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This blog previously appeared in the magazine IO Pages
The undersigned is not a singer, but you already knew that. I will not even think about being on the stage as lead vocalist - if only because my voice, in falsetto, is only usable when it has doubled at least twice. . My stage presentation is certainly bad, and then I express myself carefully. My vocal range is limited. My English pronunciation is so-so. But there is no one as close to my music as I am - with all the limitations and imperfections that entails.
It is a curious dilemma. There are at least 800 million people in this world who sing better than I have, but it has always been a chore to find a singer who is not only doing much better than me, but who I also feel my song is still mine. But then again, which is 'better' in this case? So an unusable qualification.
Now the joke is: music is not about perfection. It's all about feeling and expressiveness. The combination of the composition and the voice, which ultimately determines whether you are hit. However 'imperfect' the implementation may be (I admit, there is a lower limit). I think it is good when a song sounds like the singer invented it himself. That there is no space between the notes and the voice.
Over the years there have been many good and less good vocalists who have lent their voice to my music. With Kayak, four or five guest vocalists have not yet been included. Usually it became much better than what I could have done myself. And they all added their own personality, which undoubtedly made the offered more accessible. I am sure that if I had sung Ruthless Queen myself, this song would have had absolutely no chance. In fact, it hadn't even made it to the studio final mix.
met zanger Chris Rainbow, 1984
I once made an album with Earth & Fire, Phoenix. The songs that Irene Linders (lyrics) and I wrote before, could have been part of a Kayak album. And no matter how well Jerney sang everything, the combination may have lacked some magic. With the songs of the original E&F members Gerard and Chris Koerts something happened, which made Jerney ten times better - and the songs were big hits. I am actually very curious if as composers they also knew my 'dilemma'. It was rumored in the mid-1970s that Patricia Paay - for reasons unknown to me - would take over from Jerney. Although Patricia as a singer was undoubtedly technically 'better' and more versatile than Jerney, I don't think it would have benefited the band. Or would the songs also have survived in the performance of La Paay? We'll never know, but I'm personally glad it never happened.
Abba, also something like that. I am a big fan of Bjorn and Benny. Their musical Chess is one of the best they have made in their career. But most of their work had the most impact with the voices of Agnetha and Frida, in the setting of Abba. Yes has something similar to Jon Anderson. Or Genesis with Pete Gabriel (sorry, proggers, I myself only liked the band with Phill Collins). A group like Marillion is still reminded of their time with Fish, and that has nothing to do with the man's phenomenal singing qualities. And John Lennon and Paul McCartney have not almost always sung the lead part of their own songs. 'Yesterday' would have sounded different in Lennon's performance. And so I can go on and on.
What I have always wondered: why is the first vocalist of a band often called the best? While the combination was often based on mere coincidence, and the vocalist in question did not always voluntarily sit behind the microphone, but did so simply because no one else could or wanted to. It was no different with my own band Kayak. What if the same 'best' vocalist had happened to be the third or fourth in a row? Had Edward Reekers started in Kayak as early as 1972, had we even hired Max Werner - the ultimate Kayak singer for some? If Cindy Oudshoorn had been succeeded by Reekers of Werner in 1978, people would have shouted: hey no, Kayak with a man, that is not possible at all! Is the assessment based on musical content and feeling, youth sentiment, a longing for a past period?
It is actually a sort of 'the chicken or the egg' question, almost worth a study. Very intriguing, but unanswerable. And for me it is even more topical now that a new Kayak album is coming up, for which I again had to look for vocal talent. I hope to be able to present the result in 2017!