Backing vocalist

Last updated
One of the Wives, the backing vocalists for English singer Ebony Bones Ebony Bones backup performer.jpg
One of the Wives, the backing vocalists for English singer Ebony Bones

Backing vocalists or backup singers are singers who provide vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing vocalist may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. Backing vocalists are used in a broad range of popular music, traditional music and world music styles.

Contents

Solo artists may employ professional backing vocalists in studio recording sessions as well as during concerts. In many rock and metal bands (e.g., the power trio), the musicians doing backing vocals also play instruments, such as guitar, electric bass, drums, or keyboards. In Latin or Afro-Cuban groups, backing singers may play percussion instruments or shakers while singing. In some pop and hip-hop groups and in musical theater, the backing singers may be required to perform elaborately choreographed dance routines while they sing through headset microphones.

The style of singing used by backing singers varies according to the type of song and the genre of music the band plays. In pop and country songs, backing vocalists may perform vocal harmony parts to support the lead vocalist. In hardcore punk or rockabilly, other band members who play instruments may sing or shout backing vocals during the chorus (refrain) section of the songs.

Terminology

Alternative terms for backing vocalists include backing singers, backing vocals, additional vocals or, particularly in the United States and Canada, backup singers or sometimes background singers or harmony vocalists.

Examples

While some bands use performers whose sole on-stage role is performing backing vocals, it is common for backing singers to have other roles. Two notable examples of band members who sang back-up are The Beach Boys and The Beatles. The Beach Boys were well known for their close vocal harmonies, occasionally with all five members singing at once such as "In My Room" and "Surfer Girl". All five members would sing lead, although most often Brian Wilson or Mike Love would sing lead with guitarists Carl Wilson and Al Jardine and drummer Dennis Wilson singing background harmonies.

The Beatles were also known for their close style of vocal harmonies[ opinion ] – all Beatles members sang both lead and backing vocals at some point, especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who frequently supported each other with harmonies, often with fellow Beatle George Harrison joining in. Ringo Starr, while not as prominent in the role of backing singer as his three bandmates due to his distinctive voice, can be heard singing backing vocals in such tracks as "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" and "Carry That Weight". Examples of three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison include "Nowhere Man", "Because", "Day Tripper", and "This Boy". The members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Bee Gees all each wrote songs and sang back-up or lead vocals and played various instruments on their albums and various collaborations with each other.

Former guitarist John Frusciante and current guitarist Josh Klinghoffer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing nearly all backing vocals (few songs were recorded without backing vocals), often singing some parts without accompaniment from lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis. The band's bassist Flea occasionally filled in for additional vocals. Frusciante usually sang one song by himself during concerts. Another example is "No Frontiers" by The Corrs, which is sung by Sharon and Caroline.

Other backing vocalists include rhythm guitarist Sebastien Lefebvre & bass guitarist David Desrosiers of pop punk band Simple Plan, guitarist John Petrucci of Dream Theater, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett & bass guitarist Robert Trujillo of Metallica, and guitarists Zacky Vengeance & Synyster Gates of heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold.

Lead singers who record backing vocals

In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals by overdubbing with a multitrack recording system. A multitrack recording system enables the record producer to add many layers of recordings over top of each other. Using a multitrack system, a lead vocalist can record his or her own backing vocals, and then record the lead vocal part over top. Some lead vocalists prefer this approach because the sound of their own harmonies will blend well with their main vocal.

One famous example is Freddie Mercury of Queen singing the first part of "Bohemian Rhapsody" himself by overdubbing. [1] Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Tom DeLonge of Angels and Airwaves, Wednesday 13 in his own band and Murderdolls, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran and Brad Delp of Boston also recorded lead and backing vocals for their albums.

With the exception of a few songs on each album, Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Rabbitt, David Bowie and Richard Marx sing all of the background vocals for their songs. Robert Smith of the Cure not only sings his own backing vocals in the studio, but also doesn't perform with backing vocalists when playing live.

Different approaches

Many metalcore and some post-hardcore bands, such as As I Lay Dying, Alexisonfire, Haste the Day and Silverstein feature a main vocalist who performs using harsh vocals, whilst the backing vocalist sings harmonies (clean vocals) during choruses to create a contrast. Some bands, such as Hawthorne Heights and Finch have the backing singers do harsh vocals to highlight specific lyrics.

Pop and R&B vocalists such as Diana Ross, Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince, Beyoncé Knowles, Brandy, Faith Evans, D'Angelo, Mary J. Blige and Amerie have become known specifically for not only recording their own backing vocals, but for arranging their own multi-tracked vocals and even developing highly complex harmonies and arrangements. When they perform live, they may have backing vocalists who impersonate their voices.

Unusual backing vocal styles

Some bands use backing vocals in order to contrast with the lead singer who may be performing an unusual vocal technique. For example, Brian "Head" Welch, the lead guitarist of the band Korn, performed backing vocals on several songs, and notably on the song "Ball Tongue", he screams the chorus while lead vocalist Jonathan Davis sings incomprehensible scat vocals. Similarly, the Canadian deathcore group Despised Icon uses two vocalists, one performing screams and another performing low, growling death grunts who alternate, and sometimes sing in unison to highlight certain lyrics. In rap music, a background rapper who chants and rhymes to support the main artist is often referred to as hype man.

Career paths

Working as a backing singer can give a vocalist the onstage experience and vocal training they need to develop into a lead vocalist. A number of lead vocalists such as Ace Frehley, Richard Marx, Mariah Carey, Cher, Gwen Stefani, Pink, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Sheryl Crow, Trisha Yearwood, Dave Grohl, Jerry Only, Jerry Cantrell, Jason Newsted, Dee Dee Ramone and Elton John, learned their craft as backing singers, or singing backing vocals as part of a choir.[ citation needed ]

Uncredited backing vocals

Notable uncredited background vocals appear in the following songs:

See also

Related Research Articles

With a Little Help from My Friends Original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"With a Little Help from My Friends" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and sung by drummer Ringo Starr, his lead vocal for the album. As the second track on the album, it segues from the applause of the title track.

The Fourmost English band

The Fourmost are an English Merseybeat band that recorded in the 1960s. Their biggest UK hit single was "A Little Loving" in 1964.

And Your Bird Can Sing original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"And Your Bird Can Sing" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on their 1966 album Revolver, apart from in the United States and Canada, where it instead appeared on Yesterday and Today. The song was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Paul McCartney stated that he helped on the lyrics and attributed the song "80–20" to Lennon. The working title was "You Don't Get Me". The song is notable for its extended dual-guitar melody, played by George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Lennon was later dismissive of the track, as he was of many of his compositions at the time, referring to it as "another of my throwaways ... fancy paper around an empty box".

Come Together 1969 single by the Beatles

"Come Together" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written primarily by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song is the opening track on their 1969 album Abbey Road and was also released as a single coupled with "Something". The song reached the top of the charts in the United States and peaked at No. 4 in the United Kingdom.

Oh! Darling original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Oh! Darling" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, composed by Paul McCartney, and appearing as the fourth song on the 1969 album Abbey Road. Its working title was "Oh! Darling ". Although not issued as a single in either the United Kingdom or the United States, a regional subsidiary of Capitol successfully edited it as a single in Central America, having "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" as its B-side. It was also issued as a single in Portugal. Apple Records released "Oh! Darling" in Japan with "Here Comes the Sun" in June 1970.

Dig a Pony original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Dig a Pony" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, originally released on their 1970 album Let It Be. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The recording is from the concert on the rooftop of Apple Studios in Savile Row, London, performed by the Beatles on 30 January 1969.

Another Girl original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Another Girl" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1965 album Help! and included in the film of the same name. The song was written by Paul McCartney but credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song is addressed to the singer's girlfriend, who is informed that the singer has found "another girl."

Youre Going to Lose That Girl original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"You're Going to Lose That Girl" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1965 album and film Help!, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Capitol Records originally titled the song "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" in the United States.

"Mr. Moonlight" is a song written by Roy Lee Johnson, best known for being covered by the Beatles on the 1964 albums Beatles for Sale in the United Kingdom and Beatles '65 in the United States.

If I Fell original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"If I Fell" is a song by English rock band the Beatles which first appeared in 1964 on the album A Hard Day's Night in the United Kingdom and United States, and on the North American album Something New. Written primarily by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. "That's my first attempt at a ballad proper. ... It shows that I wrote sentimental love ballads way back when", Lennon stated in his 1980 Playboy interview. Paul McCartney stated that he contributed to the song: "We wrote 'If I Fell' together."

"Chains" is a song composed by the husband-and-wife songwriting team Gerry Goffin and Carole King and originally recorded by the Everly Brothers. In 1962 it was a hit for Little Eva’s backing singers, the Cookies, and later covered by English rock group the Beatles.

Im Down original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"I'm Down" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles written by Paul McCartney and first released as the B-side to the single "Help!" in 1965. According to critic Richie Unterberger of AllMusic, "I'm Down" is "one of the most frantic rockers in the entire Beatles' catalog." McCartney told writer Barry Miles that the song and his vocal style on it were influenced by Little Richard, "I used to sing his stuff but there came a point when I wanted one of my own, so I wrote 'I'm Down.'"

Dont Let Me Down (Beatles song) original song written and composed by Lennon-McCartney

"Don't Let Me Down" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, recorded in 1969 during the Let It Be sessions. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The band recorded the song with Billy Preston; the single release with "Get Back" was credited to "the Beatles with Billy Preston."

Come and Get It (Badfinger song) song by Paul McCartney for the 1969 film The Magic Christian, made popular by Badfinger

"Come and Get It" is a song composed by English singer-songwriter Paul McCartney for the 1969 film The Magic Christian. The song was performed by Badfinger, produced by McCartney and issued as a single 5 December 1969 in the UK, and 12 January 1970 in the US, on the Beatles' Apple label. It was the band's first release under the Badfinger name and was their international breakthrough, hitting the top 10 in both the UK and US singles charts.

"Boys" is a song by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell, originally performed by the Shirelles and released as the B-side of their "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" single in November 1960. It was recorded more than two years later by the Beatles and included on their first album released in the United Kingdom, Please Please Me (1963).

"If You've Got Trouble" is a song written by Lennon–McCartney and recorded by the Beatles on 18 February 1965 with Ringo Starr singing the lead vocal. The song was intended to be Starr's vocal appearance on the Help! album and the Help! film, but the Beatles were not happy with the recording and later chose "Act Naturally" instead. "If You've Got Trouble" remained unreleased until Anthology 2 in 1996.

"Girlfriend" is a song by English rock band Wings, from their 1978 album London Town. It was written by Wings frontman Paul McCartney, who originally intended it to be sung by Michael Jackson. Jackson covered the song the following year on his 1979 album Off the Wall, and in 1980 it was released as the 5th and final single of that album.

Kelly Keeling is an American musician and songwriter. Keeling started playing at the age of 14 and first appeared on the music scene as the lead singer of the American heavy metal band Baton Rouge. In his career, he worked with many major hard rock acts, wrote movie soundtracks and played also with Christian rock bands.

"Must Do Something About It" is a song credited to Paul and Linda McCartney that first appeared on the Wings 1976 album Wings at the Speed of Sound.

References

  1. McAlpine, Fraser (10 October 2015). "10 Things You May Not Know About Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'". BBC America . Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  2. Everett, Walter (31 March 1999). "The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology". Oxford University Press. p. 129. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Google Books.
  3. Frampton, Scott. "What's Playing in Patti LaBelle's Ear?". Oprah.com. Harpo Productions, Inc. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  4. Talevski, Nick (7 April 2010). "Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door". Omnibus Press. p. 31. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Google Books.
  5. Talevski, p.535
  6. "Carly Simon.com". Carlysimon.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  7. "Discography". Deanfriedman.com. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  8. "Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers". Warr.org. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  9. "Top 500". Smooth Radio. Archived from the original on 10 April 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  10. Sweeting, Adam. Andrew Gold obituary. The Guardian . June 6, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  11. "Never Let Her Slip Away". Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the 70s . BBC Radio 2. 5 Feb 2012.
  12. O'Neal, Sean. R.I.P. Andrew Gold, songwriter of "Lonely Boy" and The Golden Girls theme. The A.V. Club . June 6, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  13. Singer/Songwriter Andrew Gold Dies. Contactmusic. June 6, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  14. Drive with Russell Woolf; Andrew Gold – Lonely Boy Archived 2013-03-10 at the Wayback Machine . Australian Broadcasting Corporation. June 16, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  15. Halstead, Craig; Cadman, Chris (28 August 2018). "Michael Jackson the Solo Years". Authors On Line Ltd. p. 58. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Google Books.
  16. "Bad Blood Music Video". OVGuide. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  17. Ramirez, Erika. "Usher's 'Confessions' at 10: An Oral History with Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri & More". Billboard.com. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  18. "Mellow Yellow". Donovan Unofficial. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  19. "Revisiting the Overlooked Debut Album from Tamar Braxton, "Tamar" from 2000". Youknowigotsoul.com. You Know I Got Soul. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  20. "SWV – Use Your Heart (The Remixes)". Discogs.com. Discogs. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  21. "Class Of '88: GUY". Allhiphop.com. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  22. Phillips, Noel. "EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: STOKLEY WILLIAMS SPEAKS ON PRODUCING WALE'S "THE GIFTED" LP". Respect-mag.com. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
  23. Whitener, Connie. "5 things you did not know about Eric Roberson". Axs.com. AXS. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  24. "ВИЖ „Най-добрата" на Андреа - Попфолк - Signal.bg". Signal.bg. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  25. Goodman, Jessica. "Ariana Grande reveals Jamie Foxx's vocals are featured on 'Focus'". Ew.com. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  26. Daw, Robbie (15 July 2015). "Calvin Harris & Disciples' "How Deep Is Your Love": Listen To The Full Song". Idolator . Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  27. "Best Songs We Heard This Week: Jeremih, The 1975, Alan Walker + More". Popcrush.com.