The curtain has been lifted. The name that goes with that voice you hear on your iPhone (4s and later) is now public, as CNN writer Jessica Ravitz revealed to the world on Oct. 4, 2013, that Siri is actually the voice of Susan Bennett, an Atlanta resident, whose voice may be better known that you think. She’s been a voice artist since the 1960s and she knows rock and roll, baby.
It’s true that Bennett’s smooth mid-range tone had just the right ingredients for Apple’s pick of “the” voice for the iPhone 4s model, which debuted Oct. 4, 2011. But Susan, or Siri, is more than just able to tell you the weather in Hotlanta, or in Paris, France, if you ask her. Ask her anything. Many iPhone users have sought out Siri’s company for a date. Her answers always vary but she’s quick with a comeback.
So many pop culture TV shows have had fun with the voice of Siri, including “The Big Bang Theory.” Episode 14 of Season 5 focused on Raj’s date with Siri, the one woman whom he had no trouble carrying on a conversation. But wait there’s more.
Mark Dawson, lead singer of the Grass Roots, has a regular “iPhone Fun with Siri” segment on his Thursday night “Making Noise” radio show on Our Generation Radio. Says Dawson, “It seems that my little ‘iPhone Fun with Siri’ routine has taken on a life of its own." He’s even made his Siri-chat segments downloadable on his web site. Anyone who knows Dawson knows that he can more than put Siri through her paces.
Bennett's voice has long been in demand by more than just the Apple corporation. Reporter Ravetz has spent more than a fair share of hours at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International airport. That's right. Susan Bennett is also the voice of Delta terminals, a very familiar airport voice.
For two years it was not known that Bennett was indeed the voice of Siri, and in fact, Apple’s executives have not officially confirmed it, but then again, you’d expect that.
CNN’s Ravetz scored the exclusive interview with Bennett and learned that she was the voice of the first ATM machine, “Tillie the All-Time Teller” some 40 years ago. As a student at Brown University, Ravetz noted “she sang in a jazz band and also with another group at the Berklee School of Music. After graduating, she toured as a backup singer with Burt Bacharach and Roy Orbison.” Siri (err, Susan) knows from classic rock.
In the 1970s, Bennett was a mainstay for advertising voice work, in the jingle business, working frequently in Atlanta studios because she was able to speak without a characteristic southern, or any other regional, tone in her voice. Until this weekend, the identity of Siri’s voice has been one of the smartphone industry’s best-kept secrets, better than details on iPhone delivery dates or how to unlock the phones. Possibly the reason the curtain has lifted is because the voice of Siri has changed on the iPhones using the iOS 7 system (and you can even choose the gender of the voice you want to hear).
Many young men have proposed marriage to Siri, so the urban legend goes. If Siri had a theme song, it could well be "Susan" by The Buckinghams because you have to face it: the name "Susan" just rocks better than "Siri."
Fun to think that back when Susan Bennett was singing backup for Burt Bacharach, she could have been possibly crooning along to “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and 40 years later she’d be answering that question with, “Would you like to use your current location? Starting route now. Proceed 400 feet and make a right turn. No, that’s a right turn. At the first convenient intersection, make a U-turn and proceed the other way. Recalculating route. Make a left turn at the first convenient intersection.” Recalculating indeed. If you’d like to see Siri's real-life photo, check out the photo in Ravetz’s CNN story here. You never know where her voice will turn up next.