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Vocal Points: Damaged Voices

The fact that some musicians make their living off something that they love to do is spectacular. And the fact that singers can forge a career with just their voice is mind-boggling. To a struggling singer, living a life of luxury thanks to their voice is the ultimate dream, one worth striving for no matter the costs. Those who have made it are success stories, and they give others a sliver of hope that one day, the dream could be theirs. But because the human voice is such a unique instrument, and can be irregular, there is even more pressure on singers to be able to sustain a career.

This is why singers have to take care of themselves. Take the famous, raw voice of Steven Tyler, which is one of the most valuable assets of Aerosmith. Not only does Tyler’s career depend on his voice, but so does the band’s success as a whole. Due to Aerosmith’s long career, Tyler has put a great deal of wear and tear on his voice. Throw in his past heroin addiction, it’s no real surprise that Tyler’s voice became weaker and raspier as time went by. After cancelling a series of shows in 2006, it was decided that he would undergo throat surgery in hopes of fixing the damage. National Geographic’s The Incredible Human Machine did a feature about his voice and the surgery, which turned out to be a success. But not all singers get that lucky.

In fact, Julie Andrews, whose famous four-octave voice has received critical acclaim, was completely robbed of her talent in 1997. Andrews began her singing career at an incredibly young age, carried by her incredible voice that was beyond her years. She performed on Broadway as early as age nineteen, and eventually starred in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. It seemed that she could not be stopped, but despite the strength of her famous voice, a seemingly simple surgery to removed non-cancerous nodules from her throat, left her without her singing voice.

And it seems like recently we have seen many more pop stars deal with similar issues. R. Kelly recently underwent an unexpected surgery to drain an abscess in his tonsil, and is currently recovering. And Frenchie Davis, a finalist on The Voice, has made a statement that she will be undergoing surgery to remove a polyp on her vocal chord. Interestingly enough, Shania Twain, who stopped performing publicly in 2004, is now saying that she’s working on recovering her voice by addressing the deeper emotional problems which led directly to the end of her career. Because of her emotional state, she ended up losing her voice, and so she began to see a variety of medical and psychological specialists in order to determine if she’ll be able to sing again.

Now that people are living longer, healthier lives, it only makes sense that there will be advancements that allow us to use our voices to new levels in the future. But until those days, our singers will need to use caution and protect their gifts if they hope to sustain a long singing career.