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Know of any popular bands where the backing vocalists are as good as/better than the lead singer?

As I listen to more and more classic rock repertoire, I realize that there are many bands such as The Who, The Cars, Van Halen, and CSNY where the backing vocalists are sometimes better singers than the lead vocalists. For example; Benjamin Orr of The Cars, known as the singer for Just What I Needed, RARELY sang lead on any of The Cars, though it can be argued he had more range and a more radio-friendly singing tone than their lead guitarist/lead singer. Many people won't realize this, but John Entwistle, bassist for The Who, had a fabulous voice, which can be heard on My Wife from the Who's Next album. For a lowish baritone, he has a ton of range and it's a shame he didn't sing on more tracks. Michael Anthony of Van Halen is the most glaring example: why didn't this man sing lead on any tracks??? He has an amazing tenor voice comparable to Brad Delp of Boston.

Also, I know of many singers on here like Bob who play an instrument such as drums and do backing vocals/sometimes lead in their own bands. I think any band with a KTVA graduate worth his salt should use him as a primary singer IMHO xD

Then again, I can't argue because I do sing lead in my band lol


  • wabba_treadswabba_treads Pro Posts: 40
    edited October 2014
    Hmmm wow you named most of what first popped in my head. :D

    Ok there is one that is often overlooked. The Rev (RIP) from Avenged Sevenfold was often the secondary vocalist too and he would often do the higher harmonies of the A7X songs along with M. Shadows which was actually a integral part of their sound. M. Shadows had more of the darker baritonal sound while The Rev had the slightly brighter tenor sound which made unique contrasting layers in their songs. TBH I think his skills as a singer were only matched by the drums. He hit the really strong raspy D5s in "Afterlife", "Critical Acclaim" and he would cover M. Shadows most demanding notes if Matt had an off day or if he was trying to conserve his voice. 

    Ok he also did some work of his own in his solo band as lead singer.

  • johnjohn johnjohn Pro Posts: 99
    edited October 2014
    @ matt53: Funny you should mention The Cars.  My thoughts entirely about the late Ben Orr, btw., he was a great singer.  The Cars kind of took my band under their wing back in the day, came to our shows in Boston, had us open for them in Central Park and also had us as special guests on The Midnight Special tv show.  
    And yes, you're absolutely right, Michael Anthony is incredible.  I know his brother, Dennis, who also happens to be a bassist and has an almost identical voice.  It's quite uncanny.
    Then there was Nirvana, when Dave Grohl was just the drummer.  Not to say that Kurt wasn't a cool vocalist, but I prefer Dave's singing, for the most part.
    And of course speaking of The Who, Pete Townshend isn't too shabby when it comes to warbling.
    And I'm sure Bob will do a Dave Grohl at some point - get out from behind the drums, grab the lead singer's mic and proceed to blow everyone's socks off!  :-)
  • matt53matt53 Pro Posts: 189
    edited October 2014
    Yeah @JohnJohn I was going to mention Pete but in my mind he is basically a co-lead singer in The Who. He is an AMAZING singer, too. Very underrated. Pete has a beautiful voice, and a heck of a lot of range. (Ever hear the middle section of Baba O'Riley? :P) I read somewhere some famous singer (maybe Robert Plant) heard Pete singing lead in The Who's early days before they got Roger Daltrey and thought, "They need a real singer."
    I don't think that's fair to Pete at all, whose singing can almost make you cry on tracks like "Cut My Hair" on Quadrophenia. To give Pete credit, it's very hard to be the virtuoso lead guitarist AND be a lead singer/frontman at the same time. GREAT voice though.
    Interestingly enough, I read an interview where the interviewer told him he had an amazing voice and should have sang on more Who songs. Pete said he didn't because he thought his voice sounded like Andy Williams.
    I could think of a lot worse singers to compare yourself too xD
    That's awesome you got to meet all my musical heroes though!!!!
  • matt53matt53 Pro Posts: 189
    @Wabba_Treads, can't say I've ever listened to them but I'm sure their vocals are top-notch. 
    @JohnJohn, yeah can't believe I didn't think of Dave Grohl. However, I don't think his vocal prowess came to full fruition until their later albums. I think someone said he got vocal lessons because his earlier technique, like Kurt's, was not technically very sound and safe.
  • streeterstreeter Pro Posts: 679
    Richie Sambora. 
  • streeterstreeter Pro Posts: 679
    Richie Kotzen when in Poison... Before he stole the drummers wife.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,333
    edited October 2014

    Great thread...

    My band is a three-piece, and we all three sing lead, so we do a round-robin, and I sing a third of the lead vocals.  We're also known for our harmonies, and so when I'm not singing lead, I'm the main harmony singer, singing above the lead and above the other harmony singer.  My job is to help them sound even better when it's their turn to sing.

    At break time, different people are always confiding to me "I like your voice the best" and "you sing up above the others, that sounds really good..."  I just thank them.  It's not a contest.  I sing all of the high rockers and more challenging melodic tunes, AND all the grit and grunge tunes, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Beatles... on and on...

    James Taylor always had fantastic backup singers.  I saw Michael McDonald a couple of months ago, and he had a wonderful backup singer, plus the band's vocals, too.  I went to Paul McCartney at Candlestick Park also.  "New", Pauls backing band, provide GREAT backup vocals.  I'm sure they can sing their sox off individually, but we only hear them doing Paul McCartney and Beatles backups.  They do them better than those songs have ever been done live.   

    Generally, auxiliary singers are hired to go on the road with the main star, and may not even be introduced during the show, let alone given any solo or lead parts.  They are hired guns, and we would be amazed and blown away by many of them.  The good news is that they got to experience being part of a larger production than many will ever see. 

    But yeah...  Just think of all the great singers out there, even on stage, that never get the lead vocalist spot...  until...  things change.

    : ^)


  • ragnarragnar Pro Posts: 410
    Cool thread. My first thoughts went, like Streeter, to Richie Kotzen and Sambora. I even thought Sambora was as good as or better than Jon BJ at his peak, not to mention now.

    Another band that comes to mind is Queen. Although I wouldn't say they are "better" than Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor are both excellent singers.
  • johnjohn johnjohn Pro Posts: 99
    edited October 2014
    @ Bob: Thanks for sharing your story.  :-)  Do you perform any shows further afield?  If/when I get back up to your neck of the woods on my future travels, I would love to come see you play.

    @ streeter & ragnar: Richie Sambora!  Yes!!  With respect to Jon, I always preferred Richie's voice, that said, they worked very well together.

    @ ragnar: Very cool thread, indeed!  And yeah, Queen is another great example of a band with 3 stunning vocalists, all very good in their own right.

    @ matt53: And I got to meet all the Queen guys' too, during breaks in our lengthy recording sessions at Virgin's Townhouse Studios in Shepherd's Bush, West London, since demolished.  
    We'd sit around the tables in the kitchen area talking about how people liked our demos more than the finished LP's. I recall being incredibly surprised to hear that they'd had the very same experience on that score.

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