On this date 50 years ago the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling died in his sleep. He was 49 years old. Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of my admiration for this singer. I feel he is the closest to a perfect example of healthy singing function we have available to reference and model.
I didn’t always feel this way, but it was because I didn’t know better. When I first started singing as a college freshman Domingo and Pavarotti were the big names of Opera. The next year they started, along with Jose Carreras, the series of Three Tenors concerts. So I became occupied with them. Domingo was my favorite for a few years and as I learned more my interest gravitated to Pavarotti. I stuck with him as my main focus for several years.
When I started singing my church choir director gave me a CD of Jussi Björling for Christmas. He was a long-time fan and felt Jussi was the greatest. For that first 9-10 years of my singing I listened off and on to Jussi, but my main interest remained with Domingo and then Pavarotti.
It was right around the 10 year mark of my studies that my ears opened to the genius of Björling’s singing. The voice, the whole body really, was used so naturally and efficiently. And the tone! It was powerful, but flexible. Light, but with impact. I realized this was a singer that did the things I was trying to learn how to do.
I also realized that, somehow or another, none of the other tenors I had been listening to (many beyond just Domingo and Pavarotti by this time) really had all of these qualities put together in one package like JB. Many aspiring singers “worship” great singers of the past or present. I try to resist that, but I do admit that Jussi Björling holds that kind of place for me. I can listen to his recordings for countless hours with the same level of interest. When I listen to other singers I always reach a point where my attention drifts. Never with JB.
So if you haven’t gathered it yet, this post today is a tribute in honor of MY greatest singer of all time. If your feelings differ, that is OK. I’m not trying to say you should feel the same way. But if someone can learn something new, then all the better. Here are some videos of Jussi Björling. They are from a movie he did in Sweden in 1937. I hope you enjoy them. Thanks.