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VocalMusician Quotes

Updated Jan. 10, 2018

On Singing:

“I was very adamant about not being called a jazz singer, but now I’ve embraced it.  The way I approach music is through jazz, so I’m a jazz singer.” – DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER, 7May06, The Washington Post

"The TEMPTATIONS were unique. There was no group that had three lead singers. There was no group where every member was over six feet tall. The TEMPTATIONS looked like you went to Central Casting and you said, 'Okay listen, we wanna put together the super group - the super male group.'" - Shelly Berger, Motown 40

"On a day I have to shift my passaggio on an 'E' vowel, I have phlegm." - JOHNNY H. BUTLER, III, baritone

"What they lack in voice and technique, they make up with self-confidence." - MARIA CALLAS

"I have to be careful where I place my vowels so I'm not singing on the mucus - BARBARA JUNE CARTER, soprano

"I'm not a jazz singer, blues singer or country singer. I'm a singer that can sing rhythm & blues, that can sing jazz, that can sing country. There's a big difference. In other words, I'm not a specialist." - RAY CHARLES, "60 Minutes"

“As long as I’m singing reasonably well and Pete is still playing well, there’s no reason why we can’t still be doing this when we’re 90.  I mean, it’ll look like shit, but it will rock.” – ROGER DALTREY, "VH1 Rock Honors: The Who"

“I used to take amphetamines until I realized that amphetamines didn’t go with being a good singer.” – ROGER DALTREY, “Amazing Journey: The Who”

“I struggled more than anything else to find a voice for this band.” – ROGER DALTREY, “Amazing Journey: The Who”

"When I sing, I try to live the song or live the emotion of the song. The space I'm in doesn't exist. It's another world." - ROGER DALTREY

"I have to tell you, the voice of GOD, if you want to know, is ARETHA FRANKLIN." - MARIANNE FAITHFUL

"I admire people who know they can't sing. There are so many people out there who can't sing, but they think they can, so they sing a lot." - Ellen DeGeneres, 25Apr14

“SINATRA is the essence of vocal style.  This man has an innate quality of knowing what is good musically.  You can sum that up best by saying that he has musical integrity.  Even when he does a bad song, there’s a good quality in the presentation.” – SAMMY DAVIS Jr., DownBeat Magazine, 22Aug56

"I don’t think there’s a category for me.  I like to be referred to as a good singer of good songs in good taste.” – SHIRLEY HORN, 1991 Associated Press interview

"I would want to be known as a great singer; that the records I've made and the performances that I've done to be remembered. But the voice is the most important thing. The showmanship goes along with it. But I want to be remembered for my vocal ability." - TOM JONES

"BILLIE HOLIDAY, ARETHA FRANKLIN - they are so subtle, they can milk you with two notes. They could go no further than from 'A' to 'B' and they can make you feel like they told you the whole universe. Oh yea, and Otis [Redding] - my man. But I don't know that yet. All I got now is strength. But I think if I just keep singin' maybe I'll get it." - JANIS JOPLIN

“When people nowadays say that Elvis was the first white guy to sound black, I have to shake my head; what can you do?  At the time of ‘That’s My Desire’ [1947] they were saying that I was the only white guy around who sounded black.” – FRANKIE LAINE, 1987 interview

“I always think about Billie Holiday.  She was concerned with the world she lived in.  I learned from Billie.  It isn’t about showing how good your voice is.  It’s about saying something.” – ABBEY LINCOLN, 7May06, The Washington Post

"Sing a song correctly and you live forever." - ABBEY LINCOLN 

“If he could only have crawled out of his skin and listened to his own voice, he might have lived his whole life differently.” – Baritone GEORGE LONDON on tenor MARIO LANZA’s decision to choose a career in film as opposed to the operatic stage

"Never do a duet with someone who can sing better than you - unless there are bills on your table." - E. Ethelbert Miller, 11Feb10 e-blog 

“Having the presence of mind to react to any situation onstage is what makes the best performers keep their spontaneity intact.” – MARNI NIXON, I Could Have Sung All Night – My Story

“All I ever wanted to do is perform.  When I’m singing, I’m happy.  I’m doing what I can and this is my contribution to life.” – ANITA O’DAY, June 1999 Associated Press interview

“Every day I remind myself of all that I have been given… With singing, you never know when you are going to lose the voice, and that makes you appreciate the time that you have when you are still singing well.  I am always thanking God for another season, another month, another performance.” - ANITA O'DAY

“It is not always a matter of wild ovations and legendary performances.  Sometimes you are just happy to get through an opera without trouble.” - LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, 1995 autobiography Pavarotti: My World

“Opera is music AND drama. I’m prepared to sacrifice the beautiful note for the meaningful sound any time… I can make a pretty tone as well as anyone, but there are times when the drama of a scene demands the opposite of a pretty sound.” – BEVERLY SILLS, 1975 memoir Bubbles: A Self-Portrait

"I would like to be remembered as a man who brought an innovation to popular singing." - FRANK SINATRA

“He really is the best interpreter of my work than I could ever have hoped for.” - PETE TOWNSHEND on ROGER DALTREY, "VH1 Rock Honors: The Who"

"I'd rather hear a singer do two songs from memory than 10 songs from a book." - Unknown

"When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder and I don't even notice." - SARAH VAUGHAN

"All you really want to do is sing... just sing. That's all... and along come folk who insist that's not enough." - VANESSA RENÉE WILLIAMS, 11Feb12 Twitter

“I’ve followed my voice rather than forcing it to emerge.” – LIZZ WRIGHT on finding her artistic voice while recording The Orchard

"If you start sweet, then you've got somewhere to go." - BILL WITHERS, Still Bill


On Music:

"So many conductors just plow through the music and never take the time to break down individual phrases with the singer. Lenny [Leonard Bernstein] was the ultimate singer's conductor." - EILEEN FARRELL, Can't Help Singing

"Through Leonard Bernstein, I learned a truthfulness of interpretation which allows both the performers and the listeners to reach beyond the world of music to the realm of the spirit." - CHRISTA LUDWIG, In My Own Voice

"What we play is life." - LOUIS ARMSTRONG

"I think music changed when BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN came on the scene. I think if it wasn't for BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, music would have gone in a very scary direction. We may have gotten to where disco music ruled - and I would've had to quit." - Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, guitarist

"I didn't like The Wiz and it wasn't because black people were doing it. I didn't like The Wiz because it was a badly made movie off a classic. Why are you remaking something unless you have something better in mind?" - HARRY BELAFONTE, That's What I'm Talkin' About

"I'm a spoiled-rotten rock star. I know that." -- U2's BONO, 22Apr05

"There's no question that JIMI [HENDRIX] was incredibly gifted. He was meant to play the guitar. But, by hell, he worked at it." - Chas Chandler 

"If you can play the blues, you can do anything." -- RAY CHARLES, 15Dec05

"I thought, 'My God, this is like Buddy Guy on acid.'" -- ERIC CLAPTON's first reaction to JIMI HENDRIX's guitar playing

“Alas, all music jars when the soul’s out of tune.” – Altisidora in "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes

"Elvis was the first person in music that I really identified with." – CHER

"Disco is funky when you take one record at a time. It's just that they narrowed it down to one beat to try to corner the market on a particular music. And when you do that with rhythm - talk about something that will get on your nerves. Try to make love with one stroke. Somebody will tell you to fax it in." - GEORGE CLINTON

"Some people have the sound, but no look - perfectly alright. Some people have the look, but no sound - no good. Some people have the sound and the look - don't hate. I actually always work on both - that's me." - MONTE CROFT, Facebook 14Sep12

"Recorded music is basically free now. I used to tour to promote a CD, but now I make a CD to promote a tour. I've moved on and live with the new reality, but I do get frustrated when people do dumb things." - PETER FRAMPTON, 4May10 on Facebook after learning that someone had posted songs from his 1-week-old CD on YouTube

"Blues is like American Express. I don't leave home without it." -- BUDDY GUY,, 7Sep05

"There are no hard and fast rules. Sometimes you work for free and get no credit or courtesy. That's why you make sure you do what you love." - LALAH HATHAWAY, Twitter

"I like 'Unsung' but I'd rather have a 'Behind the Music' while I'm still breathing." - LALAH HATHAWAY, Twitter

"I don't want to be a clown anymore. I don't want to be a rock & roll star." -- JIMI HENDRIX

"Sometimes, all you can do... is sing." - CISSY HOUSTON

"I work with musicians whose opinions I respect and if they don't like something they don't hold back. They'll say, 'That really sucks' and 'You've lost it' and 'You're no good anymore.' And I crawl away with my tail between my legs and I fear that kind of ridicule, but I want them to like the music I'm bringing to them." - BILLY JOEL, "Inside the Actors' Studio"

“He told me that every kind of music has its own soul.  You’ve got to be true to the soul of the music.” – Quincy Jones on RAY CHARLES, “60 Minutes”

"KEITH did his homework very carefully. JAGGER did his homework carefully. He had seen TINA TURNER, he had seen LITTLE RICHARD. You learn from the best. All the great artists watched whoever was the best out there and emulated them until it turned into their own particular style." - Quincy Jones, The History of Rock 'N' Roll

"After listening to [JIMI HENDRIX's] "Machine Gun" I have to take a nap." - LENNY KRAVITZ

"I like rock & roll, man. I don't like much else." -- JOHN LENNON on his musical tastes, 8Dec05

"Do not fall in love with what you just played." - Leonardo Lucini, string bass

"Every one of my father's songs is a lesson." -- DAMIAN MARLEY, 14Sep05

"I hate to admit it, but we're badass." -- DAVE MATTHEWS on his band, 17Oct05

“Hey you!  I told you to slow that nag down!  Because of you, I almost heard the opera!” – Groucho Marx in "A Night at the Opera"

“…and if you hear something you know, please sing along.  No wait – I take that back – you can’t sing along – this is about me now – this is my show.” – AUDRA MacDONALD, Live from Lincoln Center

"John could write a mean song. He had a lot of venom in him. Whereas I had a happy childhood." -- PAUL McCARTNEY on JOHN LENNON,, 4Jan06

"You have to think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you have to know that you're not." - BETTE MIDLER, "Inside the Actors' Studio"

“They’re not looking for talent.  They’re looking for a look and a willingness to cooperate.  And a woman my age, no matter how well preserved, no longer has the look.  And I’ve never had a willingness to cooperate.” – JONI MITCHELL

"To be a musician, you have to be honest... to be honest... to be honest." - BOBBY McFERRIN

"Whenever I'm onstage, I try my best not to think that I'm performing. It's simply another part of my day." - BOBBY McFERRIN

"So, you play today! You don't worry about what's gone, 'cause that's already gone and you can't bring what's gone back. It doesn't happen that way. So, every day's a new day and just play it as it comes. And I turned out to be a singer that was not on dope." - ANITA O'DAY, The Life of a Jazz Singer

“Some say the word ‘pop’ is a derogatory word to say ‘not important’ – I do not accept that.  If the word ‘classic’ is the word to say ‘boring,’ I do not accept.  There is good and bad music.” – LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, 2004 AP interview

“As an art form, opera is a rare and remarkable creation.  For me, it expresses aspects of the human drama that cannot be expressed in any other way, or certainly not as beautifully.” - LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, 1995 autobiography Pavarotti: My World

"The Who never did sell out - unlike some music channels." - Sean Penn, "VH1 Rock Honors"

"There's a big difference between a band and just a bunch of muthaf-----s on stage." - Benjie Porecki, keyboards

“Art is the only thing you cannot push a button for.  You have to stay up and burn the midnight oil.  There are no compromises.” – LEONTYNE PRICE

“Today we’ve learned to celebrate mediocrity.  Back in the day we had creative artists; today we have created artists.” – LIONEL RICHIE, The New York Times, 12Sep06

“Facts never interest me.  What matters is the song.” – Operetta star HEIDI SCHILLER

“When you're really good, NO ONE is competition. NO ONE!” - Daylle Deanna Schwartz

“Bad reviews I’ve gotten never diminished the number of people in my audience; good reviews have never added to the number of people in my audience; be your own critic.” – FRANK SINATRA to FRANK SINATRA, Jr.

"I play to all people - all colors, all creeds - drunk, sober, everybody." - FRANK SINATRA

"If you're in my position, you're stuck in the spotlight, and all you see is a dark room with a lot of cheering. It's kind of alienating." – STING, 14Jun05

"The hardest thing to be in songwriting is to be simple and yet profound. BILL [WITHERS] seemed to understand intrinsically, instinctively, how to do that." - STING

PETE TOWNSHEND on Punk Rock: "It really was like the French Revolution. It could have ended up with the Beatles, the Stones and the Who being beheaded."

"Looking back, I don't know why we needed it to be quite so loud all the time." -- The WHO's PETE TOWNSHEND, 30Mar06

"There was a time when I had the blues - I mean I really had it bad. I couldn't pay my light bill and I couldn't pay my rent and I really had the blues. But today I can pay my rent and I can pay the light bill and I still got the blues. So I must been born with 'em... That's my religion - the blues is my religion." - MUDDY WATERS, Can't Be Satisfied

"Gamble & Huff put a bow tie on the funk." - Fred Wesley, trombone

“Always answer the phone.  You never know if it’s a hit calling.” – Jerry Wexler, personal motto

"In the 70s, GEORGE CLINTON and PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC and EARTH WIND & FIRE, we were very serious about our music and who we were trying to touch. I think that's why the music of the 70s has not died - because it has a rejuvenating quality to it." - MAURICE WHITE

"If nobody throws all their rules at you, you might make a song with no introduction." - BILL WITHERS, Still Bill

On Life:

"The critic has the pen, so they can write however they feel." - PLÁCIDO DOMINGO

"I'm sick of Bono. And I am Bono. It's like, oh, man, shut up." – BONO,, 20Oct05

"If you're gonna be listenin' to everbody else, you're never gonna do anything special. You gotta go with your own feeling." - Leonard Chess, Chess Records

"Everything I've done has been based on honesty. Even the major fuck-ups." -- SHERYL CROW, 9Aug05

“You know, I started smoking the year I made my debut at the Met.  Now if that’s not complete insanity, I don’t know what is! – Mezzo-soprano IRENE DALIS

"If I had known I would've lived this long, I would've taken better care of myself." - SAMMY DAVIS Jr.

"Worse than bad reviews is to be ignored." -- NEIL DIAMOND,, 10Nov05

“You can get ripped off easier by a dude with a pen than you can by a dude with a gun.” - BO DIDDLEY

"I don't really have a retirement plan." -- BOB DYLAN, 28Nov05

"Give the people what they want and then go have a hamburger." - JUDY GARLAND

"He was just the coolest guy! [laughs] I mean, the way he sat down was cool. This cat just had cool written all over his body." - LARRY GRAHAM on JIMI HENDRIX, The History of Rock 'N' Roll

"The best time for gum is just before getting onstage. I need a minty-fresh microphone." -- Foo Fighters' DAVE GROHL,, 27Oct05

"If you don't think you have had the blues, just keep living." - BUDDY GUY

“Standing between these two guys [B.B. King & Eric Clapton] you’d have to be me to know how I’m feelin’!” - BUDDY GUY, 15Mar05 during his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” – JIMI HENDRIX

"You try to be arrogant in songs because you can't be in real life." - The Pretenders' CHRISSIE HYNDE, 22Mar05

"I am pleased the Ministry of Culture is protecting the morals of expatriate bankers and their girlfriends." -- MICK JAGGER on being censored in China, 26Apr06

"Don't compromise yourself - it's all you got." - JANIS JOPLIN

“I don’t do this to please anybody else.  I do this for myself.” – ABBEY LINCOLN, 7May06, The Washington Post

DEAN MARTIN's favorite newspaper cartoon: Two disgruntled office workers - one says to the other, "When I die, I want to come back as Dean Martin."

“They [the critics] often spoil my breakfast but never my lunch.” – Opera composer GIAN CARLO MENOTTI

"I've been in some beautiful places, but the prettiest sight is flying back to New Orleans. Being able to look down and say, 'I know where I am now.'" AARON NEVILLE, 6Oct05

“I am a very simple person.  In spite of all that has happened to me, I have tried to remain the simple person I started out.” - LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, 1995 autobiography Pavarotti: My World

Always want the best - always do the best you can - always aspire to have the best." - COLE PORTER

" A real friend or mentor isn't on your payroll." - PRINCE, acceptance speech at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

"Extraordinary isn't it - that music can exist in the same world as the basest treachery and ingratitude." - Claude Rains as Hollenius in Deception

"Being human is a lot more difficult than being on tour." -- Nine Inch Nails' TRENT REZNOR,, 21Oct05

"We're like quarrelsome brothers, without having the same parents." -- KEITH RICHARDS on MICK JAGGER, 13Sep05

“The quality's gone down.  All they do is try and take the high out of everything.  I do admit to scamming a little bit more [morphine] out of the night nurse however." – Chemical connoisseur KEITH RICHARDS on why he’s given up drugs, 20Sep06

"I never plan anything, which is probably the difference between Mick and myself. Mick needs to know what he's gonna do tomorrow and I'm just happy to wake up to see who's hanging around. Mick's rock and I'm roll." - KEITH RICHARDS, Stones in Exile

"The purpose of art is not only to show life as it is, but to also show life as it should be." - PAUL ROBESON

"I never want to be a guy that's been there, done that. That's poison." -- Carlos Santana

"We cannot burn Mick Jagger. We want the effect, but we can't burn him." - Martin Scorcese, Shine A Light

"We all want to die onstage. None of us wants to be just written off." - STING

"To be called an elder statesman is so unbelievably insulting. Brad Pitt is exactly three years younger than me." -- MICHAEL STIPE of R.E.M.,, 2Mar06

"The fact of the matter is, I'm fucking brilliant. Not 'was' brilliant. 'Am' brilliant." -- The WHO's PETE TOWNSHEND, 20Apr05

"I always felt that the musician's job was to provide an alternative source of information." -- BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN,, 19Jun06

"I take great pride in knowing that if I just met you, I could tell if you were on blow . . ." -- Aerosmith's STEVEN TYLER,, 28Feb06

"Fake it until you make it. Pretend to be somebody until that somebody turns into you." - STEVEN TYLER 

"One of the things I always tell my kids is that it's okay to head out for 'wonderful'. But on your way to 'wonderful' you're gonna have to pass through 'alright.' And when you get to 'alright' take a good look around and get used to it 'cause that might be as far as you're gonna go." - BILL WITHERS, Still Bill

"You can't base your life on other people's expectations." - STEVIE WONDER

 "I have a lot of growing up to do. But I think, 'Hell, is it too late?'" -- The ROLLING STONES' Ron Wood, 21Sep05