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Posts Tagged ‘The Doobie Brothers’

Most rock bands have one primary singer. Though other members might contribute background vocals, harmonies, or an off-beat album track, it’s somewhat unusual to see different vocalists in the lead role, on a consistent basis.  There are some bands that consistently featured two lead singers (e.g. Cream – Bruce/Clapton, Simon and Garfunkel, Styx – DeYoung/Shaw, The Cars – Ocasek/Orr), but few who exceeded that.  Even more uncommon is to see a band have a string of hit songs, featuring different lead vocalists.  The bands listed below have done just that.

  1. Chicago (Robert Lamm – “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Terry Kath – “Colour My World”, Peter Cetera – “25 or 6 to 4”)
  2. The Doobie Brothers (Tom Johnston – “China Grove”, Patrick Simmons – “Black Water”, Michael McDonald – “Takin’ It to the Streets”)
  3. Pink Floyd (Roger Waters – “Another Brick in the Wall”, David Gilmour – “Money”, Richard Wright – some lead vocals on “Time”, Syd Barrett – “Astronomy Domine”)
  4. The Monkees (Micky Dolenz- “Last Train to Clarksville”, Davy Jones – “Daydream Believer”, Michael Nesmith – “Listen to the Band”)
  5. Jefferson Airplane/Starship (Grace Slick – “White Rabbit”, Marty Balin – “Miracles”, Mickey Thomas – “Jane”) Founding member Paul Kantner also sang lead on many of the groups popular album cuts.
  6. The Mama’s and the Papa’s (Though they almost always sang as an ensemble, you can find some lead vocals, like John Phillips – “Creeque Alley”, Denny Doherty – “California Dreaming”, Michelle Phillips – “Dedicated to the One I Love”, Cass Elliot – “Dream a Little Dream of Me”)
  7. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Stephen Stills – “Woodstock”, Graham Nash – “Our House”, David Crosby – “Wooden Ships”, Neil Young – “Helpless”)
  8. Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks – “Dreams”, Christie McVie – “You Make Loving Fun”, Lindsey Buckingham – “Go Your Own Way”, Peter Green – “Black Magic Woman”)
  9. The Eagles (Don Henley – “Hotel California”, Glenn Frey – “Tequila Sunrise”, Randy Meisner – “Take It to the Limit”, Joe Walsh – “In the City”, Timothy B. Schmit – “I Can’t Tell You Why”)
  10. The Beatles (Paul McCartney – “Yesterday”, John Lennon – “All You Need is Love”, George Harrison – “Something”, Ringo Starr – “Yellow Submarine”)
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This article is not intended to be a list of the “most distinctive voices of the rock era”, because with all due respect to folks like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Axel Rose, Janis Joplin, Bjork… distinctive is not necessarily synonymous with high quality.  This also isn’t a list of the best vocalists of the era, though a couple of these might qualify for that one as well.  Instead it is meant to highlight some truly unique vocalists who made a mark on the music of their era.

1.    Roy Orbison (solo, The Traveling Wilburys):  Few could boast the vocal range of this rock pioneer, whose natural baritone was perfectly capable of reaching into the high tenor range.  Though best known for his classic, “Oh, Pretty Woman”, hits like “Crying” and “Only the Lonely” were an even better showcase for this special vocal talent.

2.    Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin, solo):  Despite being known as a hard rock vocalist, Plant has shown himself to be equally adept at singing the blues (e.g. “Since I’ve Been Loving You”), folk (e.g. “That’s the Way”), pop standards (e.g. “Sea of Love” w/The Honeydrippers) and even bluegrass (e.g. the “Raising Sand” LP).  Regardless of the genre, he makes every song uniquely his own.

3.    David Gates (Bread, solo):  Though the radio friendly pop ballads of his band “Bread” aren’t necessarily esteemed in rock circles, few would argue the tender, expressive quality of David Gates vocal delivery.  Decades later, his body of work continues to find an audience through Oldies stations around the world.

4.    John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival, solo):  Though it’s tempting to group Fogerty’s raspy vocals with the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, his voice actually had a sturdier and more musically credible quality to it.  Undoubtedly, his unique delivery was a key element in creating some of the most memorable records of that era.

5.    Steve Perry (Journey, solo):  While the pop leanings of the rock band Journey were likely a turn off to some purists, they still managed to produce a string of highly listenable and memorable albums.  Though the band boasted a roster of notable musicians (e.g. former Santana members Neal Schon & Gregg Rolie), it was Steve Perry’s pristine vocals that ultimately distinguished them from the rest of the pop rock pack.

6.    Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel, solo):  Blessed with one of the purist voices in pop music and partnered with the amazingly talented Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel was a part of several now classic performances.  One listen to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” will tell you all that you need to know.

7.    Brad Delp (Boston):  Though (guitarist/keyboardist/producer) Tom Scholz’s often talked about studio wizardry was the basis for Boston’s unique brand on rock and roll, it was Brad Delp’s soaring vocal style that ultimately defined their sound.  After more than 30 years, there is still nothing that’s come close to duplicating this combination.

8.    Robin Gibb (The Bee Gees):  Though all of the Gibb brothers possessed unique vocal talent, Robin’s quivering falsetto could at times be described as otherworldly.  Early recordings like “I Started a Joke” or “Massachusetts” and later disco hits like “Staying Alive”, are prime examples of his one of a kind vocal delivery.

9.    Annie Lennox (The Eurhythmics, solo):  Though much of pop music from the 1980’s was set against a backdrop of synthesizers and outlandish fashion, it was the timeless quality of Annie Lennox’s vocals that elevated her work above the din.  Incredibly versatile, her voice was at times deep and sultry (“Who’s That Girl”), at other times haunting (“Here Comes the Rain Again”); sometimes playful (“Would I Lie to You”), sometimes soulful (“Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves”) and even at times, emotionally raw (“Why”).

10.  Michael McDonald (The Doobie Brothers, solo):  After breaking into the music business as a backup singer with the band Steely Dan, McDonald had the good fortune of being asked to join the already popular Doobie Brothers.  His arrival ushered in their most commercially successful years and set the stage for what has been a long and fruitful career as a solo artist.  His distinctive brand of blue eyed soul has continued to resonate with audiences into the new millennium.

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