Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Greatest Rock Singers of All Time

This list cannot go unchallenged. Rolling Stone ranked the best rock and roll singers in history. My guess is that the list is so retarded so as to generate comments (like this one).  So I'll take the bait and run down the top part of the list.

1. Aretha Franklin (my rank: top 10, not #1) - this is a safe, defensible pick. But it's like betting on the Yankees in the 30's: you'll win, but where is the drama?
2. Ray Charles (my rank: #3 or 4) - I love me some Ray Charles. The hard part here is trying to imagine what it was like to listen to Ray Charles when he was the first one to sing like he did.  Game-changing, and you don't get Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, or most of Motown without him showing that soul sells.
3. Elvis Presley (my rank: 5-10) - I'm not a big Elvis guy, but he does have that ''uh-huh" thing down pat.  You can make a good argument that every straight rock-n-roll singer is simply a knock-off of Elvis.
4. Sam Cooke (my rank: #3) - If you have never heard Sam Cooke sing, then I order you over to iTunes right now. Download anything. Download him singing the alphabet while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich underwater.  Then listen to one of the most amazing sounds you will ever hear in your life.
5. John Lennon (does not make my top 20) - ask yourself this: if Lennon wasn't shot in 1980, would we think so much of him today? No. His voice is distinctive, not great. He's a really wonderful artist, but to even to even suggest that he is close to Sam Cooke or Ray Charles or Elvis is honestly just more of the Beatle-mania hagiography that is getting very old.
6. Marvin Gaye (my rank: 5-10) - kind of the second coming of the Sam Cooke/Otis Redding soulman, but as a knock-off, he needs to be a little lower than this.
7. Bob Dylan (honestly, this is just stupid, he cannot make this list) - Let's get something straight. Bob Dylan is a brilliant lyricist, an accomplished composer, and a truly miserable singer. Because what he sang was so intriguing, you can forgive him. But please.
8. Otis Redding (my rank: #2) - #8? A travesty. A sham. An mockery.  A trav-a-sham-ockery. In a parallel universe where John Lennon is not dead, John Lennon is still trying, fruitlessly, to sound like Otis Redding. There is a reason that all the British groups of the 60's tried to copy American soul music of the 60's. They ALL wanted to sound like Otis. Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Plant. All of them.
9. Stevie Wonder (my rank #4-#6) - Not sappy Ebony and Ivory Stevie. Groovy, inspired, belt-it-out Stevie from the 60's and 70's. We do not discuss Stevie Wonder after 1980 - the real Stevie was abducted by aliens and replaced with Mel Torme with a tan.
10. James Brown (uh, top 20?)  - This is tough. He's innovative, he's cool, he's in the hot tub. But if you had to take along one singer with you to a deserted island, is it him? Is he even in the discussion? I say no.
11. Paul McCartney (not in the top 20) - see John Lennon. Except for the dead part. And McCartney will always be penalized for inflicting Wings on us.
12. Little Richard (not in the top 20) - a human Muppet. Ahead of his time, yes. But did everyone start singing like Little Richard? No. They all started singing like Ray Charles.
13. Roy Orbison (not in the top 20) - apparently there is a "dead" bonus of about 15 spots on this list.
14. Al Green (between 10-20) - this is always tough, because you can't help but compare Marvin Gaye and Al Green. And I think Marvin takes the cake in that contest. But just to be clear, Al could outsing Lennon, McCartney, Orbison, and Little Richard if you shoved Dylan down his throat.
15. Robert Plant (somewhere in the 20's) - Plant gets dinged for being indistinguishable from one song to the next. Also, Plant is the one that every hair band from the 80's styled themselves after, so he gets a demerit.
16. Mick Jagger (5-10) - Underrated. Who knew a skinny British kid could bring the blues? Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jagger. And yes, I know your name.
17. Tina Turner (between 10-20) - see the Al Green comments, and substitute Aretha for Marvin Gaye.
18. Freddie Mercury (maybe 20-25) - about right, if slightly higher than he should be.  Again, probably benefitted from the apparent "dead" bias in Rolling Stone (remember, most of the people who work there are now close to dead themselves and want to think we'll remember them. Sorry Jan Wenner, everyone still thinks you're a wanker after 'Almost Famous').
19. Bob Marley (30's) - Rolling Stone staffer: "Hey, shouldn't we put in a reggae guy somewhere?".  Editor: "Uh, I guess so. Is there a dead one?"  Staffer: "Yeah, I think Marley is dead." Editor: "Excellent, put him down at 19."
20. Smokey Robinson (10-20) - probably got this one right. He's smooth, he's unique. He's too squeaky to really qualify as a rock-and-roll singer, but whatever.

Okay, here are the people who were NOT listed in the top 20 of the list that should have been, with my suggested rankings:
1. Van Morrison. - this is a colossal underrating that should not stand. If we do not shut down Gitmo soon, then whoever put Van the Man at 24 should be sent down to be water-boarded for a few hours. You give this guy a phone book, a bottle of scotch, and a microphone, and I'll listen to him yodel it.  Raspy, soulful, raw but in control. This guy takes dumps that can sing better than Lennon.
12-15. Bruce Springsteen - they put him too low at 36. If you want to just rock and roll, then who else do you want but the Boss? And seriously, can anyone else have pulled off, "you ain't a beauty, but hey you're all right" and made it sound good?
12-20. Gladys Knight - RS has her at 54. 54? They should be forced to listen to "Heard it Through the Grapevine" (the original) over and over until they wise up. Also does a damn fine gospel version of the "ABC"s on one of our Sesame Street discs.  (Don't snicker. If you're gonna knock the Muppets you can just log off right now, wait 20 minutes, and then open your door so I can punch you in the face.)
15-20. Annie Lennox. - Absurd that she is at 94. Here are several people she is listed below: Willie Nelson, Don Henley, Merle Haggard, and Steve Perry (yes, the guy from Journey).  You could make a good argument that Annie Lennox is in Billie Holiday territory when it comes to vocal purity. Merle Hagged, my ass.
10-30. Brian Wilson - big range, but I'm not sure exactly where to stick him. But it's higher than 52.

Okay, now here are several people on the list that should be taken out and shot through the vocal chords so that they shall not inflict their warbling upon us any longer.
45. Kurt Cobain - perhaps it won't be necessary to shoot him. But anyway, any yokel can scream into a microphone.
60. Bjork - really. Really.
66. Thom Yorke - I think my views on Radiohead are established. To even type his name in the same list as Otis Redding is an affront to the Gods of Music, and Rolling Stone will be made to suffer.
76. Steve Perry - look, his voice is probably alright, but you have to have some integrity to be on this list, don't you?
87. Don Henley - see Thom Yorke, but change Radiohead to the Eagles.
98. Stevie Nicks - look, if you get "Stand Back" stuck in your head, you will nearly stick a screwdriver in your eye socket to get it to stop. That should disqualify you from any list of "good singers".

I will now resume pretending to work.

No comments: