Wednesday, January 20, 2010

5 Female Voices from the 1970's-'80's to Love

To say this is a varied list would be an understatement. Sappy AM radio material to electropop to hard rock -- I think I have it covered here. The following is a list, as usual in no particular order, of female vocalists who I really appreciate. Oh, yeah -- and I'm going to discuss 6 vocalists to love, because I couldn't pare down my list. Sue me...

1. Karen Carpenter, the Carpenters.
What's that you say? Did I hear a snicker out there? Shame on you and go dig out your mom's old LP's and check out this lovely lady who met such an untimely end. Whether it's Rainy Days and Mondays or Superstar, or the honey-dripping Yesterday Once More and Close to You, Karen Carpenter's vocals epitomized the new easy listening style of the early to mid-1970's. She was tailor-made for the diversion of AM and FM radio, maintaining a presence on what would become the "older" frequency, seemingly left behind by rock's progression into experimentation.

2. Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac.
I'll bet more people identify Stevie Nicks with the band than they do Christine McVie. And that's fine -- it was Nicks and then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham who made Fleetwood Mac the commercial success they became in the 1970's and on into the next decade. But McVie was there first, and continued to produce hits. Her voice was quite different from Nicks, and really fit the personality of the songs on which she sang lead vocals. Don't Stop, Little Lies, Everywhere, Hold Me, Over My Head, and You Make Loving Fun are all standards for the band, and for those who listened to Top 40 radio during the Bronze Age of Comics.
3. Alison Moyet, Yazoo.
College rock, my friends. Don't Go alone puts her on this list. Situation is no slouch, either. Wow -- what a voice. Big, powerful... she is truly gifted. Now I would not say I'm a Yaz (as they are known in the States) fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I could never forget some of their songs that we listened to on 12" singles, at frat parties, etc. Good stuff!

4. Chrissie Hynde, the Pretenders.
The Pretenders have been a lasting act, first hitting it big in the US in 1980 with the catchy Brass in Pocket. Middle of the Road and Back on the Chain Gang got huge radio play in the mid-'80's as well. Hynde's punky, sometimes bluesy vocals are often sassy -- appropriate for the sound of the band. A side note on Hynde -- although the Pretenders were formed in the UK, she originally hails from Akron, Ohio and was a student at Kent State in 1970 during the infamous Kent State killings.

5. Pat Benatar.

Seriously -- you can't forget the intro. to Heartbreaker, Benatar's breakthrough hit. Although she slipped into video "say what?!" with her crazy dancing performance in Love is a Battlefield I'll forgive her. And despite her diminutive size (she's what, five feet tall?), her voice is impressive.

6. Ann Wilson, Heart

Here's your bonus -- how could I leave the Wilson sisters off the list? Straight On, Dreamboat Annie, Barracuda, Magic Man, Even it Up, and on and on. Rockers, hit makers, and let's face it -- Nancy's held up pretty well over the years. But it has always been Ann's driving, even loud, vocals that symbolize the band's sound. When I think of Heart, it's Ann Wilson that I hear first -- not any trademark musical sound.


Karen said...

Just wanted to add my 2 cents and say that I always thought Christie McVie had a much better voice than bandmate Stevie Nicks, who I think got more attention for her looks really than her singing.

Chrissie Hynde is another favorite and Nancy Wilson is another great choice!

Booksteve said...

Good choices all! I'm on record elsewhere as just adoring Karen Carpenter's voice and nearly all of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs are Christine's!

Edo Bosnar said...

My own suggestions:
1. the oft-overlooked and underappreciated Joan Armatrading
2. Mariska Veres (who? the Shocking Blue's singer - no cover of "Venus" comes even remotely close to the original belted out by Mariska... and yes, I realize the song was released in 1969, but it topped the US & European charts in 1970, and the band remained active for several years afterward)

Anonymous said...

I like Christine McVie, but I love Stevie Nicks.

Tony said...

I loved Pat Benatar!! She's an awesome singer, and still sounds amazing to this day. Stevie Nicks is another favorite, Linda Ronstadt was great as well. I've always though Cher had a great voice.

Steve Does Comics said...

I certainly agree about Chrissie Hynde. I didn't appreciate her voice when The Pretenders first came along but, by the mid-80s, I'd come to realise just what a remarkable thing it was.

Others I've always appreciated from that time period:

Kiki Dee. Sadly, she's lumbered with being known for THAT record but it really didn't do her justice. It's when you hear other tracks by her that you realise just what a great voice she had.

Kate Bush. There are times when you wonder how it's even physically possible to have a voice like Kate Bush. It seems to be seeping through from some other dimension altogether.

Debbie Harry. She didn't have a flashy voice but it got the job done.

Siouxsie Sioux. It's the sort of voice that says, "Don't mess with me." I love it.

Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex. It's not what you'd call a classically beautiful voice but it was just so full of character. Once heard, never forgotten.

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