This is what I’ve been thinking about instead of Miley Cyrus. There’s too many men in music, and too many men in writings about it. However, there’s been a strong feminine influence in what I do and the stuff I like. That seems a good enough reason to offer an occasional series featuring female musicians (often vocalists) who I love, through live music or nifty videos that are interesting for some other reason.
The Seekers: I’ll Never Find Another You
I’ve performed a lot of Seekers music in my time, and Judith Durham’s voice fronted one of the most successful Australian pop acts. They’re really daggy, but I don’t care, in fact that’s a good reason to like them more. As actors they make very good musicians. This clip captures all the excitement of Athol phoning through a new Tom Springfield song to Judith who takes the call in the dentist’s chair, than takes us to The Seekers at work in the studio in 1967. I suspect it may be a re-enactment.
Astrud Gilberto: The Girl From Ipanema
Every musician, when able, should have a bossanova moment, even if it’s just to get inside the extraordinary compositions of Antonio Carlos Jobim. The languid precision of Astrud Gilberto’s voice doesn’t give any sense of how hard it must have been to make this music sound effortless. I’m a big fan of her inimitable, stunningly stunned performative presence.
Gladys Knight and The Pips: If I Were Your Woman
I just love this song and had to include it – it’s wild. The drama of the chordal structure,the slow funk of the bass and the exclamations of The Pips, but it’s still the low surge of Gladys’ voice that puts the batteries in this amazing torch song. This clip’s a bit crummy, but worth hanging on to the end. If the crackle and static of this video’s too distracting, the studio version’s here.
Karen Carpenter: Close to You
A talented drummer/singer, there’s an authenticity to Karen’s voice that somehow survives the attenuated crackle of AM radio, where I first heard it. Listening to it over the rattle of a green Datsun in sun-baked Townsville when I was a kid, I used to get her voice confused with Ann Murray’s. The material’s often considered schmaltzy, but who sings like this now? Nobody. Why? it’s really hard to do. Because they’d rather fake drama vocally than simply serve the song.
Patsy Cline: She’s Got You
I may look more closely at country music later, but Patsy’s voice, and choice of material made her a one-off, and I wore out a cassette of her greatest hits when I was a student. The cracks and swells and soaring she performed wrote the book on not just country singing, but codified the vocal form for hundreds of of pale imitators, who never got close.
Blossom Dearie – I Wish You Love + Impro Blues
There are a lot of female vocalists right now who seem to me to be doing muppet-voices. They’re either pretending to be little girls, or world-weary women, and I don’t believe it for a second. I’m probably not meant to. I believe Blossom. Her voice is unusual, but seems authentic to me. Combined with the skillful backing bands she worked with, and a spritely humour in her interpretation and playing