Is there such a thing as a male "torch singer"?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by 80sjunkie, Jan 6, 2013.

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  1. 80sjunkie

    80sjunkie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas
    Went to a bar/club in the Dallas area called Soho tonight and heard a singer named Gabe Meadows. He sang a few jazz standards, and I got to talk to him a bit. I said I was a big fan of jazz standards because I like hearing different interpretations of the same material, but almost all the vocalists I can name are women (Billie Holiday, Julie London, Keely Smith, Helen Merrill, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Horn....)

    Who were their male contemporaries? I can only think of Nat Cole, (early) Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett. Maybe Sam Cooke. I can think of a couple dozen notable female singers that fit the mold of a classic jazz singer of the 1930s to early 60s. I can think of a couple dozen more lesser-known female singers. (There was a recent thread listing a lot of them.) It's hard for me to think of ten male singers, and I'd say none of them offer what I'm really looking for.

    What I'm really looking for is more of what I heard from Gabe, which was a soulful and contemplative version of "I've Got you Under My Skin". Of the male jazz singers I listed, they tend to put a "pop" spin on standards and don't explore some of the darker aspects of these songs like female torch singers can. Even with songs of love lost and the like, I don't know if I could name an anguished-sounding song by the male singers I listed. I bet Sam Cooke could do it, but he didn't record many (if any) widely-recognized jazz standards that I know of.

    Gabe's version of "Skin" was certainly upbeat, but you could hear him explore some of the darker dimensions of that song. I know there are male singers that do that, but it's mostly R&B, soul or blues, not the kind of classic jazz I have in mind. Later Frank Sinatra does what I'm looking for, but I feel his style was uniquely his own, and I'm not a fan of anyone who adopts his style. Only Sinatra can do that credibly, imo.

    So is there such a thing as a male torch singer, and who would that be? Could either be from decades past or be contemporary carrying on the tradition.
  2. Jim B.

    Jim B. Forum Resident

    Marc Almond!
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  3. Neonbeam

    Neonbeam All Art Was Once Contemporary

    Planet Earth
    Haha, my first thought ;) How about Gene Pitney and early Scott Walker?
  4. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident

    Midlands, UK
    Marc Almond and Scott Walker were the first two that came to my mind as well (the latter, of course, being a huge influence on the former). I think that there are a load of them in the French tradition as well (Brel & Ferré for example) but I don't know that field well enough too make more than a cursory mention.

    The torch song becomes pretty camp in male hands: I wonder whether we shouldn't be adding the likes of Rufus Wainwright and Neil Tennant to this list?
  5. Key Minor

    Key Minor Forum Resident

    Antwerp, Belgium
    Johnny Hartman, Billy Eckstine, Dick Haymes, Arthur Prysock, Al Hibbler, Little Jimmy Scott.
  6. capn

    capn Forum Resident

    It's a European thing though isn't it? Marc Almond was certainly the first (contemporary) to come to mind.

    Jacques Brel maybe the archetype?
  7. Rodney Toady

    Rodney Toady Waste of cyberspace

    Elvis Costello?

    (see Larry David Smith, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, and the Torch Song Tradition. Praeger, 2004)
  8. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    Sinatra. But of course. Still, it's a big well, full of genuine audiophile delights.

    Kurt Elling, a contemporary Jazz vocalist, is very, very torchy.
  9. 80sjunkie

    80sjunkie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas
    Camp is something I'm definitely trying to avoid. Made me think of Depeche Mode's "Its no good" video, though I'd say Martin Gore is definitely torchy (when he does sing) even if he doesnt do jazz standards.

  10. Judge Judy

    Judge Judy Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    Queen's "My Melancholy Blues" comes to mind.
  11. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    In the pre-rock days, a torch singer was female, a crooner male, though the style of music that gave them that designation was about the same. Not sure it really matters what you call them, but it's a kind of music that always finds an audience, as Diana Krall has proven. Than again, a lot of singers who mine the concept are versatile enough to move into broader, livelier arrangements, of course, but there is a fascination with slow, jazzy ballardry that seems eternal. But not everyone does it well, let alone consistently well, and some do sound affected in these later years. Hard not to be a sucker for that sorta thing, though.

  12. Slokes

    Slokes Cruel But Fair

    Greenwich, CT USA
    Johnny Ray? Meat Loaf?
  13. 80sjunkie

    80sjunkie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas
    I'm seeing what some of you guys are pointing at, and Colin Blunstone also comes to mind. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but good pic ks nonetheless!

    It's subjective, but I don't think torch singing is the same as crooning. I imagine torch singers playing dives and crooners playing Vegas, not vice-versa. Crooners sing a bit too "pretty" for me at times, while the ladies tend to scuff things up a little.
  14. Tobylab

    Tobylab Active Member

    Upstate New York
    Mel Torme recorded a few torch type standards.
  15. zen

    zen Forum Resident

    I prefer Ray Eberle singing "At Last."

  16. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    I'm probably wrong about this but I always thought of a "torch song" in terms of "carrying the torch", lamenting a lost love. If I'm not wrong or even if I am, the first name which comes to mind for me is the always blue and weepy Bobby Vinton.
  17. ippudo

    ippudo Forum Resident

    Billy MacKenzie of The Associates - greatest of them all. :)
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  18. Razzle123

    Razzle123 Forum Resident

    Bedford, UK
    First name that came to mind before even opening the thread ...
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