Top Ten Keyboardists That Can Sing!

Continuing my series on instrumentalists that can sing, keyboard players are at the top of the heap!

Again, I am coming at this more from strong instrumentalists that can sing.

Not just singers that can pluck out a few notes to support their singing.

This is an important distinction and here is why:

I sincerely believe that most instrumentalists would (secretly) like to sing and if possible, even front their own music.

But often times this dream is relegated to handing it off to “the singer” because it takes chutzpah to believe in yourself enough to see yourself as the singer.

But straight up; like any instrument, (and the voice is an instrument) it can be trained.

So let’s explore those that stepped up to the plate, to believe in themselves enough to sing!

Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy – Where The PROOF Is In The Singing!


Top 10 Keyboardists That Can Sing! (Backstories)

Billy Joel

He is the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, with over 150 million records sold worldwide.

After the failure of his first album, a disheartened Billy moved to Los Angeles, where he got a job playing piano at The Executive Room on Wilshire Boulevard, using the stage name Bill Martin. “Piano Man” Is based on this lounge gig

After mean kids knocked his books out of his hands one day, as teen on his way to a piano lesson, Billy decided to add boxing lessons to his schedule and went on to win some Golden Gloves amateur brawls.

Harry Connick Jr.

He began playing the piano and singing at the tender age of 3 and began performing publicly when he was 5

As a kid, my nickname was “Boomer.” I would bang my head on my crib.
My sister said I was “booming.” (sound familiar?)

Connick and Branford Marsalis devised an initiative to help restore New Orleans’ musical heritage: They built a neighborhood of homes that provide musicians, and anyone else who qualifies, the opportunity to buy decent, affordable housing

Freddy Mercury

Brian May was concerned that Freddy couldn’t sing the song “The Show Must Go On” because by this time he couldn’t even walk anymore.
Mercury consumed in large amount of vodka and said, “I’ll f$&@ing do it darling and sang the song in one take.

Mercury used to disguise princess Diana as a man so they could go out on the town together without being recognized

He tried to collaborate with Michael Jackson but do union fell apart because Jackson kept bringing his pet llama into the studio

(there were tons more to choose from)

Elton John

John was a musical prodigy, reportedly teaching himself how to play the piano. At the age of 3, he played “The Skater’s Waltz” after learning it by ear. That innate talent for music earned him a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London at age 11.

1970 he recorded for albums in one year only one being a live album:
between 1973 and 1976 he had 15 top 10 hits with nine at number one.
John’s albums also number one an average of once every four weeks during the mid-1970s

He and Bernie Taupin never work together in the same room). Taupin writes lyrics, and then John arranges a composition around them. John could reportedly execute this process in as little as 15 or 20 minutes

On Thanksgiving 1976 he invited John Lennon on the stage with him to sing former Beatles song. It was the last time John Lennon would perform in public before his assassination

Stevie Wonder

When Stevie Wonder was 13 years old, and still going by the moniker “Little Stevie Wonder”, he had his first #1 hit with the song “Fingertips.” He was the youngest artist ever to top the chart, and the first artist in history to top the pop charts and R&B chart simultaneously.

He has 25 Grammys and his close friends with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Nelson Mandela

Later in life, due to a car accident, he also lost his sense of taste and smell.

Lionel Richie

Lionel got a tennis scholarship to Tuskegee Institute and while there, he majored in economics, with a minor in accounting, before dropping out to join The Commodores.(He also almost became a priest. But in the end decided he is not “priest material”. )

Lionel Richie wrote Kenny Rogers’ hit Lady while on the toilet.

He doesn’t know how to read or write music.

He is big in the Arab world, specifically in Iraq where “Grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere mention of his name,” John Berman for ABC News reported in 2006. According to Berman’s report, Lionel was told that Iraqi civilians were playing “All Night Long” the night US tanks invaded Baghdad.

Alicia Keys

Her full name is Alicia Augello Cook but she had considered calling herself as ‘Alicia Wild’ but her mother rejected it saying it sounded more like a stripper.

Keys first studio album ‘Songs in A Minor’ in 2001 debuted at #1 on Billboard 200 and won 5 Grammy Awards in a single night at the 2002 Grammy Awards. (Lauryn Hill was the first to achieve the feat)

She released the first book in a series of children’s book titled ‘Blue Moon: From the Journals of MaMa Mae and Lee Lee‘

Steve Walsh

With a deteriorating voice he shared with the other members that he couldn’t continuing going on. So according to drummer Phil Ehart said about the last concert

“It really wasn’t emotional,” says Phil Ehart. “Steve had his son there in a car sitting outside. We all kind of walked to the front of the stage together and waved at the audience. He walked off the stage, got into a car and they drove off. That was it. But that’s the kind of way people are from the Midwest of the United States. We’re just pragmatic people. It ended and we moved on.” Steve retired after 41 years in the business

Richard Carpenter

His father was born in China, where his own parents were missionaries, and was educated at boarding schools in England, and he and Karen were part of the Methodist Youth Ministry

Richard Carpenter Trio played “Iced Tea” and “The Girl from Ipanema”
at the Hollywood Bowl Battle of the Bands. They won the competition, and shortly afterward recorded three songs at RCA Studios

They played frequently at LA-area nightclubs such as Whisky a Go Go, they met with an unenthusiastic response—their broad harmonies and avoidance of rock ‘n’ roll limited the band’s commercial potential.
First album was not a success either and A&M was going to drop them however Herb Albert (the “A” in A&M) suggested that the Carpenters record a Burt Bacharach and Hal David song called “(They Long to Be) Close to You” Dick resisted but agreed to do an arrangement for it so that A&M could release it

Greg Rollie

Couldn’t pass up this story: A friend had seen Carlos Santana play at one of Bill Graham’s local talent nights at The Fillmore. He asked Santana and a few bandmates to come jam with Rolie.

Rolie recalled, “So he picked them up, brought them out to Mountain View. We started playing. And, of course, there was marijuana there and a lot of noise. All of sudden, the cops came and I turned and said, ‘We’d better get out of here!’ And all I saw was Carlos’ back.
He was about 20 yards away, running for this field, because he was a street rat and he knew what was up. So I tagged on after him. And we hid in a tomato patch, until the cops left. And that was the beginning of all of it.”

After success with Santana, and thinking he was done with the music business, Rolie opened a restaurant in Seattle with his father. Then, in 1973, guitarist Neal Schon and manager Herbie Herbert called to propose forming a new group. Rolie was intrigued. They named the band Journey.

Lady Gaga

Her stage name comes from Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga”. The ‘Lady’ part of Gaga was actually a texting error – Rob Fusari “typed ‘Radio Ga Ga’
in a text and it did an auto correct so somehow ‘Radio’ got changed to ‘Lady’. She texted him back saying, “That’s it. Don’t ever call me Stefani again”.

On 23rd November 2009, she was promoting her second album ‘The Fame Monster’ at a Best Buy in West Hollywood. She noticed fans waiting for her, who had been there all night, and spent $1,000 on pizzas for her “little monsters”.

Lady Gaga was once cited by Chicago cops for indecent exposure for wearing hot pants in public.

Norah Jones

She is the daughter of Sue Jones, an American concert producer and Ravi Shankar, an Indian sitar maestro

On the night of her 21st birthday, she was heard by music-industry accountant Shell White, who got her demo to the President of Blue Note Records, the famous jazz record label. Soon, she was signed.

Billboard’s 2000–2009 decade awards ranked Jones as the top jazz recording artist, at No. 60 best Artist. Come Away With Me was elected the No. 4 album and No. 1 jazz album.

Christine McVie

Songbird was written in half an hour at 3am when she couldn’t sleep.
She says: “Fortunately, I had a piano in my room [but] nothing to record it on, but I had to play this song. The whole song [came out] complete: chords, words, everything within half an hour. I couldn’t go to sleep in case I forgot it, so I had to play it all night long.”

While working for a London department store, she was invited to join a band. Despite claiming she wasn’t able to play blues piano, she listened to “tons and tons of blues records”, “stole a few licks here and there” and, armed with her new repertoire, joined Chicken Shack.
“I had no idea where I was going [but] it was better than being a window dresser”.

John Legend

One of his first jobs as a teenager was as a wedding singer.

While in college, Legend was introduced to Lauryn Hill by a friend. He played piano on Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything.” He was soon introduced to up-and-coming hip-hop artist Kanye West, and the two musicians collaborated on one another’s demos. ; Legend was hired to sing during the hooks of West’s music and became the featured performer during Kanye West’s School Spirit Tour

Before every show, he eats half a rotisserie chicken and always has red wine backstage but he doesn’t drink it because it’s not good for his voice. “When I’m off tour, I try to make up for lost time!”

Steve Winwood

He was equally impressive with his guitar skills (He even opened for Clapton as a guitarist)as he alternated between keys and guitar for a slew of blues legends, including B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters (he is also a respected jazz drummer)

‘Back in the High Life Again,’ the title track, almost didn’t make the record. A mandolin sitting in the corner of Winwood’s house led him to finish the song. It ultimately reached the Top 20 of the Billboard charts as one of five hit singles from the album, which eventually sold more than five million copies.

Leon Russell

Russell played with a wide array of the greatest artists of the era, including Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Doris Day, Elton John, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, and the Rolling Stones.

“A Song for You” has since been released in various versions by more than 40 different artists, including Ray Charles, the Carpenters, Willie Nelson, Helen Ready, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, and Christina Aguilera. In fact, the Temptations and the Carpenters, both, named an album after the song.

The Union(a collaborationwith Elton Johnin 2010 was Elton’s highest charting studio album on the Billboard200since 1976’s Blue Moves

Michael McDonald

He appeared on subsequent Steely Dan recordings including 1976’s The Royal Scam[5] and 1977’s Aja.

McDonald was recruited by the rock band the Doobie Brothers in April 1975, initially as a temporary replacement for their lead vocalist Tom Johnstonafter he had become ill during a national tour, but his work with the band proved so successful that they decided to retain him as a full-time member.

Donald Fagen

Comedian Chevy Chase played drums in Becker and Fagen’s band, the Leather Canary. When Michael McDonald joined Steely Dan in 1975, providing background vocals and keyboards, Fagen voted to make him lead singer but was vetoed.

When ‘Do It Again’ was released in 1972, it was credited on the sleeve as a traditional song even though it was written by Becker and Fagen.

“You should never believe anything it ever says on a Steely Dan record,” says Fagen. “It’s mostly a bunch of lies and bulls— that we write just to confuse the listener.”

After losing a sports bet, one of the pair had to wear a paper clamp on stage during every show for ten years. Becker says, “I’m not going to tell you who won the contest, but that was a mistake.

Robert Lamm

Lamm said, “My first musical training came as a member of that choir.

It exposed me to some of the great sacred music from the Middle Ages, right up through Bach and into the 20th Century composers.”

And

Early in 1967, out of nowhere, came a telephone call, inviting me to join a band that would become “Chicago”. This new venture allowed me to write songs and teach myself to arrange horns for my songs.
Experimenting constantly. While I enjoy playing and singing, I realized it was composing that would always be my primary interest.

And finally

I am a loner by nature and very comfortable with it. I am an observer and a listener. The thrust of my fulfillment is derived from the writing, arranging, producing and recording of my songs. I have absorbed lessons from great producers like James Guercio, Phil Ramone, Bruce Fairbairn, Tom Dowd, and David Foster.

Tori Amos

Little Earthquakes isn’t quite Amos’ debut album. As frontwoman for forgotten ‘80s hair rockers Y Kant Tori Read, Amos had suffered through the misfire of the band’s self-titled 1988 album. “I knew what failure was like,” Amos said. “It took four years from the end of Y Kant Tori Read for the process to get to its next stage, which was being known for Little Earthquakes rather than being known for a failed record.”

Prior to her solo breakthrough with Little Earthquakes, Amos had submitted songs to Cher (the intriguingly titled “But I’m Experienced, Babe”) and Tina Turner. They had been rejected.

In her lean years before her Little Earthquakes brought worldwide success, Tori Amos had made ends meet in piano bars and other incidental musical opportunities which came her way. She even beat out Sarah Jessica Parker for a part in a Kellogg’s Just Right commercial.

The haunting a cappella Little Earthquakes track “Me And A Gun”
references a true incident from Amos’ days playing piano bars in Los Angeles. In 1985, Amos offered a ride home to a bar regular and was raped at knifepoint. After years of suppressing the memory, it “came flooding back” while Amos watched Thelma and Louise in June 1991. “Me And A Gun” was written and performed for the first time the very next night at London venue the Mean Fiddler.

Dennis DeYoung

The Best of Times’is about fond memories of trips to and through Mississippi during tours with Styx in the 1970s and 1980’s with the band’s late drummer John Panazzo was a barbecue fanatic.

“I mean he loved barbecue. Loved it. He ate it for breakfast.
Literally,” DeYoung said. “I remember pulling off the road looking for barbecue joints. The kind that had these huge, 50-gallon drum pits. I remember sitting on wooden benches and eating that Mississippi barbecue,” he said.

“Babe” is about being married to his wife, Suzanne DeYoung, since 1970. He married his high school sweetheart before Styx recorded their first album. It was written as a birthday present for his wife and not meant for the band to record. It turned out to be the band’s only No. 1 song.

“I studied the accordion for eight years. That’s what I played. So my solos on synthesizers, those trills and runs, that came from playing the accordion,” DeYoung said. When asked if he plays the accordion today. DeYoung, always the jokester, answers, “only when I’m trying to get my wife out of the house.”

Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon)

Kevin Cronin joined REO Speedwagon (named after a truck introduced in 1915 by Ransom Eli Olds) shortly after the group recorded its debut album in 1971. He recorded one album with the band, 1972’s R.E.O./T.W.O., but left the band soon after because of missed rehearsals and creative disagreements. Cronin returned to the fold in 1976.

Kevin’s return came after Greg X. Volz (of Petra) turned down the position for lead vocals due to his conversion to Christianity.

Kevin Wrote “Keep On Loving You” when he learned that his wife cheated on him before they were married. They rode out that storm, but split up a few years later. He said, “if there is enough worthwhile in the relationship to keep it going, then you give it all you’ve got, and that’s what I did. Even in giving it all I got, at some point, we realized that it just wasn’t going to work. So when I wrote that line, I meant it. I tried my best, but it just didn’t happen.”

Ray Charles

Charles lived in utter poverty and went without food for days, since that was an extremely difficult time for musicians to find work. At age 18, he moved to Seattle with only $500 and formed his own band

Ray could not only play chess, but he could play chess well, and once beat Willie Nelson three times in a row … in the dark!

He refused to play a venue in Augusta, Georgia, after learning it was segregated, and didn’t play another show in Augusta until it was desegregated

Jerry Lee Lewis

His parents mortgaged their farm to be able to buy him his very own piano to practice on.

Lewis honed his skills as a singer and pianist by performing with his cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart

Lewis’s career abruptly declined after he married his 13-year-old cousin when he was 22. Lewis has been married seven times

Many people think it’s because of his rowdy reputation or because of how he knocked out audiences. The truth is that “killer” was a common slang term during Jerry Lee’s youth, and he would say goodbye to his friends by saying, “See ya later, killer.” This became his nickname before he had a performing career.

Little Richard

Little Richard would take off his clothes during performances and throw them to the audience. A shirt, shoe, maybe even a mink coat

Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and Billy Preston all played behind Little Richard and James Brown would impersonate Little Richard at performances, when Richard was double booked.

Pat Boone, who made a career of recording new tracks by African-American acts and sanitizing them for white audiences, covered Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” in 1956 and had a bigger hit with it than Richard did. To avoid a repeat of this, Richard and his producer, Bumps Blackwell, rehearsed the follow-up single, “Long Tall Sally,” until Richard could sing it as fast as possible, with the thinking that Boone wouldn’t be able to sing it as fast. Little Richard’s version became his first top ten pop hit and the biggest-selling single in the history of Specialty Records. Unfortunately, Pat Boone also enjoyed a top ten hit with his version.

While on tour in 1957 Richard decided to give up rock & roll and enter the ministry. He left the tour ten days early. The original flight on which he had been scheduled to return home crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

in 1962 Little Richard’s opening act was The Beatles. Richard taught Paul McCartney how to sing like he does. In 1963 when the Rolling Stones opened for Richard, Mick Jagger said, “I couldn’t believe the power of Little Richard onstage. He was amazing.”

Fats was a father of 8 children, all with names starting with an ‘A’. Antoinette, Antoine III, Andrea, Andre, Anatole, Anola, Adonica, and Antoni.

Fats Domino

Domino liked to live in his old neighborhood even though he was successful. His favorite place to sleep was a hammock outside the house even though his home was large enough to accommodate all members of the family.

The singer Chubby Checker’s stage name was a word play on Fats Domino.

Domino found a job at a local bedspring factory. He worked at the factory during the day and played music by night in local nightclubs.

A mishap on his day job came very close to costing him his future in music. One of his hands was severely injured by a heavy spring, an injury that required multiple stitches. For a while, it was uncertain whether Domino would ever recover use of the hand for the piano.

However, with sufficient exercise he was able to regain most of his previous use of that hand.

Sarah McLachlan

Her music had a profound effect on the rapper DMC of Run-DMC, who was going through a severe depression when he immersed himself in her music. The pair later collaborated on the song “Just Like Me,” where DMC raps about his upbringing – like McLachlan, he was also adopted.

McLachlan received classical training in guitar, piano, and voice.
Rebelling against a conservative upbringing, she focused her musical talents on the popular punk and new-wave music movements of the 1980s

In 1997 McLachlan helped found Lilith Fair, which brought together some of the most talented and popular women artists in the music industry, including Jewel, Tracy Chapman, and Paula Cole. With the success of the festival, McLachlan proved to wary record executives that women artists were as marketable as their male counterparts.

Howard Jones

While in high school he formed his first band called Warrior. Warrior drew its musical influences from bands like Genesis, and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Howard describes the music as being Electro Classic Rock!

While in college he earned extra money doing the night shift on Piccadilly Radio. Every 20 minutes between Midnight and 6am he would play a selection of his own music, on a synthesizer. The sessions were supposed to be purely instrumental, but on occasions Howard could not resist singing, and as a result had several phone calls… to complain!!!

Howard used to give piano lessons. It is there he met Jan Smith (his wife since 1977). While they were selling fruits and vegetables off the back of a van, a runaway vehicle crashed into the van, injuring Jan. She wasn’t hurt badly, but Howard persuaded her to claim compensation. She used the money to buy Howard a synthesizer. The Shop delivered two by mistake and Howard liked the combination of the two so much, that he paid for the extra one. The shop knows him as “Honest Howard”!

Keith Emerson

He became internationally famous for his work with the Nice, which included writing rock arrangements of classical music.

All Music describes Emerson as “perhaps the greatest, most technically accomplished keyboardist in rock history

he received tuition from “local little old ladies” for piano lessons when he was 8

Although Emerson did not own a record player, he enjoyed listening to music on the radio, particularly the work of Dudley Moore!

Emerson later described himself: “I was a very serious child. I used to walk around with Beethoven sonatas under my arm. However, I was very good at avoiding being beaten up by the bullies. That was because I could also play Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard songs. So, they thought I was kind of cool and left me alone.”

Thomas Dolby

Since completing 12 years as Music Director of the TED Conferences in 2012, Prof. Dolby has been teaching music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. This Fall he will launch a new undergraduate degree course at the Peabody Institute, focusing on music composition and 3D sound design for virtual and augmented reality — the first of its kind at a major U.S. university.

Dolby is known as a synthesist and producer for the likes of David Bowie, Roger Waters, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Def Lepperd, George Clinton, and Joni Mitchell.

Diana Krall

She was ranked at the #2 spot on Billboard’s list of jazz artists of the 2000-09 decade.

She began playing piano in local bars at age 15After high school, she won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, from 1981 to 1983. She later moved to Los Angeles to play jazz

She married Elvis Costello, in 2003.

Richard Wright

Though he made significant contributions to The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals, as well as provided backing vocals and lead vocals (notably on “Us and Them”, “Time”, “Comfortably Numb”, “Wearing the Inside Out,” he was forced to resign from Pink Floyd during The Wall sessions by Roger Waters, who threatened to pull the plug on the album’s tapes if Wright did not leave the band. However, he was retained as a salaried session musician during the subsequent live concerts to promote that album in 1980 and 1981. Ironically, Wright became the only member of Pink Floyd to profit from those hugely spectacular shows, since the net financial loss had to be borne by the three remaining “full-time” members

Being the lowest profile of any member of a band, Wright was very rarely seen in the live footage from the Live 8 reunion performance, with a few exceptions he was only shown in wide shots. Some have suggested that the director of the broadcast did not know which musician was the fourth member of Pink Floyd until the very end when they got together for a group shot.

Billy Preston

He began playing the piano at the age of three, at first copying the hand movements of his sister but soon emerging as a musical prodigy (he was so talented that he was playing keyboards for gospel legend Mahalia Jackson by the age of ten)

He is called the 5th Beatle because he help out on the White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be . Though there was tremendous rancor among band members by that point. Preston’s easygoing attitude helped to smooth over tensions, and “Harrison would later say that Preston’s presence was one of the few sources of positive energy during that time,” noted the Los Angeles Times ‘ Geoff Boucher, “and that by merely being in the room he probably prevented the Beatles from walking out on one another.”

Also he appears in what turned out to be the band’s last live performance ever “Get Back,”; it is the only single ever released by the Beatles in which they shared credit with another performer

Bruce Hornsby

He had a stint playing keys (and occasional accordion) in the Grateful Dead. He came on after the death of previous keyboardist Brent Mydland

He’s written roughly over 200 pieces of music for Spike Lee movies

Not only is he a noted jazz player, in 1990, he won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording

He played at Woodstock ’99: At this storied nu-metal world’s fair, it’s safe to say that Bruce was the only savage on the lineup

He’s a bit of a prankster. Once he hired two bodyguard-sized guys to take the stage during “the most sensitive Weir ballad” to stand on either side of him, very closely, glowering at him as he sang. And another time, Hornsby called Jerry Garcia, pretending to be a radio DJ that the two of them liked, and told the guitarist he was live on the air

He beat Allen Iverson in one-on-one – no rebound- basketball (Possession automatically switched every time the offensive player took a shot, whether or not they made it, eliminating the possibility of a fight over a rebound.) after helping Iverson get out of jail. The young athlete was jailed for an alleged fight and Hornsby used his stature to lobby governor Doug Wilder for Iverson’s release. Hornsby got a call from Iverson’s coach not long after, telling him that Iverson wanted to meet him and thank him for his help – thus the game of one-on-one