"These Are the Last Days" - Twinkie Clark
"Valley of Lonely" - Betty Wright
"From Pain to Joy" - Betty Wright
When I was younger, as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a singer. I remember singing along with my mother to "Saturday Love" by Cherelle and Alexander O'Neal, singing "Through the Fire", and even singing the "whistle notes" in Shanice's "Lovin' You" (before I knew Minnie Riperton did the original and before the pubic hair set in). It just seemed like music was the place to be.
MANY years later, before the onset of commercial R&B (when people just needed to shake their a**es to obtain a record deal), I was a high school kid in my sophomore year, just singing for the fun of it, when I came across a couple friends that wanted to form a group. Up until then, I never took singing seriously, just playing around and what not. But, the group then actually had something, and that's where I learned harmony. I fiddled around previously with harmony, because I always seemed to hear the other parts other than the main one that everyone else would sing. But actually singing a harmony line by myself and hearing the sweet sound of it was great to me. It was then that I decided that I really didn't want to be much of a solo singer, but to be in a group.
Being in several groups and hearing SO many singers, professional or otherwise, has taught me something; opinions of good singing are SO varied. I've heard some legendary recording artists that I would never consider great singers, and I've heard some upcoming artists that I think can blow those same legends out the water. But, that's just me...if I were to list some of those legends that I think weren't or aren't all that great, sooo many people would think I had bumped my head and lost my mind. But, I promise I'm not crazy.
To me, a good singer doesn't do eight thousand runs in one sentence, knows the difference between "modulating" and "inverting", knows the difference between head voice and falsetto, knows what tessitura means, and doesn't rely on unnecessary vocal gimmicks. Or, even someone who may not have all the knowledge but just does something to my soul when they sing. Singers like Betty Wright, Lisa McClendon, Minnie Riperton, Donny Hathaway, Peabo Bryson, and Whitney Houston (before 2000) didn't have to do all those runs and riffs but just relied on their natural tone and sang WELL. It's singers like that that make me want to buy their albums. I mean, runs are cute and all, but runs don't make someone a great singer. Someone who can control the timbre in their voice, someone who can call forth emotions without showing it, someone who can tell a story with their voice; that's what I like.
I'm soooo not into a LOT of these "singers" of today. If one were to look into my Zune, you'd find much more music from the 80s and 90s than you would from the past couple of years. There are too many people out these days that go for the hit instead of the acclaim. I'd rather hear someone scat than scare. People have relied so heavily on their image and their beats and producers that the focus has gone away from the voice. What happened to the real singing? Auto-Tune? No. Breathy, rap-singing? I'll pass. Fifteen melismata in one word? Not necessary.
Just give me some good ol' singing, darn it!