Thursday, August 30, 2012

How Do You Pick the Top 100 Artists of All Time?

I was watching VH1, as I often am when posting genius strikes, and musing on the possibility of being able to determine the "Top 100 Artists of All Time." I mean, how could you possibly try to assemble such a list? Even if they do have such musical luminaries as P Diddy and Chris Jericho voting on the list. We're all too hopelessly boxed in by our own prejudices and limitations to make a real go of things. I, for one, have an appreciation for hip-hop but definitely not to the extent that I could place artists in the general firmament with any accuracy.

And as I watched, I also realized that they were acting like modern music started in the late 1950s. Um, hello? What about Billie Holiday, the Gershwins, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Artie Shaw, Glen Miller, Irvin Berlin, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and on and on and on. Are we saying that rock wasn't born out of a combination of big band, blues, and country? Yet none of these pioneers were mentioned.

This kind of show makes you want to make your own list, so I will indulge this urge and make my hopelessly inept list. I'm thinking in terms of innovation and influence, so far as I can see, and who seems to have laid the foundation for what is going on in contemporary music. I'm also going to follow what seemed to be their implied structuring of the rock era and forward, rather than the whole of modern pop music.

20. The Beach Boys
19. Dolly Parton
18. The Rolling Stones
17. Aretha Franklin
16. James Brown
15. Queen
14. Neil Young
13. U2
12. Prince
11. Michael Jackson
10. Radiohead
  9. Chuck Berry
  8. The Who
  7. Elvis Presley
  6. Stevie Wonder
  5. Dusty Springfield
  4. Led Zeppelin
  3. Johnny Cash
  2. Bob Dylan
  1. The Beatles*

Of course these don't necessarily represent my favorite artists and there are so many people who have had a huge impact not on here. But it works from my perspective. Most of the biggest influencers of modern popular music are here. Whew - no wonder they always get so much flack when they try to do these! It's damn near impossible.

*I decided to leave individual artists off of my list in favor of their bands. However, I would place Paul McCartney at #21. Not John Lennon. Ever Beatles fan must choose a side and I have chosen the right side**, i.e. Paul. Paul McCartney is the closest thing we have to Mozart in terms of generating an astonishing number of beautiful melodies. Most of the Beatles songs that have gained universal love are due to his melodic genius. When Paul is bad, he's a little sappy and sentimental. When John is bad, he's like your crazy uncle who is getting drunk and naked at your cousin's christening. So let's end the madness and get real. Paul is not dead - Paul is awesome.

**"Preference" questions can have right answers. Like, would you rather your lover have a metal hand (a la Anakin Skywalker) or a withered hand (a la Mr. Rochester)? The right answer is withered hand. Metal versus human flesh? Please.

Who do you think the most influential artist of all time is?

No comments:

Post a Comment