Friday, September 29, 2006

Great Divas

Why do we even have male singers? Who likes them? Who needs them?

I'm looking at my iTunes library and Sting is pretty much the only male singer there, and definitely not for his singing, just for his songs. OK, there is Lenny Kravitz who seriously rocks, and R.E.M. / Michael Stipe, and U2 with Bono, but there we go again to the songs rather than the singing being the "beef".

Could be that it's just because I'm a guy and like girls in general, but I think in jazz this should be a strict rule: female singers only. The various cringe-inducing scatting franksinatras can take their scooby doos and scaba dahs and go to Country Clubs and sing to the overweight and post-middle-aged matrons. And wear a thong for tips.

But, as I'm passing the evening hours at work trying to finish a paper, I'm being mesmerised by the great Divas. Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and of course the unfortunate, delicate and spellbinding Billie Holiday. How can Lady Day sound so strong and so fragile, so harsh and so tender at the same time? The list of amazing vocalists goes on: Aretha Franklin, Patricia Barber, the contemporary Billie Holiday-soundalike Madeleine Peyroux, Diana Krall, Susheela Raman and on the more pop-py side, Patricia Kaas, Eva Cassidy, Lisa Nilsson etc.. They rule.

And even though all these songs have lyrics, I can easily ignore them and just listen to these voices as instruments, wrap their smooth sounds around me and keep tapping the keyboard in the dark, autumny evening.

If you haven't already, go and buy Verve's Ultimate Diva Collection. Now.

BTW, thanks to DJ Bunny for most of these songs and having a great voice herself.

P.S. Found the exceptions to the rule (the general rule, not the jazz-one): Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. I listen to both because I like their voices. Funnily, both are (or in Buckley's case were) gay. :-)

(Pic: William P. Gottlieb)

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