Voice and the Research Rabbit Hole

Research can be a dangerous thing. First of all, there is the rabbit hole effect where you go online to look something up and emerge an hour later without that particular fact, but with 15 others.

Then there are those moments when you have to listen to a piece of music and it gets stuck in your head. Hank Williams singing I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry has been stuck in my head since Monday night.  A lesson I was studying was discussing voice and they had us listen to Hank Williams, B.J. Thomas, and Cassandra Wilson.

Amazon.com: I Saw The Light [DVD] [2016]: Movies & TVThe author of the lesson encouraged us to listen to how the same song sounded completely different when performed by these three different singers.  Cassandra’s Wilson’s version is a soft jazz ballad, smooth as honey.  B.J. Thomas?  He is a popular singer from the 60’s and 70’s world of pop.  His sound was more Tony Bennett to my untrained ears.  Hank Williams carried it with the twang and soulful sound I associate with this particular song.

How do different singers each give a song their own unique voice?  In part, it is done with their choice of instruments.  A piano is going to create a completely different sound than the wail of a steel guitar.  Harmonies, background vocals and more can come into play.

What does this have to do with voice?  Thomas and Wilson didn’t just sing ala Hank Williams.  They took the song and made it their own.

When you write something, you need to make it sound like you.  If you tell the story of the Three Pigs, it should sound entirely different than if I told it.  And neither one of us should ever be confused with Jane Yolen or even another poet like Naomi Shihab Nye.  And if Hank Williams told the story it would sound uniquely like Hank Williams.

Did you know that Tom Hiddleston played Hank Williams in I Saw the LIght? Rabbit hole. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.