchained Melody set him apart as a singer of uncanny ability.
Over 500 artists have recorded “Unchained Melody,” but Bobby Hatfield’s voice will forever be connected with it, as he made it a timeless classic. And “the note” (you know which one it is) is one of the greatest moments in recorded music history. Enjoy.
Simply put, Patsy Cline’s voice, to many who are not fans of country music, is the epitome of what female country singers should sound like. While she was country to the core, her deeply emotional voice was accessible to those who weren’t usually buying country albums. Whether one generally likes country music or not, it is hard to find anyone who will deny that Patsy Cline’s voice was astounding.
“Crazy,” the most played song in the history of the jukebox, became a pop hit, but Cline had far more songs that were hits in the world of country music. Her deep alto register made her songs popular with both men and women listeners, and it is hard to think of any singer who better put emotion into songs than did Patsy Cline.
Amazingly, Cline only lived to be 30 years of age, at which time she was killed in a plane crash near the small town of Camden, Tennessee. In her short career, though, she released enough country classics to still be considered as the greatest female singer in the history of that genre.
It is no surprise that Cline was the first female to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, as songs such as “Sweet Dreams” and “Walkin’ after Midnight” continued to be standards (and still do) many years after her death.
While the Willie Nelson written “Crazy” was her signature tune, “I Fall to Pieces” best shows off the balance of Cline’s deep range and emotion. Enjoy this country classic.
Let the debate start. Yes, I put a female country singer higher on the list than Patsy Cline. Martina McBride has set herself apart in my mind, though, as a powerhouse voice who could be a star in any genre of music she chose to sing.
McBride has garnered almost countless awards in the world of country music, but her pop-style singing has helped her land many songs on pop and adult contemporary radio, furthering her audience. Early on, McBride used the power of music videos to broaden her appeal, but her voice is what kept people coming back.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, McBride’s “Independence Day” became an odd song that people wanted to hear. Though it deals with domestic violence, the title of the song was enough to garner McBride a place in more than one tribute concert. After that, her career truly became a country-pop hybrid, with fans of both types buying her albums.
“Wild Angels,” “This One’s for the Girls” and “In My Daughter’s Eyes” showcased McBride’s ability to sing about women’s topics, but to have enough power and emotion in her voice to keep fans, both male and female, listening. However, when she sings the words “let freedom ring” in “Independence Day,” female singers had better listen. Those are some of the most powerfully-sung words ever recorded. Here is the McBride signature song.
Most who read this list may have never heard the name Jay Black before, but most have heard his voice. As the lead singer of Jay and the Americans, Jay Black’s voice was showcased on several hits in the 1960s, including “Come a Little Bit Closer” and, more famously, “This Magic Moment.”
It’s hard to imagine Black not making this list, since his nickname is “The Voice;” however, he might have been on this list under a different name if he hadn’t become the lead singer of Jay and the Americans. The original lead singer was Jay Traynor. When a new lead was needed, a man named David Blatt got the work, but the band wanted to keep their name, so Jay Black was used. The rest is recording history.
Simple and smooth, Jay Black’s voice helped The Americans record a wide variety of songs, from pop ballads to Spanish-inspired songs. While the group didn’t have a large number of high-charting hits, they were consistent in making the top 100 in both the United States and Britain. Jay Black’s voice was the driving force behind most of their hits.
While “This Magic Moment” is probably their most famous song, and “Come a Little Bit Closer” is their best, one song makes sure that Jay Black is on this list. When Jay and the Americans released “Cara Mia,” and it reached the US top 5, it cemented his place on vocal lists. Enjoy this amazing song.