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  • Jennifer Kincheloe

What Did Joe Singer Sing Like?

1900s music

Irish tenor, John McCormack who sang in front of an audience of 5,000

at New York's Hippodrome in 1916 and rolled his r's.

Sometimes I listen to popular music recordings from the 1900s for writing inspiration. They make me want to send money to KCRW (LA' s public radio station). Anna Blanc's pop music is nowhere near as cool as her fashion. The songs are kind of great (By the Light of the Silvery Moon), and I love rag time piano, but the vocal style sounds weird to modern ears and the instrumentation can be clunky and heavy--almost like a dirge. The vocalists either have stuffy, formal diction where they roll their r's (Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady), or they swing the other way and sound like toothless hillbillies (American version of Eliza Doolittle at the beginning of the movie).

Neither really works for my imagination when I hear Joe Singer's voice. He is, after all, sexy.

(Opera was also popular, but Joe's a ragtime piano guy, not a Caruso.)

Will somebody out there please do some cool covers of old 1900s songs just in case I need a movie soundtrack? (Listen to Eta James do By the Light of the Silvery Moon)

In the meantime, just for you, here are some examples of 1900s male vocals from the Library of Congress. Click here.

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