In May 2011, I wrote a “tymshft” post in my Empoprise-MU music blog, comparing Focus’ original version of the song “Hocus Pocus” with a subsequent bluegrass version by the Cleverlys.
I haven’t listened to the Cleverlys version in a while, but I’ve recently had occasion to listen to Focus’ version – both the Midnight Special version that I shared in 2011, and some more recent versions that I found on YouTube.
There are, of course, a multitude of differences between old and new performances of “Hocus Pocus.” But the biggest one is that Thijs van Leer, who sang the entire thing back in the 1970s, now only sings portions of the song. Some other guy – apparently younger – is drafted to hit the really high notes. (You notice this with other older artists, who often perform with musicians young enough to be their kids.)
Is this just a problem with age, where old singers just can’t sing like they used to? According to Jeannie Deva, the answer is no. It is possible for an older person to maintain, and even improve on, his or her singing capability. However, there are certain things that can cause a voice to deteriorate.
Singing with poor or no vocal technique
No or inadequate vocal warm-up or vocal cool-down
Drugs (legal and illegal)
Regular and excessive alcohol consumption
The accumulated effect of cigarette smoking
Performing with deficient or no monitors
The wrong microphone
Shouting over your instrumentalists’ stage volume
Physical deterioration from poor nutrition or sleep
Psychosomatic illness occasioned by emotional hardships, losses and upsets
Drugs, alcohol, smoking, stress, lack of sleep – I guess those have been known to occur to rock singers.