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Spoken Word

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"I came into town, I showed up at the studio, and they said 'Okay, for the first hour we're gonna work on the words, and then we're gonna spend a couple hours on the song,' and I said, 'Wait, what song? What do you mean, song?' I hadn't quite read the memo, and they quickly realized it was gonna be more of a 'talking' song with me than it was going to be a 'singing' song."

Speech used as song. During the 1960s and 1970s in particular, this technique was often used in film musicals to allow popular actors to star in them despite a total or near-total lack of singing ability. Movie soundtracks would also typically include snippets of dialogue between songs before home video became widely available in the 1980s, allowing viewers to watch movies at home directly. After that, film soundtrack albums would concentrate on the music, either the score or vocal songs used in the film. It is also used in theatre when production schedules simply do not allow time for proper rehearsal of choral numbers.


  • Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady and Doctor Dolittle. He dubbed the technique "Sing-Speak".
  • Gregorian chant (in some cases).
  • Lorne Greene in Bonanza performs the theme's lyrics this way.
  • John DiMaggio, voicing Gorilla Grodd in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!", uses this technique.
  • Just about everyone in the film version of Man of La Mancha, which is fortunate since none of the stars were even tolerable singers.
  • Johnny Cash did this sometimes.
  • Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man.
  • C. W. McCall: More than a few of McCall's songs are actually recitations set to music, including "Audubon", "Classified", Roses for Mama" and "Aurora Borealis".
  • Used on The Muppet Show by any guest star who couldn't actually sing.
  • The musical Camelot does this quite a bit.
  • "All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards" by Corb Lund.
  • R.E.M. did this a couple of times, with "Belong" and "Blue".
  • William Shatner released a number of spoken word albums. He's also parodied this by doing a spoken word version of Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" and wrestling entrance themes.
  • "Sebastian Cabot, Actor; Bob Dylan, Poet: A Dramatic Reading With Music" (1967). The album title says it all, 12 cuts of Mr. French acting out Dylan's songs as poetry.

Alternative Title(s): Plainsong