Compelling Voices

A voice is a God-wrought instrument. It can sing, it can speak, it can even yell and whisper. Sometimes God gifts a person with a voice that stands out among the rest. Some of them even become our favorites – we just love to hear them.

I guess I have an unusual interest in voices and patterns of speech, since it is basically what I do for a living as a pastor who teaches and preaches several times weekly. Since I’m always looking for ways to improve my own speaking skills, I sometimes find myself listening to the way people say things as much as to what they are actually saying, including even the way they form words with their mouth. That’s eccentric of me, I suppose.

Of course, some people’s voices I like to listen to for their own sake, because frankly, there are simply little to no preaching skills that I can glean from listening to, say, Clint Eastwood! Here are a few of my favorite voices with some links to enjoy them yourself.


William F. Buckley – I’ve already written about why I love to hear him speak here, You can watch him here on Charlie Rose.

Stephen Fry – I love him best as Jeeves in the British comedy Jeeves and Wooster. Head over to YouTube for a dose of his endearing British lilt and impeccable diction. One of my favorite expressions of his, while playing the role of Jeeves, is when he manages to elevate the common phrase “when Hell freezes over” to a level only a proper English gentlemen could. Head over to his website for more.

Ian McKellen – Renown for his Shakespearean acting career, and more recently as Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), his voice is simply beautifully rich and wise-sounding. He has narrated Robert Fagles’s translation of The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Tempest as audiobooks. I even managed to record him narrating the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (my favorite epic poem; click here for a clip) and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, both on BBC Radio 4.

James Lipton – Host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” (Mondays on Bravo or here on YouTube) Strangely enough, I often find Lipton more fascinating than the celebrities he interviews. Lately he’s parodied his own risingly-famous diction and vocabulary on some Geico commercials, to brilliant effect.

Maya Angelou – Poet extraordinaire who speaks with gentle clarity and grace. Our family heard her give a speech and narrate her poem “Still I Rise” last year at an MLK celebration with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta – an unforgettable night.


James Earl Jones – “This is CNN.” Darth Vader. His dark, deep, bass voice seems almost divine.

Clint Eastwood – Intimidating and laid back, all at the same time. (“Do you Feel Lucky?” warning: violent scene).

Sean Connery – A dashing Scottish brogue.

Sam Elliott – A classic cowboy with a strong, deep, clear voice. I’ll watch a poor movie (he’s made a few) just to hear him speak.

Mike RoweHost of Dirty Jobs and narrator of several other shows.

Pastor Adrian Rogers – What I’d give to preach with a resonating voice like his! (I remember Dr. Danny Akin, now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, jokingly saying once (when I had him at The Criswell College years ago): “Why did God give him that voice? Makes you just want to slap him!” Of course, you’d have to know Dr. Akin to immediately laugh along with him when he said that, as we all shared the envy!)


Gilbert Gottfried – What an intentionally irritating, grate-on-your-nerves waste of a voice – and that’s not to mention how filthy he can be. Whenever he comes on, I immediately turn the channel, because I simply refuse to be bombarded by the assault.

Fran Drescher – It was funny for a while, but I’m glad it went away.

Bill Clinton – All politics aside, he simply is a lazy speaker. He constantly tries to power his voice with his throat (rather than his diaphragm), resulting in a gravelly non-attempt at projecting his words.

The horrible shouting man who does the OxyClean commercials – Give it a rest! I can hear you!

Michael Jackson – He can definitely sing, and frankly, he would do better to sing everything he wants to say, rather than ever speak again in that soft, icky talking voice.


3 Responses to Compelling Voices

  1. Brent says:

    Excellent post! My favorites: Ian McKellen and Sean Connery. My least favorite: Ross the Intern on Leno.

  2. Scott W. Kay says:

    Thanks Brent. Funny you would mention Ross the intern. I actually almost put him after Michael Jackson!

  3. B. Carlisle says:

    This posting was so interesting!!! I really enjoyed it a lot! Although voices are around us daily, it is very interesting to think about their differences. Sean Connery and James Earl Jones are two of my favorites. My least favorite is a whiney voice. I also enjoy a person who’s laugh makes you laugh too!

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