Friday, July 21, 2006

The Greatest

So - beginning August 1, WXPN will once again open the voting to another 885 countdown. Two years ago we celebrated the move into our new home by asking our listeners to vote for their Top Ten All Time Greatest Songs - we compiled the votes and played back - over a three week period - the 885 All Time Greatest Songs.

Last year we focused on albums -- and did the same thing. This time, it's all about the artists. Beginning August 1, XPN will ask listeners to go online and enter their personal Top Ten All Time Greatest Artists ... this might be a bit more interesting since a musical artist doesn't have to be a songwriter etc. Just someone that you felt was a major influence in music.

They asked the staffers to create their own list - so it can be part of the website's promotion around the 885 Artists ... having submitted it, I decided to share it with you (and I'll explain a bit about why I chose each artist), starting with number 10:

10] DANIEL MILLER: Although his band The Normal (which was just him) had cult success with its only hit "Warm Leatherette" back in 1978 - Daniel was overwhelmed with cassettes from other musicians who thought the address on his single was a real record company (and not something he created for his own use). So tons of bands sent demos and the next thing you know musician Daniel Miller launches MUTE Records ... and is home for Fad Gadget, Cabaret Voltare, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Erasure, Moby, Nitzer Ebb, and more...

9] BOB WILLS: Founder of The Texas Playboys in 1934, Bob Wills is the granddaddy of Texas Swing music and was one of the first to cross over to American pop culture - he influenced Hank Williams and others and laid the groundwork for a common appeal of country music.

8] ARETHA FRANKLIN: She is the "Queen of Soul" for a reason! She brought emotion to packaged R&B in the 1960s, and developed a true Diva persona in the latter years of the 20th century, even by tackling opera. Although she's not as strong as she used to be - I always stop to watch Arethea perform.

7] JOHN LEE HOOKER: John Lee Hooker's guitar playing is closely alligned with piano boogie-woogie. He would play the walking bass pattern with his thumb, stopping to emphasize the end of a line with a series of trills, done by rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs. The song that most epitomizes his early sound is "Boogie Chillen," about being 17 and wanting to go out to dance at the boogie clubs. John represents (to me) the field of authentic blues musicians that inspired rock artists like The Rolling Stones, et al.

6] FRANK SINATRA: This man truly created the term "teeny-bopper" and for good reason: his rise to stardom in the 1940s created a new niche market for music from that era forward: teenagers. He showed what pop power can do and his way with lyrics, especially during his Capitol years, is second to none. Frank reminds me of my youth for some odd reason. I think I just heard a lot of his music as a very young child. The man demonstrated what it was to be a showman (both good and bad) and was one of the first uber-musicians to comfortably cross over into Hollywood.

5] JOHNNY CASH: When you look at the field of songwriters, you see Dylan, Neil Young, etc ... but there is something about a Johnny Cash song that makes the others pale in comparison. His compassion for those oppressed was sincere and much of Cash's music, especially that of his later career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption. That was impressive to me.

4] DUKE ELLINGTON: Part of jazz royalty, the Duke took a basic melody and made it into a symphony. His arrangements were outstanding and he rightly received a revival of sorts after his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956. The feature 'Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue', with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves's six-minute saxophone solo, had been in the band's book for a while, but on this occasion it nearly created a riot in the audience. This performance is on what is one of my all-time favorite albums "Duke Ellington and his Orchestra at Newport" ... do yourself a favor and listen to it, and you'll see why!

3] THE BEATLES: I expect these guys to be number one or two when the dust settles on the official count - but for me, I never got them. I appreciate their music - but probably more because I could never escape it. They were by most standards, the biggest musical act of the 20th century. The songwriting was impressive and they understood the times they were in; tweaking each release to fit the mood of the people. The songwriting of Lennon/McCartney was amazing, as almost everything they wrote, stuck. Plus, they (and their management and handlers) learned how to push the envelope for mass-marketing to new levels. That alone helped make them one of the all-time greatest.

2] LOUIS ARMSTRONG: It all started here, my friends. In 1922, Armstrong joined Joe "King" Oliver and his band in Chicago and soon was off to NYC to play with Fletcher Henderson ... the list of musicians that were influenced by Armstrong is astounding. Most consider Armstrong the Father of Jazz ... and if you stop and appreciate just how important jazz is to music in general today - it's all because of Louis Armstrong. I totally reccommend watching the 10-part Ken Burns' PBS special he did on JAZZ ... it's a great holiday gift if you're stumped on what to get someone! here's more

1] DAVID BOWIE: The Glam master himself. For me, this man is my Greatest Artist of All Time. It's not because I am a crazy fan that owns everything Bowie (which I don't) but it's because Bowie created a genre of music that became the foundation for so many other genres: glam rock, new wave, new romantic, etc. He has such a way of telling a story in song, you easily get swept up. He embraced the idea of reinventing yourself with each release (well before Madonna), and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. He appreciated the underground by showcasing musicians like Klaus Nomi and Brian Eno. He comfortably entered the pop music charts while keeping his roots in creative rock music. He was one of the first stars to not shy away from his sexuality at a time when it was deadly to be anything but heterosexual. That gave me hope as a young gay kid. He has aged gracefully and still performs in the now -- versus riding his own successful coattails. Finally, Scary Monsters was a powerful album for me - as it came out at the same time I did (haha) and I totally identified with being a scary monster and a super creep. Bow to Bowie, for he is my number one!

1 comment:

Shadylil said...

I found your blog in a very round-about way. I did a search for hot AC stations in my area, found one, and listened. But it wasn't hot AC, it was songs and musicians I had never heard of. I loved it!

So as I was listening, the station turned out to be XPN. Never heard of it. However, I heard that they had a website and a poll of 'your top 10 artists'.

I was reading the message board and saw your post, clicked on your blog and read your choices.

Very interesting. I like that you included Johnny Cash. Although I'm a rocker, one can't deny Cash's success and the fact that he bridged country music from past to present.

And Bowie? Fantastic artist. One of the guys on the TV show Supernova covered a track from Ziggy Stardust and it brought back so many memories.

Heh. I'm rambling. Anyway, good choices in your top ten artists pick.

Back to read the board.