It’s a sad truth, but many of our favorite artists of yesteryear aren’t exactly at the top of their game vocally. Honestly, we can’t even be upset about it. We’ll all grow older. We’ll all mature. We’ll all go through our voices lowering or cracking unsuspectingly. It’s simply nature, and for some singers the affect is obvious. They simply cannot hit the notes they used to, or hold that phase as long because the breath control just isn’t there anymore. After hitting and holding those notes for 20, 30, sometimes even 50 years, you can understand why as time passes their voices get tired. Again, in many cases it’s just genetics.
However, we all know there are some artists out there that are just as vibrant, strong, impassioned, and on key vocally as ever. These artists–through vocal training and a strong set of pipes–are still selling out theatres and arenas not only because of their name recognition, but because they can still put on a show.
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About two years ago, my parents went to see Smokey Robinson in concert. When they came home my mom told me that not only was it a great show, but that Smokey sounds just as good, if not better than he did in his hay-day with Motown. I’m sure there’s some cynic out there thinking, ‘Smokey is not some powerhouse belter anyway, so why wouldn’t he sound decent?’ Well, there are artists, male and female, who came to prominence during Smokey’s era and cannot channel that spirit in their current work. Smokey can, and has been for decades; and we see no plans of him stopping just yet. Gladys Knight is a strong alto who can still hit those soprano notes if need be with little effort. She is class and entertainment personified and hasn’t lost a bit of that spark. Co-starring in Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself, we got to hear just how polished this diva still is.
Chaka Khan is another one who hasn’t lost her touch. In fact, while some of her biggest fans (Fantasia, Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Angie Stone) were paying tribute to her, Chaka proved she not only could hang with her musical offspring but still teach them a thing or two. She hasn’t lost that range or tone quality, despite decades of hitting stratospheric notes. Lastly, you have the legendary Ms. Patti Labelle, who guarantees to show up and show out at every event. One reaction you’ve never witnessed in regards to Patti is “Humph, that was aight.” Patti’s powerhouse voice is as crisp, clear and full of tricks as the day she touched a microphone. Say what you want about the Queen, but she will be running the heck out of those notes and kicking off those stilettos until she’s had enough, and we pray she never does.
Who are some of your favorite classic soul artists that still give you chills?