The voice is arguably the greatest instrument. I know, I know, what about the piano or a Fender Stratocaster? Or, is the voice simply the most resonant instrument, because it’s us? Well, not me, but those who can really sing.
One of the things I’m talking about is the ability of some singers to hit that note. That impossible note that not only gets the hair on my neck to stand up, but also causes something deep within me to reverberate and expand, lifting me several inches off the floor, while shouting with an incoherent joy, previously unknown, and then, suddenly, I shake free of my physical body and explode into a thousand kinds of cosmic particles. That’s the note.
Once, I was at Red Rocks to see Luther Vandross and it was raining and he was about an hour late and everyone was cranky and wet. He didn’t stay long enough, but was more than great, and, though many felt cheated, I still remember it as a fantastic show and experience. One of the reasons was that, during one of the songs, he hit this certain note, a low note, and the sound of it set off a resonance inside every member of the soaking audience. He held it until everyone was screaming, not knowing what was happening to them, except that this big guy onstage had this ability, this gift, this miracle within him, and was giving it to each of them.
There are many women who have this power – Aretha, anytime she wants, Sarah Vaughn, and many others, but, right now, I’m thinking of guys who can do this. It doesn’t matter if it’s live, it can happen in a recording, like Fred Neil’s voice on Sugaree. Or, think of Tony Joe White’s deep, umm umm, in the humid, dripping swamp somewhere. Bing could do it, too, and I imagine him blinking his long lashes and staring his sincerity into the souls of his listeners.
One that always blows my mind is Al Hibbler, who used to sing with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and as a solo artist. One day, I came across the song, Travelin’ Light, on an album called, When the Lights Go Down Low. He has quite a resonant voice, but I wasn’t prepared for the note he hits just past midway through the song. I heard it and all my hair fell out. I’ve never been the same.
And, what about Barry White? Sure, there’s the hokey strings of his Love Unlimited Orchestra, but that voice… Talk about feeling or feeling like making out or feeling whatever ecstasy he had in mind… Holy Cow!