Lana Del Rey calls it sexy and mysterious, Lady Gaga reports getting a comforting sense from it and Aretha Franklin admitted to using it as a way to control her weight; but smoking cigarettes, no matter how sexy and comforting it is, has reportedly some of the worst effects on vocal cords. The cause of polyps, laryngitis, vocal cord dryness and nodules, in most cases, comes from smoking. There are more and more reports of musicians losing their voice, not being able to maintain range or unedited versions of songs hitting the internet to demonstrate a musician’s lack of vocal control. Some of the best musicians out there can attest to the nicotine addiction and the subtle way it has affected their vocal range, including experiencing some (if not most) of the medical conditions listed above. The list below is comprised of 10 musicians who have had their fair share of run-ins with cigarettes and how it affected their voice.
9 Whitney Houston
If you keep up with your celebrity news, you know that years before Whitney died unexpectedly, her career was going downhill. From performances that showed her not being able to hit her high notes, and forgetting lyrics on the BET awards, to her most well known song I will Always Love You. Long time manager Clive Davis has stated in a Rolling Stone interview that long before the drugs, the cigarettes ruined Whitney’s voice and Whitney even admitted herself that she would get her voice back because she is going to cut out the cigarette smoking. Unfortunately, a week after that conversation, Whitney died. Check out the video that Davis did with The Wall Street Journal on Whitney’s drug use, cigarette smoking and regaining her voice.
8 Aretha Franklin
One of the most recognized and celebrated voices was almost non-existent. In an interview with Salon Magazine, the queen of soul herself, Aretha Franklin admitted that smoking almost ruined her distinctive voice. She admitted that smoking was a way to manage her weight, but Franklin soon realized that subtle changes began developing in her voice and decided to finally put down the habit. Although she began gaining weight, she said she noticed that her voice was repairing itself, and sounding clearer and stronger. Surely a great idea for both her voice and health.
7 Britney Spears
Although not really known for her vocal strength, Ms. Britney Spears actually had a decent voice when she popped up on the music scene at 14 years old. Unfortunately, the common scenario of too much, too fast for child stars is all too familiar for Britney; picking up bad habits like hard partying, late nights and smoking. After an unedited version of Spears' song "Alien" was released, her vocal abilities were questioned. There have been reports from several magazines like In Review and Star, stating that Britney has been trying to quit her 40 cigarette a day habit. Being encouraged by music executives like Simon Cowell, who connected with the X-Factor America judge and expressed his concerns about her voice, stating that smoking is no good for her voice. Vocal coach Roger Burnley stated to earsucker.com “It’s common with smokers. Smoking dehydrates the voice so singers have to push to hit the right notes.”
6 Courtney Love
In 2007, former Hole front woman Courtney Love revealed that she had pre-op nodules on her throat and would have to undergo surgery in order to correct it. Admitting that by the state her nodules were in, the doctor could easily guess how much she was smoking on a daily basis. Her love for chain smoking has affected her voice on tour and in an interview with People magazine, Love even admits that if she does not put a stop to smoking entirely, she will not be eligible for the surgery that can save her raspy voice.
Pop star Rihanna has gone on record saying that she fears for her health as a smoker. During an interview with entertainmentwise.com, Rihanna stated that she is trying to quit smoking, and she is acknowledging how hard it has been for her. In addition to smoking weed, cigarettes are another vice that she is trying to quit, after realizing that there have been subtle changes in her voice. We really hope Rihanna can hold up and quit smoking completely, as we wouldn't want RiRi to lose her sexy and unique voice.
4 Alison Krauss
Smokey-voiced Alison Krauss is a known smoker stating in a Rolling Stone magazine interview in 1995, that she started smoking simply because it pissed people off. Fast forward to 2013, Krauss was forced to cancel a festival appearance due to the development of dysphonia, a term used to describe a number of conditions that affects the vocal cords like laryngitis, polyps and nodules. One of the main reasons for developing such a condition is smoking. She was forced to go on vocal rest and encouraged not to try and hit upper register notes.
3 Joni Mitchell
Starting her smoking saga at the very young age of 9-years old, while on a fishing trip, Joni Mitchell has made no secret of her battle with cigarettes and trying to quit the addictive habit. By 2002, Mitchell had released a new album which didn't do as well as she had planned. In an interview with W magazine that same year, Mitchell stated that she didn't take good and proper care of her voice and she could unfortunately no longer provide the range of voice to fans that she used to, due to a life of smoking and drinking.
2 Amy Winehouse
Although a majority of the late Amy Winehouse’s vocal problems stemmed mainly from her difficult drug addiction to cocaine, just before her death, she had been diagnosed with emphysema, which contributed to her lack of live performances and struggles to hit the notes that she was once capable of hitting so greatly. Her father was quoted in an interview with MTV, saying that smoking crack and cigarettes had unfortunately given her this incurable lung disease, therefore contributing to her lack of performing live. This is especially sad when you think of the powerful voice this young star once had.
1 Cheryl Cole
After noticing small changes in her voice, Cheryl Cole’s music producers and executives sat her down and asked her to stop smoking. They feared that she was jeopardizing her voice, and her team is now giving her an ultimatum to quit smoking for the third and final time. Although quitting in the past, even Cheryl is now trying her hardest to stay on top of quitting, out of fear of her voice changing; she was told by her voice coach that the constant smoking is stopping her voice from responding to techniques properly. Realizing she has a lot to prove since being called out by fellow X-Factor judge, Louis Walsh for a less then good live performance on the show a few seasons ago. Cheryl has stated in a Metro article that she knows her singing voice is her job.