Singers Soundoff: Bernard Fowler

Contact: Jill Richmond
[email protected]
Website: bernardfowler.com

You may not immediately recognize his name, but if you’ve heard a Rolling Stones album over the last 30 years or seen them in concert, you have been graced by the voice and presence of Bernard Fowler. In addition to the Stones, Fowler’s resume includes backing vocal work with Herbie Hancock, Material, Sly & Robbie, Yoko Ono, Duran Duran, Public Image Ltd., Philip Glass and a host of others. His current solo album is a collection of spoken-word interpretations of deep tracks by The Rolling Stones called Inside Out (Rhyme and Reason).

Early Influences
I guess I learned about singing from the radio. It was predominantly soul and rock music. I always liked anyone who sang with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. George found some of the best voices in the business. Sam Cooke, The Temptations, Bobby Womack, The Five Blind Boys, Mick Jagger and Gino Vanelli are some of my favorites.

Preparing For Stage vs. Studio Performance
Stage performance is a lot more demanding because it’s a lot more physical. Some people just stand there and sing, and that’s alright. But most people have some sort of little jig they do when they’re performing. And to prepare for that, it’s just not vocal, it’s physical.

Vocal Health
I don’t do the lozenges anymore. I do gargle with salt water and warm water. There is a product called TMRG which is an herbal elixir that you put in warm water and you gargle with it. It’s from Israel and only available online. I found that to be really helpful, especially when I have a long tour, with a bunch of back-to-back dates.

Working With The Stars
On the Voodoo Lounge album there’s a song Keith Richards wrote called “How Can I Stop.” I was lucky enough to be with him when he wrote the song. All the background stuff on that song I had begun formulating in my head. When the song was actually recorded I was able to do the exact vocal arrangement I was hearing. Another time I was working with Alice Cooper on his Along Came a Spider album. And there was a song on there he wanted to do as a duet with Ozzy Osbourne. For some reason Ozzy’s wife Sharon didn’t want him to do the song. Alice was really disappointed and I told Alice I would do it with him. He said “Bernard bless your heart, but I really wanted Ozzy.” So, I went into the bathroom and put some tissue in my nose. I went back in the studio and said, “Roll the tape!” I actually sang the duet with Alice. When the record came out someone from the press even made a comment that Alice did a song with Ozzy. But it wasn’t him, it was me!

Versatility As A Vocalist
Most people find something they like and that’s what they do. I’ve never been that way, because I like so many different kinds of music. If it’s something that feels good to me I will try it. In the early days it was a little intimidating, but I found I had a niche for it. I doubled voices for Ozzy, Lemmy and John Lydon. If you don’t stretch out you’ll end up staying in one place.


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