The Who's Roger Daltrey says there are no great lead singers anymore. Do you agree?


Image Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Roger Daltrey of the Who certainly belongs alongside Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osbourne, and the like on the Rock Frontmen Mt. Rushmore. So when he comes out and says there aren’t any real lead singers out there any more, we have to at least consider the idea.

In a conversation with the Associated Press, Daltrey dismissed the lot of current singers, especially those who show up on network television. “A lot of the new people they choose on shows like American Idol and things like that — I don’t ever hear lead singers,” Daltrey said. “They always seem to choose to pick people that are great singers, fabulous singers, but they’ve never got the voice that makes a great lead singer.”

Daltrey noted that these younger acts lack the distinction possessed by some of his great peers. “You hear 10 seconds of Rod Stewart, you know it’s Rod Stewart,” he explained. “Ten seconds of Mick Jagger, that’s Mick Jagger. Ten seconds of Eddie Vedder, you know that’s Eddie.” He also allowed that Adele is “the real deal.”

There’s a lot to unpack there, so why don’t we take some time out to watch seven minutes of Daltrey screaming in between David Caruso saying pithy things on CSI: Miami.

OK, now that we have that out of our systems, let’s take a look at what Daltrey is saying.

His primary complaint seems to be with the types of people who accomplish big things on American Idol and the like, and he might not be wrong. While Kelly Clarkson certainly has the sort of voice that fills a room and front a band, most of the winners from the past few seasons have lacked that compelling je ne sais quoi that makes people translate their television-watching to album-buying — a bridge that sometimes seems impossible to cross.

While people like Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen, and David Cook are certainly talented, they don’t necessarily own the sorts of voices that Daltrey (or Jagger or Vedder) have used to both express their lyrics and also command large rooms full of adoring fans. It’s sort of unfair to compare people you’re only just being introduced to on a television show to Rod Stewart (because not only is Stewart great, but he’s also been in the public eye for over four decades; over that amount of time, even Crystal Bowersox would be able to make an impression), but the sentiment comes across.

But let’s pretend for a second here that Daltrey is saying that there aren’t any great frontmen, because he might not be wrong about that either. Daltrey is specifically talking about voices in his complaint, but there’s a real dearth of people who are able to incorporate everything a frontman does.

The era that Daltrey came from, when unfettered vocalists stalked stages across the world, is long gone. The idea of approaching the frontman position like Freddie Mercury or David Lee Roth became so passé for a while that it never quite made its way back. It’s a difficult gig (just look at how instantly terrible Van Halen became with Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone at the helm instead of Roth), and it’s often overplayed a bit. Is there any doubt that the support for Guns N’ Roses’ entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is rooted in memories of when Axl Rose was an absolute monster on stadium stages?

There are certainly a number of people who combine vocal chops with enough presence to compel tens of thousands of people at a time. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong comes to mind; though he certainly doesn’t have the throat of a Plant or even that guy from Wolfmother, he knows showmanship.

Coldplay’s Chris Martin would probably qualify for this plateau as well, and he gets bonus points because, like any great legend, he’s super-polarizing (that’s the Bono School of Frontman Science). Jim James from My Morning Jacket seems like he’s growing in both vocal signature and onstage stature, and as soon as No Doubt get back on the road, Gwen Stefani will be the best bandleader working.

Of course, none of these people hold a candle to Roth, who could probably front the Starland Vocal Band and still make it feel like the greatest night in the history of rock.

Who do you think are among the best band frontmen — or women — today? And can any of them hold a candle to Daltrey and his peers? And who is the greatest frontman of all time (other than DLR)? Sound off in the comments!

This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees include Kiss, LL Cool J, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Our take on this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees: Should the Beastie Boys, Guns ‘N Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and others get in?

Comments (97 total) Add your comment
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  • Michael

    I guess time will tell. Not every band or singer from that era is remembered, only the great ones are. I imagine the same will be true of today’s bands and singers. It’s easy to look back and say things were better then, but we really tend to remember the best and forget everything else.

    • Celebrities are morons

      He clearly never head of Grimmus, lead singer of Hucklebuck

      • who?

        Iwho the f*ck is hucklebuck?

      • Sedetik

        Fantastic Jennylyn! It’s wduferonl that you love what you do (not many people can say that they’re enthusiastic about their chosen profession). I’m digging your blog and wishing you continued success.

    • Color Me Impressed

      There are still great frontmen: Brandon Flowers, Thom Yorke & Julian Casablancas to name a few.

      • Oliver

        Posted on The manual is AWESOME and expeessrs lifes most important teachings, a must have for ALL .I’m joining the revolution. Keep up the excellent creative work, you will inspire thousands of women to unleash their sexy, powerful, rebellious, compassionate inner super hero.VIVA THE REVOLUTION!!!

    • DD

      Noboby heard about Adam Lambert??? That man can sing!!!!! He got a Grammy nominee this year!!!

      • Diane

        Whoopee…… Besides, Adam is a solo singer, not a lead singer in a band.

    • Gary

      No there are few great singers/musicians like there wre back in the day. Guys like Freddy Mercury, Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Roger Daltry, Jim Morrison, David Bowie, John Lennon/Paul McCartney, Neil Young, etc were great singers, musicians and entertainers. Probably only Bono and Bruce Springsteen are left. Maybe Adele will start a come-back.

      • Abdul

        It’s quite inexplicable isn’t it. If they have any sense I have the felnieg that they will have reset it by the weekend. At least set this as the default and give users the option of re-enabling the old style replies via their settings. Maybe a bit of Bernie Ecclestone style smoke and mirrors stuff is going on do something that causes a rumpus and creates lots of press and then suddenly change your mind and start saying the exact opposite a week later

  • Alecia Murphy

    I understand where he’s coming from. There aren’t many bands at all anymore and the ones that are around don’t really have anyone with the swagger of bands in the 1960s and 1970s.

    • LOL


  • Roy

    John Lennon (just listen to “Twist & Shout”), Lowell George of Little Feat and Steve Marriott of The Small Faces and Humble Pie are my choices for “All Time”…DLR ??? are you serious ???

  • Templar

    He’s mainly right, although I can tell by the second or third syllable that I’m hearing Adam Lambert. I’ve seen Adam in concert and he’s as good a frontman as Daltry. He’s never going to be Freddie Mercury, because, let’s face it no one ever will be. But, having said that, I agree that singers the caliber of Chris Martin, Chris Daughtry, and Adam Levine don’t measure up.

  • Elbyem

    You are more likely to catch a great “lead singer” at a local bar than on a CD or in a stadium now. A talented group, a relatively intimate venue, and a lack of staging and pyrotechnics, can still showcase a “lead singer”. Arena shows just really aren’t very enjoyable, when they’re all about noise and spectacle (and exorbitant ticket prices – no one is worth paying $300 to see). I agree with Michael’s comment – we only tend to remember the greats (of which Freddie Mercury was the greatest, in my opinion), against which modern artists tend to pale in comparison.

  • Stormy

    Most of today’s front men are insipid as is most of today’s so-called rock music. Greatest front man of all time has to be Freddie Mercury with honorable mention to Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Ozzie.

    • Jenn

      Agreed on Freddie Mercury. Watch Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985, no contest!

      • April

        Agree agree agree!!

      • Joe R

        The thought is that Mercury knew at that point that he had AIDS and so tried to give the performance of his life. He not only did that but gave one of the greatest perfomances in all of Rock history.

    • Thiago

      This Mark Wood show was amazing. The sound and litnhigg was breathtaking. The energy coming from the performers was phenomenal. Please have this show come back. The other show that was amazing was Eddie Money’s Two Tickets to Paradise. Those dancers were great! Kudos to the crew!-Nikki

  • ihatescreennames

    Ummm….one of the best of all time–my man Dave Grohl frontin the Foo Fighters!!!!!! Truly a great lead singer and a great person!

    • Kim

      THANK YOU!! This whole time I’m like, hello…..Dave Grohl is a rock god!

    • Elizabeth

      Third-ed! Saw them in concert last week – he’s such a great front man/lead singer. Can’t think of anyone else who commands the audience and keeps them engaged like Dave did.

    • Casey

      Yes! Dave Grohl is the man!! Definitely one of the best current frontmen today.

    • Cameron J

      You beat me to it! XD Foo Fighters aren’t one of my immediate favorites, but he is the most distinct leader I know. Him, and probably Ryan Tedder.

  • vera

    Prince!!! For someone who started out as a prodigy/genius, I don’t even know what to call him anymore. He actually keeps getting better. Unbelievable, but how lucky are we.

  • goose

    Chris Cornell is the best frontman/voice working today in music

    • daphne

      Definitely one of the very very best!

  • CJ

    Loved Chris Cornell with Audioslave but the best – Maynard James Keenan of TOOL/APC/Puscifer

    • cjg


      • Anna

        Not that I’ve heard of. I’m ptetry sure auditions are all over at this point too. You’ll have to wait until next summer to audition.

    • daphne

      Double ditto!!!!!

  • I-Ninjakicksback

    Lee Dewyze is most certainly not talented Kyle.

  • jim

    Liam Gallagher. When he was on with Oasis, he was on of the best ever.

  • Dafoor

    Dave Grohl is a rock god and one helluva lead singer! Just saw them in concert for the fourth time and it’s never a dull show!

  • Shannon

    That’s a rather large generalization, I’d say. But, it doesn’t surprise me since Daltrey is losing his voice and thus feels the need to speak up. It takes more than great vocal prowess to be a stellar frontman. You’ve always got to have a certain amount of attitude, presence, and swag. I still love the likes of Bono, Billy Joe Armstrong, and even the all-over-the-place Jack White. Bands aren’t banding together as much as they did in the late 60’s and 70’s, but they’re still out there. How about My Chemical Romance and Panic at the Disco? I get a kick out of those guys even if they are nowhere near the now-off-his-rocking-rocker Robert Plant and Zeppelin.

  • Radzinsky

    Thom Yorke. Done.

    • Angie

      I was about to say THIS!

    • 75Heather


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