One Hundred Best Singers Of All Time

Our 2008 listing of the pleasant vocalists ever, as voted on with the aid of a panel of 179 experts.

There’s something approximately a voice that’s non-public, now not not like the specific smell or shape of a given human frame. Summoned via belly, hammered into shape by the throat, given propulsion by using bellows of lungs, teased into very last shape by means of tongue and lips, a vocal is a form of audible kiss, a blurted confession, a soul-burp you virtually can’t keep from issuing as you’re making your manner thru the cloth world. How helplessly candid! How appalling!

Contrary to some thing you’ve heard, the capability to virtually deliver a music is in no regard a incapacity in becoming a rock & roll singer, only a moderate disadvantage. Conversely, nothing within the vocal limitations of a Lou Reed ensures a “Pale Blue Eyes” on every occasion out, any greater than making a song as crazy-clumsy as Tom Waits guarantees a “Downtown Train.” Yet there’s a sure time-examined sturdiness to the lowchops approach forged with the aid of touchstone figures like Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison and Jonathan Richman, one which enables outline rock & roll singing.

For me, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, simply to say , are top notch singers by using any degree I ought to ever care approximately — expressivity, surprise, soul, grain, interpretive wit, angle of imaginative and prescient. Those two oldsters, a handful of others: their soul-burps are, for me, the soul-burps of the gods. The beauty of the singer’s voice touches us in an area that’s as private as the vicinity from which that voice has issued. If one of the bizarre matters approximately singers is the ecstasy of give up they encourage, every other bizarre issue is the debunking reaction a singer can arouse once we’ve recovered our senses. It’s as though they’ve fooled us into loving them, diddled our hard-wiring, positioned a vulnerability we concept we’d long ago armored over. Falling in love with a singer is like being a teenager each time it happens.

This is an excerpt from Jonathan Lethem’s advent to the Greatest Singers of All Time feature in the November 27, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone. A panel of 179 professionals ranked the vocalists.

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