Rolling Stone said the list published on New Year’s Day comprises ''the Greatest Singers list and not the Greatest Voices list,’’ describing the singers as ''the vocalists that have shaped history and defined our lives.’’
The magazine said it used contributions ''from well-known musicians,'' including ‘’an elaborate voting process’’ to compile the list (by) our staff and key contributors since it first published the ‘’100 Greatest Singers in 2008.’’
The six Africans who made the list include: Sade, Fela Kuti and Burna Boy, all of Nigeria; Miriam Makeba and Simon Nkabinde, better known as Mahlathini, both of South Africa; and Youssou N'Dour of Senegal.
Burna Boy came in at 197, described by the magazine as ''a Nigerian cultural giant and ambassador of Afrobeats.''
It described the music genre ''as a global movement that can feel equally at home climbing the European charts and maintaining a subtle emotional connection with past African genres like highlife.''
In 188th place was another Nigerian, Fela Kuti, whose music ''shared an anti-colonialist, Pan-African vision and challenged Nigeria’s corrupt military government, which routinely subjected him and those around him to immense harm''
Rolling Stone said, ''Kuti’s iconic songs of the 1970s and 1980s are sprawling orchestral instrumentals, an innovative swirl of African highlife, American soul, and jazz.''
The article said Kuti’s “voice carried his vision, the way he sang, his tone commanding and direct, plain and firm.” It added: “On his ‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense,’ where he tackles whitewashed education and failed governments, he coos, ‘I say, I sing, I beg everyone to join my song.’ ”
Coming in at 153rd place is South Africa’s Mahlathini. The so-called “Lion of Soweto” is “a peerless figure in the history of South African music,” Rolling Stone said.
Mathalani is ‘’gifted with a cloud-rattling basso profundo groan, and a knowing, playful, at times diabolically incisive sense of what to do with it,’’ the article added.
Youssou N'Dour placed 69th. His ''earliest recordings from the late Seventies with his band Étoile de Dakar — available on Vol. 1: Absa Gueye — are still startling, both for the surging Senegalese funk grooves and for N’Dour’s sky-high tenor, as instantly commanding as the young Michael Jackson.''
‘’On 2021’s Mbalax, N’Dour reinterpreted his own high-energy past with a tempered but still powerful approach, coming full circle,’’ Rolling Stone said.
At No. 53 is Miriam Makeba, ''a fountain of vocal personality'' who is ''playful, sturdy, supple, and sharp.''
Her works include ''Pata Pata'' or ''Lakutshon Ilanga'', ''a song she made famous in the 1959 film ''Come Back, Africa.''
‘’As a South African musician living under apartheid, Makeba’s work could be inherently political, even though that’s a label she often rejected despite lifelong activism.’’
Nigerian-born Sade, who “rose out of London’s New Romantic scene of the 1980s,” came in at No. 51. The magazine said the fashion designer-turned-musician “proved herself the ultimate smooth operator in hits like ‘Your Love Is King,’ ‘Kiss of Life’ and ‘The Sweetest Taboo.’ ”
“I’m fairly understated, and that reflects in the way I sing,” Sade told Rolling Stone in 1985. “I don’t necessarily think that you have to scream and shout to move somebody.”
Topping the list are:
10. Al Green;
9. Otis Redding;
7. Stevie Wonder;
6. Ray Charles;
5. Mariah Carey;
4. Billie Holiday;
3. Sam Cooke;
2. Whitney Houston;
1. Aretha Franklin