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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

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Montserrat Caballé. Erich Auerbach/Getty Images hide caption

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Montserrat Caballé: A Voice Of Passionate Grandeur

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.

Dianne Reeves. Bertrand Guay/Getty Images hide caption

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Dianne Reeves: A Jazz Voice With Pop Sensibilities

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. Massimo Agus/Courtesy of Universal hide caption

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Meredith Monk: A Voice For All Time

Reacting to the vocal acrobatics of 19th-century opera, Monk's vocal music draws inspiration from the clarity of medieval and folk traditions. The result is a sound that feels both ancient and new.

Camaron de la Isla and Tomatito in concert Quim Llenas/Cover/Getty Images hide caption

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Camaron De La Isla: The Voice Of Flamenco

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.

Camaron De La Isla: The Voice Of Flamenco

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Rooted in local African rhythms, mbalax music has allowed Youssou N'Dour's voice to soar with a whole new freedom. Matt Cardy/Getty Images hide caption

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Youssou N'Dour: The Voice Of Senegal

Ever since he burst onto the scene in Dakar, Senegal, in the early 1970s at age 12, Youssou N'Dour has been a sensation -- a musical chameleon capable of a seductive whisper or a siren's cry.

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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."

Luther Vandross' legendary voice has been called "flawless" and "as smooth as silk." Scott Harrison/Getty Images hide caption

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Luther Vandross: The Velvet Voice

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.

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Billie Holiday: Emotional Power Through Song

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.

Billie Holiday: Emotional Power Through Song

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Chavela Vargas: The Voice Of Triumph

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.

Chavela Vargas: The Voice Of Triumph

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