They are celebrated as great vocalists, but can the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits really sing? Neil McCormick writes in the Daily Telegraph:
Bob Dylan: “A voice like sand and glue” in Bowie’s memorable phrase. Contrary to what many of his critics would assert, Dylan actually sings in tune but his harsh, barbed-wire timbre & attacking delivery has been inspiration for every tone deaf poet with a guitar. But with songs like these, who cares whether he can really sing or not?
Lou Reed: His half talking, half singing drawl with the Velvet Underground created a new rock template.
Tom Waits: Started out gruff and soulful but deliberately ravaged his vocal chords with whiskey and cigarettes to sound older and more lived in. In the history of vocals, I am not sure anyone has ever done more with less.
Johnny Cash: Even as a youngster, his voice was shaky and low, but he sang in time and in tune and like he had lived every word.
John Lydon (Johnny Rotten): His ranting style, high and tuneless, led the attack of the Sex Pistols then took us on dub metal journeys with Public Image Limited.
Ian Dury: Unrepentantly cockney speak-singing, frequently completely flat but utterly alive in the playful lyrics.
Leonard Cohen: A low, shaky monotone that has, somehow, grown in authority even as it reduces in range.
Nick Cave: A stiff baritone beset by tuning problems, Cave invests his apocalyptic blues with spine chilling conviction.
Siouxsie Sioux: A lone female entrant on our chart of errant singing stars, Siouxsie’s limited range and gravelly tone only added to her lustre as la grande dame of punk and goth.
Jarvis Cocker: OK when he keeps it to a whisper but as soon as he sings out he turns into some tuneless geek in a karaoke bar, which perfectly suits his vignettes of ordinary life.