Paul Kelly: “the new castrati are everywhere”

17

March
2011

Writer Paul Kelly briefly surveys men who sing high in pop culture, labeling them “new castrati.” He doesn’t mean to suggest that they were castrated, but that men singing higher than the usual vocal range has been common in popular music since the middle of the twentieth century

They’ve always been around, inspiring devotion – Roy Orbison, The Bee Gees – but in recent years they seem to be on the rise. In the indie rock woods the trees are thronging with these variegated songbirds. Some of them sing falsetto; some of them, such as Tim Rogers, favour the ratcheted, reedy high end of their voices; some are rock ’n’ roll screamers. Many of them combine singing low and high in the same song, following a template set by Nirvana in the early ’90s, David Bowie on Heroes and, going further back, The Loved Ones’s scarifying ‘Everlovin’ Man’ in 1966 – one of the great rock ’n’ roll performances.

The entire article is worth the read.

Read more: Too Much Heaven on their Minds (The Monthly)

Farinelli, whose life was the subject of a movie, is the most famous castrato from the Baroque Era. The review quote on the DVD cover is notable: "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll... 18th-Century Style!"

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