Below I’ve compiled a list of artists who have made the industry what it is today by becoming leaders in revolutions of sounds, imagery and artistic movements. You’ll notice that very few contemporary artists have made the cut, and that is for one reason, and one reason only…Since the death of the grunge period in the late 90s, there remains a void in music history.
Everything you currently hear on the radio has been stolen from someone else - someone great from the past - and next to no artists, in the last ten years, have risen to the challenge to create something that can be considered “true art.”
So I leave you with this - if you truly aspire to become a musician - to offer this world music with meaning - art that makes a difference in people’s lives -- look up to these greats, gather inspiration from them, and start a revolution. Every serious songwriter should own at least one album from every artist on this list.
I would like to note that although many may consider my choice to exclude artists such as Elvis or Frank Sinatra, a crime, I do have good reason – neither of them ever wrote a song throughout their entire careers. This list is made to honour musicians who actually deserve the title, “artist.”
In no particular order…
1) Madonna: Her longstanding title as the most famous woman in music isn’t mere coincidence. She is the queen of reinvention and an icon in leading social trends.
2) Sex Pistols: The world’s first and only true punk band. It wasn’t about the talent, it was about the attitude.
3) AC/DC: Very rarely can a guitarist outshine his own lead singer, or for that matter, create nothing, but catchy songs.
4) Kiss: A band that has truly discovered the secret to branding and merchandising. Take a lesson from their savvy businessman Mr. Simmons.
5) Jimi Hendrix: A whole lotta blues, a whole lotta rock’n’roll and imagine most of his material was written on an acid trip.
6) Aerosmith: Steven Tyler is the iconoclast of what every lead singer should strive to be.
7) Bob Dylan: Amazing songwriter. His tracks will continue to be covered by other artists ‘til the end of time.
8) The Beatles: Talk about universal appeal. A band that not only possessed two uber-talented songwriters, but as well, was able to grow and redefine themselves with every album.
9) The Beach Boys: Sugary harmonies that any band would envy. Leaders in the ‘Surf Rock’ movement.
10) Buddy Holly: Who thought that ‘Nerd Rock’ would ever catch on?
11) The Smashing Pumpkins: Truly original melding of discordance with melody.
12) Nirvana: The voice of an angst-filled generation.
13) John Lennon: Was never afraid to speak his mind.
14) Chuck Berry: The true ‘King of Rock’n’Roll’.
15) James Brown: He isn’t called the ‘Godfather of Soul’ for nothing.
16) Michael Jackson: The first black artist to ever receive airplay on MTV. He had the moves, the style, the talent – the whole package.
17) David Bowie: A gender bending leader in ‘Glam Rock’. Again, a great example of an artist who possesses the ability to reinvent himself.
18) Black Sabbath: Like demons caught on vinyl. This band surely scared the shit out of your parents.
19) Marvin Gaye: Spoke out for what he believed in the most.
20) Neil Young: Couldn’t sing a note, but his songwriting is untouchable.
21) Ray Charles: Helped to break down racial barriers in music.
22) Little Richard: Way before his time.
23) Alanis Morissette: Gave women a whole new confidence in telling off their ex-boyfriends.
24) Queen: When Broadway met rock, and with a set of pipes like Freddie Mercury, it couldn’t have been a better combination.
25) Red Hot Chili Peppers: Their unique style of mixing funk, rap and rock has been imitated by many imposters.
26) System of a Down: Inventors of music for people with ADHD.
27) Bob Marley: Brought reggae to the mainstream.
28) Deep Purple: Wrote one of the simplest and most repetitive three chord riffs in history, but somehow managed to make it a hit single. That deserves props big time.
29) The Jackson Five: The world’s first boy band.
30) Janis Joplin: The ultra blues mama who wasn’t afraid to bare it all and I mean that in every sense.
31) Henry Rollins: Not just a musician, but an inspirational speaker. One of the smartest people in existence, hands down.
32) Joan Jett: The Queen of PunkRock.
33) The Pixies: Failing to achieve major mainstream success, this band still remains one of the most credited bands in history in terms of influencing other artists.
34) Alice Cooper: The precursor to our Marilyn Manson.
35) The BeeGees: Any men that can sing that high deserve to be on this list.
36) Steppenwolf: Creators of ‘Biker Rock’.
37) Rolling Stones: Great songwriting, but we much prefer when their material is covered by other artists. Sorry Mick.
38) Van Halen: Inventor of the guitar technique, “tapping.”
39) Eric Clapton: How many major bands was this guy seriously a part of?
40) Metallica: When metal went mainstream for all of us to enjoy.
41) Guns’N’Roses: Axel Rose and Slash? Enough said.
42) Led Zeppelin: Hold the record for the longest breakthrough single, “Stairway to Heaven.”
43) Bjork: Too damn weird to ignore.
44) Pantera: As evident by the recent demise of Dimebag, this band has had a major impact on underground music listeners everywhere without meriting any mainstream radio play what-so-ever.
45) Johnny Cash: The man in black who made country music cool.
46) Prince: The male equivalent to Madonna.
47) Heart: Our first glance at what dual female fronted action can deliver. Barracuda anyone?
48) Kraftwerk: Synth-pop artist extra-ordinaire: the precursor to industrial.
49) Tom Petty: Who doesn’t know the lyrics to “Free Falling?”
50) The White Stripes: Simplistic, but in just the right way.
51) Pink Floyd: Until you’ve watched Wizard of Oz while listening to “The Dark Side of the Moon”, you will not be able to understand their significance.
52) Abba: A great example of gender equality and cross-over success.
53) The Who: Creators of the first rock opera, “Tommy.”
54) Muddy Waters: Haunting, soulful, and real.
55) Cher: For having the most farewell tours the world has ever seen. We appreciate her persistence, but she should really learn to give credence to Neil Young’s words, “It’s better to burn out, than fade away.”
Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.
Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.
Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.
Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/