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.
This voice never boasted the sheer lusciousness of Leontyne Price or the sword-like thrust of Birgit Nilsson. But Montserrat Caballé had a honeyed quality in her timbre, a huge range, and fabulous agility that she deployed like a magician.
Not only does she nail all the things that define great jazz singers, but Reeves also expands the idea of what a jazz vocalist is. She constructs intricate rhythm arrangements and choruses that leave listeners humming for days.
Working with the most basic human utterances, Monk's vocal music sounds fundamental and timeless.
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Camaron de la Isla re-energized a centuries-old flamenco tradition, leading the music into the 20th century and beyond. As he began his career, flamenco was still a connoisseur's music, hardly part of the popular Spanish mainstream, but Camaron would change that forever.
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."
The late soul singer's legendary voice has been called "flawless" and "as smooth as silk." It's been known to create an atmosphere of pure romance: For many years, Vandross was the go-to singer for when you wanted to get in the mood.
Holiday became famous after she recorded "Strange Fruit," a 1939 protest song about lynchings of African-Americans. The haunting vocal offers a stark illustration of her greatest gift -- the ability to convey emotion.
Vargas was born in Costa Rica, but has a voice tailor-made for singing Mexican rancheras, boleros and corridos. For many Mexicans, her versions of these songs are definitive. Even at 91, Vargas still possesses a voice that reflects struggle, defiance and ultimately triumph.