Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: My memory may not be completely accurate about this, but I think I once heard on American Top 40 that the longest note held by a solo female is found in “Woman in Love,” by Barbra Streisand.

Of course that would include only Top 40 hits up to the time of that broadcast, most likely in the 1980s.

Is this true, and, if so, is Barbra still the note-holding champ?
—Trudy Styles, Milwaukee

DEAR TRUDY: If what you heard pertained only to No. 1 solo hits, then Barbra's “Woman in Love” wins in the take-a-deep-breath-and-hold-it category. This she does about 2:25 into the song, holding the word “all” for about 14 seconds.

What you may not know is that Streisand's world-class long notes are found on her albums, not singles. Eliminating 45s and chart hits from the equation opens the door for “On My Way to You,” from the 1988 “Till I Loved You” collection.

Barbra takes a quick breath, then delivers the final 25 seconds (“to you”) without pause or quiver, and just four seconds shy of the world record at the time (29.03).

The album's title track, “Till I Loved You,” a duet with her then-current love interest, Don Johnson, became a Top 25 hit.

If your parameters are widened by even one notch, anywhere from Top 2 to Top 100, a new long-winded champ would be crowned.

Include the entire Top 100 and the winner is Bill Withers. In “Lovely Day,” Bill repeatedly holds the word “day” for at least 10 seconds. But the lovely “day” at 3:05 runs for approximately 19 seconds.

“Lovely Day” reached No. 30 in early 1978.

As for the ladies, the nod goes to Donna Summer. Her 1979 “Dim All the Lights,” which peaked at No. 2 nationally, includes a note held for 16 seconds.

At 0:46, just as the tempo shifts into high gear, Donna sustains the word “up” until the 1:02 mark.

Ironically, the follow-up to Summer's summer hit, “Dim All the Lights,” is a duet with, of all people, Barbra Streisand: “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough).”

As one might expect from these two, this disco classic includes a long note. Streisand provides it with a 16-second “tear,” at 1:44 as the disco beat begins.

During live shows, many of the world's great vocalists carry a note to extremes not found on their recordings. I have watched Nana Mouskouri sustain notes for 40-plus seconds, and Whitney Houston has done the same during “I Will Always Love You.”

Now let's expand the competition to other continents. In 2005, Dean Frenkel, an Australian overtone singer, nearly doubled the previous record (29.03 seconds) for the longest continuous vocal note. On live TV, with Guinness World Record adjudicators on hand, Dean held on for 57 seconds.

But, as you know, records were made to be broken.

On September 8, 2009, in New York, Richard Fink IV shattered Frenkel's effort, with an official GWR time of 1:43.19. As of this writing, Fink's amazing record still stands.

Speaking of standing, the Guinness longest note rules require the person to stand. Apparently, one can sustain a note much longer if sitting.

Whether those aspiring for GWR notoriety choose to sing a note in their normal or falsetto register doesn't matter, as long as there is no break in the vocal. Richard Fink IV opted for falsetto, saying higher notes require less air.

The clock also stops if there is more than a half step (semitone) deviation from the chosen note, or an amplitude drop that exceeds 10 decibels.

IZ ZAT SO? Barbra Streisand may not be a Guinness World Record holder, but she has more than enough awards to fill the mantle and the walls. Foremost among those are: Grammy Awards (8); AGVA Georgie Awards (4); Academy Awards (2); Emmy Awards (4); Golden Globe Awards (7); People's Choice Awards (3); Gold Albums (51); Platinum Albums (30); Multi-Platinum albums (13); Gold Singles (3); and Platinum Singles (5).

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page