Thursday, September 23, 2010

You're The Top

VH1 has compiled a list of what they are calling the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. It seems they polled 200 artists including Ozzy Osbourne, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, and members of U2 and the Police to come up with their list (you will note that neither of your Redheads was consulted for this poll). Of course, this is related to a multi-episode television special of the same name, so certainly their picks are designed to stir up conversation, controversy, and most of all, viewership.

This isn’t the first time they’ve come up such a list. The first was in 1998. It’s interesting to compare the two to see who moved up, who moved down, and who fell off. Between the time of the two lists Michael Jackson went from #40 to #3, and James Brown went from #46 to #9 bolstering the argument for death as a career boost. But then again, Ray Charles went from #12 to #43, and Marvin Gaye from #14 to #20 so maybe not. The ’98 list was called the 100 Greatest Artists of Rock & Roll yet contained names like Miles Davis (#39), John Coltrane (#77), Johnny Cash (#89), Gladys Knight & the Pips (#91), and The Four Tops (#93). None of these names with the exception of Johnny Cash are to be found on the latest list even though the name has been changed to the more general 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Why the name change? one wonders, when there are no jazz artists, and only one country artist represented. Several of the seminal voices of our time didn’t make the cut, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Karen Carpenter, or Barbara Streisand.

All of which leads us to a question or two. Does a list like this really serve a purpose? Certainly it could be used to gauge the musical influences and tastes of the 200 artists polled, but beyond that, what do we discover? Does it indicate an ignorance of the musical past on the part of those polled? Other than being a lovely tidbit for one’s Wikipedia page, is there any real value to being named on a list like this? Does a list like this add to or take away from our collective musical educations? What does it really mean to be an influential artist? What are the criteria they used, and how do they differ from what ours would be?

Finally, and more importantly who are YOUR top musical influences, and why? Do share with us; we think your opinion is way more interesting than Ozzy’s.

By the way, Ozzy attended several Manhattan Transfer performances in the 1970s, and seemed to be a great fan. Obviously he forgot that when making his list.

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