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The other day, my bandmates were watching Elvis Presley’s concert for a change, and could not help but wonder at the extraordinary appeal and power of his voice and stage presence. “This guy is the complete package,” my bassist quipped. I replied that Elvis also has an incredible lyric baritone voice with rich low notes and excellent high notes.
Of course, this article isn’t all about Elvis, but about the baritone voice and the famous baritone singers like Elvis. So, later, you will learn about what baritone is and the famous and greatest baritone singers of all time.
What is a Baritone Voice?
The baritone voice ranges from second A just below the middle C to that of A above middle C. It is known for its depth and richness, as well as its low pitch. This voice range is often not given much attention, yet, if you have this range, then you are fortunate.
You may also think that you can’t be a rock star if you have a distinctive baritone voice. Yet, you can, and there were baritone singers who could rock. With the right training, of course, you can do a lot with a baritone voice.
Baritone singers are differentiated from tenors, not only because of their vocal range but also because of their voice timbre. Their vocal timbre, of course, has a tinge of darkness as compared to the tenor voice. In classical and operatic music, the term baritone refers to a vocal range that comes with a specific timbre and tessitura. Baritone singer or opera singer also play significant roles in operas.
List of Popular Baritone Singers
In pop music and other music genres, the classical music category usually does not apply, and more often, singers are described by their gender and genre. So, you would seldom hear people refer to Elvis Presley or Axl Rose as baritone singers; yet, they are indeed baritone singers. But if you want to know other famous baritone singers, you can check out this random list of famous baritone singers:
1) Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon, born on October 13, 1941, is an American singer, musician, songwriter, and actor. Simon had a long career that spanned around six decades. He is the other half of the dynamic Simon & Garfunkel duo that popularized some of the most cherished songs of the last century, like The Sound of Silence, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and The Boxer.
Paul Simon has won 12 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. He also belongs to a group of artists who has two Album of the Year Awards. His tandem with Art Garfunkel produced some of the most melodious blends of voices in the popular music industry.
Simon’s baritone voice blends perfectly with the tenor voice of Art Garfunkel, and together, they had perfect chemistry that is hard to duplicate again. I occasionally eavesdrop to their melodic tandem every once in a while to get that nostalgic feel.
2) Elvis Presley
Whenever you hear the name Elvis Presley, you think rock and roll because his name is synonymous with Rock and Roll genre. Elvis Presley, of course, is quintessentially a stage performer. As a performer, it was not only his good looks that made him famous but also the excellent baritone voice that made a brand for himself. The patented swaying of his hips, and let-loose attitude onstage, gave people what they wanted from a performer.
Elvis’ voice is characterized by its excellent quality, power, and range. He could sing gospel songs powerfully and provide fantastic renditions of ballads. His voice has that characteristic soulful element that could make you swoon and relax. Moreover, it bears a straightforward sincerity that elicits that feeling of intense yearning and emotion.
Elvis’s voice has a three-octave range as if he could be a baritone, a tenor range, and a bass at the same time. Even so, he is categorized under the lyric baritone type. He also had a keen sense of timing and rhythm that is hard to emulate.
His voice could move from a clear tenor to an exaggerated vibrato. No doubt, with his good looks and baritone voice, plus his confident swag onstage, Elvis is a veritable musical career icon and a true king of rock and roll.
3) Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole or Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in 1919 and died in 1965. He was an American singer as well as a jazz pianist. Cole had 100 recorded songs under his sleeves that hit the pop music charts. When he was 15, he stopped schooling or somewhat dropped out of school to pursue his singing career.
As a prolific artist, he continued to record hits that sold worldwide. Some of his songs include Smile, A Blossom Fell, and Pretend. As an artist, Cole received myriads of awards. He got inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
What defined Cole’s greatness is not his unprecedented success, nor his playing skills, but his incredible voice. His voice is soothing and his pitch impeccable. Moreover, his voice will relax you. You would feel as if you are bewitched when you listen to his voice.
4) Johnny Cash
As a best-selling artist of all time, John R. Cash sold over 90 million records. He thrived in genres like country, rock-ability, rock and roll, blues, gospel, and folk sounds.
Cash was a recipient of many awards. He received, for example, Grammys, the Country Music Association Awards, and other acclaims. He was indeed a country personification and could never be defined by a specific genre of choral music.
Famous for his outlaw country tunes, Cash had a readily recognizable baritone voice type. He sang baritone songs like A Boy Named Sue, Ring of Fire, and Walk The Line. He has a profound rumbling speech that is characterized by a certain depth.
Johnny Cash may never be a genuinely great singer from the technical perspective, yet he maximizes what he had. Of course, his money notes were often the song’s lowest notes instead of the high notes.
5) Jim Reeves
Jim Reeves or James Travis Reeves was a famous American pop and country singer-songwriter. His songs charted way back from the 50s to the 80s. As a Nashville sound practitioner, he was referred to as the Gentleman Jim. His songs went on charting until his death in a plane crash.
Jim Reeves or James Travis Reeves was a famous American pop and country singer-songwriter. His songs charted way back from the 50s to the 80s. As a Nashville sound practitioner, he is referred to as the Gentleman Jim. His songs went on charting until his death in a plane crash.
Jim Reeves first broke into the music scene with his song Mexican Joe in 1953. Soon after, other hits followed. However, his most prolific years were from 1955 to 1964, when he consistently made it to the pop and country charts. He also became the foremost ambassador of country music.
Some of his posthumous hits even outsold his earlier releases of singles. Following his burial, he got six number one singles within three years. Of course, Reeves was a veritable baritone that could croon and smoothly sing to his listeners’ delight. You can check out his Four Walls, and He’ll Have to Go, two of his songs that best define his music style.
6) Ville Valo
Ville Valo is a famous Finnish songwriter, singer, and musician, best known as HIM’s lead vocalist. He started as a bassist and drummer with various bands in Helsinki. Afterward, he formed the band HIM, a gothic rock band, in 1991. Of course, this band became one of the most influential Finnish bands and the first one to get a gold record in the US.
His influences include those of Black Sabbath, KISS, and Type O Negative. He was the band’s chief songwriter and lead singer. Moreover, his voice is characterized by a bass-baritone crooning voice that has a certain depth.
The most successful Ville Valo album was Dark Light that went gold in UK, US, and Germany. It also reached platinum in Finland.
Valo also had collaborated with other artists during the span of his career. He performed as back-up vocals on The 69 Eyes’ five albums. He also appeared in the Wasting the Dawn music video.
7) Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell is considered more of a higher baritone than a natural tenor, though you could hear him wail even beyond the baritone range. Endowed with an incredible voice, he further enhanced it with vocal training, which extends his vocal range further, giving it a sharp and aggressive characteristic.
Of course, his voice is unearthly and very raw, and he is a register release master. He is also a veritable vocal placement and resonance tuning master, and all these skills make for a healthy technique.
Chris’s voice extends from the second octave towards the fifth octave. This fact proves that baritone can invade the domain of tenors.
Chris was the rhythm guitarist and lead vocals for Audioslave and Soundgarden. He is also touted as one of the 1990 grunge chief architects.
Chris Cornell, of course, has one of the most powerful singing voices in rock history. According to Warren Hewitt, capturing his signature wail, especially on Superunknown, was more challenging than recording instruments. Cornell’s voice is a veritable instrument that is characterized by its brutal edge. He is unstoppable in his full-throated shriek.
8) Axl Rose
You might have known Axl Rose for his shrieking vocals and extensive wails. So, you may say that I am mistaken when I include him in the most famous baritone singers. Of course, there is no doubt that Axl is a baritone. You can check out songs like Civil War, It’s So Easy, and Don’t Cry. As you listen to these songs, you may mistake the pieces to have two distinct singers. Well, Axl had juxtaposed his natural baritone voice with his high shrieking range in this song.
Axl, of course, doesn’t have reliable voice techniques. Axl rose vocal range was very different. Yet, he is noteworthy for his excellent vocal extension and unique vocal style. His vocal style and technique, of course, is not sustainable. Hence, you will notice a remarkable difference in the Axl of the 80s and the present day’s Axl.
Rolling Stone and NME have named Rose as an all-time great singer. Inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, he declined to attend the awarding ceremony.
The vocal range of Axl Rose is incredible. Rose can sing, for example, various notes that are far apart. He could sing two notes that are five octaves apart, such as in the case of There Was a Time as well as in Ain’t it Fun. His vocal range, of course, is vast, spanning six octaves. His note diversity endeared him to his legions of fans.
9) Frank Sinatra
No baritone singer list would be complete without Frank Sinatra. He is arguably the most influential singer of all time and captivated generations with his crooner style voice. Some of his most famous songs include Fly Me to the Moon and My Way. You’ve certainly heard it before.
Sinatra transitioned through different genres and styles throughout his career, such as classic pop and jazz music. The singer is the definition of a full-sounding baritone voice.
Frank Sinatra had a two-octave vocal range ranging from G to G, which declined to F to F as he got older. However, the originality of the singer lies in his use of techniques such as phrasing, speak volumes, dynamic singing, and tempo rubato. He’s very known for his short vibrato as well.
10) Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is considered to be one of the epitomes of rock n roll music. He is a baritone with a ragged tone to his voice that gives his songs and performances a very sharp characteristic, as heard in his most famous composition Born in the USA.
In his prime, Bruce Springsteen sported a whole 3-octave vocal range, but what set him apart is how his timbre seemed to match his musical style so perfectly.
While Springsteen is not considered to have the best singing abilities by classical definitions; the roughness and honesty of his voice are proof that being able to convey raw emotion and connecting with your audience is one of the most important qualities a singer may have.
The baritone voice may not be the most spectacular in the classical voice classifications. Yet I genuinely admire the baritone singers mentioned above, and they truly made the music scene rich and exciting. Elvis, Nat King Cole, Axl, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, and those mentioned above all left their lasting marks in the music industry. Moreover, the music industry will never be the same had these baritone singers did not grace it.