The people listed below would be folksingers or the most radical of bluesmen in another age. Or they might not make it anywhere. They are in no way bad singers, though a large portion of the melisma-conditioned public would disagree.
Wondering where someone like Billy Corgan, Courtney Love, Anthony Kiedis or Henry Rollins might be? They would better qualify for a list of the Worst Rock 'n' Roll Singers Who Struggle To Sing Rock 'n' Roll.
25) Nick Cave: Nick Cave is lots o' fun and truly manic when he screams and does his demented voodoo-blues-preacher-howl, but when he sings ballads he warbles on notes so horribly he sounds like Peter Brady singing "Time To Change." There's a reason the Birthday Party were a swell batch of blare and a good part of it had to with young, earnest Nick Cave ruining his vocal cords! Thanks, Nick!
23) Cherie Currie: She never had much of a career in rock 'n' roll. It wasn't for her. But one-hit wonders deserve their moment, too, and "Cherry Bomb" was one of those hilarious junk-culture moments that were irresistible in their day, even if you knew Kim Fowley was laughing all the way to the next magazine editor's office.
21) Tom Waits: Waits could've spent his life as a piano man, playing bars and singing sentimental for the "Things Were Better Back Then" crowd. He did it for years and was quite good at it. Then his wife took over and saved his life. He's now NPR-approved, which is a shame, but as long as he continues to howl, we're all OK.
19) Joe Strummer: The British accent made him sound ever coarser to American ears. Which was a good thing, since no one was looking for him to sing ballads or to sing pretty. Sometimes not having an option is the best option of all.
17) Carrie Brownstein: Before everyone met her in Portlandia, Carrie was the less-accommodating singer in Sleater-Kinney who yipped like an angry and confused dachshund (is there any other kind?). Just another singer who rewrote the rules to include herself.
15) Mark E. Smith: There are thousands of records out there by The Fall, many of which are legitimate. Having a two-and-a-half-note-range didn't stop Johnny Cash, so a one-and-a-half note range isn't going to stop the star of Salford. Are you thinking you can't sing? Can you talk?
13) Iggy Pop: Funny how so many punks wanted to be Frank Sinatra. You can hear the lounge singer in Iggy just dying to get out in "Gimme Danger" and the fact that he barely comes close makes it all the better.
11) Roky Erickson: Granted, the 13th Floor Elevators were a band, but Roky's enchanted his hardcore followers with a voice both menacing and insecure, strong but fragile, the sound of a man who's seen ghosts and has lived to tell about it. "You're Gonna Miss Me" is a classic, but "Cold Night for Alligators," "Night of the Vampire" and "I Have Always Been Here Before" all deserve distinction. That people know more about the Crosby, the Stills and the Nash is a statistical aberration that appears far too frequently to be an aberration, so the truth shall be random until further notice.
9) Exene Cervenka: People have complained to me that Exene is pitch-challenged. To which, I smile politely and agree. They're right. Her solo records can be tough going. But the first two X albums alone are reason enough in my silly, non-existent book to worship Exene for singing and harmonizing with John Doe.
7) Patti Smith: On my scorecard, she's got at least "Hey Joe," "(Pee-pee) Factory," "(Pee-peeing) In A River," "Ask the Angels," "Because The Night" and "Dancing Barefoot." It's confusing when one-hit-wonder garage-punk types have long sophisticated careers.
5) Johnny Rotten: The early records by PiL were more interesting than anything else he'd do, but for sheer visceral nastiness that personified the job he was given, Johnny Rotten nailed being the singer for the Sex Pistols. Who else could sing "Anarchy in the UK" or "God Save the Queen"? Paul Anka?
3) Bob Dylan: We forever hear the garbage that Bob Dylan "can't" sing. But it's more like people can't "hear." As this list should prove, you don't need to be Celine Dion to sing rock 'n' roll. In fact, you can't be Celine Dion and sing rock 'n' roll. I don't mean to single out Ms. Dion. The guy in Death Cab for Cutie can't sing rock 'n' roll either.
1) Little Richard: Yes, I suppose he's a gospel singer, but what kind of gospel singer scares all the saints away? That cry goes far beyond the range of spiritual enlightenment until it lands in a frightening new place where all men and women are free not from sin but from themselves. Now, that's a deal!
- Arts & Entertainment
- John Lennon
- Mick Jagger
- Elvis Presley
- Joe Strummer
- Jerry Lee Lewis