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The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time?
January 13, 2023
If I cannot fly, let me sing.
-Stephen Sondheim, composer and lyricist, 1930-2021

Rolling Stone has released their list of “The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.” While their list, especially the top 50, is dominated by North American and European artists, their descriptions of each inspire wonder at the diversity and power of vocal music.

Here's an alphabetical list of artists who captured the top ten spots: Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Billie Holiday, Mariah Carey, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston… If you like, try to match each singer to their description and rank below. You can also jump to the full list at Rolling Stone to see who’s who, or perhaps just be inspired to create your own weekend playlist!

10. Few singers create the illusion of being carried away by the very song they’re singing the way he can.

9. So boundless and revved up that he could literally make a stage shake. But especially in the studio, his emotive rasp was a marvel of controlled restraint.

8. At times brashly Southern or cherubically hymnal, her malleability and penchant for vocal theatricals have allowed her range to successfully fit into everything from funk to country to hard rock.

7. From starry-eyed romance to gritty realism, his voice can convey it with ease.

6. Quote, “I just try to sing a song, and I only sing songs I like to sing. And I try to put a little bit of soul into everything.”

5. Across five staggering octaves, [she] can pivot easily between a biting, taunting growl to an unreal whistle tone so sharply delivered it could cut steel.

4. Emotional truth… a quality that gave her a special status among fellow artists.

3. Few singers savored being inside a song the way [he] did. A civil rights activist inspired by hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind.”

2. The standard-bearer for R&B vocals, [with] a soprano that was as powerful as it was tender.

1. A force of nature. A work of genius. A gift from the heavens…the unchallenged Queen, years after her final bow.

Share your Best Singers of All Time—or your weekend playlist—in the comments!

Reminder: Don't forget to share who and what has most inspired your early childhood practice - longstanding staples that have grounded your practice and newer influences that have transformed it. Survey closes January 15.


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