Monday, January 31, 2022

Aural Fixation: National Recording Registry - Kenny Loggins' "Footloose"

Aural Fixation:

National Recording Registry - “Footloose”

Aural Fixation” is a music-themed column I wrote for from 2011-2013. They are no longer online there, but I have reformatted them here at the DMDB blog with additional videos, photos, and links, such as where to buy referenced albums. I have also used the title “Aural Fixation” for any essays I have written outside of as well. To see the essays, check out the Dave’s Music Database Aural Fixation page.

The essays from have been gathered in book form as Aural Fixation: Essays from a Music Obsessive. Essays written from 2009 to 2011 have been gathered in the book No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”. You can purchase the essays in book format here.

At the request of the Library of Congress, I wrote this piece in 2022 about Kenny Loggins’ song “Footloose,” a 2017 inductee into the National Recording Registry You can read the original here or read it below.

The Movie:

Kevin Bacon bounds into the prom in the closing scene of “Footloose” with his rouse-the troops proclamation “I thought this was a party! Let’s dance!” Audiences heeded the celebratory cry and the movie danced its way to the top of the box office for three weeks in early 1984. It raked in $80 million domestically, ranking #6 for the year. 1

Thematically, the movie traversed in the classic trope of puritanical adults bent on rescuing misguided, rebellious teens from their delinquent proclivities. When outsider Ren (Bacon) comes to town, he’s stunned by the antiquated no-dancing-allowed law and becomes a rebel with a cause. His effort to fight the system puts him at odds with the town council and local preacher (John Lithgow).

It may sound like a plot set in the emergence of rock-n-roll in the 1950s, but the seemingly eyerolling fiction was based on real events in the present day. In 1981, the high school junior class in the Oklahoma town of Elmore City petitioned to overturn an 1898 law outlawing dancing so they could hold a prom. Reverend F.R. Johnson, from the nearby town of Hennepin, declared, “No good has ever come from a dance… When boys and girls hold each other they get sexually aroused.” 2

Dean Pitchford turned it into a movie. He’d never penned a screenplay before but was no novice to songwriting. He won an Academy Award as the lyricist for the title song to the 1980 film Fame. Irene Cara turned it into a top-five hit. Pitchford would also co-write the nine songs which comprised the Footloose soundtrack.

The Soundtrack:

Nineteen eight-four was one of the most important years in the history of pop music. Michael Jackson’s Thriller wrapped up a record-breaking run of seven top-ten hits. Bruce Springsteen unleashed his own blockbuster with Born in the U.S.A., eventually matching Thriller’s enviable count. Prince, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, and Huey Lewis & the News all similarly milked albums for multiple top tens in 1984.

Only five titles topped the Billboard 200 album chart that year. In addition to Thriller and Born in the U.S.A., Prince reached the summit with his Purple Rain soundtrack and Huey Lewis & the News achieved the feat with their Sports album. The only other chart-topper that year was the Footloose soundtrack, which logged ten weeks at #1.

With sales certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for nine million, Footloose ranks as one of the ten best-selling soundtracks of all time. 3 In 2007, The National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed the soundtrack among their “Definitive 200” list of albums. Dave’s Music Database ranked the album as one of the top 100 soundtracks of all time and one of the top 100 albums of the 1980s. Like its peers, the album sent a slew of ditties into the upper echelons of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Six of the nine songs charted, most notably the Mike Reno and Ann Wilson ballad “Almost Paradise” (#7) and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams (#1).

The Song:

Of course, the most memorable cut was the title song, co-written and performed by Kenny Loggins. Released as the first single, the toe-tapping “Footloose” ousted Van Halen’s “Jump” (itself fueled by a can’t-sit-still manic energy) from the pinnacle the week of March 31. The call-to-dance anthem ranked #4 for the year. 4

It was the biggest hit of Loggins’ career, but it wasn’t his first venture into top-ten territory. He’d reached #4 with the 1972 Loggins & Messina song “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and hit #5 in 1978 with “Whenever I Call You Friend,” a duet with Stevie Nicks. In 1980, Loggins proved his talents could translate to the movies when “I’m Alright,” from “Caddyshack,” got to #7.

However, being part of 1984’s cream of the crop isn’t an automatic pass into the National Recording Registry. Take a gander at the top 10 songs of 1984: 4

  1. Prince, “When Doves Cry”
  2. Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”
  3. Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson, “Say, Say, Say”
  4. Kenny Loggins, “Footloose”
  5. Phil Collins, “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”
  6. Van Halen, “Jump”
  7. Lionel Richie, “Hello”
  8. Yes, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
  9. Ray Parker, Jr., “Ghostbusters”
  10. Culture Club, “Karma Chameleon”
Other than Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose,” only Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” both as part of their respective albums, have been inducted into the National Recording Registry. None of the other songs have been inducted as parts of albums or as individual songs. In fact (as of this writing), only six songs from the entire decade have been inducted (not including those as parts of albums). What makes “Footloose” so special?

The American Film Institute named it one of the top 100 movie songs. Dave’s Music Database also ranks it in its top 100 movie list, as well as lists for party songs and mainstream rock tracks. It also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Often the tunes that capture collective hearts and souls are those that elicit the listener to bump and grind, whether it be in the bedroom or on the dance floor. In the movie “Footloose,” music serves as a clarion call for the youthful spirit to kick back against the stodgy powers-that-be who would dare to squelch that need to groove, clothed or otherwise.

However, the lyrics and mood of the song “Footloose” don’t sound the alarm to unite in extending middle fingers to some oppressive authority. They don’t incite rebellion or have any political motivation. Like Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” one of the other National Recording Registry inductees from the ‘80s, the song is simply about having a good time and partying the night away. Like Bill Haley & the Comets’ “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock,” Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” and Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” (all National Recording Registry inductees) it comes down to Ren’s immortal words at the closing of “Footloose”: “Let’s dance!”

Dave Whitaker has authored more than 20 books including “Music of the 1980s” and “The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.” His website, is devoted to ranking, rating, and reviewing music of all genres and eras. It has more than two million visits while his Dave’s Music Database podcast, available on Spotify, has reached listeners in over 50 countries.

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 1/31/2022; updated 10/28/2023.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Top 100 Songwriters of the Rock Era

Songwriters of the Rock Era:

Top 100

This list was originally posted on the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page on July 1, 2010 and then updated on March 9, 2012, aggregating 36 different sources (see resources at bottom of page).

Despite attempts to gather a wide variety of lists, the emphasis of the lists still heavily largely on singer/songwriters from the rock era, giving short shrift to Broadway, early 20th century writers, and classical composers. As such, I have created two other lists – Composers from Broadway and the Early 20th Century and The Top 50 Classical Composers. However, here’s the list of rock-era songwriters.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

Bob Dylan, image from

1. Bob Dylan
2. John Lennon/ Paul McCartney
3. Paul Simon
4. Bruce Springsteen
5. Pete Townshend
6. Neil Young
7. Mick Jagger/ Keith Richards
8. Elton John/ Bernie Taupin
9. Joni Mitchell
10. David Bowie

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, image from

11. Leonard Cohen
12. Brian Wilson
13. Carole King
14. Led Zeppelin: John Bonham/ John Paul Jones/ Jimmy Page/ Robert Plant
15. Ray Davies
16. Sting
17. Stevie Wonder
18. Pink Floyd: Syd Barrett/ David Gilmour/ Nick Mason/ Roger Waters/ Richard Wright
19. Chuck Berry
20. Van Morrison

Paul Simon, image from

21. Tom Waits
22. Billy Joel
23. Jerry Leiber/ Mike Stoller
24. Kurt Cobain
25. U2: Bono/ Adam Clayton/ The Edge/ Larry Mullen, Jr.
26. Elvis Costello
27. Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/ Eddie Holland
Burt Bacharach/ Hal David 28.
29. Smokey Robinson
30. James Taylor

Bruce Springsteen, image from

31. John Fogerty
32. Jim Morrison
33. Lou Reed
34. Morrissey
35. Kris Kristofferson
36. Don Henley
37. Bob Marley
38. Prince
39. Gerry Goffin
40. Queen: John Deacon/ Brian May/ Freddie Mercury/ Roger Taylor

Pete Townshend, image from

41. Dolly Parton
42. Michael Jackson
43. Nick Cave
44. Jackson Browne
45. Randy Newman
46. Peter Gabriel
47. Kenneth Gamble/ Leon Huff
48. R.E.M.: Peter Buck/ Bill Berry/ Mike Mills/ Michael Stipe
49. Buddy Holly
50. Neil Diamond

Neil Young, image from Samuel sounds blog

51. Eric Clapton
52. Barry Mann/ Cynthia Weil
53. Roy Orbison
54. Jeff Barry/ Ellie Greenwich
55. Doc Pomus/ Mort Shuman
56. Joe Strummer/ Mick Jones
57. Willie Nelson
58. George Harrison
59. Glenn Frey
60. James Brown

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, image from

61. Thom Yorke/ Jonny Greenwood
62. Little Richard
63. Eddie Vedder
64. Cat Stevens
65. The Bee Gees: Barry Gibb/ Maurice Gibb/ Robin Gibb
66. David Crosby
67. Isaac Hayes/ David Porter
68. Neil Sedaka
69. Jimmy Webb
70. Paul Anka

Elton John and Bernie Taupin

71. David Byrne
72. Curtis Mayfield
73. Boudleaux Bryant/Felice Bryant
74. Lionel Richie
75. Stevie Nicks
76. Carly Simon
77. Noel Gallagher
78. Diane Warren
79. Al Green
80. Phil Collins

Joni Mitchell

81. Robbie Robertson
82. Sam Cooke
83. Loretta Lynn
84. Otis Redding
85. Chuck D
86. Fats Domino/ Dave Bartholomew
87. Tom Petty
88. Chrissie Hynde
89. Frank Zappa
90. Barry Manilow

David Bowie

91. Jim Croce
92. Otis Blackwell
93. Beck
94. Phil Spector
95. Patti Smith
96. Jimi Hendrix
97. Paul Westerberg
98. Richard Thompson
99. Marvin Gaye
100. John Mayer

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 7/1/2010; last updated 1/26/2022.

Damon Albarn: Top 50 Songs

Damon Albarn

Top 50 Songs

Damon Albarn is a singer/songwriter who was born 3/23/1968 in Whitechapel, London, England. He first achieved fame during the Britpop era with his band Blur. He later formed Gorillaz and the supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen. He has also worked as a solo artist.

Click here to see other best-of lists from performers and here to see other best-of lists from songwriters and/or producers.


Top 50 Songs

Dave’s Music Database lists are determined by song’s appearances on best-of lists as well as chart success, sales, radio airplay, streaming, and awards. This list includes songs by Blur; Gorillaz; The Good, the Bad & the Queen; and Damon Albarn as a solo artist.

DMDB Top 1%:

1. Song 2 (Blur, 1997)

DMDB Top 2%:

2. Feel Good Inc. (Gorillaz with De La Soul, 2005)
3. Girls & Boys (Blur, 1994)

DMDB Top 5%:

4. Clint Eastwood (Gorillaz, 2001)
5. Parklife (Blur, 1994)
6. Dare (Gorillaz with Shaun Ryder, 2005)

DMDB Top 10%:

7. This Is a Low (Blur, 1994)
8. Country House (Blur, 1995)
9. There’s No Other Way (Blur, 1991)
10. Out of Time (Blur, 2003)

DMDB Top 20%:

11. Beetlebum (Blur, 1997)
12. The Universal (Blur, 1995)
13. Stylo (Gorillaz with Mos Def & Bobby Womack, 2010)
14. Tender (Blur, 1999)
15. 19-2000 (Gorillaz, 2001)

DMDB Top 20%:

16. Coffee + TV (Blur, 1999)
17. Chemical World (Blur, 1993)
18. Charmless Man (Blur, 1995)
19. On Melancholy Hill (Gorillaz, 2010)
20. To the End (Blur, 1994)

21. She’s So High (Blur, 1990)
22. For Tomorrow (Blur, 1993)
23. Dirty Harry (Gorillaz, 2005)
24. Kingdom of Doom (The Good, the Bad, & the Queen; 2007)
25. End of a Century (Blur, 1994)
26. Music Is My Radar (Blur, 2000)
27. Tomorrow Comes Today (Gorillaz, 2001)
28. Kids with Guns (Gorillaz, 2005)
29. Crazy Beat (Blur, 2003)
30. Doncamatic (Gorillaz with Daley, 2010)

31. No Distance Left to Run (Blur, 1999)
32. Humility (Gorillaz with George Benson, 2018)
33. On Your Own (Blur, 1997)
34. El Mañana (Gorillaz, 2005)
35. Popscene (Blur, 1992)
36. Rock the House (Gorillaz, 2001)
37. Stereotypes (Blur, 1995)
38. Heavy Seas of Love (Damon Albarn, 2014)
39. Rhinestone Eyes (Gorillaz, 2010)
40. Herculean (The Good, the Bad, & the Queen; 2006)

41. Mr. Tembo (Damon Albarn, 2014)
42. Good Song (Blur, 2003)
43. Under the Westway (Blur, 2012)
44. M.O.R. (Blur, 1997)
45. Ascension (Gorillaz with Vince Staples, 2017)
46. The Valley of the Pagans (Gorillaz with Beck, 2020)
47. We Got the Power (Gorillaz with Jehnny Beth, 2017)
48. Green Fields (The Good, the Bad, & the Queen; 2007)
49. Bang (Blur, 1991)
50. Everyday Robots (Damon Albarn, 2014)

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 1/26/2022.

The Top 50 Producers of All Time


Top 50

These are the top 50 record producers (with some of the best-known artists they’ve produced in parentheses) as determined by aggregating the sources listed at the bottom of the page.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

1. George Martin (America, The Beatles, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney)
2. Phil Spector (The Beatles, John Lennon, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, The Shirelles)
3. Dr. Dre (Mary J. Blige, Eminem, 50 Cent, NWA, Snoop Dogg)
4. Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Run-D.M.C.)
5. Sam Phillips (Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley)
6. Brian Eno (David Bowie, Coldplay, Talking Heads, U2)
7. Butch Vig (Garbage, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth)
8. Robert “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC, Bryan Adams, The Cars, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Shania Twain)
9. Quincy Jones (Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra)
10. Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/Eddie Holland (Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers, Martha & the Vandellas)

11. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
12. Timbaland (Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake)
13. Todd Rundgren (Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad, Meat Loaf, New York Dolls, XTC)
14. Chris Thomas (INXS, Pretenders, Roxy Music, Sex Pistols)
15. T-Bone Burnett (John Mellencamp, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, The Wallflowers)
16. Daniel Lanois (Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, U2)
17. Tom Dowd (Allman Brothers Band, James Brown, Eric Clapton, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Rod Stewart)
18. Lee “Scratch” Perry (The Clash, Bob Marley & The Wailers)
19. Jerry Wexler (Ray Charles, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave)
20. Glyn Johns (Eagles, Steve Miller Band, The Rolling Stones, The Who)

21. Tony Visconti (Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Sparks, Talking Heads)
22. Jimmy Page (The Firm, Led Zeppelin, John Mayall)
23. Trevor Horn (The Buggles, Paul McCartney, Simple Minds, Yes)
24. Berry Gordy Jr. (Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder)
25. Brendan O’Brien (Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Stone Temple Pilots)
26. John Hammond (Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Bob Dylan, Bilie Holiday, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan)
27. David Foster (Michael Buble, Mariah Carey, Chicago, Celine Dion, Josh Groban)
28. Norman Whitfield (Gladys Knight & the Pips, Rose Royce, Edwin Starr, The Temptations)
29. John Cale (The Modern Lovers, Patti Smith, Squeeze, The Stooges)
30. Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd)

31. Eddie Kramer (Peter Frampton, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, Led Zeppelin)
32. Joe Meek (Ritchie Blackmore, Tom Jones, singer, Screaming Lord Sutch)
33. The Neptunes (Kelis, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake)
34. Alan Parsons (Ambrosia, The Hollies, Pink Floyd, Al Stewart)
35. Shel Talmy (David Bowie, The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Who)
36. Ted Macero (Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald)
37. Steve Albini (Breeders, Nirvana, Pixies)
38. Jimmy Iovine (Dire Straits, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Simple Minds, U2)
39. Phil Ramone (Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, James Taylor)
40. Jimmy Miller (Spencer Davis Group, The Rolling Stones, Traffic)

41. Dave Edmunds (Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stray Cats)
42. Kanye West (Common, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, John Legend)
43. Kenneth Gamble/Leon Huff (The Jacksons, Patti LaBelle, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The O’Jays) 44. Ted Templeman (The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, Van Halen)
45. Hugh Padgham (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Sting)
46. Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Del Shannon, Traveling Wilburys)
47. Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller (The Clovers, The Coasters, The Drifters, Jay & the Americans)
48. Owen Bradley (Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty)
49. Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Metallica)
50. Mark Ronson (Adele, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse)

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 3/14/2012; last updated 1/26/2022.

The Top 20 Music Managers of All Time

Music Managers:

Top 20

Here’s the top 20 music managers (with some of the best-known artists they’ve managed in parentheses) as determined by an aggregation of multiple lists.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

1. Andrew Loog Oldham (The Rolling Stones)
2. Brian Epstein (The Beatles)
3. Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley)
4. Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin)
5. Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols)
6. Don Arden (Black Sabbath)
7. Allen Klein (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones)
8. Don Kirshner (The Monkees, Kansas)
9. Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band)
10. Kit Lambert (The Who)

11. Robert Stigwood (The Bee Gees)
12. Lou Pearlman (Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync)
13. Tony Defries (David Bowie)
14. Irving Azoff (Eagles)
15. Chris Stamp (The Who, Jimi Hendrix)
16. Simon Fuller (Spice Girls)
17. Jon Landau (Bruce Springsteen)
18. Dee Anthony (Tony Bennett, Peter Frampton)
19. Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber)
20. Joseph Jackson (The Jackson 5)

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 5/20/2017; last updated 1/26/2022.

The Top 50 Classical Composers

Classical Composers:

Top 50

This list was 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 sources below), have been aggregated to create the official Dave’s Music Database list 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.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

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/Related Links:

  • Dave’s Music Database: Lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories
  • 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.

First posted 7/28/2012; last updated 1/26/2022.

The Top100 Keyboardists/Pianists of All Time


Top 100

This is one of the DMDB’s most diverse best-of lists, with everything from classical (Beethoven, Mozart) to jazz (Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock) to R&B (Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder) to pop/rock (Billy Joel, Elton John) to progressive rock (Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman). As always, DMDB lists are determined by an aggregation of multiple lists.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

1. Franz Liszt
2. Art Tatum
3. Vladimir Horowitz
4. Chick Corea
5. Thelonious Monk
6. Bill Evans
7. Frederic Chopin
8. Sergei Rachmaninoff
9. Ludwig van Beethoven
10. Oscar Peterson

11. Dave Brubeck
12. Duke Ellington
13. Ray Manzarek
14. Josef Hoffman
15. Keith Emerson
16. Herbie Hancock
17. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
18. McCoy Tyner
19. Ahmad Jamal
20. Earl Hines

21. Billy Joel
22. Count Basie
23. Keith Jarrett
24. Erroll Garner
25. Richard Wright
26. Glenn Gould
27. Sviatoslav Richter
28. Tommy Flanagan
29. Red Garland
30. Horace Silver

31. Fats Waller
32. Bud Powell
33. Jelly Roll Morton
34. Wynton Kelly
35. Jon Lord
36. Gene Harris
37. Jordan Rudess
38. Rick Wakeman
39. Arthur Rubenstein
40. Gregg Rolie

41. Stevie Wonder
42. Alfred Cortot
43. Elton John
44. Steve Winwood
45. Jonathan Cain
46. Claudio Arrau
47. Teddy Wilson
48. George Shearing
49. Al Kooper
50. Martha Argerich

51. Alfred Brendel
52. James P. Johnson
53. John Paul Jones
54. Ray Charles
55. Billy Taylor
56. Nicky Hopkins
57. Andre Previn
58. Arturo Bendetti Michelangeli
59. Jan Hammer
60. Henry “Hank” Jones

61. Willie “The Lion” Smith
62. Nat “King” Cole
63. Billy Powell
64. Hampton Hawes
65. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan
66. Patrick Moraz
67. Bobby Timmons
68. Neal Doughty
69. Janne Warman
70. Tony Banks

71. Walter Gleseking
72. Robert Schumann
73. Sonny Clark
74. Billy Preston
75. Liberace
76. Phineas Newborn Jr.
77. Brian Eno
78. Gregg Allman
79. Evgeny Kissin
80. George Duke

81. Eubie Blake
82. Mose Alison
83. Mary Lou Williams
84. Rod Argent
85. Dennis DeYoung
86. Michael Petrucciani
87. Paul Bley
88. Kerry Livgren
89. Kenny Drew
90. Richard Tandy

91. Brad Mehldau
92. Don Airey
93. Geoff Downes
94. Alicia Delarrocha
95. Marc-Andre Hamelin
96. Roy Bittan
97. Mike Pinder
98. Robert Lamm
99. Vince Guaraldi
100. Joe Sample

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 5/14/2017; last updated 1/26/2022.

Top 50 Composers from Broadway and the Early 20th Century

Broadway/Early 20th Century Composers:

Top 50

This list was first posted on March 22, 2012 in honor of the births of two of Broadway’s most celebrated composers (Stephen Sondheim: March 22, 1930; Andrew Lloyd Webber: March 22, 1948). This list focused on the top composers from Broadway and the early 20th century. A separate list produced around the same time focused on The Top 100 Songwriters of the Rock Era.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

George and Ira Gershwin, image from

1. George Gershwin
2. Richard Rodgers
3. Stephen Sondheim
4. Andrew Lloyd Webber
5. Oscar Hammerstein II

Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

6. Irving Berlin
7. Cole Porter
8. Leonard Bernstein
9. Jerry Herman
10. Alan Jay Lerner

Stephen Sondheim

11. Tim Rice
12. Frederick Loewe
13. Cy Coleman
14. Frank Loesser
15. Stephen Schwartz

Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice

16. Jerome Kern
17. Sheldon Harnick
18. John Kander
19. Charles Strouse
20. Lee Adams

Irving Berlin

21. Marvin Hamlisch
22. Harold Arlen
23. Jerry Bock
24. Betty Comden
25. Adolph Green

Cole Porter, image from

26. Jule Styne
27. Ira Gershwin
28. Richard Adler
29. Jerry Ross
30. Fred Ebb

Leonard Bernstein, image from

31. Woody Guthrie
32. Lorenz Hart
33. E.Y. “Yip” Harburg
34. John Phillip Sousa
35. Burton Lane

Jerry Herman, image from

36. Harold Rome
37. Kurt Weill
38. Johnny Mercer
39. Bob Merrill
40. Noel Coward

Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe

41. George M. Cohan
42. Alan Menken
43. Richard Sherman
44. Robert Sherman
45. Dorothy Fields

Jerome Kern, image from

46. Pete Seeger
47. Jonathan Larson
48. Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter
49. Fats Waller
50. Irving Caesar

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First posted 3/22/2012; last updated 1/26/2022.

The Top 50 Music Executives of All Time


Top 100

Here’s the top 50 music executives. The record companies with which they were associated are shown in parentheses after each name. This list, as always with DMDB lists, was determined by an aggregation of multiple lists.

See other lists of Acts/Music Makers by Categories.

1. Berry Gordy, Jr. (Motown)
2. Sam Phillips (Sun)
3. Leonard Chess (Chess)
4. Clive Davis (Columbia, Arista)
5. David Geffen (Asylum, Geffen, DGC, Dreamworks SKG)
6. Herb Alpert (A&M)
7. Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic)
8. Jerry Wexler (Atlantic)
9. Nesuhi Ertegun (Atlantic)
10. Jac Holzman (Elektra, Nonesuch)

11. Jim Stewart (Stax)
12. Jimmy Iovine (Interscope)
13. Antonio “L.A.” Reid (LaFace, Arista, Def Jam Island, Epic)
14. Irving Azoff (manager for Christina Aguilera, Bon Jovi, the Eagles, Dan Fogelberg, Journey, Maroon 5, No Doubt, Steely Dan, and Van Halen)
15. Mo Ostin (Verve, Reprise, Warner Bros., DreamWorks SKG)
16. Jerry Moss (A&M)
17. Dr. Dre (Death Row, Aftermath)
18. Tommy Mottola (Sony Music)
19. Phil Chess (Chess)
20. Rick Rubin (Def Jam, American Recordings, Columbia)

21. Milt Gabler (Commodore, Decca)
22. Bill Graham (concert promotor, Fillmore Auditorium)
23. Arif Mardin (Atlantic, Manhattan)
24. Clarence Avant (Venture, Sussex)
25. Seymour Stein (Sire, Warner Bros.)
26. Chris Strachwitz
27. Norman Granz (Clef, Norgran, Down Home, Verve, Pablo)
28. Goddard Lieberson (Columbia)
29. Kenneth Gamble (Philadelphia International)
30. Leon Huff (Philadelphia International)

31. Chris Blackwell (Island)
32. Puff Daddy/P. Diddy (Bad Boy Entertainment)
33. Art Rupe (Speciality)
34. Suge Knight (Death Row)
35. Lou Pearlman (Trans Continental)
36. Syd Nathan (King)
37. Mathew Knowles (manager of Destiny’s Child)
38. Swizz Beatz (Full Surface)
39. Neil Bogart (Casablanca, Boardwalk)
40. Rick Hall (FAME Studios)

41. Willie Mitchell (Hi, Waylo)
42. Simon Cowell (Pop Idol, American Idol)
43. Kanye West (Roc-A-Fella)
44. Smokey Robinson (Motown)
45. Scooter Braun (School Boy Records, Raymond-Braun Media Group)
46. Jerry Ross (Heritage)
47. Jay-Z (Roc-A-Fella)
48. R. Kelly (Rockland)
49. Madonna (Maverick)
50. Miles Copeland III (I.R.S.)

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First posted 5/24/2017; last updated 1/26/2022.