List Of The Day (NEW)

25 Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Singers Who Could Only Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll!

List Of The Day

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This is not a list of the 25 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Singers. That list would include many of the people here but would also add stylists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Brian Wilson, Eric Burdon, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding…who have handled a variety of styles with similar authority.

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!

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24) Gibby Haynes (The Butthole Surfers): Gibby led the Butthole Surfers singing through a megaphone for a reason. He was the perfect frontman for those demented days when rock clubs didn't let you out into the night until 5am.

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.

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22) Kathleen Hanna: Riot Grrrls deserved their moment. Listeners who scrunched their noses obviously didn't get it and maybe you didn't because it wasn't aimed at you. At least, she's believable -- and back at it with The Julie Ruin, who are obnoxious and unforgiving. Being married to a Beastie Boy didn't settle her down!

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.

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20) Janis Joplin: She should've stayed with Big Brother because they may have been sloppy but they were in sync. She never sounded right when she tried to be subtle or sophisticated. She was born to scream and cry and moan.

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.

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18) Sky Saxon: Let Sky represent every garage rock singer who ever lived and sang without finesse. Reg Presley of the Troggs was every bit as good but I can't clutter this list up with people whose names are less famous than the bands they were in. Somehow, I have a feeling The Seeds won't ring as many bells as it should. Who teaches music history these days?

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.

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16) Jim Morrison: You think he doesn't belong here? You think his attempts at Frank Sinatra were credible? He sings the blues like he's Ralph Kramden. Country music? He let Robbie try that. Like it's said, those who can't sing, sing rock 'n' roll. And those who sing only rock 'n' roll sing it better than professionals who think they can do anything.

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?

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14) Captain Beefheart: Had he never been discovered by musicians who were willing to play along, the Captain could've enjoyed an honorable career singing in Spoonful -- A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf. Which isn't the same as singing the blues.

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.

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12) Lux Interior: Judging by what passes for 'rock 'n' roll at record fairs and such, the Cramps should be a household name. Poison Ivy was leap years from Bettie Page and Lux was his own peculiar creep but the music they played sounds like what so many young-rockabilly-punk-metal followers look like.

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.

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10) Joey Ramone: Many punks were difficult people, but Joey had a heart of gold, like he could've been on Fonzie & Friends and been the guy who solves everyone else's problems. Rock 'n' Roll was the only job for him and for many years paid him below minimum wage until it finally didn't. It's nice that NYC named a street for him, but I want to see it happen all over the world. Helsinki? Budapest? Fresno? Laramie?

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.

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8) Lemmy: It's a not-so-secret fantasy of mine (and many others) to have Lemmy kick the crap out of Bono and replace him in the public's consciousness.

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.

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6) Keith Richards: There's a reason Mick leads the Rolling Stones. Despite many people's wishes, Keith could not carry the job from the shadows, despite being 'Rock 'n' Roll Archetype Exhibit 101'. He's a great foil who harmonizes better/worse than anyone and nails a ballad or two on his way to "Happy."

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?

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4) Neil Young: Neil would've been a country singer in the 1940s and 1950s and he managed to switch the job over to rock 'n' roll for the 1970s where the guy in the Crosby, the Stills, the Nash and the Young with the worst technical voice turned out to be the only guy in the group with anything to say. The others made pleasant, sometimes very decent records, but Neil personified the loner who found his own way home. Modern music corporations would've fired him on day one.

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.

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2) Ray Davies: Ray Davies is a terrible singer, by which I mean to say, he's a great singer and the Kinks were a great band when they were making records that sounded like no one gave them a budget to make them. No one can sing "Waterloo Sunset" or "The Way Love Used To Be," the way Ray wobbles his way through them. People tribute Ray Davies all the time and they never improve on what he did. They mean well. But other people's professionalism is not what Ray Davies' songs need. They need Ray Davies.

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!

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