A ghost singer is a professional singer who dubs the singing parts officially credited, or billed, to another person, usually the star or co-star of a musical or film, especially those whose specialty is dancing, acting or for non-musical performers such as celebrities cast in musicals.
In classic Hollywood films the studios normally held back the fact that famous actors and actresses did not sing their own parts. This was especially true for the film versions of stage musicals that were written with professional musical singers in mind—with demands which most actors without excellent singing abilities and years of voice training could not fulfill. This is why even in the published soundtracks of many of these film musicals, the actors were credited for the voices rather than the ghost singers.
Indian film industry
Differently from Hollywood, in the Indian film industry, playback singers are recognized as important contributors and mentioned in the film credits. Top singers like legend Lata Mangeshkar—the 'queen' of Bollywood music—become sometimes stars in their own right. The most famous singers like Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Alka Yagnik, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Udit Narayan or Shreya Ghoshal often voice songs for hundreds of films during their careers. The Filmfare Awards, the most prestigious awards of the Indian film industry, also recognize the best male and female playback singers every year.
Known ghost singers include:
- India Adams, who dubbed for Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon (1953). That same year, she also dubbed for Joan Crawford in Torch Song.
- Bill Shirley, who dubbed for Jeremy Brett in Warner Bros. My Fair Lady
- Jo Ann Greer, who dubbed for Rita Hayworth, Kim Novak, and Dorothy Malone
- Marni Nixon, who dubbed for Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc, Deborah Kerr in The King and I and An Affair To Remember, for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1963), and for Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
- Betty Wand, who dubbed for Leslie Caron in Gigi
- Betty Noyes, who dubbed for Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain
- Annette Warren, who dubbed for Ava Gardner in Show Boat and Lucille Ball in both Fancy Pants and Sorrowful Jones
- Darlene Love ghost sang for girl group The Crystals, as acknowledged in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom
- Bill Lee provided the singing voice for Matt Mattox as Caleb Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, John Kerr as Lieutenant Cable in South Pacific and for Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp in the film of The Sound of Music
- Thurl Ravenscroft provided the singing voice for Ken Clark as Stewpot in South Pacific
- John Wallace provided the singing voice for Paul L. Smith as Bluto in Popeye
- Yang Peiyi, who dubbed for Lin Miaoke at the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing
- Drew Seeley, an actor, dancer and singer provided the vocals for Zac Efron in the 2006 Disney musical film High School Musical
- Tsin Ting, who is perhaps best known as the Marni Nixon of Hong Kong cinema.
- Thomson, David (2008) Have You Seen...?': a Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films including masterpieces, oddities and guilty pleasures (with just a few disasters). Penguin UK At Google Books. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- Quirk, Lawrence J. and William Schoell (2013) Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography, p. 170. University Press of Kentucky At Google Books. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "Obituary: Joan Greer "Jo Ann" McMahan" Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "Ghost singer India Adams appears" Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- Server, Lee (2007) Ava Gardner: "Love Is Nothing", p. 218. Macmillan, Apr 1, 2007 – At Google Books. Retrieved 13 June 2013.