Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Top 50 Classical Composers

The Top 50 Classical Composers (7/28/12)

image from

July 28 marked the death of two of classical music’s greatest composers – Antonio Vivaldi (1741) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1750). In their honor, the DMDB blog is reposting this list originally presented as a note on the DMDB Facebook page on February 2, 2011. That original post was prompted by Anthony Tommasini, who in January 2011, undertook the two-week task in the New York Times of selecting the top 10 classical music composers in history. That list, and 13 others (see resources below), have been consolidated into the official Dave’s Music Database below. As always, the goal is to present an objective list based on others’ opinions. Besides, I’m less informed on classical music than any other genre, so I couldn’t compose a list of my own if I wanted to. My apologies for any misspellings.

Note: this list was updated on March 9, 2012 to aggregate a total of 22 lists focused on classical composers.

The Top 50 Classical Composers

1. Ludwig van Beethoven
2. Johann Sebastian Bach
3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
4. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
5. George Gershwin
6. Franz Schubert
7. Richard Wagner
8. Joseph Haydn
9. Johannes Brahms
10. Igor Stravinsky
11. Frederic Chopin
12. Gustav Mahler
13. George Frideric Handel
14. Antonio Vivaldi
15. Giusseppe Verdi
16. Claude Debussy
17. Robert Schumann
18. Sergei Rachmaninoff
19. Dmitri Shostakovich
20. Antonin Dvorák
21. Felix Mendelssohn
22. Béla Bartók
23. Hector Berlioz
24. Kurt Weill
25. Maurice Ravel
26. Franz Liszt
27. John Phillip Sousa
28. Edward Elgar
29. Jean Sibelius
30. Sergei Prokofiev
31. Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina
32. Anton Bruckner
33. Claudio Monteverdi
34. Arnold Schoenberg
35. Modest Mussorgsky
36. Richard Strauss
37. Ralph Vaughan Williams
38. Henry Purcell
39. Charles Ives
40. Giacomo Puccini
41. Domenico Scarlatti
42. Gioacchino Rossini
43. Jean-Philippe Rameau
44. Oliver Messiaen
45. Gaetano Donizetti
46. Ferde Grofe
47. Aaron Copland
48. Camille Saint-Saens
49. Georges Bizet
50. Samuel Barber

Resources and Related Links:
  • original note as posted on Facebook (2/2/2012)
  • Essential Artists

    Consists of two lists: one of popular music’s essential artists and another of classical composers. Links take you to short bios and more links to works by the artist/composer. Classical list has 52 entries, unranked.

  • Greatest Classical Composers. By del_icious_manager (date?)

    A user posted a question asking for people to list 7 of the greatest classical composers and state reasons for choices. The best answer, as chosen by the asker, was from del_icious_manager who listed seven composers chronologically with sentence-long bios/justifications.

  • Greatest Classical Music Composers of All Time. (date?)

    Top ten ranked list with brief paragraphs on each entry.

  • Who are the 10 greatest classical-music composers of all time? You decide. By Donald Rosenberg. (1/30/2011)

    Response to Anthony Tommasini’s top 10 list in the New York Times. Picks seven composers himself, but doesn’t rank them.

  • The 100 Greatest Classical Music Composers. Edited by Guy/Brian. (12/31/2006)

    Top 100 ranked list. No commentary.

  • 10 Most Famous Classical Composers. By Amber D. Walker. (1/3/2010)

    This article focuses on ten composers with paragraph entries on each. No ranking.

  • Top 5 Classical Composers of All Time. By Isabella Snow. (date?)

    This article focuses on five composers with paragraph entries on each. No ranking.

  • The Top 10 Greatest Classical Composers. By John Althouse Cohen. (1/22/2011)

    A personal top ten ranking with detailed entries on each composer. Inspired by the New York Times article.

  • Legends of American Music stamp series (1993-1999)

    This series of stamps started in 1993 covering various genres. Eight classical composers/conductors were introduced in 1997.

  • Top 15 Greatest Composers of All Time. By FlameHorse. (12/17/2009)

    Top 15 ranked list with detailed entries and video posts.

  • The Greatest. By Anthony Tommasini. (1/21/2011)

    The original post which inspired the DMDB list and several of the other entries in this category. He undertook a two-week series to select the top 10 classical musical composers in history. He laid out the list via articles, videos, and blog posts which garnered more than 1500 responses.

  • The Best Classical Composers of All Time. By ?. (date?)

    Unranked list of five composers with links to purchase music and other related products. Writer and date unidentified.

  • Greatest Classical Composers. By ?. (date?)

    Users post lists here and then others vote on them. This top ten list has expanded to 23 entries as added by users. Original list generator and date of creation unidentified. Very few commentaries.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Open Letter to Tom Cruise: How to Make a Movie Rock

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on July 25, 2012. See original post here.

"Help me! My career is slipping away!"

image from

Dear Tom Cruise: We know you are hurting from the failure of Rock of Ages. However, if you learn the lessons from the best rock-themed movies, you can still make a rock film for the ages.
You poor man. When average folks crash and burn they don’t have to endure the blazing spotlight of the international media. As one of the biggest stars on the planet, you, Mr. Mission Impossible, have to deal with scrutiny most of us can’t possibly imagine.

I’m not talking about your recently failed marriage to Katie Holmes. We all saw that coming, right? This is much more serious. You, the man who’s starred in 17 movies grossing more than $100 million (see the box office for all his movies here), may have lost your Midas touch.

With $37 million banked, Rock of Ages won’t be joining that blockbuster club. You can’t shoulder all the blame, though. After all, the typical over-the-top intensity you infuse in rock star Stacee Jaxx has some critics hailing you performance as Oscar-worthy.

Still, with widespread derision heaped upon Rock of Ages, you’re left helplessly watching your personal and professional life tanking. You no longer have the luxury of a two-income household. You’re faced with being a single dad, scrounging enough cash to cover child support and alimony payments. Like Jerry Maguire, you need, a break—and soon—to get you out of this slump. You need to make another rock movie.

It might seem like risky business, but Mr. Top Gun, you can tap your own blockbuster-making talents, mix in the elements of critically successful music movies, and gift the world with a true rock film for the ages. Here’s how.

Tip #1: Start with a director who knows rock ‘n’ roll.

“Rock ‘n’ roll” is a specific genre, not an interchangeable term with “pop music”. My kids watched Camp Rock this week, after which I posted on Facebook that Disney owed them an apology for suggesting that the Jonas Brothers and rock have anything to do with each other.

Kudos to director Adam Shankman for adapting Broadway’s Hairspray to the big screen (itself a reworking of John Waters’ 1988 comedy film of the same name). However, when ‘80s hair-band and arena-rock anthems are put in the mouths of Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, they are scrubbed free of whatever grit they first possessed, and the audience feels like its watching an episode of Glee (which Shankman also directed, by the way). Movie critic Richard Roeper said, “Every time an actor belts out a hit, you’re reminded that the original, however, cheesy, was better.” (15 June 2012, Rotten Tomatoes)

So, Tom – instead of Shankman, tap Cameron Crowe or Rob Reiner. They directed you in Jerry Maguire and A Few Good Men respectively – and both have helmed iconic rock films. More on those in a moment.

Tip #2: If any actors are going to sing, make sure they really know how to sing.

Rock of Ages cast member Malin Akerman told USA Today that you “made a good, good rock star, that’s for sure. I let him know if this acting thing doesn’t work out, he’s definitely got a second career as a rocker.”

Tom, you have all the right moves. You look the part and your stage presence could be a primer for wannabe rockers. However, if I’m listening to “Paradise City” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” I’d rather hear Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard than the man who slung drinks in Cocktail back when those songs were hits.

So, Tom – leave the singing to someone else. Maybe Jamie Foxx? You guys worked together in Collateral. The legendary Ray Charles approved Foxx to play him in the 2004 biopic Ray! and the result was an Oscar for Best Actor.

Tip #3: Musicians are not actors.

When it comes to pipes, Mary J. Blige is the 21st century version of Aretha Franklin. When it comes to acting, her role in Rock of Ages is akin to Lou Reed’s performance in 1983’s Get Crazy. That bad B-movie focused on a New Year’s Eve concert at a Fillmore East-type venue. Among the performers were a Mick Jagger type played by Malcolm MacDowell and a reclusive singer played by Reed. I’ll happily debate anyone who questions Reed’s contributions to the music world, but you can knock his acting ability all you want.

So, Tom, what can you learn from this? If you’re going to put musicians in your film, do it with documentary footage. Call up Martin Scorsese. He did great things for your career in The Color of Money. Since then, he’s won a Best Director Oscar and done a slew of music documentaries, including Living in the Material World, Shine a Light, No Direction Home, and The Last Waltz. The latter, about The Band’s farewell show, has been called the best concert film of all time. Watch Levon Helm. He looks convinced that if he pours enough energy and anguish into “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” he might prevent The Band from breaking up.

Tip #4: Avoid rock clichés – unless you can make them farcical.

The best moment in Rock of Ages comes when we get a glimpse into Stacee Jaxx’s psyche as he unloads to a reporter about the burden of being a rock star. I imagined a hard-hitting and probing film built around this premise. Then you launched into Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”.

The documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil doesn’t beat the viewer over the head with a clichéd tale of rockers who drink a lot, do drugs a lot, and have sex a lot. Instead, it probes the life of rock musicians who will never be stars, but keep slogging away at it anyway, because it’s what they love to do.

Tom, if you must deal with clichés, use This Is Spinal Tap! as your guide. Director Rob Reiner brilliantly mocked the absurdities of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle in what some consider the best rock movie of all time.

Tip #5: There’s a fine line between goofy and joyful.

Rock of Ages opens with Julianne Hough as a small-town girl determined to make it big. She boards a bus bound for Hollywood and soon passengers are crooning advice to her via Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian.” I have no idea why no one on the bus broke into a screaming fit begging to get off at the next stop.

Tom – this brings us to Cameron Crowe, again. The man knows how to show power of music to create joy. Crowe explored his years as a Rolling Stone journalist in the fantastic Almost Famous. In one scene, the weariness of life on the road has clearly taken its toll. However, the tour bus travelers break into an impromptu sing-along with Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and everyone on the bus – and in the theater – is left smiling.

Tip #6: Rock music has the power to heal.

The Music Never Stopped tells the real-life story of a 30-something whose short-term memory is robbed from him by a brain tumor. As a result, his mind is stuck in the teen version of himself in the early ‘70s. His father, desperate to connect with his son, realizes the only way to do so is through the music of his son’s youth. Despite vehement opposition to his son’s Deadhead tastes, the pivotal point of the movie is when father and son go to a Grateful Dead concert together.

Rock of Ages, however, just leaves viewers in pain. Tom, we know you’re hurting as well, but you can get through this. You can make a rock-themed blockbuster. After all, you’re the guy who taught us all to love old time rock ‘n’ roll – and in your tighty whiteys, no less.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Passenger’s “Let Her Go” released

Last updated 2/15/2021.

Let Her Go


Writer(s): Mike Rosenberg (see lyrics here)

Released: July 24, 2012

First Charted: April 2013

Peak: 5 US, 14 AC, 14 AA, 2 UK, 5 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 1.83 UK, 8.2 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2570.0 video, 1029.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Passenger is actually the moniker used by British indie pop/folk/rock singer/songwriter Mike Rosenberg. It started out as a group, but the other three members bolted in 2009 and Rosenberg kept the name. He released his third album, All the Little Lights, under the name in 2012. “Let Her Go” was the second single from the album. It topped the charts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland. SF It won the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work. WK

He came up with the song while finishing a set at a university bar in Australia. He was the supporting act and was met with utter indifference. While feeling down, he came up with the idea for the song about his ex-girlfriend. SF The woman he wrote about knows it is about her. He told Rolling Stone “We’re good friends now…I think she’s still kind of got mixed feelings about it. She’s happy for me, but it is pretty weird.” SF

Rosenberg told Female First that “the song has two meanings. The first is quite literal as I wrote it after a break up and it is about letting her go. But then there is a bigger idea going on and is more about not really understanding and knowing what you have until it is gone.” SF He told VH1 that while he “definitely felt like it had something,” he “didn’t believe I could have a song on the radio, because generally, folk music doesn’t get on commercial radio…I kinda thought that that kind of success was for other people.” SF

Resources and Related Links:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Billie Holiday charted with “Strange Fruit”: July 22, 1939

First posted 7/22/2012; updated 2/1/2020.

Strange Fruit

Billie Holiday

Writer(s): Abel Meeropol aka Lewis Allan (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 22, 1939

Peak: 16 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming



Nothing guarantees a hit more than a Jewish schoolteacher’s poem about lynching, right? Abel Meeropol (aka Lewis Allan) was a liberal activist who taught English in the Bronx. JA He was disturbed and inspired by a photograph of a lynching and wrote a poem in 1937 TM which, two years later, became Billie Holiday’s “most influential recording.” NRR Time magazine named it the song of the century, citing how it “is complicated in a unique way — such beautiful humanity in such a shameful topic.” TM “You can feel her anguish” TM as she paints the “devastating image” TM of “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” The lyrics “are still some of the most powerful ever commited to vinyl.” LW Holiday said, “When I sing it, it affects me so much I get sick; it takes all the strength out of me.” LW

Meeropol showed it to Holiday at New York’s Café Society nightclub, where she had already become “a revered jazz singer of some experience.” LW As she said to bandleader and trumpeter Frankie Newton, “Some guy’s brought me a hell of a damn song.” CR

However, it “was a huge leap from the kind of unrequited love songs she was more used to” LW and, not surprisingly, Columbia – her record company – balked at releasing it. She went to Milt Gabler, who ran a record shop and independent jazz label called Commodore, to record the song with Newton. CR Radio banned the now “historic jazz classic” as too controversial. PM-216 “On the first night she performed it, the room was plunged into darkness but for a tiny spot that lit her face. The bar was closed and waiters were ordered to remain still.” CR Jack Schiffman reported that after she performed it at the Apollo, there was “a moment of oppressively heavy silence and then a kind of rustling sound I had never heard before. It was the sound of almost 2000 people sighing.’” CR

The song has been covered by a diverse array of artists including Tori Amos, Tony Bennett, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Sting, UB40, and Cassandra Wilson. Diana Ross sang it in Lady Sings the Blues, the 1972 Billie Holiday biopic.

Resources and Related Links:

  • Billie Holiday’s DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 405.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 181.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 79.
  • NRR National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress The Full National Recording Registry
  • TM Time magazine All-TIME 100 Songs (2011)
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 216.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blind Faith released its only album: July 21, 1969

left to right: Ginger Baker, Rick Grech, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood; image from

“When you look back over time at the various rock ‘supergroups,’ the one that really started it all was Blind Faith.” NO The group, “which scarcely lasted six months,” AMG was Clapton’s attempt to get out from under the weight of the “massively popular blues-rock power trio” TM of Cream, which also consisted of bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Bruce. The latter two “were frequently arguing, and there was considerable tension about their future musical direction.” AZ

“Clapton wanted space to be a little adventurous with his music” AZ and “sought out [Steve] Winwood for some informal jamming in early spring 1969.” TM The pair had “worked together briefly in the short-lived Powerhouse project” SW and Winwood had, while still a teen, “demonstrated deep appreciation of soul and R&B on several hits with the Spencer Davis Group” TM before fronting his own group, Traffic.

After Baker turned up uninvited TM and Family’s Rick Grech (who later worked with Winwood in the reformed Traffic) was added on bass, “rock’s first supergroup was in place.” TM “Concert promoters rushed to book the band before any material had been completed, hence the band’s eventual name, Blind Faith.” SH With so little repertoire, the group relied in part on Cream songs in concert and while crowds went wild, it was exactly what Clapton wanted to avoid.

Buy at Amazon

“Refined through jamming, Blind Faith’s music was less dense and more transparent than that of Cream” TM by merging that group’s “heavy riffing and outsized song lengths” AMG with Traffic’s “soulful blues.” AMG Vocally, Winwood “sings like he’s got one last chance to redeem himself.” TM “Surrounded by Eric Clapton’s questioning lead guitar, the herculean drumming of Ginger Baker, and oceans of reverb, his voice became almost celestial.” TM “His performance on Sea of Joy, one of several originals he wrote for Blind Faith, is a marvel of optimism – at once perfectly formed and utterly spontaneous. His ecstatic vocals connect the rhythm section’s galloping roar to moments of placid, lakeside-at-sunset calm.” TM

Can’t Find My Way Home

Highlights include “the virtuoso electric blues of Had to Cry Today, the acoustic-textured Can't Find My Way Home, the soaring Presence of the Lord (Eric Clapton’s one contribution here as a songwriter, and the first great song he ever authored) and Sea of Joy.” AMG

Presence of the Lord

“Not all of it works;” AMG “the band doesn’t do much with the Buddy Holly song Well All Right; and Ginger Baker’s Do What You Like was a little weak to take up 15 minutes of space on an LP that might have been better used for a shorter drum solo and more songs. Unfortunately, the group was never that together as a band and evidently had just the 42 minutes of new music here ready to tour behind.” AMG

Aside from the music, there was “the controversial original cover with the 12-year-old girl and her airplane.” NO A later version “featured a black and white photo of the group taken at Clapton’s home in Surrey.” NO

The group’s “self-titled debut, released in the summer of 1969, was a hit, but the extreme pressure on the group” SH and “Clapton’s greater interest in Blind Faith’s opening act Delaney & Bonnie & Friends” WK “led to their breakup even before the end of the year.” SH “Despite the crash-and-burn history of the band itself,” AMG “Blind Faith’s first and last album…remains one of the jewels” AMG in its individual member’s catalogs and “one of the true landmark albums of the rock era.” NO


Resources and Related Links:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Indigo Girls Live in Kansas City at Harrahs’ Voodoo Lounge: July 19, 2012

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls, image from

Last night my wife and I went to see the Indigo Girls at Harrah’s Voodoo Lounge in Kansas City. We’ve both been fans since pretty much the beginning, but neither of us had ever seen this alternative rock/folk duo from Georgia. The genre tags are key here – I’ve viewed Amy Ray and Emily Saliers as more folk-rock singers. Consequently I expected a stripped-down affair with a lot of focus on acoustic guitar and, quite possibly, no additional musicians.

Instead, they were backed by a five-piece rock group called the Shadowboxers (who also opened). Who would have guessed the Indigo Girls would put on a show with four guitarists on stage? Then again, they had to make use of the rack of thirty-something guitars which sat behind the keyboardist. It also kept Melissa, the grungy fifty-something guitar tech busy since she brought Amy and Emily a new guitar for every song. I joked with my wife that at some point Melissa should hand the same guitar back and see if anyone noticed.

Indigo Girls in concert in Kansas City

The more rock-oriented show was better suited to Amy’s grittier voice and slightly more animated stage presence. The folksier Emily often appeared to be going through the motions, often looking bored and even annoyed. My wife and I both thought the highlights were the two songs which Amy and Emily performed with no one else on stage – “Power of Two” and “All That We Let In.” The latter, which Emily dedicated to a recently-deceased fan, nearly drew me to tears.

Part of the fascination of the show was seeing a group who is well-established, given their dozen albums released in their 25-year history. However, without a lot of airplay over the years, they are blessed with not having to commit to a set list dominated by songs which fans would never let them get away with skipping. Frankly, the only song I figured they never jettison was “Closer to Fine,” but even then the closing number – and the one which garnered the loudest crowd response – was actually “Galileo.”

Understandably five of the songs were from the most recent album Beauty Queen Sister (2011), but the set list was a nice representation of the duo’s entire careers with cuts from 9 of their 12 studio albums. Here’s the full set list with footnotes referencing the albums from which the songs came.

The Set List

1. Least Complicated 5
2. Heartache for Everyone 9
3. Gone 12
4. Get Out the Map 6
5. Tried to Be True 2
6. Feed and Water the Horses 12
7. Mariner Moonlighting 12
8. Power of Two 5
9. Shed Your Skin 6
10. Trouble 7
11. Moment of Forgiveness 8
12. Virginia Woolf 4
13. Making Promises 12
14. What Are You Like 11
15. Share the Moon 12
16. Love of Our Lives 11
17. Tether 9
18. Closer to Fine 2
19. Go 7
20. Galileo 4

21. All That We Let In 9
22. Tangled Up in Blue *

Closer to Fine (live in Kansas City)

1 Strange Fire (1987): 0 songs
2 Indigo Girls (1989): 2 songs
3 Nomads Indians Saints (1990): 0 songs
4 Rites of Passage (1992): 2 songs
5 Swamp Ophelia (1994): 2 songs
6 Shaming of the Sun (1997): 2 songs
7 Come on Now Social (1999): 2 songs
8 Become You (2002): 1 song
9 All That We Let In (2004): 3 songs
10 Despite Our Differences (2006): 0 songs
11 Poseidon and the Bitter Bug (2009): 2 songs
12 Beauty Queen Sister (2011): 5 songs
* Bob Dylan cover (appeared on 1995’s live album 1200 Curfews)

Indigo Girl’s 2010 live album Staring Down the Brilliant Dream

Resources and Related Links:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Elvis Presley charted with “It’s Now Or Never”: July 18, 1960

image from

This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

Elvis Presley’s favorite song BR1 and biggest hit, with international sales topping 20 million, BR1 dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1901, G. Capurro and Eduardo di Capua wrote the Italian aria “O Sole Mio,” which translates to “my sunshine.” BR1 It was first recorded in 1907 by Giuseppe Anselmi SF and made famous by Enrico Caruso in 1916. Tony Martin recorded an English version in 1949 with the title “There’s No Tomorrow.” KL

While overseas in the Army, Elvis heard “O Sole Mio” BB100 and after his publishers couldn’t reach a deal for him to record the “Tomorrow” version, they went to the famed Brill Building writers and asked four separate teams to craft new lyrics for the song. Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold came up with the best version KL with “It’s Now Or Never.” It borrows the chord progression and melody of the original. SF Elvis even brought the version of “O Sole Mio” by Mario Lanza to the studio as a blueprint. KL It helped him develop “a more adult, operatic sound” than anything he’d recorded before, BR1 marking his transition from a “rock ‘n’ roll singer to an adult entertainer.” KL

It’s Now Or Never

Due to copyright disputes over the original “O Sole Mio,” the song took a few more months before it saw release in Britain. BR1 Anticipation was so high when it was released in November that it became The King’s second single to enter the British chart at #1 and was the country’s fastest-selling single in history. BR1 The song returned to the top of the British charts a second in 2005 when a batch of Elvis singles were re-released.

Worthy of note – famed singer Barry White heard this song while in jail for steaing tires. It had such an impact, he decided to pursue a music career. SF


Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kerrang!’s “20 Greatest Rock Stars Ever”

image from Queen’s Facebook page

I am a fan of lists. They serve a purpose – they spark debate and hopefully inspire people to seek out new music. It is ridiculous to expect a list to make all people happy. In fact, I roll my eyes when people react to a list with “this sucks” or “whoever put this list together knows nothing about music.” Dear list haters – it shows an incredible arrogance to berate another’s tastes simply because they aren’t the same as yours.

However, I am baffled by this list by Kerrang!, a UK-based magazine devoted to hard rock and heavy metal. I’ll refrain from hypocritical comments like “this sucks,” but I will point out how this list differs from others.

1. This list is an oddity in that it is a mostly-singer list, but also includes AC/DC’s Angus Young, Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich, and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Even #1, Jimi Hendrix, arguably gets there on the strength of his guitar playing more than singing.

2. Only 10 of the 20 names on this list make the DMDB’s list of the Top 100 Singers of All Time. Is the DMDB list definitive? Certainly not. I made the list and will concede it has problems (namely too little focus on the rock era). However, the DMDB list aggregates 27 best-of lists, which offers insight into what names are more universally recognized as the greats.

3. Perhaps the greatest indicator of just how idiosyncratic this list is comes in the “new” names. Seven people make the Kerrang! list – but none of the other 26 lists aggregated into the DMDB list. As already indicated, some of those are not singers (Angus Young, Lars Ulrich, Jimmy Page), but there are also singers making their virgin appearance in the database. Gene Simmons and Marilyn Manson are big enough names it might seem surprising not to have seen them show up already. But David Yow of The Jesus Lizard and Speedo of Rocket from the Crypt? Uh, yeah.

Anyway, here’s the list in full:

Kerrang!’s 20 Greatest Rock Stars Ever

Jimi Hendrix, image from

1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Billie Joe Armstrong
3. Freddie Mercury

Queen’s Freddie Mercury’s got nothing on Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong – so says Kerrang!; image from

4. Axl Rose
5. Angus Young
6. Kurt Cobain
7. Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons – I’m surprised this is his first appearance out of the 27 best-singers lists aggregated by the DMDB. Image from

8. Lars Ulrich
9. David Lee Roth
10. Dave Grohl
11. Iggy Pop
12. Courtney Love

Courtney Love is a bigger rock star than Jimmy Page? A bigger mess, perhaps. Image from

13. Bruce Dickinson
14. Jimmy Page
15. Marilyn Manson
16. Speedo (Rocket from the Crypt)

Rocket from the Crypt’s Speedo; no, I’d never heard of him either before the Kerrang! list. Image from

17. Mike Patton
18. Joey Ramone
19. Lemmy (Motorhead)
20. David Yow (The Jesus Lizard)

David Yow, apparently bigger than Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Bono, and a slew of others. Image from

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” hit #1 in the UK: July 14, 1962

image from

This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

Ray Charles career was marked by the blending of multiple genres. He started out in 1949 as a blues singer, but refashioned himself as more of an R&B musician when he went to Atlantic Records in 1952. KL Before he left there, he had dipped into country music as well, one of the first R&B stars to do so. JA

Once at ABC-Paramount, he even recorded a full album of country songs with 1962’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. They weren’t crazy about the idea. As Charles told Rolling Stone in 1973, ABC was concerned that he was going to lose his fan base, to which Charles said, “I’ll do it anyway.” BR1

I Can’t Stop Loving You

The result was the best-selling album of Charles’ career, KL spearheaded by perhaps the greatest crossover song of all-time – “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” The song originated in 1958 as a #7 country hit for Don Gibson. Charles gave the song “a soulful voice and added a middle of the road choir and strings,” KL turning it into the biggest pop song of 1962, WHC the biggest R&B hit of Ray Charles’ career, his biggest pop hit, and his biggest AC hit. Ironically, the song did not hit the country charts.

Of course, it might not have hit any of the charts if it weren’t for Tab Hunter. While DJs had picked up the song after the Charles’ album came out, RS500 ABC didn’t put out a single of it until after Hunter’s “note for note copy” which even duplicated the cracks in Charles’ voice. KL ABC then whittled Charles’ rendition down to “a 45-friendly two and a half minutes” and rushed it out for single release. RS500


Resources and Related Links: