Singers That Started Out By Playing A Different Instrument (part 2)

iggy pop

6. Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell is held in appreciation as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time. Whether solo, in Audioslave or in Soundgarden, his singing has always been praised for the great range and vocal control. But before all of that Cornell wanted to be a drummer. The early days of Soundgarden saw him behind the drum kit. Faced with the need to find a singer for their new group, Cornell started handling vocal duties while continuing to drum. In fact the earliest Soundgarden gig saw him take on both duties. Also out of necessity, he moved to the center of the stage, singing and occasionally also playing guitar.

In the 1990’s his powerful singing style drew comparisons to that of Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and Ian Gillan (Deep Purple). As his career progressed so did his ability to sing in different styles. This allowed him to choose to be involved in various musical projects, from the electro-pop collaboration with Timbaland, to the modern rock sound of Audioslave. Nowadays he uses his distinct vocal style on different projects, from the work with the now reunited Soundgarden, to largely acoustic solo shows that have him go through most of his back catalog as well as covers.

7. Josh Homme

Nowadays it seems that everything Josh Homme touches turns to gold (commercially speaking). Besides his work with Queens of the Stone Age, he is also known for producing and playing on albums by Arctic Monkeys, Eagles of Death Metal and more recently Iggy Pop. But in Kyuss, his first band, Josh Homme handled guitar duties. The band was a pioneer of stoner rock. While not having a great amount of commercial success initially, their reputation has constantly grown and are today an important cult band, with a far reaching influence on other groups. Kyuss has even been compared to the legendary Velvet Underground, in the sense that even though their commercial success was limited, their influence on other musicians was profound.

Homme’s next project, Queens of the Stone Age had him singing on many of the band’s best known songs and acting as the group’s leader. Of course, the group welcomes the singing of guests such as Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes. But Homme’s vocals have became a trademark of the group.

8. Jeff Buckley

In 1994 when Jeff Buckley released his debut album (and only completed work) “Grace”, listeners were amazed by his angelic voice. Buckley seemed to possess all the qualities needed to make him one of the most important musical artists of his time. His rendition of “Hallelujah” is still the go to song for singers wanting to prove their vocal skills. And other famous singers such as Rufus Wainwright, Matt Bellamy (Muse) or Chris Martin (Coldplay) praise his work. Jeff Buckley loved to sing as a child. He would recall singing in harmony with his mother on folk music like that of Joni Mitchell.

But Buckley also got his career started by playing guitar in numerous bands whose styles ranged from punk to progressive rock to jazz. In fact, Buckley had made a decision not to sing for several years citing personal reasons. Luckily, he eventually found his passion for singing once more and started to perform regularly in coffee houses in New York, performing covers and original material with his trademark impassioned vocals.

9. Iggy Pop

“The Godfather of punk” was also a dedicated drummer, before becoming the wild man singer for which he is best known today. Iggy started playing drums in school bands. In fact, his stage name was inspired by the The Iguanas, a short lived school group. Eventually he relocated for a short period in Chicago where he learnt about the blues first hand, playing behind noted blues musicians. It was here that he had the idea of creating a type of blues music that spoke to the kind of kids he went to school with back in Michigan. It was also the experience of seeing the Doors play live , and the stage presence of Jim Morrison that led to Iggy wanting to front a group.

He came back to town and enlisting the help of former school friends formed the proto-punk outfit The Stooges. Iggy Pop’s singing and stage persona became the stuff of legend and had a large impact on the future wave of punk rock bands.

10. Phil Collins

Ask any member of a band and they’ll tell you that good drummers and singers are the hardest positions to fill in a band. Fortunately for Genesis, Phil Collins turned out to be both. Collins joined the Genesis in 1970 in the role of drummer. He became noticed because of his good technique and ability to work with the complex songwriting developed by the Prog-Rock group. In perhaps the most famous example of a band member becoming lead singer, Collins replaced original singer Peter Gabriel after his leaving.

As the story goes, the band had auditioned many potential frontmen, but eventually decided that Collins’ voice was the most suitable for the group. With Phil Collins singing the band moved towards a more polished pop sound and enjoyed an even larger commercial success. This success also followed him through his solo career. Collins would occasionally step from the mic back to the drums, to demonstrate he’d kept his drumming chops (I know … Phil Collins featured on an alternative rock blog,right?!)

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