They are celebrated as great vocalists, but can the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits really sing?
By Neil McCormick
Bob Dylan: “A voice like sand and glue” in Bowie’s memorable phrase. Contrary to what many of his critics would assert, Dylan actually sings in tune but his harsh, barbed-wire timbre & attacking delivery has been inspiration for every tone deaf poet with a guitar. But with songs like these, who cares whether he can really sing or not?
Lou Reed: His half talking, half singing drawl with the Velvet Underground created a new rock template
Tom Waits: Started out gruff and soulful but deliberately ravaged his vocal chords with whiskey & cigarettes to sound older & more lived in. In the history of vocals, I am not sure anyone has ever done more with less.
Johnny Cash: Even as a youngster, his voice was shaky & low, but he sang in time and in tune and like he had lived every word.
John Lydon: His ranting style, high and tuneless, led the attack of the Sex Pistols then took us on dub metal journeys with PIL
Ian Dury: Unrepentantly cockney speak-singing, frequently completely flat but utterly alive in the playful lyrics.
Leonard Cohen: A low, shaky monotone that has, somehow, grown in authority even as it reduces in range
Nick Cave: A stiff baritone beset by tuning problems, Cave invests his apocalyptic blues with spine chilling conviction
Siouxsie Sioux: A lone female entrant on our chart of errant singing stars, Siouxsie’s limited range and gravelly tone only added to her lustre as the grand dame of punk & goth
Jarvis Cocker: OK when he keeps it to a whisper but as soon as he sings out he turns into some tuneless geek in a karaoke bar. Which perfectly suits his vignettes of ordinary life.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012