It's Time

It's Time

OK. It’s time for me to sort out my thoughts about this. What have I done? Why would I even put my mind to such a subjective nonsense? Who is the best singer ever? What kind of question is that?

I loved reading your responses. You had so many great observations and thoughts about the question. And it really is a subjective question. We all are going to look for different things in a good singer. Some people might recognize tone as the most important factor. Others might listen for range. Or agility. Or power. Or nuance. Or some combination of all of them.

Here were your top choices (number of votes in parenthesis):
Women –
1. Celine Dion (9)
2. Whitney Houston and Barbra Striesand (tie – 5)
4. CeCe Winans (4)
5. Karen Carpenter (3)

Men –
1. Steve Perry and Josh Groban (tie – 4)
3. Elvis and Nat King Cole (tie – 3)

Pretty decent choices, in my opinion. Now, some of you voted with your heart and not your mind, bless your hearts. As a reminder, I asked you to vote not for who was your favorite singer or favorite artist, but who, in your opinion, was the best singer ever. Just reminding you. Some of you. You heart voters, you. A couple of your votes made me want to punch my computer screen. In love, of course.

Some of your votes made me stop and reconsider who I thought should be on my list. Like Steve Perry. I did not have him even in my top 5. But now, I might consider it. Just for the sheer homage to the first 4 words of “Oh, Sherrie.” Mmmmmm. Good. Also, Karen Carpenter. Not much power. Not very agile or “licky.” But, oh the tone and nuance.

Just like me, Karen, they long to be close to you.

And something my friends and I have observed is that generally speaking, over the course of history, people look for great singers in their female artists (Whitney, Celine, Mariah). But for male artists, more than being just a great singer, they look for the whole artist / rock star thing (Elton, Billy, Michael). Interesting. I am the same way. My favorite male artists list reflects that…Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Billy Joel (80’s much?). But I have struggled to make a list of the best male vocalists ever.

OK, so here goes my list.

3. Aretha Franklin (I’m giving her R-E-S…nevermind)
2. Celine Dion (her heart will go on dan don)
1. Whitney (she believes the children are our future)

To me, there is no voice as close to perfect as Whitney’s was in her prime.

Honorable Mention: Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss

Horizon Award: Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson – two voices on their way to being two of the best ever (reminder: OPINION). I know. They are both from American Idol. Don’t judge me.


I’m just not ready to list this one. But, dang it. It’s not going to get easier. Here we go:
3. Michael Bolton (again. don’t judge me.)
2. Michael Jackson (mamasehmamasahmamakusah)
1. Stevie Wonder

I don’t know. I will change my mind tomorrow. Leave me alone about it right now. I need more time. Something. Just…whatever.

Honorable mention: Tony Bennett, Elvis, Luther Vandross, Michael McDonald, Michael English

Horizon Award: Michael Buble (have you really listened to this guy? unstinkingbelievable.), Israel Houghton (freakishly great singer)

Another time, we will rank our favorite artists. But my brain is cramped up from THIS stupid question. So, in the words of Janet Jackson, let’s wait a while…before we tackle that one.



  1. Rebecca on August 18, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    i have to give a whoop whoop for the two michael’s… mcdonald and buble, that is… and nudge them right on up to the top of that list.

    l.o.v.e. them!

  2. jennyhope on August 18, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    Ewwww I think I will have to judge you on that michael bolton pick…in honor of you I am going to post a pic of a Michael Bolton look alike that I saw on my trip to Cozumel…I worn you he is in a speedo…I think.

  3. Anita J. on August 19, 2008 at 12:10 am

    I’m sooo sorry you had to do that. I can’t imagine the pressure. I think I would have said 1) MY MOM and 2) MY DAD. They really sing. And they’re fabulous. Who can argue with Mom and Dad?

    Seriously, I agree with many of your choices. I also think Bryan White in his prime had amazing control. Michael English did have quite a voice back when he was the new sensation. He was my very favorite male vocalist then, and I had a brush with fame with him in a hair salon (no pun intended). I got a perm put in my hair while Michael had a haircut just two chairs away, but I didn’t see him. And the chair between us was empty! If THAT doesn’t scream “I don’t window shop” what does? My husband was not even flattered. He was with me that day, and he was so excited to meet M.E. that he thought I was crazy for missing him. He offered to get Michael to come back in and meet me (my husband has a way with celebrities). I, with my skunk-scented hair, not only declined, but threatened his well-being if he dared to invite Michael English to meet me in rollers. My husband, still not getting the picture, then begged me to get up and go to the counter to meet him. Thankfully, Michael walked back through to leave a tip and I dug my nails into my husband’s arm as if to say “You will DIE right here in the salon.” Thank God my husband speaks ‘Fingernail’. He let Michael walk back out and I sank back into my chair with a huge sigh of relief. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad NOT to meet a fabulous vocalist.

  4. Chel's Leaving a Legacy on August 19, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Okay, first of all, I am NOT a stalker now that I “met” you, k? Just so you know, I was reading (albeit lurking) your blog before you came to Atlanta. I’m just sayin. 🙂

    Secondly, if anyone ever wrote a post about me, I’d want to know about it…

    SO, I wrote about your concert at our church yesterday…come see!

    Have a great day!

  5. Kris on August 19, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Michael Buble! Love that guy. But what about…Harry Connick Jr. So curious on your thoughts regarding..Tony Bennett. My, the blogging left for you to do. 🙂

  6. Karen on August 19, 2008 at 5:07 am

    Thoughts? I have no thoughts. Because IlikewhatIlikewhatIlike! And what I like changes. With the wind. or my mood. or my tolerance level of whatever my 16 year old boy is feeding into my little bitty brain. I have to agree with you on several of your choices, though. (at least for today.) The Michaels are incredibly talented and there’s nobody like Aretha! (even the boy can dig some of that.) Also, Allison’s voice is about as pure as any I’ve ever heard. (That is assuming I have not sustained permanent ear damage from listening to the boy’s choice of “classic” rock. Classic, my foot. That stuff was young when I was and I’m pretty sure I’m not a “classic”. Yet.)

    Enjoy the day!

  7. Lisa Walchenbach on August 19, 2008 at 5:19 am

    I’m curious why Josh Groban is not on your list. In your opinion, what is he lacking?

  8. boomama on August 19, 2008 at 5:56 am

    I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me that you gave a pretend Horizon award.

  9. Cindy on August 19, 2008 at 6:24 am

    I cracked up at the vision of you punching your computer screen, llllooooollllll! Exactly which choice would have made you even consider such a thing?

    Glad to have you back!

    Cindy in Weaverville :o)

    p.s. Do you need a PA for the Chip Ingram event?

  10. fuzzytop on August 19, 2008 at 6:43 am

    I fell stinkin’ bad for being one of those heart voters, at least where the male singers are concerned…. hee hee hee

    But yours is a great list – except for that Michael Bolton thing – bleah…..


  11. Cathy Davis on August 19, 2008 at 6:46 am

    “2. Michael Jackson (mamasehmamasahmamakusah)”

    HA HA HA HA – I even “sang” it.

    This is a hard one and I dare not attempt it. I would agree with all the selections ;).

  12. Anonymous on August 19, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Michael Bolton very 80ish. However back in the 80’s(college days)Michael W. Smith, Steve Camp, and Steve Green. I still love Steve Green. Now I would say Sandi Patti. Her range is unbelieveable. And Travis you are now one of my favorites. No brownie points please but when I want some praise music for my glory time I just put you on.

    Darcie in Wyoming

  13. Sarah on August 19, 2008 at 7:03 am

    I love that you have things like honorable mention, and a horizon award. This is my kind of system. I can’t have one favorite. And mostly, I think I agree with your list (my heart won’t let me go with Michael Bolton, despite the rules). I can totally get behind Stevie Wonder and Whitney.

  14. Big Mama on August 19, 2008 at 8:02 am

    I actually own two Michael Bolton CD’s. It’s true.

    As for Michael Jackson, he had it all. The voice, the moves, the hair that reflected more light than should be allowed.

  15. Holly on August 19, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I would have picked Billy Joel, if you said favorite artist. I have nary an Elton John record. But he has a range; and man, over the years, he really still sounds good (have you heard Barry Manilow? Age did not make his voice better. I daresay I will get some hate mail over that 🙂

    What a fun topic! Did you get a package with some cookbooks? Hope so!!

    I pictured me trying to find you in San Antonio, going–“Travis, I have your cookbooks!!”…and couldn’t bring myself to do it. Can you imagine???

  16. Anonymous on August 19, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Best male singer ever…
    Englebert Humperdinck!

  17. Tarah on August 19, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Dolly Parton?!? Honorable mention for best vocalist ever?? Whaaaat? Speaking of heart voting……

    Scratching my head on that one, but the others I think I’d probably agree.

  18. Cathy Davis on August 19, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I just wanted to share that the Michael Jackson song has been stuck in my head since I read this post. I can’t remember any other part except the part you “quoted”. Thank you for that ;).

  19. Moops on August 19, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Stevie Wonder! Of Course he’s the greatest ever. Songs in the Key of Life. Brother, it doesn’t get any better than that!

  20. Tiffani on August 19, 2008 at 11:33 am

    well, all of this is your own danged fault for posting such question 😉 Really, it’s been fun to read…I agree with your choices, especially Buble and McDonald–the Michaels (Jackson, too, for that matter) Jolene by Dolly Parton will always and forever be one of the greatest gifts to music–ever! So, I agree with Dolly for honorable mention. How ’bout her duet with Ricky Van Shelton (rockin’ chairs, rockin’ babies, ROCK A BYE) aahh, chills and tears just thinkin’ of it!!! My son (he’s almost 8) thinks Sir Duke is one of the best songs ever made and Stevie was in my top males(even though I didn’t post my vocalists b/c I was rebelling against such a difficult question, but you may remember my sick love affair with duets–see above– and I DID leave those on the post 😉 So, well done, my blogasingingfriend, you wrapped up this “universal” question quite nicely!


  21. Kay - Bluebird Sightings on August 19, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Don’t worry Travis, you’ll list six different ones tomorrow. I’ve changed my mind several times since I originally left my comment. And I have to agree with you on Michael Buble. Let’s face it, sentiment speaks to our ears as well as our hearts.

    I know this was a difficult question for us all to answer, but didn’t think it was quite fair that you got to list 3 or more while the rest of us struggled to name ONE. Still, I guess that’s the privilege that comes with pitching out the question on your own blog. Kind of a home court advantage or something. Thanks for the thought provoking (or maybe just provoking) question!

  22. Anonymous on August 19, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Um, hello, Travis. Michael Buble-have you really listened to this guy? Sure enough! I’m telling you, just because they’re young and new artists doesn’t mean they’re not at the top of their game already! Give them some props! I mean, Horizon award? You’re cracking me up! See you this weekend in SA. I hope Angela will be singing with you! I’m sure that she would love to hang with the Siestas!!
    Amy in OK

  23. Lynn on August 19, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Good list… its so hard to separate out personal preference from good singing. you know…

    Thanks for the fun question!

    Sister Lynn

  24. ocean mommy on August 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Michael Bolton? Really?? Not judging..just asking. 🙂 I’m just glad he’s cut his hair…

    I tend to agree with the rest of the list. 🙂

    Praying for safe travel to S.A. this weekend! We are praying for you and the team! Looking forward to worship with you all!


  25. Anonymous on August 19, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I am pretty okay with your picks. Will the “best 80’s duet” be in another post??

  26. lavonda on August 19, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    COMPLETELY FORGOT about Michael Bolton.

    His ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and ‘What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life’— oh my goodness. That whole Vintage album.

    Enough said.

    and Michael Jackson… like him okay. but if you’d have asked this very question right after David Cook sang “Billy Jean” last season on American Idol…
    mmmm. I’m afraid I’d have said David Cook that night.

    Except that now I’ve forgotten all about Vince Gill, who is one of my all time favorites, and now I feel guilty for leaving him out in your earlier post.

    So now I’m eating semi-sweet chocolate chips straight out of the bag to make up for it.


  27. Mark Celoria on August 19, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    “her heart will go on dan don”

    TOO Funny! I notice those kinds of things too.

    And I feel ashamed that I didn’t think of Stevie Wonder. You’re sooo right, there.

    How the HECK can you say that Michael English is better than David Phelps, though?

  28. Sherry on August 19, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Can NOT believe you wouldn’t even think about Steve Perry, ha! But am glad you can see why he is so great! Am SO sad that Linda Ronstadt didn’t even get a nod or mention. Sad. I mean she has amazing range and tone. And for pete’s sake she was the lead in Pirates of Penzance. mr modern major general.


  29. Cindy-Still His Girl on August 19, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I’m sorry I laughed out loud at you having Michael Bolton in #3. Please forgive me.

  30. Anonymous on August 19, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Like the michael bolton pick. Happen to get a tour of his bus mannnnnnnnnnnny years ago. Long story. But I do love michael. Heard one this weekend that i had not heard in a while and made me want to add to the list of female singers…… Charlotte Church. Amazing. Simply. Amazing.

  31. Tina on August 19, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Since you are Mr. 80’s, you obviously overlooked Talented Tom Petty, not to mention the vocal stylings of Milli Vanilli. They were everyting you search for in an a vocal duo.

    Shame on you…

    P.S. I really like that artist who did a cover of the song “Living Life Upside Down” but I can’t remember his name… only his glasses. (smile)

  32. Kris on August 19, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Il Divo? Andrea Bocelli? Do they count.

    Although Il Divo is instantly disqualified. Too pretty.

  33. Daniel Semsen on August 19, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    MICHAEL BOLTON!?!??!!?!?!?!?!?!!?!




  34. Adam Owens on August 20, 2008 at 3:56 am

    hmmm.. so many things to touch on.. so little time.
    First off.. I can handle your Women choices. they are pretty good. I agree with the Horizon Awards. But your Men’s choices.. hmmm i dunno.. Michael Bolton?!?! for real.. but I am not here to judge.. haha.. Michael Buble is pretty awesome though. Very cool voice..

    Fav line of this post…..”Just reminding you. Some of you. You heart voters, you. A couple of your votes made me want to punch my computer screen. In love, of course.”

    You “heart” voters.. that was classic.

  35. steve flores on August 20, 2008 at 7:00 am

    No love for William Hung??? I’m disappointed…

  36. Kim V on August 20, 2008 at 8:17 am

    I’m thinkin’ that maybe you should have broke it down into categories such as pop, jazz, country or something like 80’s artists (ha,ha). Even do a decade a week or something. There are just toooo many to pick from and I think we all are on overload from it. I don’t know about ya’ll but I just don’t need this added pressure in my life.

    Having said that…here is another name I want to throw out there…Joss Stone.

  37. Anonymous on August 20, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Yes, give Steve Perry another thought!


    Mama Duck 🙂

  38. Heart Voter (ha) on August 20, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Travis – actually ran across a web site dedicated to the top 10 best male singers of all time.

    Never thought about Freddie Mercury but who in the world is Gackt?

    Michale Bolton? Good choice! Never would have thought of that one…

  39. Anonymous on August 20, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    you might be the funniest guy ever along with being one of the best singers ever! seriously funny!!!!

  40. fuzzytop on August 21, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Hey Travis – who was the guy that was the lead singer for Simply Red (gosh I hope you remember that group)??? That guy had a really emotional voice, kinda haunting, and I really like it. But can’t for the life of me remember his name….


    P.S. I’m still on the fence about Michael Bolton though….

  41. Melody on August 21, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    melody9wesemme98OK, here is my list for “Best”, and in fact, “Favorites” :

    3. Marshall Hall
    2. David Phelps
    1. Travis Cottrell (truly!!!)- most gorgeous voice EVER!

    3. Alison Durham Speer
    2. Nichole Nordeman
    1. Allison Krauss

  42. theweaver on August 22, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Ooo… I have to agree with the Bryan White & Michael English… "I Dreamed of a place called glory…" is amazing.

    I definitely agree with Bocelli (I don't think I spelled it right though?!?), Buble', and Groben.

    But really, my favorite and a really great singer was… Elvis. I love one of his last albums. I think it showcases his voice the best. It's the one with "In the Ghetto" on it… He derserves more than a nod.

  43. Anonymous on August 26, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I Do like your list! I’m not sure what a “heart” voter is, but I think that YOU have the best male voice I’ve EVER heard. And I can be as harsh a judge as Simon! Common… your voice is AMAZING!!

  44. Lee Anne Benz on September 5, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Hey Travis. Haven’t talked to you in so long. Tell Angela I said howdy. Just stopped by here because Susan Harris said I should to see what you said about Dot Hill passing. I read this posting about the best singers. Friend, I love you and all, but are you out of your mind? Anyway, props to you, actually, for taking it on. You are brave. In that spirit, I will add my two cents worth, even though this was weeks ago and I am sure for you the feeling has passed. Best female singer? Now, we are just going on pipes here, right? Not commercial success or sappy words in a hit song or anything? Buddy, you gotta think two words: Melissa Manchester. It’s ok that you forgot her. I have a few years on you. But c’mon, Trav. Don’t Cry Out Loud. ICCCKKKYY words. GRREEAAT song. And one other great singer you forgot needs only one word: Mandisa! Love you, buddy. Praying for your son.

  45. Lydia on September 5, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    OK, I realize you posted this a couple of weeks ago, but I just had to add a comment. In keeping with the American Idol theme, hopefully the next time you give out awards (will this be a yearly thing?) 😉 you’ll include David Cook somewhere. After watching him on AI and then seeing him in concert (don’t judge this almost 30 year old, married, mom of 2!), I think he’s well on his way to being the next big thing. Of course once his album comes out I could be proven wrong. We’ll see.
    Oh, and do you think having the name “Michael” automatically means “famous singer” (with weird hair)?

  46. Brad Day on September 6, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    stevie wonder was definately the right call. have you ever heard him sing bob marley’s “redemption song”? my gosh it’s not even fair. do yourself a favor and check it out as well as my new blog.

  47. Brad Day on September 8, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    btw, i can’t believe that andrea bochelli didn’t make this list. really, how does nessun dorma sound better sung by michael bolton than andrea bochelli. youtube it and tell me.

  48. Brad Day on September 8, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    ok. no classical. whatever. what about freddy mercury? one of the all time best. not to mention one of the most unique. give some props dude.

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