Straight Dope Message Board

Straight Dope Message Board (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/index.php)
-   Cafe Society (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/forumdisplay.php?f=13)
-   -   Why did David Bowie Sound so much different in his later years v early years? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=880189)

russian heel 08-10-2019 02:10 AM

Why did David Bowie Sound so much different in his later years v early years?
 
During Ziggy Stardust days Bowie was very high pitched, almost nasal and snarling. Here’s one example:

https://youtu.be/iYYRH4apXDo

Contrast with his 80s work where he was more of a “crooner”. Exhibit B:

https://youtu.be/VbD_kBJc_gI

Was it a more mature voice with age? Could he not hit the high notes as he got older? Was it a production trick? Was Bowie so talented he could sing in any pitch but chose a lower smoother pitch as he got older? Was he a smoker or heavy drinker and that changed his singing style?

I have many many more examples of the contrast BTW.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Sunny Daze 08-10-2019 02:36 AM

Bowie had a wide vocal range for most of his career. As he got older, he did start to lose the high notes, but he could hit them into the early 90s at least. I think the most likely explanation lies in his wide ranging tastes. Contrast his albums one to the other, and you'll see a lot of variance in styles and types of music. I'll also point out that Bowie did use the deep end of his range early in his career. Take Major Tom for example.

I don't agree that "Let's Dance" is crooning by the way. Life on Mars I could see getting that label.

Treppenwitz 08-10-2019 09:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by russian heel (Post 21798033)
During Ziggy Stardust days Bowie was very high pitched, almost nasal and snarling. Here’s one example:

https://youtu.be/iYYRH4apXDo

Contrast with his 80s work where he was more of a “crooner”. Exhibit B:

https://youtu.be/VbD_kBJc_gI

[Note: That second link is to "Let's Dance" ]

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sunny Daze (Post 21798041)

I don't agree that "Let's Dance" is crooning by the way. Life on Mars I could see getting that label.

But of course Life on Mars predates Ziggy. Was that the point that you were making?

j

Thudlow Boink 08-10-2019 10:19 AM

I always just thought that Bowie was a very versatile vocalist, who could sing in a variety of styles and vocal personas, as the material called for.

When he got older, did he still sing his earlier material the same way in concert?

(One singer who I think did/does sound significantly different—consistently so—in his later years vs. early years is Brian Wilson. Compare the original 1965 version of "Let Him Run Wild" with Brian's "cover" from 1998.)

Sunny Daze 08-10-2019 12:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Treppenwitz (Post 21798325)
[Note: That second link is to "Let's Dance" ]



But of course Life on Mars predates Ziggy. Was that the point that you were making?

j

Yes. The change in singing styles noted by the OP isn't consistent with Bowie's actual songs.

caligulathegod 08-17-2019 01:49 AM

A lot of singers seem to do that. Elvis Presley, Elton John and Paul McCartney come to mind. Elton lowered Tiny Dancer to a really low key. Joey Ramone is another. His voice turned into a bull frog late in his career.

RickJay 08-17-2019 12:30 PM

I don't know a lot of male pop stars with long careers whose voices DIDN'T change in their later years. Age changes your voice. Some more than others, sure, but it changes.

I Love Me, Vol. I 08-17-2019 10:02 PM

Puberty?

Ukulele Ike 08-17-2019 10:52 PM

Young skinny 1940s Frank Sinatra was clearly a tenor.

By the time he hit his stride during the Capitol years of the 1950s, he had mellowed into a rich baritone voice.

Stephe96 08-17-2019 11:57 PM

Google the Bowie scene from “The Trip to Spain” with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan. (I would link it but I have no idea how.)

Face Intentionally Left Blank 08-18-2019 03:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by caligulathegod (Post 21810660)
Elton lowered Tiny Dancer to a really low key.

Of course, Elton had throat surgery in 1987.

In the article, there's a quote where he claims he's a better singer now. Either he's delusional or he's trying to convince himself that things aren't that bad, because he was a far, FAR better singer in his youth.

I had the occasion to watch an early performance of Penn & Teller this week, on Youtube. In the clip I watched, Penn (recently) talked about their second appearance on Letterman. He talked about it in his gravelly voice, then they showed the early appearance. I could hardly recognize his voice, as the characteristic roughness was gone.

I used to be hard on singers that smoked and did coke and swilled straight whiskey, thinking they had no respect for the gift so many of us admire and would love to have. . . but watching the Penn & Teller clip, and knowing Penn didn't do any of those things (AFAIK), maybe the damage is just a consequence of NEVER SHUTTING UP! :D Just using their voice wears and damages the vocal cords.

Ludovic 08-18-2019 05:32 AM

I do think that "Let's Dance" and a lot of his other 80s stuff could be classified as "crooning" but he had non-crooning songs as well. It works perfectly in Let's Dance in particular because the voice matches the style of the song, as also exemplified by Ferry and Duran Duran.

QuickSilver 08-18-2019 10:43 AM

A recent documentary of his early years reveals that Bowie's early singing style was heavily influenced by Anthony Newley (skip to 1:30 mark).

Orwell 08-20-2019 02:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Face Intentionally Left Blank (Post 21811975)
Of course, Elton had throat surgery in 1987.

In the article, there's a quote where he claims he's a better singer now. Either he's delusional or he's trying to convince himself that things aren't that bad, because he was a far, FAR better singer in his youth.

I agree, I can't even stand to hear Elton John sing anymore. I suppose you might be able to chalk some of it up to laziness or boredom of singing a song for the thousandth time. There are any number of aged singers who change the key and change the melody so much that it really isn't the same song any more.

As for David Bowie, although I notice changes in his voice over the years, I mostly notice the completely different styles of songs and singing he used throughout his career.

carrps 08-20-2019 03:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by QuickSilver (Post 21812293)
A recent documentary of his early years reveals that Bowie's early singing style was heavily influenced by Anthony Newley (skip to 1:30 mark).

I enjoyed that documentary, but I'm beyond annoyed that it introduced me to that Laughing Elf song. Man, bad bad BAD.

Biffster 08-20-2019 04:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by caligulathegod (Post 21810660)
A lot of singers seem to do that. Elvis Presley, Elton John and Paul McCartney come to mind. Elton lowered Tiny Dancer to a really low key. Joey Ramone is another. His voice turned into a bull frog late in his career.



I don’t think Paul McCartney lowered any keys for his songs. But his voice has definitely gotten warblier.

Baron Greenback 08-20-2019 04:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by carrps (Post 21816342)
I enjoyed that documentary, but I'm beyond annoyed that it introduced me to that Laughing Elf song. Man, bad bad BAD.

"I was walking,
Down the High Street,
When I heard footsteps behind me..." :D

Once heard, never forgotten...

Biffster 08-20-2019 04:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RickJay (Post 21811132)
I don't know a lot of male pop stars with long careers whose voices DIDN'T change in their later years. Age changes your voice. Some more than others, sure, but it changes.



Sting and Don Henley are notable exceptions then.

EinsteinsHund 08-20-2019 04:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RickJay (Post 21811132)
I don't know a lot of male pop stars with long careers whose voices DIDN'T change in their later years. Age changes your voice. Some more than others, sure, but it changes.

I agree in principle, but the one exception that has withstood the times surprisingly well is Van Morrison. I saw him last year, and he still can belt out the high notes and growl like a tiger in the next bar like always. I think that his voice changed more between his first recordings with Them (when he still sounded a lot like Mick Jagger) and "Astral Weeks" than between 1969 and today.


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:30 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.