Singers Who've Lost Their Voice

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I've been listening a ton to Bryan Ferry of late and watched a Dylan documentary last night (not the Rolling Thunder one) -- and I was struck by how weathered their instruments have become. And yet ... each have continued to make some incredible music -- Dylan with some of the most celebrated records of his career since 1975 and Ferry with 15 years worth of Ferry-esque smoothie records, Dixieland orchestra releases and a Dylan covers record, with him wheezing over the top. And both have continued to tour apace.

What other (once-)great singers have lost their voices and persisted with such success? And to what can we attribute their success?

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:11 (four months ago) link

Leonard Cohen?

Ambient Police (sleeve), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:12 (four months ago) link

Apparently Tom Waits started as a blue eyed soul singer before going into the beat thing and then whatever you call the mid 80s stuff and now winding up at the laryngitic recent material.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:17 (four months ago) link

Bernard Sumner. Controversial perhaps, because did he ever really have a good voice? Sure after 1987 he learned how to sing a bit, but take a listen to any live show in the last 5 years. His voice is gone.

brotherlovesdub, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:19 (four months ago) link

Marianne Faithfull !

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:19 (four months ago) link

Yes! Good call right there.

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:20 (four months ago) link

Billie Holiday, obviously.

confusementalism (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:23 (four months ago) link

title of this thread is irritating tbh. Every singer over the age of 70s is going to have their lungpower and range decrease, it's just a fact of aging.

More appropriate title might be "quality music by senior citizen singers" or something

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:25 (four months ago) link

still, just to throw some thoughts out there:

- Brian Wilson's voice has been shot for years, but his compositional skills are still *insane*. there was material on that last Beach Boys record that was way better than I would have expected.
- Mavis Staples still sounds great, and her late-career/Tweedy & co.-assisted renaissance has been a gift
- Willie Nelson's still pretty entertaining
- Neil Young can't hit those high whiny notes that he used to but he's still innaresting as well

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:27 (four months ago) link

Jerry Garcia seemed to be like totally laryngitic in the early 90s. Wasn't looking after his health, not sure if he was ever an utterly fantastic singer but state of him at taht point was a bit painful.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:29 (four months ago) link

Yeah, B. Wilson was another one I was thinking of.
Btw, M. Faithfull lost her voice far before her 70s, obviously.

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:29 (four months ago) link

i'd almost prefer a thread of the opposite idea, singers who've preserved their instrument beautifully over the years (two examples off the top of my head: philip bailey and chaka khan)

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:30 (four months ago) link

Lou Reed didn't lose his voice so much as lock it in a safe and only bring it out occasionally.

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:30 (four months ago) link

Nilsson, famously, but he found a way to work round it eventually.

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:32 (four months ago) link

Lou Reed's voice was essentially completely shot by the time of the Bells, which is more or less where I get off the boat but I know others here rep hard for what came after

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:32 (four months ago) link

i'd almost prefer a thread of the opposite idea, singers who've preserved their instrument beautifully over the years

yeah this might be more interesting, because honestly it's much more rare

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:32 (four months ago) link

I believe Mariah Carey kinda lost hers, too, right ?
And she's still successful.
Same for Whitney Houston by the end of the 90s, iirc (she wasn't successful anymore though).

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:33 (four months ago) link

Yes, there could be two twin threads !

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:33 (four months ago) link

would also allow accounting for those people who always just *sounded* old right from the start, so when they actually got really old it was like nothing had changed much (cf. Ralph Stanley)

xp

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:33 (four months ago) link

Prince kept his voice 'til the end, didn't he ?
Same for MJ (I'm not sure about that one) ?

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:34 (four months ago) link

xp Simeon Coxe from the Silver Apples would be a good candidate for that one, he's 80 years old and really doesn't sound that much different than he did in '69, when he also sounded like an old hippie

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:34 (four months ago) link

Prince's range remained very impressive right to the end, yeah. True, he didn't do quite as much yowling + screaming.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:36 (four months ago) link

I don't think Lou Reed's voice was totally shot by "The Bells" because, later on, he did occasionally sing songs entirely straight and acceptably ... when he felt like it.

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:36 (four months ago) link

Either Springsteen is still in excellent voice or there's some discreet autotuning of the top of his range on the new album.

Brad C., Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:36 (four months ago) link

title of this thread is irritating tbh. Every singer over the age of 70s is going to have their lungpower and range decrease, it's just a fact of aging.

More appropriate title might be "quality music by senior citizen singers" or something


Lol nobody mentioned before this post was 70 when they lost their voice

shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:37 (four months ago) link

Chet Baker for the lost voice part of the thread.

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:37 (four months ago) link

Greg Lake comes to mind, he sounded incredible in the early 70s but if you listen to those later ELP records (which I don't really recommend) you can hear his register start to lower and lose its power. he sounded okay through the 80s, but by the 90s reunion it was totally shot to the point where it was kinda painful to hear him try the old material - was surprised to find out he was only in his forties then

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:39 (four months ago) link

Honestly, a lot of the examples given so far either lived hard or certainly chain smoked for decades. That's got to make a difference, especially as you get older. Springsteen, for example, I'm not sure he ever smoked, and while his voice isn't what it used to be, it's still a pretty powerful thing.

Didn't Joanna Newsom's voice change after she got a throat operation? For nodes?

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:39 (four months ago) link

Lol nobody mentioned before this post was 70 when they lost their voice

my point was that sooner or later almost every singer is in this "singers who've lost their voice" category

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:40 (four months ago) link

Scott Walker's voice was pretty well-preserved right until the end - never touring obviously helps.

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:41 (four months ago) link

xp especially when they die

Vape Store (crüt), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:42 (four months ago) link

alright. I started the thread

Singers Who've Kept Their Voice

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:43 (four months ago) link

Either Springsteen is still in excellent voice or there's some discreet autotuning of the top of his range on the new album.

― Brad C., Wednesday, July 3, 2019 8:36 AM (five minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

i think springsteen lost some of his range circa tom joad/the rising, his voice gets narrower and distinctly more dylan-y and strained around then. he still sounds great live so i sometimes wonder if it was a conscious choice

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:44 (four months ago) link

Either Springsteen is still in excellent voice or there's some discreet autotuning of the top of his range on the new album.

I’m hearing it as the latter.

Vini C. Riley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:44 (four months ago) link

my point was that sooner or later almost every singer is in this "singers who've lost their voice" category

right, I was thinking about Annie Haslam here...her voice suddenly got thin and wobbly, but on the other hand she still sounded great through her sixties, so idk if she counts really. you can't have a soprano like that at 72 years old

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:45 (four months ago) link

Springsteen has definitely lost range and power, but his voice was a thing of magic to begin with.

Axl sounded pretty awful for a while, but he seems better, or at least better than it was. Roger Daltrey, he had a few bad years as well, but has sounded okay since surgery. Stevie Nicks is nowhere near where she once was.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:45 (four months ago) link

Kurt Wagner. coping mechanisms: falsetto, autotune

Manfred Hemming-Hawing (WmC), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:46 (four months ago) link

Hetfield is struggling. David Lee Roth for sure. Bruce from Maiden ... doing ok?

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:47 (four months ago) link

Ian Tyson (of Ian and Sylvia) is a strange case. he sounded great in the early '00s, but he fried his voice later in the decade when he tried to out-sing an over-amplified backing band and later came down with a bad cold. he regained some of his vocal power after having polyp surgery, only to lose it again after he was intubated during heart surgery a few years ago. I don't think he's well enough to perform these days. cowboys are allowed to have gravelly voices, so it doesn't seem like the ordeal took too great a toll on his career.

tandoor vittles (unregistered), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:53 (four months ago) link

Billy Corgan.

Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:53 (four months ago) link

John Sebastian

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:55 (four months ago) link

tbf in the case of Corgan you can't lose what you never had

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:58 (four months ago) link

Been thinking about Bjork, she doesn't seem to have attempted any of her old vocal acrobatics this last 10 years or so, is this because she can't any more?

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:59 (four months ago) link

Roger Daltrey, he had a few bad years as well, but has sounded okay since surgery.

He was decidedly hit-or-miss in 2006-07, but yeah, post-surgery Daltrey sounds good, especially for 75.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 16:03 (four months ago) link

title of this thread is irritating tbh. Every singer over the age of 70s is going to have their lungpower and range decrease, it's just a fact of aging.

Yeah, maybe I should have said "Singers Who've Lost Their Voices and Still Made Good Music" ... but the point wasn't "Hey, everybody gets old and loses their voice ... that sucks!" so much as "Some folks stop being interesting when they lose their voice (which also sucks), but some don't ... why?"

Some great points in here.

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 16:05 (four months ago) link

Gregory Isaacs was the poster boy for this

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 16:07 (four months ago) link

Robert Plant sounded shot as early as Physical Graffiti, but he's settled nicely into his new voice, especially circa Raising Sand where he sounds almost like Roy Orbison in places.

dinnerboat, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 16:11 (four months ago) link

Mark Kozelek. Whether his conscious change in delivery was secretly because he can't quite sing the way he used to... either way when he tries now (from what I've heard) it sounds specifically like the new rantrapping-matthew mcconaughey Kozelek trying to sing, as apposed to him just sounding the way he did before he switched styles. Reaffirms that new asshole rapping Mark is an imposter. Real Mark is missing!

Evan, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 16:27 (four months ago) link

Listen to Siouxsie Sioux on The Seven Year Itch and prepare to cringe

brigadier pudding (DJP), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 16:45 (four months ago) link

Been thinking about Bjork, she doesn't seem to have attempted any of her old vocal acrobatics this last 10 years or so, is this because she can't any more?

― mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 15:59 (fifty-six minutes ago) link

Yeah, she's had some serious issues with her vocal cords over the past decade (surgery, frequent forced vocal rests, cancelled shows etc.) and her upper range is weaker than it used to be but she still can belt a note out. She might even sound better in her mid-range now, but at the cost of losing the dolphin noises / acrobatics.

Joni Mitchell's loss of vocal range beginning in the 80s is very evident but she's a heavy smoker.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 17:04 (four months ago) link

I remember hearing that a lot 10-15 years ago re: Bjork - "if she keeps singing like that, she's gonna lose her voice"

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 17:09 (four months ago) link

i actually think Kylie has improved over the years.
someone could suggest studio based tweaks, however, Sundays performance (and last years Hyde Park show) would definitely contest that idea.
she has learnt how to use her range really well.

mark e, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 17:14 (four months ago) link

shit.
wrong thread !
ooops.
doi repost over in the other one ?

mark e, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 17:15 (four months ago) link

Thread title Should be “...Voices” no?

calstars, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 18:03 (four months ago) link

It’s actually kinda crazy to me how affecting I find ferry’s fucked old guy voice

shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 18:12 (four months ago) link

Lucinda Williams. She's always had that drawl/slur thing going on to some extent, but over the past four or five albums it's increased to the point where I can hardly stand to listen to her any more. A couple of years ago she re-recorded Sweet Old World and the difference in her singing from the original album is excruciating.

van dyke parks generator (anagram), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 19:57 (four months ago) link

Waits is the rare performer who "found" the voice they're most commonly associated with well into their recording career.

Simon H., Wednesday, 3 July 2019 20:08 (four months ago) link

Post-2005 Tori Amos.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 20:11 (four months ago) link

Being a huge Echo & the Bunnymen fan, I've seen loads of discussions around Ian McCulloch's voice, and obviously I have to admit that he doesn't sing like he did in the 80's - up to and including his first solo album Candleland.
But his voice is still unlike any others and he changed his style to match it, he still does amazing things with it and, while it's not what you hear on those classic records, he's a treat to hear live.

Valentijn, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 20:56 (four months ago) link

Paul Banks

flappy bird, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 22:37 (four months ago) link

A notorious one : Maria Callas

AlXTC from Paris, Thursday, 4 July 2019 05:54 (four months ago) link

Waits is cool because he spent most of his career trying to sound like a wise, bitter old hobo and now his voice fits the persona he was working on all these decades, so the older he gets, the - i don’t know if better, but - more organic his older material sounds when he performs it.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Thursday, 4 July 2019 06:08 (four months ago) link

Thom Yorke has sadly lost much of his higher tones and he sounds like he’s whining more often than not when he attempts it. Vocals break constantly live when he has to go there.

The more he losses his voice the more he likes to use it as a texture or loops inside songs and it makes for a frustrating listen to me. There’s way too much whining and mumbling that wasn’t there or at least not as noticeable in his younger years.

He’s still a pretty great vocalist but I wouldn’t mind if he toned down the high notes and the mumbling.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Thursday, 4 July 2019 06:19 (four months ago) link

Two singers who literally lost their voices:

Linda Thompson (though she eventually got it back)
Sheila Chandra

Hideous Lump, Thursday, 4 July 2019 06:31 (four months ago) link

Sheila Chandra's story is rather grim, apparently the burning mouth syndrome means she can't even speak, let alone sing?

Tuomas, Thursday, 4 July 2019 07:34 (four months ago) link

A rapper example (which is rare !) : the D.O.C.
It doesn't really fit the thread premise though since he didn't sustain his success afterward...

AlXTC from Paris, Thursday, 4 July 2019 08:53 (four months ago) link

Shirley Collins too

xxp

van dyke parks generator (anagram), Thursday, 4 July 2019 09:06 (four months ago) link

DMC also lost-lost his voice (the D.O.C. in a car crash, DMC damaging his through shouting and alcohol), with Run forbidding him from performing on their last record & him switching to croaky blues gasping as a solo artist

quelle sprocket damage (sic), Thursday, 4 July 2019 09:09 (four months ago) link

Milli Vanilli

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 4 July 2019 09:10 (four months ago) link

A sad case of someone whose voice is only a shadow of what it used to be, without finding a new style to match it (like Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits): Stephen Stills.

Valentijn, Thursday, 4 July 2019 09:33 (four months ago) link

Andy Bell from Erasure

PaulTMA, Thursday, 4 July 2019 10:09 (four months ago) link

Boy George

PaulTMA, Thursday, 4 July 2019 10:10 (four months ago) link

It’s actually kinda crazy to me how affecting I find ferry’s fucked old guy voice

― shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Thursday, 4 July 2019 4:12 AM (fifteen hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

Yeah that cover of Johnny and Mary where he sounds frail and ancient is really special, def my favorite late-career Ferry thing.

umsworth (emsworth), Thursday, 4 July 2019 10:18 (four months ago) link

I haven’t heard Boy George since Somebody To Love Me (nine years ago!), but he still sounded wonderful there, if deeper & not as liquid as his 1985 self

quelle sprocket damage (sic), Thursday, 4 July 2019 10:23 (four months ago) link

Xp In fact generally like rock voices cracked with age, my favourite parts of seeing Paul McCartney recently were the bits where he sounded like an old man. I like the honest sound of this pop cultural moment heading into its dotage.

Oh and Perry Farrell was the one that came to mind for me. Last time i saw Jane's he was doing a really good sleight of hand job but it was clearly not really there. He made up for it with showmanship and somehow suggesting his old voice and I think as an audience you sort of fill in the gaps. Occasionally he would really go for a crucial note. It must be super hard to no longer be able to do the thing that defines you, and i did feel for him a little having to put in such effort to even approximate his old performance.

umsworth (emsworth), Thursday, 4 July 2019 10:29 (four months ago) link

Re : Ferry, yeah I love his jazz/big band stuff. arguably one of the peaks of his career imo.

AlXTC from Paris, Thursday, 4 July 2019 10:34 (four months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2hzLpZftLQ

PaulTMA, Thursday, 4 July 2019 11:05 (four months ago) link

George Clinton!

Carly Jae Vespen (Capitaine Jay Vee), Thursday, 4 July 2019 12:04 (four months ago) link

Compare and contrast :(( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCpWh8Yi9Uc

Carly Jae Vespen (Capitaine Jay Vee), Thursday, 4 July 2019 12:06 (four months ago) link

OMG

Vini C. Riley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 4 July 2019 12:40 (four months ago) link

Ian Anderson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QeDpONKs0U

Zeuhl Idol (Matt #2), Thursday, 4 July 2019 12:50 (four months ago) link

Walter White's flute skills have improved though

bendy, Thursday, 4 July 2019 14:36 (four months ago) link

Johnny Cash might be considered in the same group as Waits and Cohen.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Thursday, 4 July 2019 15:41 (four months ago) link

Life has been not surprisingly pretty rough on many of the old 80s metal singers voices.

Stephen Pearcy
Vince Neil
David Coverdale
Chris DeGarmo
David Lee Roth

Thing with some is that they get them healed or fixed and they do improve some times. Axl Rose voice was completely blown on some of those faux-GNR live stuff, worst I can remember was that clip of them playing one of those Bridge benefit concerts. Axl and Phil Lewis (of LA Guns) both seemed to have lost their voice and a few years later sound much better.

earlnash, Thursday, 4 July 2019 15:49 (four months ago) link

as much as I hate to admit it, kate bush (although it does give some of the director's cut covers an eerie feel)

like, I’m eating an elephant head (katherine), Thursday, 4 July 2019 16:44 (four months ago) link

I actually really like Kate's huskier vocal style from DC and 50 Words for Snow. Her voice has definitely changed, and she's adapted/developed her singing style, but I wouldn't say she's "lost" it. I also thought she sounded good (if a bit safe) on the live recording from Before the Dawn.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Thursday, 4 July 2019 17:28 (four months ago) link

Morrissey. He made it work on Vauxhaul And I but when the songwriting went downhill there was not much to work with.

Comus is kind of interesting because Roger's voice changed completely, a different singer almost, not actually bad but most probably prefer his older voice. But Bobbie sounds exactly the same!
Please make more music!

Robert Adam Gilmour, Friday, 5 July 2019 16:52 (four months ago) link

Joni Mitchell makes a compelling case for losing your voice.

Pauline Male (Eric H.), Friday, 5 July 2019 17:27 (four months ago) link

Morrissey. He made it work on Vauxhaul And I but when the songwriting went downhill there was not much to work with.

if only he lost his voice, maybe then he'd stop doing interviews

like, I’m eating an elephant head (katherine), Friday, 5 July 2019 21:07 (four months ago) link

I thought the story with Joni was that she smoked like crazy specifically to *change* her voice on purpose.

Johnny Fever, Friday, 5 July 2019 23:05 (four months ago) link

Michael Stipe seems to have lost most of his once-wide vocal range by 2007 (when R.E.M.'s Accelerate album was recorded).

Geddy Lee’s voice has slowly deteriorated over the years and he became unable to reach the high notes of the earliest Rush albums. But then watch the concert video of the Clockwork Angels tour and he is visibly struggling to reach even the pitched-down versions of songs. It actually hurts to watch.

Melomane, Friday, 5 July 2019 23:12 (four months ago) link

Hmmm. 2008:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0wsEzK-yJA

timellison, Friday, 5 July 2019 23:37 (four months ago) link

Pitch-y at first but he seems to settle into it

timellison, Friday, 5 July 2019 23:42 (four months ago) link

Those are pretty high notes. E5, F5?

timellison, Friday, 5 July 2019 23:49 (four months ago) link

Stipe sounds pretty bad in that 2008 clip and the RRHOF induction from the previous year, IMO

stan by me (morrisp), Saturday, 6 July 2019 00:18 (four months ago) link

Andy Bell from Erasure

Man this makes me sad. I heard only a little bit of the latest album but it was autotuned to oblivion and I figured it was probably the case that his voice is gone

Vinnie, Saturday, 6 July 2019 15:05 (four months ago) link

Chris Conley from Saves the Day was one of these, I think.

☮ (peace, man), Saturday, 6 July 2019 15:22 (four months ago) link

Re: Andy Bell. It’s not just the autotuning, it’s the way that he actually sings now - seems like something changed in his technique when he did the Pop Star to Opera Star TV show. Does make me a little sad to listen back to the earlier Erasure records and hear how good a voice he had.

michaellambert, Saturday, 6 July 2019 15:23 (four months ago) link

I think Stipe's hitting an e4/f4 on "air". He struggles on the scale around A-C before getting back to being comfortable. Which feels like he's not getting a chance to breathe. One could say he's trying not to breathe.

KPH, Sunday, 7 July 2019 00:44 (four months ago) link


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