Spoken Word

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Speech used as song. During the 1960s and 1970s in particular, this technique was often used in film musicals to allow popular actors to star in them despite a total or near-total lack of singing ability. It is also used in theatre when production schedules simply do not allow time for proper rehearsal of choral numbers. It is also a style of performance grown out of Jazz and Soul which eventually influenced the evolution of Rap.

Examples of Spoken Word include:
  • Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady and Doctor Dolittle. He dubbed the technique "Sing-Speak".
  • Gregorian chant (in some cases) [context?]
  • Lorne Greene in Bonanza performs the theme's lyrics this way. He did the same on his much more famous recording, "Ringo".
  • John DiMaggio, voicing Gorilla Grodd in the Batman: The Brave And The Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!", uses this technique.
  • Just about everyone in the film version of Man of La Mancha, which is fortunate since none of the stars were even tolerable singers.
  • Johnny Cash
  • Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man.
  • C.W. McCall's recordings from the 1970s -- starting with his big hit "Convoy" and including just about everything else he ever did -- is basically him reciting a lyrical, rhyming story with the occasional interjection by background singers; they weren't so much songs as a kind of country-western proto-Rap.
  • Used on The Muppet Show by most guest stars who couldn't actually sing. (Some tried anyway.)
  • The musical Camelot does this quite a bit.
  • "All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards" by Corb Lund.
  • Gil Scott-Heron is famous for his Spoken Word performances, most notably "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised".
  • Later recordings by William Shatner have him doing the lyrics in Spoken Word while the backup singers... well, sing.