[Click here for an introduction to The Greatest Voices Project.]
We begin our list with one of the clearest female opera voices ever recorded. Joan Sutherland was complimented for nearly every possible type of vocal usage needed to sing opera, and Luciano Pavarotti stated that Sutherland had “the voice of the century.”
Sutherland, a native Australian, performed and was acclaimed worldwide during her career. Amazingly, her on-stage performances covered some 38 years of her life. Of course, Sutherland died just last month (October 10, 2010), silencing a unique talent.
While it’s hard to select just one song from any of these artists, we will feature a video of one song that best defines why they were placed on the list. A song that has displayed the voices of many great singers over the years (and one you will see again on this list) is “O Holy Night.” Listen to the great Joan Sutherland as our first entry in The Great Voices Project.
Ray Charles has a distinct voice, and the ability to take nearly any song and make it his own. His album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” was a landmark moment in recording history, and gave him an even wider appeal.
While Charles’ voice may not be of the highest quality, he is able to sing from the depths of his being and connect his emotions with those of the listener. Songs that are happy and upbeat are sung with the same depth as slower, more melodramatic tunes.
When thinking of the soul of Ray Charles, it’s hard to look past his classic performance in “Georgia on My Mind.” However, I thought I’d choose a video that shows Charles taking another song and making it his own. So, enjoy him singing “Ring of Fire.”
The singer behind two of more well-known phrases in pop history, Martha Wash is also known in recording history for a bit of controversy. One of the singers of The Weather Girls (yes, she sang the phrase, “It’s raining men”), Wash is also the singer of the phrase “Everybody dance now” from C+C Music Factory. Since Wash doesn’t fit the “look” of that style of music, a model was used in the music video. Finally, Wash was given credit.
Maratha Wash’s voice is extremely powerful, and has been behind a string of hits on the R&B charts over the years. While not as well known as some others on this list, Wash’s voice cannot be ignored for its power.
Here is Wash in a live performance of her song “You Lift Me Up.”
Yes, I know this has to be the most controversial name on the list. Dylan cannot sing, but his voice is unique and, somehow, he is able to take a voice that lacks quality and make it where you want to hear more.
While Bob Dylan’s voice has been parodied countless times, he continues to endure by singing both his own writings as well as the folk and pop hits of others, taking them all and making them his own.
In my opinion, no one else could sing many of the songs that Dylan does. Something about the lack of quality in his voice makes the songs work. One of those is his 80s classic “Jokerman.” Here it is.
To my knowledge, Kelly Clarkson is the youngest person on this list, and is also the only link you will ever see on this blog to American Idol (a show I can’t stand). Clarkson has overcome the American Idol persona, though, to become a true superstar, and a singer recognized for the undeniable quality of her voice.
Clarkson is not afraid to sing songs that show off her range, but she seems most comfortable singing tunes that bring out the power behind her voice. One of the most difficult songs to sing well is our national anthem. Enjoy Clarkson showing her vocal ability at a Dallas Cowboys game through the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”