‘I had been reduced to a whisper': David Coverdale on the sinus infection that almost silenced him

David Coverdale, in a new video chat for Whitesnake TV, talks about the sinus infection that nearly derailed his career in the 1980s — and the unique exercises that he still does to save his voice.

Coverdale, who’s also fronted Deep Purple and successfully collaborated with Jimmy Page, has said that he considered the sessions for a eponymous 1987 release as a make-or-break moment for Whitesnake — which had been together off and on since 1978, but had seen 1984’s Slide It In reach only No. 40 in the U.S.

Then, disaster struck in the form of a serious sinus infection.

“There was a 50/50 chance that I would not be able to sing in the same style or with the same power after the surgery,” Coverdale says, as part of an ongoing fan Q&A for Whitesnake TV. “I was extraordinarily fortunate. I worked with an amazing ear, nose and throat doctor, who’s recently retired. He was an astonishing doctor, and a beautiful guy all around. I owe him a debt that I could never repay.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Could a partial reunion of the mid-1970s lineup of Deep Purple be in the offing? Glenn Hughes says he'd like to get back together with David Coverdale.]

Coverdale’s doctor and then-manager recommended that Coverdale consult with premier cantor at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Beverly Hills — Nathan Lam. “He has an astonishingly deep, basso profundo voice — which is probably why he was premier cantor in the choir,” Coverdale says in the video. “He helped me rebuild my voice.” Coverdale’s regimen, then as now, includes “making these very strange noises, to open up the sinus and open up the vocal cords, without stressing out these things. When I’m touring, I do these things several times a day, and before shows.”

Back in 1987, that was quite a change: “At that time, I had no idea about vocal exercises,” Coverdale says. “My vocal exercise was a huge glass of cognac, or scotch with a drizzle of Coca Cola in it, and I was off and running. But this was obviously different times. I had been reduced to talking in a whisper for six weeks.”

Of course, 1987’s Whitesnake went on to go eight-times platinum, on the strength of a series of hit singles — “Still of the Night,” “Is This Love” and “Here I Go Again.” Coverdale and Whitesnake most recent album is 2011’s Forevermore, with guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach.

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