[To read an introduction to The Great Voices Project, click here.]
Staying mostly in the Gospel genre, Mahalia Jackson recorded over 30 albums in her career, which spanned over four decades. Considered by many as the greatest Gospel singer of all time, Jackson got up and sang at a worship service in Chicago unasked. The next week, she was in the choir, and within two years was singing professionally.
Mahalia Jackson is one of the few Gospel singers to gain fame around the world, and she won four Grammy Awards in her lifetime. Early in her career, she befriended Thomas Dorsey, the writer of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” It became her signature song. Here it is.
A relative newcomer, Josh Groban burst onto the worldwide stage with his smash hit “You Raised Me Up” in 2003. At the time, he was just 24 years old.
Groban’s knowledge of music from around the world, and his melodic ability to carry these songs, has caused his albums and performances to be listened to by many. Often singing songs in more than one language in the same concert, Groban blends simple melodies from around the world with a voice that is as powerful as it is emotional.
When he was just 17, he was asked to rehearse a song with Celine Dion for a sound check (filling in for someone yet to be revealed on this list, who was ill at the time). That one sound check jump started his career, and the rest is history.
When Groban first became popular with “You Raised Me Up,” it was another song that drew me in and impressed me with his voice. Enjoy Groban singing “Remember When It Rained.”
Powerhouse. If there is one word to describe the voice of Whitney Houston, that’s my choice. In my lifetime, I have heard many pop and rock singers, but I cannot think of any female who has more power behind her voice than Houston.
Breaking onto the scene in the 1980s with pop hits, it didn’t take long for Houston to distinguish herself from other female acts of the day. Her live performances and her ability to sing more than just dance-backed pop songs made her a superstar.
Then came “The Bodyguard.” When Whitney Houston covered Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” she moved to a whole new level of stardom, and her place in the history of recorded music was secure.
Amazingly, Houston has only released 7 solo studio albums (in addition to being featured on soundtracks), but all of them have reached at least #13 on the US album charts. But it’s one single that made sure she was a household name: our national anthem. Singing at the 1991 Super Bowl, Houston’s performance in the midst of Desert Storm was released as a single, and raced to the top of the charts. Here is her memorable performance.
Most remembered as “The Phantom of the Opera” (as in, THE Phantom), Michael Crawford’s blend of stage presence and soaring tenor notes have become the standard for most musical/Broadway men since he first stepped on stage.
From his major role as The Phantom, Crawford has sold millions of albums and helped Andrew Lloyd Webber’s signature musical continue to be seen world-wide. In many ways, Crawford ruined the role of The Phantom, as every man who dons “the mask” must live up the impossible standard of emotion and power he displayed in the role.
The show stopper in “The Phantom of the Opera” is when Crawford sings “The Music of the Night.” Displaying an incredible control of emotion and tone, Michael Crawford set the standard for this song. Here is his version from the musical opera.
So amazing was Enrico Caruso’s voice and so important were his records in the early days of the phonograph, he was ranked as one of the 100 most important people of the melinnium by A&E. Amazingly, Caruso appeared some 863 times at the New York Metropolitan Opera alone. All told, his career spanned some 25 years, ending with his death in 1920 from infection. He was just 48 years of age.
Singing in the earliest days of recording, Caruso became one of the first worldwide singing celebrities, and he sang a huge variety of music. Wikipedia (from which I have tried to fact-check as many things for this series as possible) states that he had a repotroire of some 520 songs. Approximately 290 of these were recorded, and most are still available.
Caruso, of course, lived before advancements in recording technology. He basically sang into a large metal horn, and there was very little editing possible. As phenominal as his recordings are, we have to wonder how great they could have been with modern recording equipment. One of his most requested songs was an Italian melody of “Ave Maria.” Enjoy this early recording of one of the greatest voices to ever live.