Greatest Singers ever put on film

by cinemabon | created - 06 Aug 2012 | updated - 23 Mar 2016 | Public

Singing is performance art preserved for all time in recorded media.

1. Ella Fitzgerald

Soundtrack | When Harry Met Sally...

On Saturday, June 15th, 1996, an era in jazz singing came to an end, with the death of Ella Fitzgerald at her home in California. She was the last of four great female jazz singers (including Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae) who defined one of the most prolific eras in jazz vocal ...

Long before anyone ever bent a note, Ella lent her tone to the musical scene and never looked back. She took the beginnings of a Bessie Smith and Josephine Baker and exceeded their level by an incredible proportion. Undoubtedly the greatest contemporary singer of the 20th Century with a body of work to prove it.

2. Frank Sinatra

Actor | The Manchurian Candidate

Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, to Italian immigrants Natalina Della (Garaventa), from Northern Italy, and Saverio Antonino Martino Sinatra, a Sicilian boxer, fireman, and bar owner. Growing up on the gritty streets of Hoboken made Sinatra determined to work hard to get ahead. ...

Ole Blue Eyes is largely credited with making the contemporary sound of music so popular that nearly every singer since has copied his style one way or another. If Ella Fitzgerald was the greatest female singer, Sinatra was her counterpart. No one was better.

3. Barbra Streisand

Soundtrack | Funny Girl

Barbra Streisand is an American singer, actress, director and producer and one of the most successful personalities in show business. She is the only person ever to receive all of the following: Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe, Cable Ace, National Endowment for the Arts, and Peabody awards,...

Larger than life itself, her head, thrust backward, in the arms of Kris Kristofferson, the giant billboard loomed over Westwood for the premier of "A Star is Born." By that time, it was more a coronation and affirmation of her immense talent. No singer in the history of recorded media has had a greater impact than Streisand and for good reason, she is pure gold.

4. Tony Bennett

Soundtrack | War of the Worlds

Tony Bennett, one of the legends of jazz and popular music who served during the Second World War and then developed a career spanning over half a century, is now giving another concert tour across the United States and Europe.

He was born Anthony (Antonio) Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926, in ...

More heir apparent, Bennett picked up the torch left by Frank and carried us into the 21st Century, keeping that truly American art of contemporary sound alive. Practically every singer worth his or her salt wants to duo with Bennett for good reason. His delivery is unmatched.

5. Beverly Sills

Actress | Live From Lincoln Center

This vibrant, fine-humored coloratura was able to accomplish what most others of her ilk could or would not do -- she humanized opera and made it approachable to the masses. There were no diva-like traits in this star and the public absolutely adored her for it. Dubbed "America's Queen of Opera" in...

At a time when opera was on the decline and most houses were subject to major cutbacks, along came a fresh face to the classical genre that breathed new life into its strict lines making opera available for a new younger generation.

6. Luciano Pavarotti

Soundtrack | Yes, Giorgio

Luciano Pavarotti was a best-selling classical singer and humanitarian known for his most original and popular performances with the 'Three Tenors' and 'Pavarotti & Friends'.

He was born on October 12, 1935, in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, in Northern Italy. He was the first child and only son of two ...

The greatest tenor of the 20th Century and certainly its most popular, outshining the likes of his contemporaries and even the great Caruso. No one could hit highs that brought down the rafters like Luciano and his rendition of "Nessum Dorma" will be unbeatable by any who dare to follow in his footsteps.

7. Minnie Riperton

Soundtrack | Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Minnie Riperton was born November 8, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, to Thelma Inez (Matthews) and Daniel Webster Riperton, a Pullman porter. At a young age, Riperton, the youngest of eight children, began taking dancing and ballet. Once she reached high school, she began singing in the Hyde Park A ...

It is impossible to describe what it's like to hear someone sing into the ultrasonic range with a voice that was said to have the greatest range of any singer in the history of recorded media. Taken by disease early in her life, she had one of the most unmistakable voices of the 20th Century.

8. Robert Plant

Soundtrack | The Song Remains the Same

Prior to Hobbstweedle (a pickup blues band formed to honour a gig at West Midlands College Of Education) Robert was the frontman for The Band of Joy - featuring Percy, John Bonham, Paul Lockey (bass), Chris Brown (keyboards) and Kevyn Gammond (guitar). The BOJ were on verge of making a record deal ...

After the tumultuous 1960's rock bands had made their mark along came a band of four men who will forever be remembered as the group who combined jazz with rock. Plant's renditions were so unusual and unique that he breathed new life into hard rock and created a whole new style of lead singing.

9. Julie Andrews

Actress | The Sound of Music

Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on October 1, 1935, in England. Her mother, Barbara Ward (Morris), and stepfather, both vaudeville performers, discovered her freakish but undeniably lovely four-octave singing voice and immediately got her a singing career. She performed in music halls throughout her...

Was there anything she couldn't do? Andrews could perform on stage and in films making her mark in both mediums as well as any recording studio. With a voice and style that were singularly unique, Andrews gave us some of the most memorable moments of the 20th Century.

10. Judy Garland

Actress | The Wizard of Oz

One of the brightest, most tragic movie stars of Hollywood's Golden Era, Judy Garland was a much-loved character whose warmth and spirit, along with her rich and exuberant voice, kept theatre-goers entertained with an array of delightful musicals.

She was born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10 June 1922 in ...

While no disciplined contralto, Garland's voice had such a unique delivery that it set her apart from other singers of her day and audiences loved to hear her sing. She put such feeling into her performance that you couldn't help but like her. If "Rainbow" doesn't do it, try "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" for which she was partly responsible for its debut.

11. Bing Crosby

Actor | White Christmas

Bing Crosby was born Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr. in Tacoma, Washington, the fourth of seven children of Catherine Helen "Kate" (Harrigan) and Harry Lowe Crosby, a brewery bookkeeper. He was of English and Irish descent. Crosby studied law at Gonzaga University in Spokane but was more interested in ...

Like him or not, with his bub-bubba-bub-boos, Crosby left an indelible mark on film and records, with "White Christmas" being one of the most played songs of all time. His throaty baritone was a matter of taste but no one could deny he had great charisma to match his singing talent.

12. Elvis Presley

Soundtrack | Girls! Girls! Girls!

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi, to Gladys Presley (née Gladys Love Smith) and Vernon Presley (Vernon Elvis Presley). He had a twin brother who was stillborn. In 1948, Elvis and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he attended Humes High School. ...

A man who could exude sex appeal simply by his delivery, and didn't every woman who hear his voice know it. Elvis brought rock and roll from the hillbillys into the contemporary scene and influenced everyone from the The Beatles to the Stones.

13. Whitney Houston

Soundtrack | The Bodyguard

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born into a musical family on 9 August 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of gospel star Cissy Houston, cousin of singing star Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of soul legend Aretha Franklin.

She began singing in the choir at her church, The New Hope Baptist ...

Talent on her scale was difficult to deny when a young Whitney burst on the scene and began to bend notes along with the best of those who had preceeded her. She took a Dolly Parton song and made it one of the greatest love songs of all time. Whatever may have troubled her life, no one can doubt she had incredible talent as a singer.

14. Céline Dion

Soundtrack | Titanic

Hailing from the small town of Charlemagne, Québec, Céline Dion has become one of the all-time greatest singers. Céline was born in 1968, the youngest of 14 children. Early in childhood, she sang with her siblings in a small club owned by her parents. From these early experiences, Céline gained the...

The French singer burst onto the contemporary scene with a booming voice that could compete with any other female of the 20th Century and gave us one of the best love songs in one of the biggest money making films of all time, "Titanic's - My heart must go on."

15. Paul McCartney

Actor | A Hard Day's Night

Sir Paul McCartney is a key figure in contemporary culture as a singer, composer, poet, writer, artist, humanitarian, entrepreneur, and holder of more than 3 thousand copyrights. He is in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for most records sold, most #1s (shared), most covered song, "Yesterday," ...

While his impact on contemporary music is profound, McCartney departed his great collaboration with John Lennon and never looked back with regret. His creativity combined with his level of performance have given McCartney a career that spans five decades filled with memorable tunes.

16. Billie Holiday

Soundtrack | Minority Report

Billie Holiday was a true artist of her day and rose as a social phenomenon in the 1950s. Her soulful, unique singing voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time. Today, Holiday is remembered for her masterpieces, ...

No singer ever had a more tragic life or more influence over the lives of other singers than did Billie Holiday. From Ella Fitzgerald to Barbra Streisand to Diana Ross, Holiday was an important contribution to the contemporary sound of music in the 20th Century and beyond.

17. Hank Williams

Soundtrack | The Last Picture Show

Hank Williams was born in September 1923 in a small Alabama farming community about 70 miles south of Montgomery. His father was a railroad engineer who was also a victim of shell shock after a year of fighting in France in 1918 during World War I and spent many years in veterans hospitals. Hank's ...

Single handedly brought country western music to the masses and elevated the entire genre into star status, especially with his popular hit, "Your cheatin heart." Country Western music is definitely part of the contemporary culture and like it or not, Williams was one of its key figures that made it readily available.

18. Gene Autry

Soundtrack | The Gene Autry Show

After high school Gene Autry worked as a laborer for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad in Oklahoma. Next he was a telegrapher. In 1928 he began singing on a local radio station, and three years later he had his own show and was making his first recordings. Three years after that he made his ...

Along with Tex Ritter, known as a "singin cowboy" kept the sound of country western music alive for generations of American and made popular one of the most icon Christmas songs of all time - Rudolf the red nosed reindeer."

19. Bette Midler

Soundtrack | The First Wives Club

Multi Grammy Award-winning singer/comedienne/author Bette Midler has also proven herself to be a very capable actress in a string of both dramatic and comedic roles. Midler was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 1, 1945. She is the daughter of Ruth (Schindel), a seamstress, and Fred Midler, a ...

Midler had a soft sensual delivery that reached out from the speakers in your home and grabbed you in a way that wouldn't let you go. Her "Divine Miss M" album became the signature piece of an entire generation that elevated Midler into superstar status for all time.

20. Kathryn Grayson

Actress | Kiss Me Kate

Kathryn Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, NC, on February 9, 1922. This pretty, petite brunette with a heart-shaped face was discovered by MGM talent scouts while singing on the radio. The studio quickly signed her to a contract, and she was given acting lessons ...

She had one of the most dynamic voices ever put on film and could stand with any tenor or alone with such perfect tones that sent shivers up your spine. Her powerful performance in "Showboat" is a show stopper.

21. Mario Lanza

Soundtrack | For the First Time

Mario Lanza's life, sadly, has all the markings of an epic Shakespearean tragedy. The story is truly incredible: a wild, incendiary Philadelphia kid who can sing better than Enrico Caruso sets out to become the greatest dramatic opera singer who ever lived, is detoured by MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer ...

Billed as the man who could sing better than Caruso, Lanza was literally drummed out of Hollywood after only two movies and a third film from which only his voice survives. But what a voice! While it might be Edmund Purdom's pretty face we see in "Student Prince" there is no doubt that Lanza's great pipes shake the rafters... a tragic loss.

22. Howard Keel

Actor | Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Howard Keel was the Errol Flynn and Clark Gable of "golden age" movie musicals back in the 1950s. With a barrel-chested swagger and cocky, confident air, the 6'4" brawny baritone Keel had MGM's loveliest songbirds swooning helplessly for over a decade in what were some of the finest musical films ...

A dynamic baritone, Keel brought the bravado of the Broadway stage to Hollywood and never looked over his shoulder. A good actor as well as singer, Keel gave us some musical film's best moments as he sang his way through so many memorable tunes.

23. Dean Martin

Soundtrack | Rio Bravo

If there had to be an image for cool, the man to fit it would be Dean Martin.

Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio, to Angela (Barra) and Gaetano Alfonso Crocetti, a barber. His father was an Italian immigrant, and his mother was of Italian descent. He spoke only Italian until ...

Had a wonderful easy going style that allowed him to continue popularity through a three decade career in both film and television.

24. Diana Ross

Actress | Lady Sings the Blues

Best known as the the lead singer of the popular 1960s singing group The Supremes, Diana Ernestine Earle Ross was born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan, the second of six children of African-American parents Ernestine Lillian (Moten), a schoolteacher, and Fred Earl Ross, who served in the ...

Although she began as front woman for the Supremes, a creation of Motown's Barry Gordy, Ross stepped away from the group and shined as an actress and singer who carried on a solo career. She left her mark playing Billy Holiday in "Lady sings the blues" as well as so many tunes that have held sway long after her disappearance from the contemporary stage.

25. Roger Daltrey

Actor | Tommy

Roger Daltrey is noted as a founder of the legendary rock band The Who. After leaving London's Acton County Grammar School in 1963, he formed a skiffle band called The Detours, then displayed an early genius by putting together unusual elements into a world-class performance. The unusual elements ...

As front man for the Who, Daltrey would swing his microphone out over the audience and march to the tune of "Tommy" the world's first rock opera. Working with writer Pete Townsend, Daltrey belted out tunes as if he had been working out his vocal chords with weights.

26. Jeanette MacDonald

Soundtrack | Cairo

She was the third daughter of Daniel and Anne MacDonald, younger sister to Blossom (MGM's character actress Marie Blake), whom she followed to New York and a chorus job in 1920. She was busy in a string of musical productions. In 1928 Paramount tested and rejected her, but a year later Ernst ...

No singer in the first half of the 20th Century had a greater impact on the contemporary media as did MacDonald. She was and still is a major contributor to the sound and style that women who sing for the popular media emulate to this day. And while more operatic than contemporary, she had a sweetness and delight in her delivery that made it infectious.

27. Aretha Franklin

Actress | The Blues Brothers

Grammy-winning Queen of Soul and the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Barbara Vernice (Siggers) and C. L. Franklin, a Baptist minister, who preached at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit for over thirty ...

Where would a list like this be without the queen of soul? Listen to anything she's ever recorded and you know why this powerhouse voice belongs on this list.

28. Harve Presnell

Actor | Fargo

By the time handsome, brawny baritone Harve Presnell arrived on the film scene, the "Golden Age" of musicals had long dissipated. Born in Modesto, California in 1933 and spending part of his youth on a family ranch near Yosemite Valley where he labored in the fields, it was discovered he had quite ...

A booming baritone, Harve Presnell sang one of the best songs from "Unsinkable Molly Brown" entitled "Colorado." After singing, he continued to have an acting career long after his great voice faded.

29. Steve Lawrence

Actor | The Blues Brothers

Singer, composer, actor and author, educated at Brooklyn's Thomas Jefferson High School and a student of saxophone and piano. Between 1958 and 1960 he served in the US Army and was a vocalist with the US Army Band and Orchestra based in Fort Myers, Virginia. After he was discharged, he commenced ...

Great pop/jazz voicalist who reached the height of popularity in the 1960's along with his wife, Eydie Gorme.

30. Eydie Gormé

Actress | Ocean's Eleven

Eydie Gorme was born in New York on August 16, 1928 to Sephardic Jewish parents. Her father, Nessim Garmezano, was a tailor, from Sicily, who changed his last name when he arrived in the United States. Gorme began singing straight out of high school, with various big bands. But her big break came ...

Great pop/jazz vocalist with a wider range than her husband, Steve Lawrence; reached the height of her popularity in the 1960's but continued to record many years after that.

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