The Age Defiant Voice

The Age Defiant Voice
We’re at the perfect vantage point in history right now to see the full “life cycle” of the pop singer –says Kim Chandler.

You make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman…

The legend that is the Queen of Soul, the one and only Aretha Franklin, effortlessly belts out this iconic song at the Kennedy Center Honors to an adoring audience including a teary-eyed President Obama and the song’s composer and Honors Award recipient, Carole King:

This song was a huge hit for Franklin back in 1967 and even for King herself who sang it on her famous “Tapestry” album in 1971.

But it was this most recent performance of Franklin as a sassy, fur-coat-wearing 73 year-old diva, still at the top of her game, and the explosive reaction it caused that shows legendary singers are still rocking the world in their seventies and above.

How Have These Voices Lasted?

When Rock ‘n Roll made its grand entrance onto the music scene in the 1950s, nobody knew at the time whether these type of voices were going to last and whether this type of singing was dangerous (as some thought at the time).

But we’re in the perfect vantage point in history right now to see the full “life cycle” of the pop singer – six decades and counting – and I’m pleased to report it’s looking good!

Despite the music industry having more than its fair share of destructive lifestyles and premature deaths, incredibly, there are singers whose careers started in the 1950s who are still performing today, Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey being two.

Sir Cliff embarked on a successful 75th Birthday tour last year and Dame Shirley is still one of the world’s best (and most glamorous) belters at 78 years of age.

Here she is doing a recent performance with Classical Boy Band Blake on the “Graham Norton Show”:

Then there’s the Grammy Awards in February last year where we see fellow Welsh legend Tom Jones duetting in his mid 70s with his young colleague from “The Voice”, Jessie J:

And crooner extraordinaire Tony Bennett, still in fine vocal form in his late 80s, duets with Lady Gaga:

I’m sure there are many more examples, but all this bodes very well, doesn’t it?

It’s an exciting and encouraging prospect to those of us interested in career longevity, especially given that we’re living longer than ever before.

The usual effects of aging on the voice include reduced volume, breath control and range, thinner tone, reduced stamina, a tremor or shakiness in the voice, a wider, slower vibrato etc.

But a lot of this can be held at bay by good genes (which we can’t control) and a healthy lifestyle including regular physical and vocal exercise (which we can control).

As Shirley Bassey advised in a newspaper article I read last year (“Daily Mirror” May 21), “Go in the studio and sing your heart out, get a vocal coach and strengthen your vocal cords”.

She also said in the same article that she goes to the gym three times a week with a trainer.

So, if singing your heart out (with its known health benefits), having vocal coaching, doing vocal exercises and regular physical exercise is good enough for Dame Shirley then it’s good enough for us too.

Long live the voice!

– Kim Chandler


Kim Chandler Bio

Kim Chandler is one of the UK’s top session singers and industry vocal coaches. She’s coached charting artists such as Courtney Love, Paloma Faith, Jess Glynne, Birdy, Marlon Roudette, Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six), Oli Sykes (Bring Me The Horizon) and more. Kim works regularly as a vocal coach at Abbey Road Studios, and in the academic world presents at workshops, master classes and national & international voice conferences. Her work can also be found in TC-Helicon’s The Ultimate Guide To Singing and Springer’s “Teaching Singing in the 21st Century”. She is also the creator of the Voice Cross Trainer App for iOS and Android. It’s based on her popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series. See her Website


  • The video of Aretha has been blocked

  • Thanks for this Susan; yes, CBS removed the video but we have just posted a new one in its place. All best wishes.

  • NoyzyBoyz

    Great article Kim! I would really like to learn how to sing properly,but I might have damage beyond repair.Too many years of smoking and doing it the wrong way have taken a toll.