15 Musicians That Lost Their Voice

Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:23 PM
Tags: Kanye West
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Now that her storybook romance with crack is over, the release of Whitney Houston’s comeback album I Look to You has stirred up new criticism over the fact that her voice is not as good as it used to be. I’m just glad to see Whitney has gotten her act together, and finally crawled out from under Bobby Brown. Seriously though, singers work hard to entertain the masses. They bust their chops training, hitting notes with their angelic voices that normal people like me and you screech out in the shower like a strangled monkey, you know, the two times a week when I notice the smell and decide to bathe. But for musicians like Whitney, their musical prowess can lead to a tragic fall from grace caused by addictions, mental issues, and in some cases vocal fold nodules: a nasty flareup in the chords—like warts that can restrict the capacity to sing, or even lead to a loss of voice. And while we can only hope in Kanye West’s future is a crack pipe infested with vocal warts, unfortunately a lot of our favorite singers best days might be behind them. Here are 15 musicians past their vocal prime. Let us know who we missed!


Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill is epic fail numero uno. In 1998 Hill’s solo effort, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a critical and popular success, earning ten Grammy Award nominations of which she won five. Her style was creative, confrontational, and honest. The woman was a goddess. But as great as she was, what the hell happened to her? Now her voice is killing me loudly with her words. Take a listen to this free 2007 concert. It sounds like there’s a helicopter in her throat.


Bob Dylan

I know you’re saying ‘but he could never sing.’ Of course then I would have to argue that no matter how bad he was before, he just started sounding like a raspy pedophile. Despite never having a soothing singing voice, Dylan’s had a great deal of musical success. Personally I find him to be the only person besides my mom whose voice always made me cringe a little. Nevertheless, Dylan kept on croaking and wheezing up the annoying voice scale, year after year, producing historically great anthems and singing with a historically awful voice. And if you don’t believe me, compare your favorite Dylan song to the sound of moving gravel from his 2001 effort Love and Theft.


Julie Andrews

I remember her for “supercallifragilisticexpialidocious, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious.” But on this list she will be remembered as vocal wart victim number one. In 1997, a botched surgery to remove a small nodule from her vocal chords ruined her ability to sing. Thus, Mary Poppins the singing nanny is now the only gay icon I’d hire to babysit my unborn child. Get the word out to Kim Kardashian that I’m available cause you know I’m gonna do everything in my power to keep it up for this Kardashian and end the baby making wars waged on her by Khloe and Kourtney. I’m just a spoonful of sugar for those girls.


Mariah Carey

Countless number one hits by a five octave alto who hits the whistle register (evidence below), and all I have to say about Mariah Carey is jesus, what a banging body. Sorry Nick Cannon, but there’s no avoiding it—from her daisy duke wearing Dreamweaver days to her superficial and skimpy Glitter days, her music was often little substance and lots of reliance on an overworked voice and under-clothed body. Not to mention the probable puking from rumored alcohol abuse harming her vocal chords and one of these days we’ll recall Mariah’s past glory and forget the songs, but always remember her in mid-riffs and short shorts.


Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)

Another victim to vocal fold nodules. Nodules or no nodules, the rocker in me feels no shame in admitting I like Robert Plant’s new music with Allison Krauss. Gone is the primal scream, I mean, after all, it’s not Led Zeppelin, but the distinctive voice is still there and he can still win Grammys, so things are going pretty ok! Right? It is until a Zeppelin fan reminds you that the man named the greatest voice in rock and roll is limited to soft-rocking it with a gospel singer. Gospel. Enough said.


Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)

There’s really nothing special about a once a good singer who has lost their voice with age. That’s pretty much standard. But with Pink Floyd co-member David Gilmour still sounding pretty decent during their 2005 performance, Waters decline is all the more notable. Trying to count the shakes in his voice is like trying to count the waves Meatloaf would make if you dropped him into the Pacific. Check it out:



Speaking of Meatloaf. It’s “All Coming Back to Me Now.†Overblown song, overblown voice, overblown man. Regardless of how over-the-top Meatloaf may be, it’s impossible to deny the man had a meaty set of pipes that went well with the overproduction of his music. Unfortunately he no longer can hit a lot of the high notes. A lot of the legend of Meatloaf is due to his ability to hold a note like an opera singer, and the big man can’t do it anymore. That doesn’t stop us from keeping Bat Out of Hell atop our most played guilty pleasures. And to my first girlfriend, I’d have done anything for love, but you told the world about my Meatloaf posters and damaged my social life for like, life. Taste the Loaf:


Joni Mitchell

While she’s known as the world’s last great smoker, Mitchell believes the changes in her voice were due to other problems, including vocal nodules. She denies that smoking is the cause of her problems arguing that she’s been a smoker since she was nine. Man, denial is such a tough cookie to crumble. Joni’s level of denial rivals how Suzanne Somers is telling everyone Patrick Swayze could still be alive if he rejected chemotherapy. If only he consulted with alternative healers! Shame on those doctors for denying the medical opinion of a has-been actress. I guess you don’t know what you got (or how to treat it) till it’s gone.


Elton John

When Elton John was a young man, blasting out a falsetto on “Tiny Dancer,” nobody seemed to pick up on how gay he was. Times sure are changing. Nowadays Elton’s sexuality would be revealed effortlessly by the hordes of gossip sites armed with gaydars on steroids. Just ask Kristen Stewart or Keanu Reeves about the never-ending media quest for hot closet cases. Unlike Kristen and Keanu’s questionable sexuality, Elton’s problem with his voice has never been a secret. In 1987, Elton underwent throat surgery to remove, you guessed it, nodules from his vocal cords, which he claimed was due to an infection, but later admitted was the result of drug abuse. The problems can be heard starting that same year on the Live in Australia album. In this clip Elton can still hit those high notes like a queen:


Michael Jackson

Ok, too soon. Here’s the king in one of his last rehearsals. He still had it.


Britney Spears

It was the schoolgirl outfits that brought Britney fame, but it was her potbelly, marriage to a redneck and embarrassments of motherhood that kept her there. Ever since …Baby One More Time, I could never really tell if Britney could sing because of the stripping of the lip-syncing, but you know there is a youtube video for everything nowadays. I didn’t watch it myself, I mean every Britney performance just puts me in the same kind of daze—you know the feeling you get while watching a slowly occurring catastrophe loop into infinity. Get ready for another crash:


Leonard Cohen

Over 2000 recorded renditions of his songs later and Cohen’s voice, which used to carry a tune in an irritating way, has completely gone. He’s from the line of singers who express real, honest emotion, and that emotion always gave him a pass in terms of his real, honest shitty voice. Take a listen to him from a live show this year. Is that Cohen singing “I’m your man†or a large dog in a Leonard Cohen disguise growling for nine minutes?


Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave)

People have been saying Chris Cornell is losing his voice for at least ten years, and with his peculiar style of singing it doesn’t take much for him to sound a bit off. So it’s easy to give the guy a break and overlook a bad show or two, but I ask, knowing you surely haven’t listened to his last album . . . but have you listened to this last album??? I doubt anyone cares, as so many Soundgarden fans have probably moved on, but perhaps he needs to stop keeping it real with Timbaland and get back with Soundgarden.


Liam Gallagher (Oasis)

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was one of the best-selling albums in British history, finding even more success then their debut Definitely Maybe. However, Liam took the natural path of famous singers with an even more famous voice. After years of feuding with brother and bandmate Noel, engaging in drug abuse and still managing to find time to sing out of tune, in 2007 Liam made the biggest decision of his life—he became an ongoing celebrity guest on a British game show thereby killing his career. Check out the evolution from star to celebrity afterthought:


Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s voice was awesome. It was the type of awesome that tunes out all other voices for a solid week while you attempt to sate your addiction to her lungs by singing to anyone within six miles “I Will Always Love You.†A lot of time has gone by since the critical success of The Bodyguard, which was followed by years of drug abuse, yet we know Whitney is never ever going to live this down:

I guess we learned a valuable lesson about music today—life gets a little rough when you’re one of the greatest singers ever and make too much money to smoke crack, but you really freaking love crack.

Kanye West