Thursday, November 20, 2008


Let me be the first, or more likely the 400th if I'm lucky, to say the following:

"How could you put so and so on that list and not so and so?"
"You mean to tell me you think she's a better singer than her?"
"That one couldn't sing her way out of a paper bag, I don't care how popular she is."

You know I am obsessed with the success of Mary J. Blige. I can understand the success of that nitwit Gallagher and Theresa Russell (the world's worst actress) more than I can understand the never-ending praise of a woman who has been flat on every live televised performance I have ever seen. Yes, she made the list. Thankfully, if it's a reason to be thankful, she is number 100. And, she was given the honor of writing about the number one choice for greatest singer, Miss Aretha Franklin. The irony.

In Jonathan Lethem's introduction to the list, he explains:

"Contrary to anything you've heard, the ability to actually carry a tune is in no regard a disability in becoming a rock and roll singer, only a mild disadvantage.

He also says

"that what defines great singing is that some underlying tension exists in the space between singer and song. A bridge is being built across a void, and it's a bridge we're never sure the singer's going to manage to cross."

This is why such non-singers as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop deservedly made the list. These guys start delivering on bikes with flat tires, yet your order always arrives on time. Do you want to hear "Heroin" or "1969" by anyone other than Lou or Iggy, respectively? Of course not.

I know many people who can't listen to a minute of Bob Dylan. "Such a horrible voice," they say. Personally, I love his voice. Many do. Like Lennon & McCartney, Dylan's songs have been covered countless times, yet nothing works like his own versions. (except for maybe, The Byrds) He came in at number 7. I get that. These people serve it up and they convince millions of total strangers to believe in what they are saying. Maybe that's what Mary J. does for people. She makes you believe. But for Pete's sake, can't she make us believe in key?

It's a fine list. Nothing controversial. Ray Charles, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker, Otis Redding. You get the picture.

And may I just say, the two most beautiful voices in the history of the larynx, Emmylou Harris and Harry Nilsson...NOT on the list. For shame, voters.

If Mary J. Blige makes the list, so does Irma Thomas. But she didn't.

If Morrissey makes the list, so does Daryl Hall--


and Todd Rundgren,


but they didn't.

Who belongs and who doesn't? What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Van Morrison at 24? After Freddie Mercury? That is high comedy.

NYCD Online said...

I'm on a big early Nilsson kick (namely the first two albums) right now and I agree with you about his voice in the '60s. But I'm not that familiar with his later stuff, after his voice had coarsened and deepened somewhat. Are you referring to '60s or '70s Harry? Or both?

Sal Nunziato said...

I guess the word "beautiful" more aptly describes Nilsson's voice before the rasp. But on later albums like "Sandman," specifically "Something True" and the oft maligned but actually really good "Pussycats," specifically "Save The Last Dance For Me," Nilsson is still breaking hearts.

cmealha said...

List had too many guys at the expense of the women folk.

How about Chrissie Hynde? She had a distinctive voice and was so powerful in concert.

cmealha said...

I agree with you on the omissions. Daryl Hall, Todd RUndgren, Carl Wilson, ..... These guys certainly deserve it more than some of the other 'singers' on the list.

I don't agree with 'singers' such as Lou Reed and Bob Dylan being on the list. It's not a list of Great Songwriters Greatly Interpreting Their Great Songs'. No I don't want someone else singing ' Walk On The Wild Side' but I don't want anyone but 50 Cent doing 'In Da Club'. It doesn't make either one of them singers. If you're going to include Dylan and Tom Waits as 'singers' why not Leonard Cohen? I think he made it because of the songs not the singing if you can call it that.

Also, the list skewed to the older crowd with some exceptions like Thom Yorke (???) and Bjork (???!!!) both of whom I like but come on! How about real singers like Chris Cornell instead?

I'm done.

Sal Nunziato said...

Well Anon, if you don't like Queen, then I can see how you think it's "high comedy." But few could sing like Freddie.

And CMEALHA...I second your "Come on!" regarding Bjork.

soundsource said...

maybe you'd feel better if Gallagher made the list and Mary J didn't, lol

Sal Nunziato said...

Hey Soundsource,

I bet Gallagher can crush a melon in key.

soundsource said...

oh yeah and honestly does it really matter anymore what rolling stone lists or doesn't, they haven't been relevant to what happens in music for 25 years. I'm surprised the cast of Twilight wasn't number one on the list.

Anonymous said...

"But few could sing like Freddie."
It's rock n roll, not opera. Queen was late hannah/barbara cartoon music. Who the fuck cares if Freddie Mercury had a good voice, so did Jimmie Spheeris, but the music was crap.
It's not how well you sing, it's what you sing and how you sing it. You can't be a great singer if you don't sing a great song.

Sal Nunziato said...

Some think Van Morrison is crap. Some think Dylan is crap. My guess is your only exposure to Queen is at halftime or watching Wayne's World.

Anonymous said...

"Some think Van Morrison is crap. Some think Dylan is crap."
Is that the level of you want to play on? Really? Some think Slipknot are great. Some think The Starland Vocal Band are great.

Freedy Mercury was an over the top singer, who sang stupid, insipid songs. Fat bottom girls, we will rock you, bohemian bullshit...

Listen to "Astral Weeks" or "It's Too Late To Stop Now" then list for me the songs and performances by Freddie Mercury that come close to Morrison's work.

Sal Nunziato said...

I wasn't "playing" on any level. I was simply showing that two amazing artists like Van and Dylan, are disliked by many for a number of reasons. And speaking of insipid, your Queen examples prove exactly what I suspected. You know nothing about the band. I never said Freddie was better or worse than anyone. I simply reacted to your "high comedy" remark. I could hum 100 Dylan songs and 100 Van songs. Could you hum a dozen Queen songs? Stop being so rigid, whoever the hell you are?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I can hum too many Queen songs. If you want to point me in a direction that would change my opinion, please do so. But having worked in a record store when Queen was the rage, I never heard one song (save "Under Pressure" which Mercury tried his best to kill by over singing) I can't think of a single Queen song worth listening to.
Not one.
The article was about great Rock n roll singers, yet it's chock full of drek like Mercury and James Taylor (again, a good singer, but not a rock and roll singer).

Sal Nunziato said...

Wrong again, Anon. It is NOT "rock n roll" singers. It is "100 Greatest Singers." You don't like Queen or Freddie, that's fine. I have no interest in "pointing you in the right direction." You seem quite content in your own little world.

Anonymous said...

Wrong again, Anon. It is NOT "rock n roll" singers. It is "100 Greatest Singers." You don't like Queen or Freddie, that's fine. I have no interest in "pointing you in the right direction." You seem quite content in your own little world.

In other words you concede Freddie has not one single performance that shows his greatest at anything other that vocal gymnastics while singing cartoon songs.

Sal Nunziato said...

Yes. You are right. Freddie Mercury sucks. Jimmie Spheeris is better than most. All Queen songs are cartoon songs...whatever that is. You voted for McCain, didn't you?

cmealha said...

Listen to 'Funny How Love Is'
P.S. Van Morrison is overrated

Anonymous said...

Freddie Mercury rocks....

fuck you all

RIP Freddie

Jaggerfan1 said...

Who's Jimmy Spheeris? I never heard of him, but I'll say that Darryly Hall and John Oates probably fit on the list. I don't listen to them, but that's not to say they aren't good. For me, just point me in the direction of the Rolling Stones. I listen to them probably more than I should, but who cares! I love those guys, especially it's cutie of a lead singer!!!!