- Michael Jackson- They don't call him the King of Pop for nothing. Michael is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for three different acts spanning three generations. Also, he made Thriller. Thriller.
- Elvis Presley- Mike might be the King of Pop, but Elvis is just the straight up King. If rock and roll has a birthdate, it probably has a something to do with this guy's hips.
- Babe Ruth- The man, the myth, the legend. Even all these years later, no one even comes close to the Sultan of Swat.
- John Lennon-Tough to pick between Paul and John for the higher spot, but Lennon's activism and early death earn enough icon points to be the difference.
- Muhammad Ali-So much more than just a boxer, Ali just epitomizes the word icon.
- Bob Dylan- The voice of a generation and perhaps the greatest songwriter to ever pick up a guitar.
- Marilyn Monroe-Maybe the most beloved movie star ever, Monroe bedded the top athlete, playwright and politicians of her era. Not too shabby.
- Michael Jordan-His Airness, the undisputed greatest sports marketing icon of all time.
- Paul McCartney-May be too low on this list. Paul McCartney is pop music.
- Charlie Chaplin-For a solid twenty-year stretch, there was no more famous person on the entire planet than Charlie Chaplin. Film classics like City Lights and The Gold Rush still hold up today.
- Marlon Brando-Brando basically invented acting as we know it today.
- Frank Sinatra-The dopest crooner that ever lived.
- Alfred Hitchcock-Arguably the greatest director of all time, Hitchcock was also a larger than life figure that brought the cameo to new heights.
- Johnny Carson-The guy for thirty years of late night television.
- Jackie Robinson-A true sports icon and a damn good second baseman to boot.
- David Bowie-If every one of Bowie's personas could have it's own vote, he'd probably be up here five times.
- Martin Scorsese-Hitchcock and Kubrick may be the two most important directors ever, but when it comes to modern film, no one's made more classics than Scorsese.
- Mickey Mantle-If you were a seven-year-old boy during the fifties and sixties, there was no one you dreamed about being more than The Mick.
- Bing Crosby-No recording artist more sold more than Bing in the 20th Century.
- Joe Dimaggio-The Yankee Clipper, his 56-game hit streak is one of the most iconic records in any sport.
- Steven Spielberg-He invented the blockbuster with Jaws, perfected it with E.T. and Jurassic Park, and ascended to new heights with Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
- James Brown-The ultimate frontman and the all-time hardest working dude in show biz.
- Robert DeNiro-The Godfather. Goodfellas. Raging Bull. Taxi Driver. A movie resume to rival any in history.
- Mary Pickford-The OG of pop culture icons, Pickford was the original movie star and possibly the first true celebrity.
- Mick Jagger-The most prolific frontman to ever rock an arena.
- Al Pacino-Before he started drifting into caricature mode in the late 90's, Pacino played some of the most iconic roles in history. Michael Corleone and Tony Montana are the quintessential gangster roles of modern day.
- Harrison Ford-Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Does it get any more iconic?
- Prince-When you can change your name to a symbol and the world just goes along with it, you know you've reached a whole other level of celebrity.
- Paul Newman-From playing Fast Eddie Felson to Cool Hand Luke to Butch Cassidy, there was no cooler star in sixies America than Paul Newman.
- Tom Hanks-Is there anyone more beloved in Hollywood right now than Tom Hanks?
- Stevie Wonder-Stevie signed with Motown at the age of 11 and has been killing it ever since.
- Joe Namath-The first true face of football, Namath's marketability was instrumental to the early success of the NFL.
- Humphrey Bogart-The ultimate leading man during Hollywood's golden age.
- Lucille Ball
- Louis Armstrong
- John Wayne
- Oprah Winfrey-Oprah isn't just a talk show host. She's a media empire.
- Shirley Temple
- Eddie Murphy-Arguably the most important star in SNL history, Eddie single-handedly saved the show from extinction following the original cast exodus.
- Miles Davis-Miles birthed the cool in more ways than one. No modern jazz artist looms larger.
- Richard Pryor-The father of modern stand-up, Pryor transformed his tragic upbringing into comedy gold.
- Bob Marley-10 million dorm room posters can't be wrong.
- David Letterman-A titan of late night, Letterman reinvented what was possible in comedy.
- Meryl Streep-Meryl Streep is to all other actresses what Tiger Woods is to all other black golfers.
- Mel Brooks-The rare five-tool comedian, Mel's writing, directing, and acting talents have earned him the grand slam of entertainment awards (Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Tony).
- Walt Disney
- Bruce Lee-As synonymous with the Kung-Fu flick as any one man could be with a genre of movies.
- Bill Murray
- Elton John
- Denzel Washington
- Liz Taylor
- Bruce Springsteen
- Lorne Michaels
- Tony Bennett
- James Stewart
- Buddy Holly
- Hugh Hefner
- Andy Warhol
- Jayne Mansfield
- Tom Cruise
- Sammy Davis Jr
- Audrey Hepburn
- O.J. Simpson
- Groucho Marx
- Jack Nicklaus
- Jim Brown
- Kathryn Hepburn
- Jon Stewart
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Tiger Woods
- Jerry Seinfeld
- Ray Charles
- Bill Cosby
- Eric Clapton
- LeBron James
- Woody Allen
- Robert Redford
- Magic Johnson
- Jack Nicholson
- Joe Louis
- James Dean
- Sean Connery
- Ernest Hemingway
- Jerry Garcia
- Clark Gable
- Jimi Hendrix
- Johnny Cash
- Clint Eastwood
- Jim Morisson
- Whitney Houston
- Christopher Walken
- Will Ferrell
- Dr. Dre
- Joan Rivers
- Will Smith
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Justin Timberlake
- John Belushi
- Dick Clark
- William Shatner
- Jerry Lewis
- Michael J. Fox
- Notorious BIG
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Rudolph Valentino
- Bo Jackson
- Christopher Reeve
- Kurt Cobain
- Taylor Swift
- Derek Jeter
- Arnold Palmer
- Larry David
- Jay Leno
- Stephen King
- Pamela Anderson
- Grace Kelly
- Evil Kinevil
- Bob Hope
- Hulk Hogan
- Carol Burnett
- Ted Danson
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- Cindy Crawford
- Mike Tyson
- Morgan Freeman
- Louis C.K.
- Samuel L. Jackson
- Brad Pitt
- George Clooney
- Dean Martin
- Judy Garland
- Wayne Gretzky
- Julia Roberts
- Stanley Kubrick
- Steve Martin
- Orson Welles
- Diana Ross
- Kanye West
- Sylvester Stallone
- Britney Spears
- Joe Montana
- Shaquille O'Neal
- Alex Trebek
- George Carlin
The following artists were not selected because they are the best musicians of their respective genres, though many are. They were not selected because they were the very first to do what they did, though many were. Rather, these twenty artists populate this list because they significantly and irrevocably reshaped the musical landscapes of which they were a part. They brought their respective crafts from the fringe to the mainstream, virtually compelling the public to pay attention or be left behind.
1) The Beatles- What is there to say? There's everything before the Beatles, and then there's everything after. They forever changed popular music and defined a generation.
2) Elvis- Say what you will about the King, but the impact he had on popular music cannot be understated. He brought black music to the white masses and gave birth to rock and rock in mainstream America.
3) Robert Johnson-The OG of the blues, the man who sold his soul to the devil so that the world could eventually come to know rock music.
4) James Brown- The hardest working man in show business is rightfully referred to as The Godfather of Soul. While Elvis and the Stones may have been responsible for bringing black music to white people, James Brown brought white people to black music.
5) Bob Dylan- One of the first to inject poetry into his music, Dylan popularized folk music while poignantly speaking to the heart of the 60's generation struggling with an unpopular war and alienation from their parents. Before Dylan, song lyrics largely consisted of simplistic, poppy love ballads.
6) Run DMC- Though not the first guys to ever rhyme into a microphone, Run DMC cemented hip hop as a legitimate art form and brought it to the masses with the help of Aerosmith, Mtv, and a generation of music listeners ready for the next big thing in music.
7) Little Richard- One of the seminal architects of Rock and Rock, Richard Wayne Penniman drew on gospel, rhythm & blues, funk, and boogie-woogie and combined it with an off-the-wall persona to create a show like no one had ever seen.
8) Chuck Berry- John Lennon once said "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." From "Maybelline" to "Johnny B. Goode", Berry, perhaps more than any other artist, put all the pieces together to truly give birth to rock and roll music.
9) The Velvet Underground- Drawing their name from a book about the secret sexual subculture of the early 1960's, Lou Reed and John Cale would go on to create the most seminal experimental/art rock band the country had yet seen. Buried within their verses were the seeds of punk, alternative, and grunge rock.
10) Led Zeppelin- Though predicted to go down like the Hindenburg, Zep created and perfected the hard rock sound. There are few today who didn't draw some influence from the dream team lineup of Page, Plant, Bonham and Paul Jones.
11) Nirvana- Almost overnight, hair metal was out, flannel shirts were in, and "commercial" rock would never be the same again.
12) Bob Marley- When you think reggae, you think Bob Marley, plain and simple.
13) Hank Williams- Though only gracing this earth for a brief twenty-nine years, Hank unquestionably cemented his status as the king of country music. He even found time to bequeath to the world five famous offspring. Are you ready for some football???
14) Charlie Parker- A living personification of the beatnik era, "Bird" was one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. He pioneered the fast tempos and harmonically structured improvisations of the Bebop sound.
15) Black Sabbath- The Godfathers of Heavy Metal, Ozzy and friends made dark music popular.
16) George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic- P-Funk doesn't play funk music, they are funk music. George and the gang continue to dominate the airwaves, lending samples to everyone from Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre to Missy Eliot and Outkast.
17) Louis Armstrong- Satchmo might not be the greatest jazz musician to ever pick up a trumpet, but he's arguably the most important, as the lovable pioneer legitimized the art form for mainstream (read: white) audiences.
18) The Sex Pistols- They crammed punk down mainstream England's throats by injecting a crude, rude, completely irreverent and downright shocking style into popular music.
19) NWA- NWA gave birth to gangsta rap with their raw, unyielding lyrics and all-star lineup that individually would go on to dominate West Coast rap for the next decade.
20) Kraftwerk- One of the most sampled groups of all time, Kraftwerk originated the electronic sound. Coming out of Dusseldorf, Germany, founding members Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter pioneered several groundbreaking musical technologies and techniques, including the Minimoog, Synthanorma Sequencer, and the vocoder. Their use of looping and sampling would eventually be central to the rise of hip hop and techno.
1) The Notorious BIG- Ready to Die -(1994) Around the years '87-'88, a young crack dealer named Christopher Wallace began entertaining local passersby by rapping into a beat-up amp on the street corners around Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Six years later, he was the biggest rapper in the world. Three years after that, he was dead. During the short flash that was his career, only one album was to be released, a top-to-bottom classic with the eerily prophetic title 'Ready to Die'. This album has it all. Sick beats, brilliant lyrics, crazy flows, and that intoxicating voice of Biggie Smalls. Key Tracks: Warning, Juicy, Ready to Die.
2) Nas- Illmatic --(1994) Five months prior to Ready to Die, this 20-year-old Queensbridge native paired with producers Large Professor, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Q-Tip and burst onto the scene with what would be his masterpiece. Calling the album Illmatic after his incarcerated friend Illmatic Ice, Nas originally wanted the cover to feature himself with Jesus in a headlock. Key Tracks: N.Y. State of Mind, Life's a Bitch, One Love.
3) Dr. Dre- The Chronic --(1992) Fresh off of his split with supergroup NWA, Dre took it solo and ended up creating perhaps the best produced rap album of all time. The Chronic would introduce Parliament-laced G-funk to the mainstream and made Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and Nate Dogg stars before they'd ever even released albums of their own. Key Tracks: Nuthin' but a "G" Thang, F*ck wit Dre Day, Let Me Ride.
4) Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt --(1996) In 1996, Jay-Z blew audiences away with his debut effort and first release on label Roc-A-Fella records. Sean Carter had been known as "Jazzy", a nickname that developed into his stage name Jay-Z as an homage to his musical mentor Jaz-O and to the J-Z subway lines that stop by Marcy Avenue. Jaz-O had given Jay-Z his first break by recruiting him on the 1989 song
"Hawaiian Sophie." Two decades later, Jigga is a true hip hop tycoon. Key Tracks: Dead Presidents, Brooklyn's Finest, Can't Knock the Hustle.
5) Public Enemy-It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back --(1988) Channeling the black anger and urban tension so in need of an outlet, Nation of Millions was one of the first truly socially conscious hip hop albums. Key Tracks: Bring the Noise, Don't Believe the Hype, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.
6) The Wu-Tang Clan- Enter The Wu-Tang Clan - 36 Chambers --(1993) In 1993, Ghostface Killah and RZA decided to create a hip hop group whose ethos would be a blend of "Eastern philosophy picked up from kung-fu movies, watered-down Nation of Islam preaching picked up on the New York streets, and comic books." Recruiting the best rappers they could find, RZA set out to produce an album layered with eerie beats, martial-arts movie clips and soul music samples. To decide who appeared on each song, he forced the Wu-Tang rappers to battle with each other. The album's title originates from the 1978 martial arts film 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin'. Key Tracks: C.R.E.A.M, Protect Ya Neck, Bring Da Ruckus.
7) NWA- Straight Outta Compton --(1988) This debut studio album pioneered gangsta rap and scared a whole lotta white people in the process. Instrumental in shifting power to the West Coast, Straight Outta Compton became the first album to reach platinum status without any airplay support or major tours. Key Tracks: Straight Outta Compton, Express Yourself, F*ck The Police.
8) A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory --(1991) Fusing hip hop and jazz, childhood friends Q-Tip and Phife Dawg and high school mate Ali Shaheed Muhammad created an unique brand of intelligent, socially conscious music. Low End features contributions from jazz great Ron Carter on upright bass. Key Tracks: Excursions, Jazz (We've Got), Scenario.
9) Snoop Doggy Dogg- Doggystyle --(1993) Following the success of The Chronic, Doggystyle debuted at number one and sold over 800,000 copies in its first week, the record for a new artist. Key Tracks: Gin and Juice, Who Am I (Whats My Name)?, Lodi Dodi.
10) Raekwon- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx --(1995) Raekwon brought producer RZA and Ghostface Killah along for his solo debut, an album widely regarded as the pioneer of Mafioso rap, a genre later perfected by Biggie and Jay-Z (It was also the first hip hop album to name drop Cristal). It's title suggests that the music was as tough as Cuban link chain jewelry. Key Tracks: Criminology, Glaciers of Ice, Rainy Dayz.
11) Outkast- Aquemini --(1998) Outcast's third studio album took its name from a combination of the duo's astrological signs (Aquarius for Big Boi and Gemini for André 3000). The synthesizer-laden, distinctively Atlanta sounding record took only 2 months to go platinum. Key Tracks: SpottieOttieDopaliscious, Rosa Parks, Return of the "G".
12) The Fugees-The Score --(1996) The second and final album of super-group Wycelf Jean, Lauren Hill and Pras. 18 million sold. Key Tracks: Killing Me Softy, Fu-Gee-La, Ready or Not.
13) 2Pac- All Eyez On Me --(1996) All Eyez was released after Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records and baddest mofo on planet earth, bailed 2Pac out of jail in exchange for signing to his label. Arriving in studio to begin work hours after being released, Pac would lay down what would become his crowning achievement. Key Tracks: 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted, California Love, Ambitionz Az a Ridah.
14) Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force- Planet Rock: The Album--(1986) Respectfully known as the "Grandfather" for his monumental impact on the early development of hip hop, Bambaataa recently became one of the first hop hop artists to be nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Representing Zulu Nation, he released the seminal Planet Rock over two decades ago as a collection of previous singles that had up until then never appeared on an album. Key Tracks: Planet Rock, Looking For the Perfect Beat, Renegades of Funk.
15) Boogie Down Productions-Criminal Minded --(1987) With Criminal Minded, KRS-One and BDP laid the groundwork for gangsta rap, as it was the first album to feature gun-toting MCs on its cover and crime narratives within its tracks. Their hardcore lyrics would become all too real after DJ Scott La Rock was shot and killed a mere five months after this seminal release. Key Tracks: The Bridge is Over, Criminal Minded, South Bronx.
16) Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five- The Message --(1982) Releasing their debut album on upstart Sugarhill Records, DJ Grandmaster Flash and MCs Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Cowboy, Mr. Ness/Scorpio, and Rahiem essentially wrote the rule book on turntablism, break-beat deejaying, and rapping. The title track was the first hip hop song to integrate socially and politically conscious lyrics. Key Tracks: The Message, Scorpio, She's Nasty.
17) Eric B. & Rakim-Paid In Full ---(1987) After Rakim responded to Eric B.'s search for "New York's top MC," the duo got to work after Rakim's friend and roommate Marley Marl permitted them use of his home studio. They would end up creating one of the most influential rap albums ever for its use of samples, internal rhyme, complex lyricism, and laid back flow. Key Tracks: Eric B. Is President, I Know You Got Soul, Paid in Full.
18) Dr. Dre-Chronic 2001 --(2001) Almost a decade after releasing his landmark album The Chronic, Dre took back to the studio to begin work on his long-anticipated follow up. Dre did not mince words about his motivations: "For the last couple of years, there's been a lot of talk out on the streets about whether or not I can still hold my own, whether or not I'm still good at producing. That was the ultimate motivation for me. Magazines, word of mouth and rap tabloids were saying I didn't have it any more. What more do I need to do? How many platinum records have I made? O.K., here's the album -- now what do you have to say?" Point made... Key Tracks: Forgot About Dre, The Next Episode, What's The Difference.
19) The Notorious BIG-Life After Death --(1997)-This double album released posthumously featured guest artists 112, Jay-Z, Lil Kim, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, R. Kelly, The LOX, Kelly Price, and Puff Daddy. Considered a seminal mafioso rap album, it is one of three hip hop albums to ever be certified diamond (10 million US sold). Key Tracks: Notorious Thugs, Hypnotize, Ten Crack Commandments.
20) Run D.M.C.- Run DMC--(1984) Run DMC's debut effort was the first hip-hop album to ever receive a 5-mic rating from The Source. Key Tracks: Rock Box, It's Like That, Sucker M.C.'s
21) Beastie Boys- Licensed To Ill ---(1986)-Some fast facts: It is the first rap LP to top the Billboard 200 chart. It is Columbia Records' fastest selling debut record to date. Kerry King of Slayer made an appearance on the album playing lead guitar on "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn". The '3MTA3' on the cover image of the plane spells 'EATME' when viewed in a mirror. The original title for the album was Don't Be a Faggot but Columbia Records refused to release the album and pressured Russell Simmons into having the Beastie Boys to come up with another name. Key Tracks: Fight for Your Right, No Sleep Til Brooklyn, She's Crafty.
22) 2Pac- Me Against The World --(1995) Recorded in a matter of weeks before Pac was to go to prison on sexual assault charges, MATW would make the embattled rapper the first and only artist to ever have a number one album while serving a prison sentence. Key Tracks: Dear Mama, Me Against the World, Outlaw.
23) Eminem- The Marshall Mathers LP --(2000) Em's third studio album was gritty, angry, and brutally honest, lashing out against critics and illustrating the troubles that his new found fame had induced. The album sold more than 1.79 million copies in its first week in the US alone, making it the fastest selling solo album ever. Key Tracks: Stan, The Way I Am, The Real Slim Shady?
24) Ice Cube- AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted --(1990) Primarily produced by The Bomb Squad, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted made use of several tracks Cube had originally written for NWA before their acrimonious split. Taking on the American justice system, race relations, poverty, and drug addiction in South Central, L.A., Cube produced an instant classic that is as powerful today as it was two decades ago. Key Tracks: AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Endangered Species, Who's the Mack?.
25) Jay-Z- The Blueprint--Despite the bad fortune of being released on September 11, 2001, The Blueprint sold over 426,000 copies in its opening week, becoming Jay-Z's fourth consecutive album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Produced by Kanye West and Just Blaze, it was reportedly cut in two weeks, with Jay-Z allegedly writing the lyrics in two days. Key Tracks: Izzo (H.O.V.A.), Renegade, Girls, Girls, Girls.
26) Big L- Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous --(1995) Like Biggie's Ready to Die, Lifestylez was the only studio album to be dropped prior to it's author's murder. The tremendously underrated LP introduced up-and-comers Jay-Z and Cam'ron. Key Tracks: Put It On, M.V.P., Street Struck.
27) Mobb Deep- The Infamous...--(1995) This rap duo is the third act on this list to hail from Queensbridge. Key Tracks: Shook Ones Pt. II, Temperature's Rising, Survival of the Fittest.
28) LL Cool J- Radio --(1985) This first full length album release on Def Jam Records was primarily produced by co-founder Rick Rubin. Key Tracks: I Can't Live Without My Radio, Rock the Bells, I Need a Beat.
29) Outkast- ATLiens --(1996) "It's deep. So deep that listening to 'ATLiens' you might feel like drowning, but the smooth vocals of Big Boi and the earthy flows of Andre always push you back up to the surface. They are players in the truest sense of the word; not just playing for ends but playing to win in the ultimate battle of life over death, good over bad, and righteousness over evil." --Steve Juon, RapReviews. Key Tracks: ATLiens, Wheelz of Steel, Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac).
30) Run DMC- Raising Hell --(1986) One of the most important rap albums ever for its success in taking the infant the genre mainstream, Raising Hell silenced critics who had deemed hip hop a passing fad. It made its biggest mark with Walk This Way, a collaboration with Aerosmith that became the first hip hop video in heavy rotation on MTV. Key Tracks: Its Tricky, Walk This Way, My Adidas.
31) Bone Thugs N Harmony- E. Eternal 1999 --(1995) Released four months after executive producer Eazy-E's death, Eternal spawned the landmark single "Tha Crossroads", which won a Grammy, went double-platinum, and tied The Beatles' 32-year-old record (1964's "Can't Buy Me Love") for the fastest rising single on the pop charts. Key Tracks: The Crossroads, 1st of tha Month, East 1999.
32) Black Star- Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star- (1998) The sole album from this power duo, the hyper-intelligent Black Star moniker is a nod to the Black Star Line, an early 20th-century African-American shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey. Key Tracks: Definition, Brown Skin Lady, Respiration.
33) Nas- Stillmatic --(2001) Nas harkened back to his Illmatic days with his fifth release, 2001's Stillmatic, which instantly earned the ever sought 5 mic rating from The Source. Highlighting the achievement was Nas' bitter rebuke of Jay-Z with the "Ether", a scathing counterattack that portrayed his rival as both a plagiarist and sell-out. Key Tracks: Got Ur Self A..., One Mic, Ether.
34) GZA- Liquid Swords --(1995) GZA's second solo album is up alongside Cuban Linx as the best of the Wu-Tang solo efforts. Key Tracks: Duel of the Iron Mic, Liquid Swords, Shadowboxin'.
35) Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill --(1998) After breaking out with The Fugees, Hill released her solo debut in 1998, a fusion of hip hop, soul, reggae, R&B, and gospel. The album garnered ten nominations at the 41st Grammy Awards, winning five, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year. Key Tracks: Doo Wop (That Thing), To Zion, Everything Is Everything.
36) Mos Def- Black On Both Sides --(1999) Mos Def's debut solo album post-Blackstar featured live instrumentation and socially-conscious lyrics. Key Tracks: Ms. Fat Booty, Brooklyn, Mathematics.
37) Wu-Tang Clan- Wu-Tang Forever --(1997) The long-awaited follow-up to 36 Chambers, Forever showcased their trademark stream-of-consciousness style of rap. Key Tracks: Triumph, Visionz, As High As Wu-Tang Get.
38) Jay-Z- The Black Album --(2003) J's 8th studio album was promoted as his last, though he would obviously renege on that pronouncement not long after. This epic has been mixed with everything from the Beatles and Grateful Dead to Linkin Park and Prince. Key Tracks: What More Can I Say, Dirt off Your Shoulder, 99 Problems.
39) Cypress Hill- Black Sunday --(1993) This stoner opus marked the first time a Latino group would go platinum. They would later be banned from Saturday Night Live after Muggs smoked a joint on-air and the band trashed their instruments while playing their second single "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That". Key Tracks: Insane In The Brain, Hits From The Bong, I Ain't Goin' Out Like That.
40) Gang Starr- Moment of Truth--(1998) The fifth studio album from DJ Premier and the late great Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), Moment of Truth was the high water mark within a brilliant, nearly two decade-long career. Key Tracks: You Know My Steez, Brooklyn Trooper, Moment of Truth.
41) De La Soul- 3 Feet High and Rising--(1989) Produced by Prince Paul, the album takes its title from a Johnny Cash song called "Five Feet High and Rising". Key Tracks: Me Myself and I, Buddy, Eye Know.
42) Eminem- The Slim Shady LP --(1999)-For a kid in 6th grade, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Eminem introduce himself to the world. This was something unlike anybody I'd ever heard; raw, revealing, humorous, and at the same time brutally violent. The album erupted a firestorm of opposition, as parental groups balked at lyrics that discussed everything from drugging a fifteen-year-old girl to disposing of Em's dead wife's corpse. Key Tracks: Guilty Conscience, My Name Is, '97 Bonnie & Clyde.
43) Beastie Boys- Paul's Boutique --(1989) Incorporating production by the Dust Brothers, the album makes use of samples from 105 different songs. The sampling was uncleared, which was one of the last albums to do so before the landmark Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. case against Biz Markie that forced artists to obtain the rights to any song from which they sampled. Key Tracks: Hey Ladies, Shake Your Rump, The Sounds of Science.
44) Big Pun-Capital Punishment--(1998) As The Source put it, "Capital Punishment is all about execution." To be sure, Pun positively killed it in this debut effort, his spitfire rhyming skills asserting him as one of the most promising figures in hip hop before a heart attack killed him just two short years later. Key Tracks: Still Not a Player, Twinz (Deep Cover 98), You Came Up.
45) EPMD- Strictly Business --(1988) This landmark effort from Eric Sermon and Parish Smith unearthed samples from within a genre to which few other rappers of the era were paying much attention. Contained within its tracks are cuts from ZZ Top, Steve Miller Band, and Eric Clapton. Key Tracks: It's My Thing, Strictly Business, You Gots to Chill.
46) The Roots- Things Fall Apart --(1999) The Roots' fourth studio offering turned out to be their commercial breakthrough. During recording, the group laid down an astonishing 145 songs, which they later whittled down to the 14 that appear on the album. Key Tracks: Adrenaline!, The Next Movement, Act Too (The Love of My Life).
47) Wyclef Jean- The Carnival --(1997) Wyclef kicked off his solo debut with an electric record that combined hip hop, reggae, folk, disco, soul, Son Cubano and Haitian music. As a tribute to his homeland, the final three songs are sung in Haitian Creole. Key Tracks: Gone Till November, We Trying to Stay Alive, Guantanamera
48) Jurassic 5- Quality Control-- (2000) The major label debut of Chali 2na and company played a central role in the development of the alternative rap scene that was burgeoning around the turn of the century. Key Tracks: Quality Control, The Influence, World of Entertainment (W.O.E. is Me)
49) Puff Daddy & the Family- No Way Out --(1997) Originally titled 'Hell Up In Harlem' until the The Notorious B.I.G.'s death, the album topped the album charts in the US with 561,000 units sold in its first week of release. It would go on to win the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. Key Tracks: Victory, Been Around the World, It's All about the Benjamins.
50) Busta Rhymes- When Disaster Strikes... --(1997) Busta's second solo effort reached #3 on the Billboard 200. Key Tracks: Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See, Dangerous, Turn It Up.
Pete Rock and CL Smooth- Mecca and the Soul Brother, Method Man-Tical, Outcast-Stankonia, Nas-I Am..., LL Cool J-Mama Said Knock You Out, Beastie Boys-Check Your Head, Notorious BIG-Born Again, Run DMC-King Of Rock, Ice T-O.G. Original Gangster, Missy Eliot-Supa Dupa Fly, A Tribe Called Quest-Midnight Marauders, Salt N Pepa- Blacks Magic, Kurtis Blow-Kurtis Blow, Big Daddy Kane-Its a Big Daddy Thing, Eric B. & Rakim-Follow the Leader, Gang Starr-Daily Operation, Common-Like Water for Chocolate, KRS One-KRS One, Kanye West-The College Dropout, 50 Cent-Get Rich or Die Tryin', Eminem- The Eminem Show, Nas-It Was Written, Public Enemy-Fear of A Black Planet, DMX- Its Dark and Hell is Hot.
With the advent of the digital music revolution, your favorite tunes are now more accessible than ever. However, as with every great advancement, there are bound to be certain things that get left behind. With the iPod came the demise of the album. Now that fans can pick and choose which songs they want to download off a new release, there is less and less of a need to create that cohesive, quality from top-to-bottom record.
Perhaps even more apparent is the antiquation of the album cover. Back in the day (not that I was actually alive for most of this but...) a record was something to behold. Often, it was just as much art on the outside as was contained within the grooves of the vinyl. While there are certainly a couple groups out there still keeping it real with the album art, for the most part this is a lost craft--a casualty of the digital revolution.
What makes album cover art iconic? Well for starters, it is instantly recognizable. The image it displays symbolizes the band itself, or even better, music in general. It is simple, yet profound--worthy of being displayed on the back of a bumper, or framed in one's living room. Of course, art is going to speak to every person differently, and I am not here to tell you what art was most visually stunning or held the most meaning. Rather, these are the ten most iconic album covers of all time.
- Pink Floyd- Dark Side of the Moon-In March of 1973 Dark Side of the Moon was released. 741 weeks later, it remained on the Billboard charts, longer than any other album in history. With an estimated 45 million units sold, Dark Side may be the greatest album ever (without a doubt in my humble opinion...) Exploring the issues of aging, greed, war, and the mental illness that was inspired by Syd Barret's LSD-fueled descent into madness, the album was one of the first concept albums to ever hit record stores. The landmark prism design was inspired by a photograph that longtime Floyd designer Strom Thorgerson had seen during a brainstorming session with colleague Aubrey Powell. Meeting Richard Wright's request for a "simple and bold" design, the prism also harkened to the band's famous stage lighting. It has since come to epitomize the word "iconic."
- The Beatles- Abbey Road- On the morning of August 8, 1969, photographer Iain Macmillan was given ten minutes to take a photo of the fab four crossing Abbey Road for the band's next album cover. Little did he know that that negative would go on to become perhaps the most iconic group shot in all of music. A couple points of interest:
--Paul McCartney is bare-footed and out of step with the other three, later providing fuel for the "Paul is dead" urban legend in late '69.
--The man standing on the pavement in the background is Paul Cole, an American tourist unaware he had been photographed until he saw the album cover months later.
--The Abbey Road cover is the only Beatles album cover of their original UK albums to have neither the group's name nor an album title visible.
- Queen- Queen II- It's hard to believe now, but when Queen II dropped in '74, critics were less than impressed. Record Mirror wrote: "This is it, the dregs of glam rock. Weak and over-produced, if this band are our brightest hope for the future, then we are committing rock and roll suicide." The reviewer for Melody Maker expressed similar sentiments, writing: "It's reputed Queen have enjoyed some success in the States, it's currently in the balance whether they'll really break through here. If they do, then I'll have to eat my hat or something. Maybe Queen try too hard, there's no depth of sound or feeling." So how'd that hat end up going down, hot shot?
- The Grateful Dead- Steal Your Face- To be clear, this is not a list of great albums (though all but this one are admittedly classics). If it were, this selection would be nowhere near the top 10, not even if this was a list of Grateful Dead albums. Widely considered to be the Dead's worst live album, the record was dubbed "Steal Your Money" by unhappy fans. However, the image adorning its cover would go on to grace a billion bumper stickers and T-shirts, becoming almost synonymous with the hippie culture at large. Designed by Owsley Stanley and artist Bob Thomas.
- The Velvet Underground- Simple. Artful. Iconic. Designed by close friend Andy Warhol, the original record sleeve featured a yellow banana with “Peel slowly and see” printed near a perforated tab. Those who did remove the banana skin found a peeled, pink banana beneath.
- The Beatles- Sgt Peppers- The Grammy Award-winning album packaging was art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and photographed by Michael Cooper. The collage depicts more than 70 famous, well, icons, including writers, musicians, film stars and several Indian gurus. The final grouping includes Marlene Dietrich, Carl Jung, W.C. Fields, Diana Dors, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sigmund Freud, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, William S. Burroughs, Marlon Brando, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and comedian Lenny Bruce. Also included was the image of the original Beatles bass player, the late Stuart Sutcliffe. Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately they were left out, even though a cutout of Hitler was in fact made. The final bill for the cover was £2,868 (equivalent to $72,460 today), which was roughly 100 times the average cost for an album cover in those days.
- Nirvana- Nevermind- Kurt Cobain conceived the idea for this cover while watching a television show on water births with drummer David Grohl. Cobain mentioned it to Geffen's art director Robert Fisher, who found some stock footage of underwater births that were then deemed too graphic for the record company. Instead Fisher sent a photographer to a pool to take pictures of a three-month-old infant named Spencer Elden, the son of the photographer's friend Rick Elden. Geffen prepared an alternate cover without the penis but relented when Cobain made it clear that the only compromise he would accept was a sticker covering the penis that would say, "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."
- Bob Marley- Catch A Fire- Perhaps it's a tad ironic that the lucky 20,000 to first get their hands on this 1973 vinyl release receiveded an album that was in fact missing this landmark Bob headshot. These folks instead received their record encased in a Zippo lighter sleeve. The sleeve opened at a side hinge to reveal the record within, an assembly operation that required hand-manufacture. Not surprisingly, the Zippo idea was deemed too expensive to mass-produce and subsequent pressings featured the Ester Anderson portrait you see here.
- Jimi Hendrix- Axis: Bold a Love- For all the accolades this famous cover has received, Jimi Hendrix was actually a little disappointed with the finished product. Although he appreciated the symbolic design, he mentioned in an interview that it would have been more appropriate if the cover art showcased his American "Indian" heritage. The British Track records' art department had independently chosen to use the current fad for all things Indian to create the cover, and thus the album's cover has a photographed copy of a cheap, mass produced religious poster of the Hindu devotional painting known as Viraat Purushan-Vishnuroopam showing the different forms of Vishnu with a small, superimposed painting of the Experience by Roger Law blended in.
- The Rolling Stones- Sticky Fingers- Andy Warhol appears yet again in the top ten with his work here for the Stones' Sticky Fingers. The original record cover featured a working zipper that opened to reveal a man in cotton briefs. The cover, a photo of Joe Dallesandro's crotch clad in tight blue jeans, was assumed by many fans to be an image of Mick Jagger. However, the people actually involved with the photo shoot claim that Warhol had several different men photographed (Jagger was not among them) and never revealed which shots he used. The album also features the first usage of the "Tongue and Lip Design" designed by John Pasche.
Honorable Mentions: Allman Brothers- Eat a Peach, Led Zeppelin- IV, Jimi Hendrix- Are You Experienced?, The Who- Who's Next?, Cream- Disraeli Gears, Pink Floyd- Wish You Were Here, The Doors- The Doors, Led Zeppelin- I, Santana- Abraxas, The Beatles- Let It Be, Lynyrd Skynyrd- Street Survivors, Peter Frampton- Frampton Comes Alive, The Harder They Come Soundtrack, Parliament- Mothership Connection, Notorious BIG- Ready To Die, Nas- Illmatic, Public Enemy- Nation of Millions.
- Michael Jackson (Jackson 5) It seems trite to just come right out and say that Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, but heck, if the shoe fits... Ingratiating himself into the hearts of millions at the ripe old age of six, Michael would maintain his reign atop the entertainment universe for nearly half a century thereafter.
- Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Derek and the Dominos, Cream, Blind Faith) "Clapton is God." So proclaimed a graffiti scrawled wall in Islington, London in 1967, and when it comes to guitar mastery, Clapton is indeed divine. Eric Clapton was first introduced to the world playing for The Yardbirds, and from there he would never look back, hopping from one legendary group to the next before embarking on an independent career in the 1970s. For all his efforts, Clapton would go on to achieve the distinction of being the only musician to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times.
- James Brown (The Famous Flames) Long overlooked as the mere backing group to this legendary showman, the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame finally came to its senses in 2012, taking the rare step to retroactively induct this vocal outfit into their ranks. Though it was clearly Brown that would come to put the "famous" in Famous Flames, way back in 1953 he was just another one of the guys with dreams of making the big time. Brown in fact joined the group as a drummer before finding his way to the front of the stage, where he would remain for nearly fifty years until his death in 2006.
- 2Pac (Digital Underground) Initially getting his foot in the door as a roadie and backup "humpty" dancer for the Digital Underground, Tupac finally got a shot on the mic in "Same Song," appearing on the soundtrack to Dan Aykroyd's overwhelmingly horrific 1991 film Nothing But Trouble. The late MC stuck around for one more album before dropping the now classic 2Pacalypse Now and the rest is history.
- Paul Simon (Simon and Garfunkel) Great as they were together, it was always clear that Art was the Robin to Simon's Batman. So it went that Simon eventually had to go to do his own thing, penning such masterpieces as There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Graceland in the years that followed. A true songwriting genius, he continues to enchant audiences from Central Park to Wembley.
- Paul McCartney (The Beatles) Ok so yea, if we're strictly restricting this list to artists whose solo careers outshone or at least rivaled the bands that brought them to prominence, it's pretty much impossible to include any Beatle. The Beatles were, and remain, the most successful, influential and popular band of all time, so essentially that bar could not possibly be any higher to surpass. However, for Paul, John, and George, we just have to make some exceptions. True masters of their craft, it proved only natural that they would carry that brilliance over to their subsequent solo careers, and did they ever. Not even counting his work with Wings, Paul released a ridiculous 20 gold and platinum albums. Were it not for the fact that he was always in the shadow of his Fab Four days, it would be hard to deny that McCartney rivals only MJ for the most successful solo artist of all time.
- John Lennon (The Beatles) Post Beatles, John Lennon evolved into perhaps the most socially significant artist of the seventies, becoming almost a figurehead for the anti-war movement. So compelling was his message, he was actually subject to deportation efforts by President Nixon. Though his life would be tragically be cut short just ten years after his departure from the band that made him a legend, his all too short solo career further cemented his status as a true revolutionary of his time.
- Marvin Gaye (The New Moonglows) A pioneering R&B and doo-wop group, The Moonglows would descend into turmoil by the late 1950's as power struggles among lead singers Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester made any further collaboration all but an impossibility. The death-knell came when Fuqua discovered a nineteen-year-old talent named Marvin Gaye, prompting him to ditch his old bandmates and absorb Gaye's little-known Marquees to form what he would dub The New Moonglows in 1959. Now awarded the platform he'd been long searching for, Gaye soon inked a deal Motown, the label that would ultimately turn him into the crown prince of soul.
- Curtis Mayfield (The Impressions)
- Diana Ross (The Supremes) Once named the female entertainer of the century by Billboard Magazine, Ross has won just about every award but a Pulitzer since she first entered the public eye in 1959. With a career eighteen #1 records to her name, she has lead the way in everything from classic doo-wop to disco to modern pop.
- Dr. Dre (World Class Wreckin' Crew, NWA) When you really stop and think about it, is there anyone who had has more impact upon the entire course of hip hop than Dr. Dre? Sure he's no Pac behind the mic, but the guy has literally had his hand in almost ever major trend in the history of the genre. His illustrious career began as a member of the World Class Wreckin' Crew, a mid-eighties electro-rap group who, though less well known than many of their contemporaries, were every bit a part of that old school vanguard that helped shape the infant genre (Does it get any more old school than this get-up?) With N.W.A., he was the backbone of the group that introduced gangsta rap to the masses, both shocking and terrifying middle America with their raw, unapologetic treatise on life in South Central L.A. With The Chronic, he refined and perfected the West Coast sound, while at the same time launching the prolific career of Snoop Dogg. Years later, he would do the same for Eminem and 50 Cent, updating his world class beat-making for a new generation of hip hop fans. Producing classic tracks for his proteges on albums such as The Slim Shady LP and Get Rich or Die Tryin', he would soon pour those same efforts into his own record, releasing the phenomenal Chronic 2001 that now featured songs suited more for the club than the low-rider. His supposed magnum opus Detox continues to elude consummation after eleven painstaking years, but when it does, we can only assume that it will only further affirm the unrivaled legacy of this tremendous hip hop trendsetter.
- Sam Cooke (The Soul Stirrers) Forming all the way back in the mid-1920's, the gospel-based Soul Stirrers would not add the talents of Sam Cooke until well into their third decade. Tasked with the daunting burden of having to replace lead singer R.H. Harris in 1950, Cooke more than rose to the challenge, spurring the Stirrers on to even greater heights with hits like "Jesus Gave Me Water" and "Peace in the Valley." In 1957, Cooke struck out on his own, moving from gospel to a more secularized form of soul music. Among his classic soul standards, he would record one of the seminal protest songs of the civil rights movement in "A Change is Gonna Come."
- Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield)
- Tina Turner (Ike and Tina Turner)
- Justin Timberlake (N'Sync) When your initial group sells 28 million records, some might say you've hit your peak. When that group happens to be N'Sync, others might insist that there's no where to go but up. Nowadays, its hard to deny the former teen idol his just dues, both as a legitimate music producer and SNL revelation.
- Janis Joplin (Big Brother & the Holding Company)
- George Harrison (The Beatles)
- Beyoncé (Destiny's Child)
- Van Morisson (Them) In truth, when compiling this list, I myself had no idea Van Morisson first broke out with a group, nor had I any idea who that group was. After an exhaustive search (ok, so I Wikipedia'd him), I determined that Them had indeed existed for two years in the mid-sixties, and even had a handful of charting singles (go figure). I can only imagine they likely pailed in comparison to classics like "Brown-Eyed Girl", "Moondance", and "Domino," making Van among the artists on this list who put the farthest distance between his previous and subsequent solo career.
- George Michael (Wham!) On second thought, let's put George Michael right up there with Morisson for people whose solo status truly dwarfed that of their initial group, albeit the fact that Wham! is considerably more well know than those other guys (what was their name again?). Seriously, who doesn't know all the words to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go?" (Be honest) Michael dropped the duo after four years, and only went on to sell another 75 million records. Though he will perhaps always be remembered for that infamous bathroom incident, George Michael has been a true titan of the industry for over a generation.
- Peter Gabriel (Genesis) Back when MTV actually meant music television, Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" practically played on repeat. It remains the most played video in the history of the station.
- Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath) When you get fired from Black Sabbath for doing too much drugs, you know you're doing one whole hell of a lot of drugs. Replaced by Ronnie James Dio in 1979, The Prince of Darkness didn't miss a beat, venturing into even darker waters with hard rock standards like Blizzard of Ozz and Bark at the Moon. 40 years, 11 albums, a bat head, and 1 weirdly captivating reality show later, Ozzy continues to remain (somehow) alive and prospering.
- Jeff Beck (The Yardbirds) Kind of crazy to think that three of the top five or six guitarists of all time played for the same band, but that's exactly how stacked the Yardbirds were. Of course, it was only a matter of time before that talent became to large for one band to contain. Jimmy Page would land himself a gig with Led Zeppelin, Clapton went off to play with John Mayall, and Jeff Beck would form his own supergroup of sorts, The Jeff Beck Group, which featured our #29 man Rod Stewart and current Stones' bassist Ronnie Wood. Beck would release his first solo album in 1975 and an eleventh in 2010, all showcases of unadulterated guitar resplendency.
- Phil Collins (Flaming Youth, Genesis) Along with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, Collins is one of only three artists to have sold over 100 million albums both individually and as part of a group.
- Smokey Robinson (The Miracles)
- Kenny Rodgers (The First Edition) Before he was The Gambler, Kenny Rogers was a little-known bassist and singer for a psychedelia-leaning rock group called The First Edition, a gig he would remain with for almost a decade. They would peak with the 1967 release of "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)". (Say friend, ya got any more a that good sarsaparilla?)
- Lionel Ritchie (The Commodores) Please help
- Frank Zappa (The Mothers of Invention)
- Rod Stewart (The Jeff Beck Group, The Faces) When the Faces entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past April, Stewart joined Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Curtis Mayfield, Paul McCartney, Clyde McPhatter, Paul Simon, and Neil Young as the only artists to be inducted both individually and as a member of a group.
- Ice Cube (NWA)
- Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground) Like the Beatles clan, its hard to really contend that Lou Reed in any way approached the legacy of The Velvet Underground. Still, for sheer musical brilliance, I can't in good conscience leave Lou off this list. Reed released over twenty albums after his departure from the Underground, continuing to push the boundaries and confound critics (the guy effin' released a double album of feedback!) well into the 21st century.
- Bobby Womack (Valentinos)
- Clyde McPhatter (Billy Ward & the Dominos, The Drifters)
- Morrissey (The Smiths)
- Sting (The Police)
- Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mack)
- Billy Idol (Generation X)
- Joe Walsh (James Gang)
- Peter Tosh (The Wailers)
- Elliott Smith (Heatmiser) The tenth person on this list to die young (see: Jackson, Pac, Lennon, Cooke, Gaye, Joplin, Zappa, Tosh, and McPhatter), Smith went out in just about the most unfathomably horrific way possible- by stabbing himself through the heart. Still, his haunting, angst-laden melodies live on as testaments to the power of the human voice.
- Ted Nugent (The Amboy Dukes) While you might not agree with his politics, its hard to deny the stranglehold The Motor City Madman has had on rock audiences the past 35 years. With a righteous 30 million albums sold to date, Nugent continues to be a fixture of concert halls, NRA conventions, and Glenn Beck rallies everywhere.
- Wyclef Jean (The Fugees)
- Lauren Hill (The Fugees) Ok, so she's really only released a single studio album before essentially going into hiding, but when that album ends up being a modern classic of its genre, you have to get at least a nod with the 43rd spot in our countdown.
- Peter Frampton (The Herd, Humble Pie) Gotta love that talk box...
- George Clinton (Parliament/Funkadelic)
- Lil Wayne (Hot Boys)
- John Fogerty (Creedance Clearwater Revival) After a less than amicable break-up with CCR in 1972, Fogerty went on to become the only artist to ever be accused of plagiarizing himself.
- Bobby Brown (New Edition)
- Busta Rhymes (Leaders of the New School) In one of the more awkward music moments to be captured on film, in 1993 the world got to witness a hip hop group breaking up in real time, as tensions over Busta's monopolization of the spotlight came to a head right in middle of an episode of Yo! MTV Raps.
- Steve Winwood (The Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, Traffic)
George Clinton is to funk what Bob Marley is to reggae. George doesn't just play funk music, he is funk music. And he never stops being relevant. Though the heyday of the genre have long since come and gone, George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic stand today as arguably the single most important influence on the development of hip hop. From Dr. Dre to Snoop Dogg to Outcast, samples derived from their material positively litter the modern urban music scene. However, those that came to Friday's House of Blues show were not there to see hip hop. They were there to see the real thing, the godfathers of funk. And did they ever. Friday's George Clinton & The Parliament-Funkadelic show was an auditory and visual spectacle in the truest sense. If you've never seen this group or any manifestation of it play before, do yourself a favor and go out right now and buy tickets. Seriously. I'll wait...
This was everything a concert should be and then some. Musicians both legendary and unknown performing their asses off to a packed house of music-lovers ranging across all races, ages, and creeds. You had your classic numbers (Flashlight, Atomic Dog) and your new material that left you thinking "I don't know what that was, but I must own it." Oodles upon oodles of singers, dancers, drummers, guitarists, horn players and one 57-year-old mohawked black man in a diaper (that would be Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Garry "Starchild" Shider, and yes, you're going to want to refer to the photos for this one) all seemlessly moving across a stage that was at times more crowded than the floor below. Always something ridiculous to look at. Never a dull moment. Music that positively envelops you.
Truth be told, this is not your father's P-Funk. Heck, this might not even be your older brothers' P-Funk. Today, the band seems like more than anything else a vehicle with which to showcase new and talented musicians. And boy do they know how to pick 'em. George did his thing for awhile, but you would be fooling yourself to come expecting 1970's-era George. So he's old. Not quite poop-my-pants old, but he's getting there. At this point, George is a bit more like a figure head, not all that much unlike a dreadlocked Queen of England. This is not to say that this took anything away from the show. The shear rapture this man exudes on stage is unlike almost any performer alive today. He still knows how to work a crowd, and yet is willing to step to the side when need be to give a young artist their spotlight. George can often be seen standing alongside whoever is doing their solo at the moment, pointing at them as if to say, "you gotsta be checking this shit out."
And he's right. You gotsta be checkin this shit out. Each artist was phenomenal in their own unique way. Take Belita Woods, a vet of the 70's R&B/disco scene who combined the soul of Aretha Franklin with the gutteral cry of Macy Gray. Or the intoxicating acapella stylings of saxaphonist Greg Thomas. Backup singers transported directly out of 1970's Soul Train. And who can forget the jaw-dropping, guitar-shredding rendition of Maggot Brain. Just wow.
PS, if you haven't yet been to Boston's House of Blues, you are seriously missing out. Located just across from The Cathedral, Fenway Park, HOB offers music-lovers a new house of worship. Adorning the ceiling above the stage hangs a series of religious symbols that culminate in a centerpiece that reads All for One--Who Do You Love? How very apt. A venue as it should be- a place where people of all creeds can come to celebrate life in its purest form- through music. Like religion, we all might have different tastes but at the end of the day, it's all music, the language of the divine. Make my funk the P-Funk, today and forever after.
People tend to look at rock stars as larger than life and cooler than cool. Truth is, a lot of em are just as dorky as you or me. (Well not me of course, but you get the idea.) Sometimes you just gotta fake it if you wanna make it in this world, and for this crew, that was probably the right decision. They say its all in the name. While a great name alone won't make you a star, an awful one could be the dealbreaker. Would we have been able to tolerate a fire-breathing, blood-spitting madman named Chaim? Could we possibly have put up with Xzibit's gangsta swagger if we knew he was really Alvin Joiner IV? Would we think Vanilla Ice was as cool as we do if he went by his real name, Robert Van Winkle? Um, nevermind. Anyways, its time to pull away the curtain and reveal some of the most shocking, embarressing, and downright absurd birth names in the world of music.
Gene Simmons- Chaim Klein Witz....Jewish much?
George Michael-Yorgos Panayiotou....Yorgos? Really?
Elton John- Reginald Kenneth Dwight
Ginuwine- Elgin Lumpkin....sounds like a black hobbit
Elvis Costello- Declan Patrick McManus
Xzibit- Alvin Nathaniel Joiner IV....Alvin IV? How ungangster is that?
Akon- Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam...no joke
Yanni- Yiannis Chrysomallis
Michael Bolton- Michael Bolotin.....Probably for the best. Bolotin kinda sounds like a daily laxative.
Manfred Mann- Manfred Lubowitz
Iggy Pop- James Newell Osterberg, Jr.
John Denver- Henry John Deutschendorf. We've all heard "With a name like Smuckers, its gotta be good." Well, with a name like Duetschendorf, its gotta be, well, have you ever actually listened to John Denver?
Bob Dylan- Robert Alan Zimmerman
Trey Anastasio- Ernest Guiseppe Anastasio III
Stevie Wonder- Steveland Hardaway Judkins
Yngwie Malmsteen- Lars Johann Yngwie Lannerback....what an improvement.
Flea- Michael Peter Balzary
Freddie Mercury- Farrokh Bulsara
T-Pain- Faheem Najm...something tells me this name wouldn't have gone over to well with mainstream America. At least not like the ingenious T-Pain
Snoop Dogg- Cordazer Calvin Broadus Jr.
Lil' Bow Wow- Shad Anthony Moss
Alice Cooper- Vincent Damon Furnier
Vanilla Ice- Robert Van Winkle.....I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried
Lou Reed- Louis Firbank
David Bowie- David Robert Hayward Stenton Jones
Eddie Vedder- Edward Louis Severson III
Kenny G.- Kenneth Gorelick
Peter Tosh- Winston Hubert Macintosh.....How many potheads do you know named Winston Macintosh?
M.I.A.- Mathangi Arulpragasam
Cher- Cherilyn Sarkisian
Redman- Reginald Noble
Master P- Percy Miller
Shaggy- Orville Richard Burrell....Always thought he looked like an Orville
Silkk the Shocker- Vyshonn King Miller
Bono- Paul David Hewson
The Edge- David Howell Evans
Sting- Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner
Les Paul- Lester Polfus
M.C. Hammer- Stanley Kirk Burrel
Alice Cooper- Vincent Damon Furnier
Bon Scott (AC/DC)- Ronald Belford Scott
Marilyn Manson- Brian Hugh Warner
Axl Rose- William Bruce Bailey
Slash- Saul Hudson
Robbie Robertson (The Band)- Jaime Royal Klegerman
Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction)- Perry Bernstein
Mama Cass- Ellen Naomi Cohen
Ozzy Osbourne- John Michael Osbourne...What a nice Christian name. How'd that work out for ya?
Joey Ramone- Jeffrey Ross Hyman
Q-Tip- Kamaal Ibn John Fareed
Nas- Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones
Common- Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.
Ice Cube- O'Shea Jackson
Big Daddy Kane- Antonio Mortimer Hardy
Kool Moe Dee- Mohandas Dewese
Lupe Fiasco- Wasalu Muhammad Jaco
Coolio- Artis Leon Ivey, Jr.
The Game- Jayceon Terrell Taylor...Dude, there is no y or c or e in Jason.
Nelly- Carnell Haynes, Jr.
Sly Stone- Sylvester Stewart
BB King- Riley B. King
Billie Holliday- Eleanora Fagan Gough
Tina Turner- Anna Mae Bullock
Meat Loaf- Marvin Lee Aday
Bo Diddley- Ellas Otha Bates
Fats Domino- Antoine Dominique Domino
Sonny Rollins- Theodore Walter Rollins
Sid Vicious- John Simon Ritchie
Johnny Rotten- John Joseph Lydon
Joe Strummer (The Clash)- John Graham Mellor
Afrika Bambaataa- Kevin Donovan
Pat Benatar- Patricia Andrejewski
Dean Martin- Dino Paul Crocetti
Bjork- Bjork Gudmundsdottir
Jon Bon Jovi- John Francis Bongiovi Jr.
Mos Def- Dante Terrell Smith
Grandmaster Flash- Joseph Saddler
Barry Manilow- Barry Alan Pincus
Hannah Montana- Destiny Hope Cyrus...People who name their kids Destiny Hope suck at life. I'm lookin at you Billie Ray...
Gram Parsons (Byrds)- Cecil Ingram Connor, III
Cat Stevens- Steven Demetre Georgiou (Now Yusuf Islam)
- Def Jam: Nas, Meth and Red, Ludacris, LL Cool J, Rick Ross
- Death Row: 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
- Roc-a-fella: Jay-Z, Kanye West, DJ Clue, Camron, Juelz Santana
- Aftermath: Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, The Game
- Bad Boy: Notorious BIG, Puff Daddy and the Family, Mase, 112, Faith Evans, Shyne
- Jive: KRS One, Kool Moe Dee, Whodini, Fresh Prince
- Cold Chillin': Big Daddy Kane, MC Shan, Biz Markie, Marley Marl, Kool G Rap
- Tommy Boy: De La Soul, Digital Underground, Naughty by Nature, Queen Latifah
- No Limit: Master P, Mystikal, Silkk The Shocker, Soulja Slim
- Ruffhouse: The Fugees, Cypress Hill, Kris Kross, Schooly D