Call me an “old fart,” or whatever the hell you choose. However, it is an undeniable fact that I lived through more than four decades of the greatest music in history. I am claiming that the rock and roll era produced the most exciting and talented musicians and vocalist bands in the history of the world, including classical, country, and jazz. Each band, and each vocalist, had a unique and individual sound.
Music: The Love of a Lifetime
My love for music and a desire to sing began in the 1950s. My mom had the radio on and I remember hearing a male voice so smooth and clear, I was fascinated. She told me his name was “Bing Crosby.”
Sometime during the mid-1950s, I watched Dick Clark’s American Bandstand for the first time. I wanted to be on that show and dance to the greatest music I had ever heard. Some of my earliest memories of stars famous then and remaining famous for decades were Simon and Garfunkel, Jerry Lee Lewis, who just passed away, and Dion and the Belmonts. Others you might have heard of from the first season of “Bandstand” include Paul Anka, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin, The Del-Vikings, The Diamonds, Buddy Holly, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, and Jackie Wilson.
A Decade of Change
Here we are 70 years later and many of these names remain famous. This will not be true for most of the singers and bands in the various genres today. Few are unique. As I tell my wife, “they all sound the same.”
Then came what I remember as the “great revolution.” Rock and Roll musicians in the 1960s dominated everything in our society. Many of them became more famous than movie stars. Here are the names of just a few of the top 100 bands and individuals who entertained us then and some who continue to amaze us today, alive or dead.
1. The Beatles
2. James Brown
3. The Beach Boys
4. The Supremes
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Bob Dylan
7. Aretha Franklin
8. Elvis Presley
9. Sam Cooke
10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
11. Ray Charles
12. Otis Redding
13. The Temptations
14. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
15. The Byrds
16. Marvin Gaye
17. The Four Seasons
18. The Who
19. Wilson Pickett
20. Stevie Wonder
No one can deny that at least two of these names changed music forever, and no bands today or in the future will be remembered by generations to come like The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Two More Decades of Names to Remember
Then came the 1970s. Here are just a few names everyone remembers: David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, The Eagles, Queen, and Stevie Wonder.
In the 1980s, we were thrilled by such legends as Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, and Van Halen.
There are hundreds of names I have not mentioned, including the great rhythm and blues groups The Pretenders, The Platters, and the Ink Spots. I also failed to include my favorite bands of the 70s and 80s, Heart, and Cream, and my favorite singers, Bonny Raitt, and Teddy Pendergrass, whose career was cut short after he was paralyzed in an automobile accident on March 18, 1982.
Great Talents of the 21st Century to Remember
I’m not saying there are no artists today who will be remembered forever, but they are few in number.
Adele is as unique as Barbara Streisand. Ed Sheeran will be remembered for his talent to write songs that are all one-of-a-kind. Billy Joel’s diverse styles and his creativity with both music and lyrics are already legendary. With a different style but equal talent, James Taylor is also a living legend. Willie Nelson may be a “Country Music” star, but his style and talent for lyrics make him a favorite of every music fan. No one will ever forget the baritone stylings of the great Johnny Cash.
Artists Losing Control
There are others, but few come to mind when I consider the way music made me feel decades ago and today. Part of the reason is undoubtedly the result of corporate control. In the past, many artists were famous before they signed huge record contracts, and they had more control over the creative process. You “heard them on the radio.”
Much of the fame of new artists is the result of huge promotions and advertising, and, of course, the importance of music videos. I believe much of the importance becomes what is happening in the background, and less about the actual words and music.
A Lifetime of Memories
Once again, I feel very lucky and proud to have lived during a time when a bands music and musicians were creative and exciting. Everything which happens in every genre today is the result of what happened during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. (Rock and Roll began in the late 1950s, but was not fully accepted until the 60s.)
I’m only sorry that I was unable to list all the bands and individuals who I sang along with and danced to in my younger years. I would need dozens of pages to list them all and how their music made me feel.
By James Turnage, Author of “Tales from Beneath the Sheets”
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Paul Hudson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Will Fisher’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License