Freddie Mercury performs in 1980. Steve Jennings/Wire Image hide caption

toggle caption Steve Jennings/Wire Image

Freddie Mercury: Rock 'N' Roll's Humble Showman

The Queen frontman chose a stage name in perfect harmony with his voice. He could move from an earthy baritone to a wild but heavenly tenor, and he connected with huge stadium audiences. The world lost the vibrant musician in 1991 when, at 45, he died of complications from AIDS.

Freddie Mercury: Rock 'N' Roll's Humble Showman

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129476462/129522487" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Courtesy of Mountain Apple Company

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice Of Hawaii

The late Hawaiian musician known best for his ukulele-backed rendition of "Over the Rainbow" was a man with a standout voice and tremendous size. At more than 6 feet tall and weighing close to 1,000 pounds, "IZ" died when he was only 38.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice Of Hawaii

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131812500/131842319" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Kitty Wells: The Queen Of Country Music

Starting in the 1950s, Wells recorded hit after hit at a time when women didn't have hits in country music. When she performed, Wells delivered the goods with a country twang and a supple, powerful voice that reached right to the back of the house. She died Monday at the age of 92.

Kitty Wells: The Queen Of Country Music

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130455538/130483988" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Lauryn Hill performs in January in Sydney, Australia. Brendon Thorne/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

The Many Voices Of Lauryn Hill

Hear an interview with the singer and rapper whose voice is the story of the hip-hop generation.

The Many Voices Of Lauryn Hill

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128149135/128172525" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Donny Hathaway. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Donny Hathaway: Neglected Heart Of Soul

The writer-producer-arranger had a voice that was clear and powerful, and his piano-playing is remarkable in its own right. Although Hathaway is perhaps best known for his duets with singer Roberta Flack, the body of work he left behind when he died 30 years ago is part of the bedrock of American soul music.

Donny Hathaway: Neglected Heart Of Soul

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127935255/127978232" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

George Jones Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images

George Jones: The Voice Of Heartbreak

Country music legend George Jones, who died today at 81, made a career out of turning hard living into heartbreaking songs. He could pull and bend notes until they made listeners hurt. In 2010, Jones told NPR's Melissa Block, "I try to live the song during that three minutes."

Janis Joplin Tucker Ransom/Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Tucker Ransom/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Janis Joplin: The Queen Of Rock

Her voice was rough around the edges and unmistakable. Joplin sang the blues, and she subjected herself to them. She was vulnerable, and she was a pioneer for women in rock.

Janis Joplin: The Queen Of Rock

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127483124/127525770" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Icelandic singer Bjork is as famous for her eccentric outfits as she is for her transcendent voice. Bernhard Kristin/ILC hide caption

toggle caption Bernhard Kristin/ILC

Bjork: A Celestial Voice

The singer, as widely known for her eccentric outfits and behavior as she is for her voice, is easily the most famous Icelander in the world. Inspired by childhood adventures walking among lava fields, Bjork's music is full of stories about pitch-dark forests and tiny sparks that live within them. Her music may prove challenging to listen to, but there are always moments of beauty and transcendence.

Bjork: A Celestial Voice

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129029063/129053703" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Ella Fitzgerald had not one sad edge to her voice. She always had listeners smiling by the second note. George Konig/Hulton Archive hide caption

toggle caption George Konig/Hulton Archive

Ella Fitzgerald: America's First Lady Of Song

In the 1930s and '40s, band singers were mostly blond, sophisticated and attractive. Ella Fitzgerald was awkward, gawky and even a bit chubby by comparison — but could she sing.

Ella Fitzgerald: America's First Lady Of Song

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125170386/125294545" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Celia Cruz: The Voice From Havana

The Cuban singer, known worldwide as the "Queen of Salsa," grew up in neighborhoods where music was always in the air. She traveled for 15 years with the Sonora Matancera orchestra and settled in Fort Lee, N.J., home base for a decades-long career.

Celia Cruz: The Voice From Havana

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130728056/130801956" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript