Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Saturday Seven: Favorite Male Crooners

Throughout my life, music has always been important to me. Growing up in the music business, I was surrounded by pianos and synthesizers, along with various wind and string instruments. I remember touching the keys of the piano that performers like Elton John and Liberace had rented for concerts and thinking that it was really special. When Frank Sinatra would come to town, it was always a huge deal, my father in particular would speak in platitudes that were reserved only for "The Chairman of The Board". The Rat Pack were revered by members of my family, and I too was a fan. I was fascinated with the business and decided I should explore my own hidden talents.

After several unsuccessful attempts at piano, guitar and drums I decided voice lessons would best suit me. I was certain I had a great voice hidden within, kicking and screaming to come out. My vocal coach was an attractive young woman who was an aspiring Broadway star. Despite all her efforts and my penchant for stardom, there was just not enough raw talent available for her to work with. I decided to spare her any further torture and resigned myself to strictly performing in the shower. Incidentally, my watery version of "Strangers in the Night" is ready for prime time!
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One outcome of those voice lessons was an enhanced appreciation for the American standards, classics, and tin pan alley songs- timeless music that never fades. These are songs and musical arrangements that contemporary artists rarely replicate. There are many artists who have performed this genre of music, but only a handful who have sung them well. Which brings me to this week's edition of The Saturday Seven: Top Male Crooners

#1 Frank Sinatra- In my view, this list must start with the great Frank Sinatra. Aside from his talent and charm, he had an attitude and presence that mystified audiences. I never heard a Sinatra song that I didn't like. His rousing style and punchy attitude put him in his own league. The rumors of his mob connections only made him more interesting to fans. All that aside, he had a great, versatile voice. There are too many to name, but "My Kind of Town", "New York, New York", "Summer Wind", "Strangers in the Night" are some of my favorites for sure. He owned several houses right here in Palm Springs, and his presence is still felt in this town.

#2 Michael Buble- (pronounced "Boo-Blay"). A more recent, young entry into this category, I am so impressed with the depth and power of his voice. I like the way he "kicks up" his voice to sound like he is singing at a noisy casino somewhere. It was actually my barber, Gary who turned me onto Michael Buble. One week he gave me a CD and I thought to myself: "Michael who??". Once I listened to his music, I was blown away with what I had been missing. He channels Frank Sinatra, yet still has a unique style and look. This Canadian kid is going far.



#3 Dean Martin- Seem wierd? Not for me. I like his voice and style. Being surrounded by guys like Sinatra, Dean wisely carved out his own niche as the suave guy who enjoyed his cocktails and a few smokes. His laid-back singing style and tipsy routine was part of the act. Always the "life of the party", Dean kept things rolling throwing in a few jokes for good measure. As a kid, my dad loved Dean Martin and would play his records. For some reason, the song "Marshmallow World" always stuck with me. Even in his later years, Dean would be surrounded by beautiful girls. On his variety show he had a chorus line of girls called the "Ding-a-Lings" who practically worshipped Dean like a Greek Adonis. I always liked his rendition of "Ain't that a Kick in the head", "Volare" and of course, "That's Amore" (listen)

#4 Sammy Davis Jr.- Sammy had a lot of energy and talent packed into his tiny frame. His booming voice and nimble dance routines made him famous. And that laugh, oh how he could laugh. I remember seeing him in concert wearing gold rings on every finger. As a member of the Rat Pack, he played an important role, not only as a fall guy, but also to help break down racial barriers. Even before it was cool to do so, Frank Sinatra always made sure Sammy was treated the same as he was, even if it meant a few fist fights to make his point. I always liked his signature "Mr Bojangles" and "The Candy Man".

#5 Harry Connick Jr.- I've liked Harry Connick Jr since he first burst onto the scene. I first heard his music back in 1985 and thought, wow not only is this guy a great singer, but he is handsome too. He gained early notoriety as a talented kid who liked the sound of a big band behind him. He has experimented with a variety of music styles in his career, demonstrating his talent and individuality. When you hear Harry speak, his N'Awlins accent is very charming. He was great in TV's Will and Grace, as Grace's husband.


#6 Johnny Mathis- What needs to be said about Johnny Mathis? His signature songs include: "Chances Are" and "Misty". Could there ever be a more quintessential version of "The Christmas Song"? It is a classic. As a multiple Grammy winner, he had many top 40 hits, and sang many Broadway and movie classics including "Moon River". Even Frank Sinatra had this to say about him: "His voice is one of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable in the world. He epitomizes class and romance." Anyway I like him too. In an interview back in 1982 he confirmed that he was gay, but subsequently received death threats and never mentioned it again. (can you blame him?)

#7 Barry Manilow- He's practically my neighbor! This Palm Springs resident finally has the respect he deserves. After many years being viewed as just a 70's pop singer, Barry emerged again on top of his game with several new hit records and a mega-contract in Las Vegas. Back in 1978 five of his albums were on the best-selling charts simultaneously, a feat equalled only by Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. Songs like "Mandy", Copacabana", and "I Write the Songs", are my favorites. Barry Manilow is a talented singer, songwriter and producer. His projects with Bette Midler have won him awards and accolades. There are not too many performers doing what he is doing, so he makes it to my list at #7.


Bonus Crooner: Matt Monro- So you are thinking who the heck is Matt Monro, right? Well Matt was sort of the British Frank Sinatra. His voice was clear and smooth. He was known for hits like "My Kind of Girl" and "Born Free" But he is perhaps best know by James Bond fans as signing the theme to "From Russia, with Love".






-Rick Rockhill

20 comments:

Marlupe said...

Great post. Looks like you hit the big ones for sure. I agree with you on SDjr too.

Michelle said...

Michael Buble, eh? He's one of us up here in the North Country.

Kat said...

Rick,
Thanks for sending me your way!

Michael said...

I love comparing notes about stuff like this. Great choices! On my list I'd have to add Bing Crosby, not because I'm a huge fan or anything but because he was the original. Most crooners got their start trying to imitate him. I love Tony Bennett, too. God bless him, he still has a way with a lyric! Also, perhaps not the coolest choice, but Andy Williams always had such a clean, clear, pretty voice and a simple style that I loved. My 2 cents. :)

Chris said...

Very nice. It was cool of you to include Matt Monro. I love "From Russia with Love." The British Frank Sinatra, indeed. I imagine they actually wanted Sinatra, and had to settle on Monro. Sinatra later did "Softly, While I Leave You," with which Monro had already had a minor hit in the U.K.

Jake Mabe said...

Great choices, Rick. Sinatra is the best. I just ordered the 4 CD/1 DVD set "Sinatra: Vegas" from Amazon. Can't wait to hear the rare tracks.

Also, if you like Johnny Mathis, I strongly recommend you find a copy of a rare song of his called "Yellow Roses on Her Gown." It's one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard. Great post!

H-Bomb said...

Good list, for sure. Two to add, that aren't necessarily crooners, but definitely in the same vein: Scott Walker and Candie Payne. Check em out, and learn to love them!

zero said...

Great post.
I have to say that Frank Sinatra was the top Crooner...
...in my opinion.

It's my first time , here , at your blog and i liked it a lot.

Great job.


zero.

c.a. Marks said...

Very nice list indeed. I like all of them although I have never heard of Matt Monro. I have Deano in the CD player in the car right now!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, like thanks for the invite to your pad. Great blog, and no disrespect meant, but for me there is only one crooner who deserves the rank of #1 and that would be Dino. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool. Oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth.

Nick said...

Thanks for the comment :)
I'm definitely with you on numbers 3 and 4. Really couldn't tell you why I never got into Sinatra's music, but love his films.

kevin said...

hi rick
thanks for stopping by my blog. It was good to hear from you.

You list many great singers that are truely legends.

Kev in NZ

David said...

Hi there, thanks for your comment, just been catching up on your blog, sounds and looks like you had a great time on the cruise!
Look forward to reading some more of you
David x

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking the Rat Pack, there is an an exciting new group on Yahoo called The Judy Garland Experience. The group features ever changing and always amazing audio files. Currently, along with some of Judy's 1950's radio work we are featuring full length concerts of her with the original Rat Pack, her 1967 free concert on the Boston Common, songs and interviews from her aborted role in Valley Of The Dolls, and much more. The group also features rare photo's, lively discussions, and the most eclectic and interesting gathering of Garland fans anywhere!
The group features fans of all levels, new and hardcore, Garland family members, other celebrities, people who knew Judy, author's historian's, film maker's, and more! The only thing missing is you! Please stop by our little Judyville and check it out, you may never want to leave!
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/

Stefanie said...

As much as I love Buble... above Dino?!!?

Andrew Godfrey said...

Sinatra was a good pick for No.1 and really the only pick. I agree that Michael Buble should be rated over Harry Connick Jr.

Brandon said...

Interesting choices for male singers... I have never heard Monro and have heard only bits of Buble so far. I listen to women mostly anyway. I want to marry Harry Connick Jr!

Greg said...

Male singers really don't do it for me as they all seem to prefer the falsetto voices. However, I think Nat "King" Cole and Mel Tormé are fantastic.

Miss Demielle said...

I have always been impressed with Harry`s voice. Anyone who steps out of the pop genre and uses their voice for other something that a scream is awesome in my book.

roborange said...

Frank's favorite color was orange too.

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