Melodyful enlists the top 20 famous crooners of all time for you. This classy collection embraces singers from the ’40s to the ’60s and beyond, with a special mention for the modern-day crooning artists.
Don’t Be Tagging Me!
When the term “Crooner” first became popular, many of the artists who were referred to by that epithet found it derogatory. Frank Sinatra once said in an interview that he didn’t consider himself and Bing Crosby to be crooners.
Just close your eyes and imagine a gramophone rotate to the sound of some golden vinyl records. It is sure to transport you to the smooth and easy vibes that were so synonymous with singers from the ’40s to the ’60’s. Back in the day, before there were digital mixers or fancy equipment, singers had to rely completely on the quality of their sound, to be able to reach and touch their audience. But that changed with the advent of the microphone, and performers could now opt for a softer sound that could emote a lot more, while still staying true to themselves. You could now go up on stage, backed by your band, and weave a whole bunch of stories and shift through a range of atmospheres that enhanced the whole experience.
This is where “crooning” comes in. This term was first used to refer to male singers who performed jazz standards, and usually had an entourage with them that included the orchestra, large bands, and pianists amongst others. These songs were largely taken from the “Great American Songbook” written by Alec Wilder, and contained melodies that largely followed the 32-bar form. When the term came into vogue, many performers were averse to it, and many denounced the form, not expecting it to render such a major influence on the music industry for so long.
We bring you some of the most famous male crooners from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. We also compiled a list of other notable present-day counterparts.
♫ Born – Died: December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998
♫ Genre: Pop, Easy Listening, Swing, Jazz, Vocal Jazz
♪ Years Active: 1935-1995
♪ Description: If you have not heard of Francis Albert Sinatra, you have not lived. Good Ol’ Blue Eyes was the heartthrob for many, and an idol for “bobby soxers” across the globe. However, it was not his looks but his melodious baritone voice and captivating lyrics that has won him over 30 Honors, 3 Oscars, 13 Grammys, and numerous awards. Songs like “I Don’t Know Why”, “New York, New York”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Night and Day”, “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, “My Funny Valentine”, “Moon River”, and “Besame Mucho” still reverberate today and take you back to that warm place. Here’s to the legend who swept us away!
♫ Born – Died: June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995
♫ Genre: Easy Listening, Vocal Jazz, Swing, Country, Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1940-1990
♪ Description: Now popular as the “King of Cool”, Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti. His charisma and talent was so profound that melodies like “Everybody Loves Somebody” had the power to overthrow “A Had Day’s Night” by The Beatles off the number 1 spot. An inspiration to the likes of legends like Elvis Presley, he himself was taken by the styles of Crosby and Como. Some of his noted tracks include “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”, “That’s Amore”, “Sway”, “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”, “Memories are Made of This”. He has also been honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
♫ Born – Died: May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977
♫ Genre: Traditional Pop, Vocal, Jazz
♪ Years Active: 1926-1977
♪ Description: His bass-baritone voice was the inspiration for many, including future legends like Sinatra, Martin, and Como. For 20 years (1934-1954), he led the charts in record sales, movie earnings, and radio ratings. He was a philanthropist and an innovator, and after outshining his Rhythm Boys’ band members, he rose to prominence with songs like “Out of Nowhere”, “At Your Command”, “Just One More Chance”, “I Found a Million Dollar Baby”, “I Surrender Dear”, “Where the Blue of the Night”. The sound of his voice that moved away from conventional belting, he was one of the firsts to inspire the coinage of the term “crooning”. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame posthumously.
♫ Born – Died: January 1, 1895 – June 6, 1961
♫ Genre: Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1923-1940
♪ Description: Nicknamed the “Whispering Baritone”, he was a pioneering radio artist, one of the first crooners, and also a songwriter. With hits like “Hesitation Blues”, “Mean Blues” “Just Waiting For You”, “Just Forget”, and “You May Be Lonesome” amongst others, he was one of the first artists to have an electrical recording, which was a big deal at that time.
♫ Born – Died: January 7, 1898 – April 17, 1941
♫ Genre: Jazz, Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1927-41
♪ Description: An experimental artist for his time, Bowlly played around with amplification, used portable vocal megaphones, and used the equipment to his advantage when he melded his Jazz vocal style into what we call today as “crooning”. Named “The Big Swoon”, he is credited as the inventor of “The Modern Singing Style” or “Crooning”. Back when band members were the ones to steal the spotlight, Bowlly bagged a solo spot on BBC Radio, making him one of the first “pop stars”. A ladies’ man, songs like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “Blue Moon”, “My Melancholy Baby”, “Easy to Love”, “Goodnight Sweetheart”, “Guilty”, “Love is the Sweetest Thing”, and “The Very Thought of You” are still some of the most profound love songs out there.
♫ Born – Died: July 28, 1901 – July 3, 1986
♫ Genre: Jazz, Pop
♪ Years Active: 1924-1984
♪ Description: From the drums, to the saxophone and clarinet, all his initial attempts at vocalization were shot down. Eventually, his trombone-like tenor voice caught the attention of many, and paired with his charm and looks, he earned himself many fans. “Flappers” or new-school women flocked him religiously, and he went on to become one of the first mass media pop stars and crooners to garner so much attention. “There is a Tavern in the Town”, “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, “As Time Goes By”, “Violets”, “Will You Remember Me?”, and “The Whiffenpoof Song” have taken people on melodic journeys that still linger today.
Nat King Cole
♫ Born – Died: March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965
♫ Genre: Big Band, Jazz, Swing, Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1935-1965
♪ Description: Born Nathaniel Adams Coles, the widely popular jazz pianist didn’t turn to vocals until people started recognizing that there was something truly magical there. His melodic baritone renditions, coupled with his smooth playing skills, earned him widespread recognition. Some of his hits include “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, “The Christmas Song”, “Route 66”, “Mona Lisa”, “Too Young”, “Nature Boy”, “Pretend”, “Smile” and “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer”. He has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Jazz Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, amongst others.
♫ Born: August 3, 1926
♫ Genre: Show Tunes, Jazz, Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1949-present
♪ Description: Anthony Dominick Benedetto, is also a World War II Veteran and a painter, who took the world by storm with hits like “Because of You”, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, “Rags to Riches”, “Blue Velvet”, and “I Wanna Be Around”, amongst others. He has 17 Grammy Awards to his name, along with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, amidst numerous other accomplishments. He is also the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of Arts in New York.
♫ Born – Died: June 24, 1900 – January, 1972
♫ Genre: Old-Time, Vaudeville, Jazz
♪ Years Active: 1919-1968
♪ Description: Another pioneer of crooning, when Austin released “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street”, he started a career that would leave its mark on the generations that followed him. In the decade since the single, he sold over 80 million records, and he held that record for the next forty years. Many of his tracks have been covered by famous recording artists, including “Ho Come You Do Me Like You Do”, “The Lonesome Road”, “The Voice of the Southland”, and “Riding Around in the Rain”. Other hits include “Bye, Bye Blackbird”, “Ramona”, “Carolina Moon”, and “My Blue Heaven”. He has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
♫ Born – Died: December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990
♫ Genre: Jazz, Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1928-1990
♪ Description: A multitalented entertainer, he was an actor, impressionist, photographer, and a musician. He was a part of Sinatra’s famous group Rat Pack, which included the likes of Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Venturing into a solo career, he recorded hits like “I’ve Gotta Be Me”, “The Candy Man”, “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow”, and “What Kind of Fool Am I”. He was a close friend of Elvis, with whom he did a couple of shows too. He has won tons of awards including the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
♫ Born – Died: 13 September, 1925 – 5 June, 1999
♫ Genre: Jazz
♪ Years Active: 1933-1996
♪ Description: Although he was a man of many dreams, his first love was always Jazz. He was also an actor, songwriter, radio and television personality, and an author. He composed the classic “The Christmas Song” and also co-wrote it. He had amazing pitch control that was not seen often with scat singers, and his improvisations were flawless. Popular tracks like “Careless Hands”, “California Suite”, covers of “Again” and “Blue Moon”, “Mountain Greenery”, “Comin’ Home, Baby” earned him the nicknames “The Blue Fox” and “The Velvet Fog”. He has been awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
♫ Born – Died: June 1, 1934
♫ Genre: Gospel, Country, Pop, Rock and Roll
♪ Years Active: 1954-present
♪ Description: Boone started out by covering R&B songs by African-American artists, to cater to the white crowd. His covers of “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I Almost Lost My Mind”, “Hearts of Stone” and “Long Tall Sally”, and “Don’t Forget Me”, all of which ended up as hits. He went on to set many a milestone, selling over 45 million albums, earning 38 Top 40 hits, acting in 12 Hollywood films, ranking as the second highest-selling record artist in the late 1950s, beaten only by Elvis Presley, a book that topped the bestsellers’ list, and an induction into the Gospel Hall of Fame.
♫ Born: September 30, 1935
♫ Genre: Jazz, Soul, Easy Listening, Pop
♪ Years Active: 1956-present
♪ Description: Influenced by legends like Crosby and Cole, Mathis started out by covering standard music. He eventually went on to have numerous gold and platinum selling albums, selling over 350 million copies, earning him the record of the 3rd highest selling record artist in the last 60 years. 73 singles of the same have made it into the Billboard charts, and he is not done yet! His famous melodies include “Wonderful! Wonderful!”, “It’s Not For Me To Say”, “A Certain Smile”, “Gina”, “What Will Mary Say”, “You Are All I Need to Get By”, “Chances Are”, and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”. His album “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” stayed on the billboard charts for 9 and a half years starting from 1958-1967, earning him a Guinness World Record. He is a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, mention in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and The Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.
♫ Born – Died: May 18, 1912 – May 12, 2001
♫ Genre: Big Band, Easy Listening, Pop, Country, Jazz, Latin, Swing, Adult Contemporary
♪ Years Active: 1933-1998
♪ Description: An Italian-American crooner with a career spanning over 50 years, Como was a man of talent and virtue. With a gentle yet captivating voice, he garnered attention as a radio host and recording artist. Popular tracks include “Hot Diggity”, “All Through the Night”, “And I Love You So”, “Ave Maria”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, “Carnival”, “Catch a Falling Star”, “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “He Got the Whole World in His Hands”, etc. He has received one Grammy, 5 Emmys, 1 Christopher Award, 1 Peabody Award (shared), and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
♫ Born – Died: May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973
♫ Genre: Blues, Jazz, Swing, Folk, Rock and Roll
♪ Years Active: 1956-1973
♪ Description: With looks to die for and a voice to swoon over, this crooner recorded hits such as “Splish Splash”, “Beyond the Sea”, “Dream Lover”, “Mack the Knife”, “Things”, “You Are the Reason I’m Living”, et al. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
♫ Born – Died: December 1, 1930 – February 7, 1985
♫ Genre: Traditional Pop
♪ Years Active: 1956-1985
♪ Description: The story of a small-town boy making it big, Monro started out as a bus driver. A performer who would top any British Crooners” list, he went on to eventually record hit songs like “Portrait of My Love”, “My Kind of Girl”, “Softly as I Leave You”, “Born Free”, “I Love Little Things”, “From Russia With Love”, “On Days Like These”, earning him the title of “The Man With the Golden Voice”.
♫ Born: June 17, 1943
♫ Genre: Soft Rock, Easy Listening, Pop, Adult Contemporary
♪ Years Active: 1964-present
♪ Description: A singer who has been lauded by legends like Sinatra and Dylan, Manilow has 80 million album sales to his name, the record of having five album charts simultaneously on bestseller charts, 3 No. 1 singles, 25 that charted in the Billboard Top 40, named the No. 1 Adult Contemporary artists by Radio & Records, need me to keep going on? Hits include “Copacabana”, “Mandy”, “Weekend in New England”, “Looks Like We Made It”, “Write the Song”, “Ready to Take a Chance Again”, “I Made it Through the Rain”, et al.
♫ Born – Died: January 12, 1926 – December 16, 2013
♫ Genre: Traditional Pop, Country, Western Swing
♪ Years Active: 1948-2013
♪ Description: When country music started incorporating crooning, a star emerged in the way of Ray Price. With a career spanning 65 years, he has won 2 Grammy Awards and been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His famous tracks include “Crazy Arms”, “Release Me”, “For the Good Times”, “Heartaches by the Number”, “Good Life”, “You Are the Best Thing That Happened to Me”, “Talk to Your Heart”, and “Amazing Grace”.
♫ Born – Died: 4 August, 1901- 6 July, 1971
♫ Genre: Jazz, Traditional Pop, Scat, Swing, Dixieland
♪ Years Active: 1914-1971
♪ Description: Be it the trumpet or the cornet, his crooning or the solo improvisations, Louis Armstrong was a legend like no other. In a country torn by racism, his music crossed the social bounds and his charisma took front stage. One of the greatest American crooners out there, “Satchmo” or “Pops”, as he was fondly known, had an endless string of hits, ranging from “Potato Head Blues”, “Muggles”, “West End Blues”, “Madame Butterfly”, “Heebie Jeebies”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, cover of “Lazy River” and “Hello, Dolly!”. These songs have set the tone for Jazz musicians for the generations that preceded. He has been awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1 Grammy Award, 11 Grammy Hall of Fame singles, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and 7 other Hall of Fames!
♫ Born: May 22, 1924
♫ Genre: Jazz, Pop, Chanson
♪ Years Active: 1933-present
♪ Description: One of the famous French crooners out there, Azanavour was known for the upper reaches in his pitch, his tenor voice, and touching low notes. Named the “French Sinatra”, he was voted the century’s most outstanding performer, beating the likes of Dylan and Presley. Great singles include “Im Yare”, “Que C’est Triste Venise”, “La Mamma”, “She”, “Dance in the Old Fashioned Way”, and “1 Geste Pour Haïti Chérie”. He has won numerous awards, including an induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
These are some of the most illustrious crooning legends out there, who still make us sway our feet, hum along, feel the beat, and make us smile. We figured it was also worth giving a shout out to some of the modern-day crooners out there. So here’s a small list!
- Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)
- Darren Hayes (Savage Garden)
- Glenn Danzig (Danzig)
- Michael Bublé
- Harry Connick, Jr.
- Neil Hannon
- Robbie Williams
- The Weekend
- Morrisey (The Smiths)
- Matt Dusk
We hope this list has transported you back to the golden era of music, and inspired you to check out some of the biggest and brightest stars of yesteryear!