50 Great Voices Hear the stories of awe-inspiring voices from around the world and across time.
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50 Great Voices

Hear the stories of awe-inspiring voices from around the world and across time

Iran's Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a superstar of Persian classical music, walks onstage to perform with his son Homayoun and the Ava Ensemble to a largely Iranian audience at the Orpheum Theater in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2008. Heinz Ruckemann/UPI Photo / Landov hide caption

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Mohammad Reza Shajarian: Protest Through Poetry

The Iranian singer is the country's most famous protest singer — even though, strictly speaking, his songs don't directly denounce the government at all.

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: Protest Through Poetry

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As a boy, Robert Plant marveled at the voices of Smokey Robinson and James Brown on the radio. Getty Images hide caption

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Robert Plant: Born In England; Made In America

It's urgent. It's acrobatic. It's pulsing with raw sexuality. It's the unmistakable voice of Robert Plant. The iconic Led Zeppelin vocalist behind the wailing "Whole Lotta Love" continues to challenge his instrument on his new album, Band of Joy.

Robert Plant: Born In England; Made In America

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Carlos Gardel circa 1933. Jose Maria Silva/Archivo General de la Nacion hide caption

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Carlos Gardel: Argentina's Tango Maestro

The suave singer is synonymous with tango. Gardel revolutionized the style of music and brought it from the underground dance salons to the mainstream. Though he died more than 75 years ago, his recordings continue to leave a lasting impact on tango musicians and enthusiasts around the world.

Carlos Gardel: Argentina's Tango Maestro

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Yossele Rosenblatt is recognized as the greatest cantorial singer of all time. John Springer Collection/Corbis hide caption

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Yossele Rosenblatt: The Cantor With The Heavenly Voice

He was said to have sung while still in the crib, and toured Eastern European synagogues before he was 10. And that was just the beginning. By the 1920s, Rosenblatt had transcended the boundaries of Jewish sacred music to become an international sensation.

Yossele Rosenblatt: The Cantor With The Heavenly Voice

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

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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

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Soul queen Irma Thomas is ingrained in the genetics of New Orleans. Getty Images hide caption

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Irma Thomas: The Soul Queen Of New Orleans

The single mother was working as a waitress at a nightclub, but she couldn't resist getting onstage to sing with the band.

Irma Thomas: The Soul Queen Of New Orleans

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Twinkie Clark combines artistry and ministry in her music. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Twinkie Clark: Riffing On Gospel

Clark sings like John Coltrane played: Her notes are clear and clean, her phrasing and timing exquisite. Many know her as the leader of The Clark Sisters and as a master organist, but Clark's voice is the sum of many parts.

Twinkie Clark: Riffing On Gospel

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

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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

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The Notorious B.I.G.'s first rap name was MC CWest. Bad Boy Entertainment hide caption

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Biggie Smalls: The Voice That Influenced A Generation

The rapper died when he was only 24 years old. He only released two albums, yet he's one of the most revered, emulated and biggest-selling rappers in the game.

Khaled performs in London in 2008. Philip Ryalls/Redferns/Getty Images hide caption

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Khaled: The King Of Rai

Algerian singer Khaled is known internationally for singing rai — a kind of North African music with roots in traditional folklore. Taken literally, rai translates to "opinion," and Khaled has taken that idea to heart. Although his music won him enemies among Algeria's Islamic fundamentalists in the 1980s, he continues to use his voice to spread a message of peace, love and personal freedom.

Khaled: The King Of Rai

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Irish tenor John McCormack. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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John McCormack: The Charming Irish Tenor

In the early 1900s, the great Irish tenor sang in packed concert halls, without a microphone, before audiences of more than 7,000 people. He sang from the heart and the head.

John McCormack: The Charming Irish Tenor

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Fairuz performs in Dubai in 2006. Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Fairuz: Lebanon's Voice Of Hope

You don't have to be Lebanese to know the voice of Nihad Haddad, better known as Fairuz. She sang for a united Lebanon, even when the country was engulfed in a bloody civil war. Music has long been her form of political activism, and her delicate voice and modern songs still take listeners from around the world to a more peaceful place.

Fairuz: Lebanon's Voice Of Hope

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

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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

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Donny Hathaway. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

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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

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Sandy Denny Steve Wood/Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Sandy Denny: Mercurial Queen Of British Folk Rock

Sandy Denny became the queen of British folk rock when she joined the band Fairport Convention in 1968. Her fans included Robert Plant and Nina Simone. Denny was a skilled songwriter with a powerful and expressive voice, yet today many people don't recognize her name.

Sandy Denny: Mercurial Queen Of British Folk Rock

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