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Category:The 100 most inspiring musicians of all Time
Aretha Franklin: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
American singer Aretha Franklin (b. Aretha Louise Franklin March 25, 1942, Memphis, Tenn., U.S.) defined the golden age of soul music of the 1960s.
Aretha Franklin’s mother, Barbara, was a gospel singer and pianist. Her father, C.L. Franklin, presided over the New Bethel Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan, and was a minister of national influence. A singer himself, he was noted for his brilliant sermons, many of which were recorded by Chess Records.
Arethe Franklin’s parents separated when she was six, and she remained with her father in Detroit. Her mother died when Aretha was just 10. As a young teen, Franklin performed with her father on his gospel programs in major cities throughout the country and was recognized as a vocal prodigy.
Her central influence, Clara Ward of the renowned Ward Singers, was a family friend. Other gospel greats of the day—Albertina Walker and Jackie Verdell—helped shape young Franklin’s style. Her album The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin (1956) captures the electricity of her performances as a 14-year-old.
At age 18, with her father’s blessing, Franklin switched from sacred to secular music. She moved to New York City, where Columbia Records executive John Hammond, who had signed Count Basie and Billie Holiday, arranged her recording contract and supervised sessions highlighting her in a blues-jazz vein. From that first session, “Today I Sing the Blues” (1960) remains a classic. But, as her Detroit friends on the Motown label enjoyed hit after hit, Franklin struggled to achieve crossover success. Columbia placed her with a variety of producers who marketed her to both adults (“If Ever You Should Leave Me,” 1963) and teens (“Soulville,” 1964).
Without targeting any particular genre, she sang everything from Broadway ballads to youth-oriented rhythm and blues. Critics recognized her talent, but the public remained lukewarm until 1966, when she switched to Atlantic Records, where producer Jerry Wexler allowed her to sculpt her own musical identity.
At Atlantic, Franklin returned to her gospel-blues roots, and the results were sensational. “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” (1967), recorded at Fame Studios in Florence, Alabama, was her first million-seller. Surrounded by sympathetic musicians playing spontaneous arrangements and devising the background vocals herself, Franklin refined a style associated with Ray Charles—a rousing mixture of gospel and rhythm and blues—and raised it to new heights.
As a civil rights–minded nation lent greater support to black urban music, Franklin was crowned the “Queen of Soul.” “Respect,” her 1967 cover of Otis Redding’s spirited composition, became an anthem operating on personal, sexual, and racial levels. “Think” (1968), which Franklin wrote herself, also had more than one meaning.
For the next half-dozen years, she became a hit maker of unprecedented proportions; she was “Lady Soul.” In the early 1970s she triumphed at the Fillmore West in San Francisco before an audience of flower children and on whirlwind tours of Europe and Latin America. Her return to church, Amazing Grace (1972), is considered one of the great gospel albums of any era. By the late 1970s disco cramped Franklin’s style and eroded her popularity.
But in 1982, with help from singer-songwriter-producer Luther Vandross, she was back on top with a new label, Arista, and a new dance hit, “Jump to It,” followed by “Freeway of Love” (1985). A reluctant interviewee, Franklin kept her private life private, claiming that the popular perception associating her with the unhappiness of singers Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday was misinformed.
In 1987, Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While her album sales in the 1990s and 2000s failed to approach the numbers of previous decades, Franklin remained the Queen of Soul, and in 2009 she electrified a crowd of more than one million with her performance of “My Country ’Tis of Thee” at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
11. You Send Me 0:33:36 12. Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) 0:36:02 13. Son of a Preacher Man 0:39:29 14. You’re All I Need to Get By 0:42:49 15. Baby I Love You 0:46:25 16. Do Right Woman – Do Right Man 0:49:08 17. Something He Can Feel 0:52:24 18. The Weight 0:58:43 19. Don’t Play That Song 1:01:46 20. A Change Is Gonna Come 1:04:46
Bob Dylan: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
American folksinger Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, (b. May 24, 1941, Duluth, Minn., U.S.) moved from folk to rock music in the 1960s and infused the lyrics of rock and roll, theretofore concerned mostly with boy-girl romantic innuendo, with the intellectualism of classic literature and poetry.
Bob Dylan has sold more than 58 million albums, written more than 500 songs recorded by more than 2,000 artists, and performed all over the world. He grew up in the northeastern Minnesota mining town of Hibbing, where his father co-owned Zimmerman Furniture and Appliance Co. He acquired his first guitar at age 14 and as a high school student played in a series of rock and roll bands. In 1959, just before enrolling at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, he served a brief stint playing piano for rising pop star Bobby Vee.
Fascinated by folksinger Woody Guthrie, he began performing folk music in coffeehouses, adopting the last name Dylan (after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas). Restless and determined to meet Guthrie—who was confined to a hospital in New Jersey—he relocated to the East Coast. Arriving in late January 1961, Dylan relied on the generosity of various benefactors who, charmed by his performances in Greenwich Village, provided meals and shelter.
Bob Dylan quickly built a following and within four months was hired to play harmonica for a Harry Belafonte recording session. In September 1961 talent scout–producer John Hammond, Sr., signed him to Columbia Records.
Bob Dylan’s eponymous first album was released in March 1962 to mixed reviews. His singing voice—a cowboy lament laced with Midwestern patois, with an obvious nod to Guthrie—confounded many critics. By comparison, Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (released in May 1963), sounded a clarion call. Young ears everywhere quickly assimilated his quirky voice, which established him as part of the burgeoning counterculture. Moreover, his first major composition, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” served notice that this was no cookie-cutter recording artist.
About this time Dylan signed a seven-year management contract with Albert Grossman, who soon replaced Hammond with another Columbia producer, Tom Wilson. In April 1963, Dylan played his first major New York City concert at Town Hall. That summer, Dylan made his first appearance at the Newport (Rhode Island) Folk Festival and was virtually crowned the king of folk music.
The prophetic title song of his next album, The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964), provided an instant anthem. Dylan was perceived as a singer of protest songs, a politically charged artist with a whole other agenda. He spawned imitators at coffeehouses and record labels everywhere. At the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, while previewing songs from Another Side of Bob Dylan, he confounded his core audience by performing songs of a personal nature, rather than his signature protest repertoire. A backlash from purist folk fans began and continued for three years as Dylan defied convention at every turn.
On his next album, Bringing It All Back Home (1965), electric instruments were openly brandished—a violation of folk dogma—and only two protest songs were included.
The folk rock group the Byrds covered “Mr. Tambourine Man” from that album, adding electric 12-string guitar and three-part harmony vocals, and took it to number one on the singles chart. Dylan’s mainstream audience skyrocketed.
His purist folk fans, however, fell off in droves. In June 1965 Dylan recorded his most ascendant song yet, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Devoid of obvious protest references, set against a rough-hewn, twangy rock underpinning, and fronted by a snarling vocal that lashed out at all those who questioned his legitimacy, “Like a Rolling Stone” spoke to yet a new set of listeners and reached number two on the popular music charts. And the album containing the hit single, Highway 61 Revisited, further vindicated his abdication of the protest throne.
At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan bravely showcased his electric sound. After an inappropriately short 15-minute set, Dylan left the stage to a hail of booing— mostly a response to the headliner’s unexpectedly abbreviated performance rather than to his electrification. Nonetheless, reams were written about his electric betrayal and banishment from the folk circle.
By the time of his next public appearance, at the Forest Hills (New York) Tennis Stadium a month later, the audience had been “instructed” by the press how to react. After a well-received acoustic opening set, Dylan was joined by his new backing band (Al Kooper on keyboards, Harvey Brooks on bass, and, from the Hawks, Canadian guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer Levon Helm). Dylan and the band were booed throughout the performance.
Backed by Robertson, Helm, and the rest of the Hawks (Rick Danko on bass, Richard Manuel on piano, and Garth Hudson on organ and saxophone), Dylan toured incessantly in 1965 and 1966, always playing to sold-out audiences. On Nov. 22, 1965, Dylan married Sara Lowndes.
They split their time between a townhouse in Greenwich Village and a country estate in Woodstock, New York. In February 1966, at the suggestion of his new producer, Bob Johnston, Dylan recorded at Columbia’s Nashville, Tennessee, studios, along with Kooper, Robertson, and the cream of Nashville’s studio musicians. A week’s worth of marathon sessions produced Blonde on Blonde. The critically acclaimed album pushed Dylan to the zenith of his popularity. He toured Europe with the Hawks (soon to reemerge as the Band) until the summer of 1966, when a motorcycle accident in Woodstock brought Dylan’s amazing seven-year momentum to an abrupt halt.
He retreated to his home in Woodstock and virtually disappeared for two years. In 1967, the Band moved to Woodstock to be closer to Dylan.
Occasionally they coaxed him into the basement studio of their communal home to play music together, and recordings from these sessions ultimately became the double album The Basement Tapes (1975). In early 1968 Columbia released a stripped-down album of new Dylan songs titled John Wesley Harding. It reached number two on the pop album charts.
In January 1968 Dylan made his first post-accident appearance at a memorial concert for Woody Guthrie in New York City—with shorter hair, spectacles, and a neglected beard. At this point, Dylan adopted the stance he held for the rest of his career: sidestepping the desires of the critics, he went in any direction, but those called for in print. When his audience and critics were convinced that his muse had left him, Dylan would deliver an album at full strength, only to withdraw again.
Dylan returned to Tennessee to record Nashville Skyline (1969), which helped launch an entirely new genre, country rock. It charted at number three, but, owing to the comparative simplicity of its lyrics, people questioned whether Dylan remained a cutting-edge artist. Meanwhile, rock’s first bootleg album, The Great White Wonder—containing unreleased, “liberated” Dylan recordings—appeared in independent record stores.
Over the next quarter-century Dylan continued to record, toured sporadically, and was widely honored, though his impact was never as great or as immediate as it had been in the 1960s. In 1970 Princeton University awarded him an honorary doctorate of music. In August 1971 Dylan made a rare appearance at a benefit concert that former Beatle George Harrison had organized for the newly independent country of Bangladesh.
At the end of the year, Dylan purchased a house in Malibu, California; he had already left Woodstock for New York City in 1969. In 1973, he appeared in director Sam Peckinpah’s film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and contributed to the soundtrack, including “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Writings and Drawings, an anthology of his lyrics and poetry, was published the next year.
In 1974, he toured for the first time in eight years, reconvening with the Band. Released in January 1975, Dylan’s next studio album, Blood on the Tracks, was a return to lyrical form. It topped the charts, as did Desire, released one year later. In 1975 and 1976 Dylan toured North America, announcing shows only hours before appearing. Filmed and recorded, the Rolling Thunder Revue—including Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Roger McGuinn— came to motion-picture screens in 1978 as part of the Dylan-edited Renaldo and Clara.
Lowndes and Dylan divorced in 1977. They had four children, including son Jakob, whose band, the Wallflowers, experienced pop success in the 1990s. Dylan was also stepfather to a child from Lowndes’s previous marriage. In 1978 Dylan mounted a yearlong world tour and released Street-Legal and Bob Dylan at Budokan. In a dramatic turnabout, he converted to Christianity in 1979 and for three years recorded and performed only religious material. He received a Grammy Award in 1980 for best male rock vocal performance with his “gospel” song “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
By 1982, when Dylan was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, his open zeal for Christianity was waning. In 1985 he participated in the all-star charity recording “We Are the World,” organized by Quincy Jones, and published his third book, Lyrics: 1962–1985. Dylan toured again in 1986–87, backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. A year later he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Traveling Wilburys (Dylan, Petty, Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison) formed at his house in Malibu and released their first album. In 1989 Dylan once again returned to form with Oh Mercy.
When Life magazine published a list of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century in 1990, Dylan was included, and in 1991 he received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. As the 1990s drew to a close, Dylan, who was called the greatest poet of the second half of the 20th century by Allen Ginsberg, was the recipient of several national and international honors. In 1998, in a comeback of sorts, he won three Grammy Awards— including album of the year—for Time Out of Mind.
Another Grammy (for best contemporary folk album) came Dylan’s way in 2001, for Love and Theft. In 2003 he cowrote and starred in the film Masked & Anonymous and, because of the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, began playing electric piano exclusively in live appearances. The next year he released what portended to be the first in a series of autobiographies, Chronicles: Volume 1.
In 2005 No Direction Home, a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese, appeared on television. In 2006 Dylan turned his attention to satellite radio as the host of the weekly Theme Time Radio Hour and released his 44th album, Modern Times, which won the 2007 Grammy Award for best contemporary folk album.
In presenting to Dylan, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts in 2007, the jury called him a “living myth in the history of popular music and a light for a generation that dreamed of changing the world.” In 2008 the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded him a special citation for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture.” Dylan was still actively performing in his 60s.
The original members were Brian Wilson (b. June 20, 1942, Inglewood, Calif., U.S.), Dennis Wilson (b. Dec. 4, 1944, Inglewood, Calif., U.S.—d. Dec. 28, 1983, Marina del Rey, Calif.), Carl Wilson (b. Dec. 21, 1946, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.—d. Feb. 6, 1998, Los Angeles), Michael Love (b. March 15, 1941, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.), and Alan Jardine (b. Sept. 3, 1942, Lima, Ohio, U.S.). Significant later members included David Marks (b. Aug. 22, 1948, Newcastle, Pa., U.S.) and Bruce Johnston (original name William Baldwin; b. June 24, 1944, Chicago, Ill., U.S.)
The dulcet melodies and distinctive vocal mesh of the American rock group the Beach Boys defined the 1960s youthful idyll of sun-drenched southern California.
Initially perceived as a potent pop act—celebrants of the surfing and hot rod culture of the Los Angeles Basin during the 1960s—the Beach Boys and lead singer-bassist producer Brian Wilson later gained greater respect as muses of post-World War II American suburban angst. Notwithstanding sales of 70 million albums, their greatest achievement was their ability to express the bittersweet middle-class aspirations of those who had participated in America’s great internal westward movement in the 1920s.
The Beach Boys extolled the promise of a fragile California dream that their parents had had to struggle to sustain. Growing up in suburban Los Angeles (Hawthorne), the Wilson brothers were encouraged by their parents to explore music. Their father, Murry, who operated a small machinery shop, was also a songwriter.
While still teenagers, Brian, drummer Dennis, and guitarist Carl joined with cousin Love and friends Jardine and Marks to write and perform pop music in the alloyed spirit of Chuck Berry and the harmonies-driven Four Freshmen and Four Preps. Dennis, a novice surfer and adolescent habitué of the Manhattan Beach surfing scene, goaded Brian and the rest of the group (then called the Pendletons) into writing songs that glorified the emerging sport.
The regional success in 1961 of the Beach Boys’ first single, “Surfin’,” led in 1962 to their signing as Capitol Records’ first rock act. Brian’s latent ambitions as a pop composer were unleashed; for years he would write almost all the group’s songs, often with collaborators (most frequently Love).
The Beach Boys soon appeared on Billboard’s U.S. singles charts with such odes to cars and surfing as “409” and “Surfin’ Safari,” while their debut album reached number 14. After the commercial triumph of the follow-up album and single, “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” in 1963, Brian assumed complete artistic control. Their next album, Surfer Girl, was a landmark for the unheard-of studio autonomy he secured from Capitol as writer, arranger, and producer. Redolent of the Four Freshmen but actually inspired by “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Walt Disney’s film Pinocchio (1940), the title track combined a childlike yearning with sophisticated pop poignancy. Like his hero, pioneering producer Phil Spector, the eccentric Brian proved gifted at crafting eclectic arrangements with crisply evocative rock power (e.g., “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” and “Don’t Worry Baby”).
After the first of a series of stress- and drug-related breakdowns in 1964, Brian withdrew from touring and was replaced first by singer-guitarist Glen Campbell, then by veteran surf singer-musician Johnston. Brian focused thereafter on the Beach Boys’ studio output, surpassing all his role models with his band’s masterwork, Pet Sounds (1966). A bittersweet pastiche of songs recalling the pangs of unrequited love and other coming-of-age trials, Pet Sounds was acknowledged by Paul McCartney as the catalyst for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
Brian soon eclipsed himself again with “Good Vibrations,” a startlingly prismatic “pocket symphony” that reached number one in the autumn of 1966. His self-confidence stalled, however, when an even more ambitious project called Dumb Angel, then Smile, failed to meet its appointed completion date in December 1966. Exhausted and depressed, Brian went into seclusion as the rest of the band cobbled the remains of the abortive album into a tuneful but tentative release titled Smiley Smile (1967).
For the remainder of the decade, the Beach Boys issued records of increasing commercial and musical inconsistency. They departed Capitol amid a legal battle over back royalties and signed with Warner Brothers in 1970.
When the splendid Sunflower sold poorly, Brian became a recluse, experimenting with hallucinogens and toiling fitfully while the rest of the group produced several strong but modest-selling albums in the early 1970s.
Meanwhile, Endless Summer, the greatest hits compilation, reached number one in the charts in 1974. In 1976 an uneven but commercially successful album, 15 Big Ones, signaled the reemergence of the still drug-plagued Brian. In 1977 Dennis released a critically acclaimed solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue. Despite personal turmoil, the reunited Beach Boys seemed destined for a new artistic peak when Dennis drowned in 1983. The excellent The Beach Boys was released in 1985. In 1988 Brian released a critically acclaimed self-titled solo album, the other Beach Boys had a number one hit with “Kokomo,” and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the 1990s the Beach Boys continued to tour and record, with Love continuing his longtime role as the band’s business mind. Brian released another solo album (Imagination) and collaborated on albums with Van Dyke Parks (Orange Crate Art) and with his daughters Carnie and Wendy (The Wilsons), who were successful performers in their own right. Carl, who was considered the group’s artistic anchor during the turbulent 1970s and ’80s, died of cancer in 1998.
In 2004, Brian released Gettin’ In over My Head, with contributions from Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Elton John. The landmark work of this period in Brian’s career, however, was his solo album, Smile. He was presented with a Kennedy Center Honor in 2007, and in 2008 he released That Lucky Old Sun, a nostalgic celebration of southern California made in collaboration with Scott Bennett and Parks.
0:00 Wouldn’t It Be Nice 2:34 You Still Believe in Me 5:11 That’s Not Me 7:41 Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) 10:40 I’m Waiting for the Day 13:47 Sloop John B 16:49 God Only Knows 19:44 I Know There’s an Answer 23:04 Here Today 26:14 I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times 29:35 Pet Sounds 32:12 Caroline, No
Joan Baez: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
Joan Baez (b. Jan. 9, 1941, Staten Island, N.Y., U.S.) American folksinger and political activist Joan Chandos Baez interested young audiences in folk music during the 1960s. Despite the inevitable fading of the folk music revival, Baez continued to be a popular performer into the 21st century. By touring with younger performers throughout the world and staying politically engaged, she reached a new audience both in the United States and abroad.
The daughter of a physicist of Mexican descent whose teaching and research took him to various communities in New York, California, and elsewhere, Joan Baez often moved and acquired little formal musical training. Her first instrument was the ukulele, but she soon learned to accompany her clear soprano voice on the guitar.
Her first album, Joan Baez, was released in 1960. Although some considered her voice too pretty, her youthful attractiveness and activist energy put her in the forefront of the 1960s folk-song revival, popularizing traditional songs through her performances in coffeehouses, at music festivals, and on television and through her record albums, which were best sellers from 1960 through 1964 and remained popular.
Joan Baez was instrumental in the early career of Bob Dylan, with whom she was romantically involved for several years. Two of the songs with which she is most identified are her 1971 cover of the Band’s song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and her own song “Diamonds and Rust,” which she recorded on her acclaimed album of the same name, issued in 1975.
An active participant in the 1960s protest movement, Baez made free concert appearances for UNESCO, civil rights organizations, and anti-Vietnam War rallies. In 1964, she refused to pay federal taxes that went toward war expenses, and she was jailed twice in 1967. Throughout the years, she remained deeply committed to social and political causes, lending her voice in many concerts for a variety of causes. Among Baez’s noteworthy recordings are Diamonds and Rust, Very Early Joan (1983), Speaking of Dreams (1989), Play Me Backwards (1992), Gone from Danger (1997), and Bowery Songs (2004). She wrote Daybreak (1968), an autobiography, and a memoir titled And a Voice to Sing With (1987).
The Beatles: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
The principal members were Paul McCartney (b. June 18, 1942, Liverpool, Merseyside, Eng.), John Lennon (b. Oct. 9, 1940, Liverpool, Merseyside, Eng.—d. Dec. 8, 1980, New York, N.Y., U.S.), George Harrison (b. Feb. 25, 1943, Liverpool, Merseyside, Eng.—d. Nov. 29, 2001, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.), and Ringo Starr (b. July 7, 1940, Liverpool, Merseyside, Eng.). Other early members included Stuart Sutcliffe (b. June 23, 1940, Edinburgh, Scot.—d. April 10, 1962, Hamburg, W. Ger.) and Pete Best (b. Nov. 24, 1941, Madras [now Chennai], India).
The Beatles were a British musical quartet and a global cynosure for the hopes and dreams of a generation that came of age in the 1960s.
Formed around the nucleus of Lennon and McCartney, who first performed together in Liverpool in 1957, the group grew out of a shared enthusiasm for American rock and roll. Lennon, a guitarist and singer, and McCartney, a bassist and singer, were largely self-taught as musicians.
Precocious composers, they gathered around themselves a changing cast of accompanists, adding by the end of 1957 Harrison, a lead guitarist, and then, in 1960 for several formative months, Sutcliffe, who brought into the band a brooding sense of bohemian style. After dabbling in skiffle, a jaunty sort of folk music popular in Britain in the late 1950s, and assuming several different names (the Quarrymen, the Silver Beetles, and, finally, The Beatles), the band added a drummer, Best, and joined a small but booming “beat music” scene.
In autumn 1961, Brian Epstein, a local Liverpool record store manager, saw the band, fell in love, became their manager, and proceeded to bombard the major British music companies with letters and tape recordings of the band. The group finally won a contract with Parlophone, a subsidiary of the giant EMI group of music labels.
The man in charge of their career at Parlophone was George Martin, a classically trained musician who from the start put his stamp on the Beatles, first by suggesting the band hire a more polished drummer (they chose Starr) and then by rearranging their second recorded song (and first big British hit), “Please Please Me.”
Throughout the winter and into the spring of 1963, the Beatles continued their rise to fame in England by producing spirited recordings of original tunes and also by playing classic American rock and roll on a variety of radio programs. In these months, fascination with the Beatles breached the normal barriers of taste, class, and age, transforming their recordings and live performances into matters of widespread public comment.
In the fall of that year, when they made a couple of appearances on British television, the evidence of popular frenzy prompted British newspapermen to coin a new word for the phenomenon: Beatlemania. In early 1964, after equally tumultuous appearances on American television, the same phenomenon erupted in the United States and provoked a so-called British Invasion of Beatles imitators from the United Kingdom.
Beatlemania was something new. Musicians performing in the 19th century certainly excited a frenzy, but that was before the mass media created the possibility of collective frenzy. Later pop music idols sold similarly large numbers of records, but without provoking anything approaching the hysteria caused by the Beatles. By the summer of 1964, when the Beatles appeared in A Hard Day’s Night, a movie that dramatized the phenomenon of Beatlemania, the band’s effect was evident around the world.
The popular hubbub convinced Lennon and McCartney of their songwriting abilities and sparked an outpouring of creative experimentation all but unprecedented in the history of rock music. Between 1965 and 1967 the music of the Beatles rapidly changed and evolved, becoming ever more subtle, sophisticated, and varied.
Their repertoire in these years ranged from the chamber pop ballad “Yesterday” and the enigmatic folk tune “Norwegian Wood” (both in 1965) to the hallucinatory hard rock song “Tomorrow Never Knows” (1966), with a lyric inspired by Timothy Leary’s handbook The Psychedelic Experience (1964). It also included the carnivalesque soundscape of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (1967), which featured stream-ofconsciousness lyrics by Lennon and a typically imaginative arrangement (by George Martin) built around randomly spliced-together snippets of recorded steam organs.
In 1966, the Beatles announced their retirement from public performing to concentrate on exploiting the full resources of the recording studio. A year later, in June 1967, this period of widely watched creative renewal was climaxed by the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album avidly greeted by young people around the world as indisputable evidence not only of the band’s genius but also of the era’s utopian promise. More than a band of musicians, the Beatles had come to personify, certainly in the minds of millions of young listeners, the joys of a new counterculture of hedonism and uninhibited experimentation.
In those years, the Beatles effectively reinvented the meaning of rock and roll as a cultural form. The American artists they chose to emulate—including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, the rock composers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and, after 1964, folksinger Bob Dylan, among others— became widely regarded as canonic sources of inspiration, offering “classical” models for aspiring younger rock musicians. At the same time, the original songs the Beatles wrote and recorded dramatically expanded the musical range and expressive scope of the genre they had inherited.
After 1968, and the eruption of student protest movements in countries as different as Mexico and France, the Beatles insensibly surrendered their role as de facto leaders of an inchoate global youth culture. They nevertheless continued for several more years to record and release new music and maintained a level of popularity rarely rivaled before or since. The band continued to enjoy widespread popularity. The following year Abbey Road went on to become one of the band’s best-loved and biggest-selling albums.
Meanwhile, personal disagreements magnified by the stress of symbolizing the dreams of a generation had begun to tear the band apart. Lennon and McCartney fell into bickering and mutual accusations of ill will, and in the spring of 1970 the Beatles formally disbanded. In the years that followed, all four members went on to produce solo albums of variable quality and popularity. Lennon released a corrosive set of songs with his new wife, Yoko Ono, and McCartney went on to form a band, Wings, that turned out a fair number of commercially successful recordings in the 1970s. Starr and Harrison, too, initially had some success as solo artists.
In 1980, Lennon was murdered by a demented fan outside the Dakota, an apartment building in New York City known for its celebrity tenants. The event provoked a global outpouring of grief. Lennon is memorialized in Strawberry Fields, a section of Central Park across from the Dakota that Yoko Ono landscaped in her husband’s honour.
In the years that followed, the surviving former Beatles continued to record and perform as solo artists. McCartney in particular remained musically active, both in the pop field, producing new albums every few years, and in the field of classical music—in 1991 he completed Liverpool Oratorio; and in 1999 he released a new classical album, Working Classical. McCartney was knighted by the queen of England in 1997. Starr was also very visible in the 1990s, touring annually with his All-Star Band, a rotating group of rock veterans playing their hits on the summertime concert circuit.
Beginning in 1988, Harrison recorded with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison in a loose amalgam known as the Traveling Wilburys, but, for most of the 1980s and ’90s, he had a low profile as a musician while acting as the producer of several successful films. After surviving a knife attack at his home in 1999, Harrison succumbed to a protracted battle with cancer in 2001.
Early in the 1990s, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr had joined to add harmonies to two previously unreleased vocal recordings by Lennon. These new songs by “the Beatles” served as a pretext for yet another publicity blitz, aimed at creating a market for a lavishly produced quasi historical series of archival recordings assembled under the supervision of the band and released in 1995 and 1996 as The Beatles Anthology, a collection of six compact discs that supplemented a 10-hour-long authorized video documentary of the same name. A compilation of the band’s number one singles, 1, appeared in 2000 and enjoyed worldwide success, topping the charts in such countries as England and the United States.
The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and Lennon (1994), McCartney (1999), and Harrison (2004) were also inducted as solo performers. In April 2009, it was announced that on September 9 there would be a simultaneous release of specially packaged, digitally remastered versions of the Beatles’ entire catalog and a Beatles’ version of the popular electronic music game Rock Band.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
In addition to Smokey Robinson (b. Feb. 19, 1940, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), the principal members of the group were Warren Moore (b. Nov. 19, 1939, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), Bobby Rogers (b. Feb. 19, 1940, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), Ronnie White (b. April 5, 1939, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), and Claudette Rogers (b. 1942).
William “Smokey” Robinson and the Miracles were an American vocal group that helped define the Motown sound of the 1960s; the group was led by one of the most gifted, influential singer-songwriters in 20th-century popular music.
Whether writing for fellow artists Mary Wells, the Temptations, or Marvin Gaye or performing with the Miracles, singer-lyricist-arranger-producer William Smokey Robinson created songs that were supremely balanced between the joy and pain of love. At once playful and passionate, Robinson’s graceful lyrics led Bob Dylan to call him “America’s greatest living poet.”
Coming of age in the doo-wop era and deeply influenced by jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan, Smokey Robinson formed the Five Chimes with school friends in the mid-1950s. After some personnel changes, the group, as the Matadors, auditioned unsuccessfully for Jackie Wilson’s manager; however, they greatly impressed Wilson’s songwriter Berry Gordy, who soon became their manager and producer. Most important, Gordy became Robinson’s mentor, harnessing his prodigious but unformed composing talents, and Robinson, assisted by the Miracles, became Gordy’s inspiration for the creation of Motown Records.
With the arrival of Claudette Rogers, the group changed its name to the Miracles and released “Got a Job” on End Records in 1958. The Miracles struggled onstage in their first performance at the Apollo Theatre that year, but good fortune came their way in the form of Marv Tarplin, guitarist for the Primettes, who were led by Robinson’s friend Diana Ross. Tarplin became an honorary (but essential) Miracle, while Robinson introduced Gordy to the Primettes, who soon became the Supremes.
In 1959, Smokey Robinson and Claudette Rogers were married, and “Bad Girl,” licensed to Chess Records, peaked nationally at number 93. The fiery “Way Over There” and the shimmering “(You Can) Depend on Me” were followed in 1960 by “Shop Around,” the second version of which became an enormous hit, reaching number one on the rhythm-andblues charts and number two on the pop charts.
While Smokey Robinson was writing such vital songs as “My Guy” for Mary Wells, “I’ll Be Doggone” for Marvin Gaye, and “My Girl” for the Temptations, he and the Miracles proceeded to record stunning compositions, including “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1962), “I’ll Try Something New” (1962), “Ooo Baby Baby” (1965), “Choosey Beggar” (1965), “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965), and “More Love” (1967, written following the premature birth and death of Robinson’s twin daughters).
The Miracles complemented their songs of aching romance and mature love with buoyant numbers such as “Mickey’s Monkey” (1963), “Going to a Go-Go” (1965), “I Second That Emotion” (1967), and “The Tears of a Clown” (1970).
In 1972, Smokey Robinson left the Miracles to pursue a solo career. Without him, the Miracles enjoyed moderate success in subsequent years (the disco-era “Love Machine [Part 1]” hit number one on the pop charts in 1975), while Robinson produced such solo hits as “Cruisin’” (1979) and “Being with You” (1981). He also unintentionally inspired the new soul radio format that took its name from the title track of his 1975 conceptual album A Quiet Storm. Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Philip Glass: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
Philip Glass (b. Jan. 31, 1937, Baltimore, Md., U.S.) is an American composer of innovative instrumental, vocal, and operatic music, who variously has employed minimalist, atonal, and non-Western elements in his work.
Philip Glass studied flute as a boy and enrolled at age 15 at the University of Chicago, where he studied mathematics and philosophy and graduated in 1956. His interest in atonal music drew him on to study composition at the Juilliard School of Music (M.S., 1962) in New York City and then to Paris to study under Nadia Boulanger. His acquaintance there with the Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar decisively affected Glass’s compositional style, and he temporarily jettisoned such traditional formal qualities as harmony, tempo, and melody in his music.
Instead, he began creating ensemble pieces in a monotonous and repetitive style; these works consisted of a series of syncopated rhythms ingeniously contracted or extended within a stable diatonic structure. Such minimalist music, played by a small ensemble using electronically amplified keyboard and wind instruments, earned Glass a small but enthusiastic following in New York City by the late 1960s.
Philip Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach (1976), composed in collaboration with Robert Wilson, earned him broader acclaim; this work showed a renewed interest in classical Western harmonic elements, though his interest in startling rhythmic and melodic changes remained the work’s most dramatic feature. Glass’s opera Satyagraha (1980) was a more authentically “operatic” portrayal of incidents from the early life of Mohandas K. Gandhi. In this work, the dronelike repetition of symmetrical sequences of chords attained a haunting and hypnotic power well attuned to the religio-spiritual themes of the libretto, adapted from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavadgītā.
The opera The Voyage (1992) had mixed reviews, but the fact that it had been commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Opera (to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas) confirmed Glass’s growing acceptance by the classical music establishment.
“Metamorphosis” (1988), refers to and was inspired by the 1915 short story The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. While all pieces were written in 1988, some were written for a staging of Metamorphosis, while others were for a documentary film called The Thin Blue Line directed by Errol Morris. “Metamorphosis One” is played in an episode of Battlestar Galactica by Kara “Starbuck” Thrace.
Within the narrative, her father composed and performed the piece. It is also played in the series finale of Person of Interest, Return 0. “Metamorphosis Two” formed the basis of one of the main musical themes in the film The Hours. It is also the song that the American rock band Pearl Jam uses as their introduction music to concerts.
He was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland , Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer.
The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops.
There has been nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than twenty-five operas, large and small; twelve symphonies, thirteen concertos; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; nine string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
The Rolling Stones: the 100 most inspirational musicians of all time
The original members were Mick Jagger (b. July 26, 1943, Dartford, Kent, Eng.), Keith Richards (b. Dec. 18, 1943, Dartford, Kent, Eng.), Brian Jones (b. Feb. 28, 1942, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Eng.—d. July 3, 1969, Hartfield, Sussex), Bill Wyman (b. Oct. 24, 1936, London, Eng.), and Charlie Watts (b. June 2, 1941, London, Eng.). Later members were Mick Taylor (b. Jan. 17, 1948, Hereford, East Hereford and Worcester, Eng.), Ron Wood (b. June 1, 1947, London, Eng.), and Darryl Jones (b. Dec. 11, 1961, Chicago, Ill., U.S.).
Formed in 1962, the Rolling Stones are a British rock group that has drawn on Chicago blues styling to create a unique vision of the dark side of post-1960s counterculture.
No rock band has sustained consistent activity and global popularity for so long a period as the Rolling Stones, still capable, more than 45 years after their formation, of filling the largest stadium in the world. Though several of their mid-1960s contemporaries—notably Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Van Morrison—have maintained individual positions in rock’s front line, the Rolling Stones’ nucleus of singer Jagger, guitarist Richards, and drummer Watts remains rock’s most durable ongoing partnership.
In the process, the Stones have become rock’s definitive, emblematic band: a seamless blend of sound, look, and public image. That they are the mold from which various generations of challengers have been struck—from the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith (via the New York Dolls), the Clash, the Sex Pistols all the way to Guns N’ Roses and Oasis—is virtually inarguable. In their onstage personae, Jagger and Richards established the classic rock band archetypes: the preening, narcissistic singer and the haggard, obsessive guitarist.
Formed in London as an alliance between Jagger, Richards, and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones along with Watts and bassist Wyman, the Stones began as a grubby conclave of students and bohemians playing a then esoteric music based on Chicago ghetto blues in pubs and clubs in and around West London. Their potential for mass-market success seemed negligible at first, but by 1965 they were second only to the Beatles in the collective affection of teenage Britain.
However, whereas the Beatles of the mid-1960s had longish hair, wore matching suits, and appeared utterly charming, the Stones had considerably longer hair, all dressed differently, and seemed thoroughly intimidating. As the Beatles grew ever more respectable and reassuring, the Stones became correspondingly more rebellious and threatening. The Stones—specifically Jagger, Richards, and Jones—were subjected to intense police and press harassment for drug use and all-purpose degeneracy, whereas the Beatles, who were in private life no less fond of marijuana, sex, and alcohol, were welcomed at Buckingham Palace and made Members of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) by the queen.
The Rolling Stones’ early repertoire consisted primarily of recycled gems from the catalogs of the blues and rock-and-roll titans of the 1950s: their first five singles and the bulk of their first two albums were composed by others. The turning point was reached when, spurred on by the example of the Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jagger and Richards began composing their own songs, which not only ensured the long-term viability of the band but also served to place the Jagger-Richards team firmly in creative control of the group. Jones had been their prime motivating force in their early days, and he was the band’s most gifted instrumentalist as well as its prettiest face, but he had little talent for composition and became increasingly marginalized.
His textural wizardry dominated their first all-original album, Aftermath (1966), which featured him on marimba, dulcimer, sitar, and assorted keyboards as well as on his customary guitar and harmonica. Thereafter, however, he declined in both creativity and influence, becoming a depressive, drug-sodden liability, eventually fired by the band mere weeks before his death.
The Jagger-Richards songwriting team created its first bona fide classic, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” in 1965 and enjoyed a string of innovative hit singles well into 1966, including “Paint It Black,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Get off My Cloud,” “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby,” and “Lady Jane,” but the era of art-pop and psychedelia, which coincided with the Beatles’ creative peak, represented a corresponding trough for the Stones. The fashions of the era of whimsy and flower power did not suit their essentially dark and disruptive energies, and their psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) contributed little beyond its title to their legend.
Furthermore, they were hampered by seemingly spending as much time in court and jail as they did in the studio or on tour. However, as the mood of the time darkened, the Stones hit a new stride in 1968 with the epochal single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” which reconnected them to their blues-rock roots, and the album Beggars Banquet. Replacing Jones with the virtuosic but self-effacing guitarist Mick Taylor, they returned to the road in 1969, almost instantly becoming rock’s premier touring attraction.
By the end of 1970 the Beatles had broken up, Jimi Hendrix was dead, and Led Zeppelin had barely appeared on the horizon. Though Led Zeppelin eventually outsold the Stones by five albums to one, no group could challenge their central position in the rock pantheon. Moreover, the death of Brian Jones combined with Taylor’s lack of onstage presence elevated public perception of Richards’s status from that of Jagger’s right-hand man to effective coleader of the band.
The period between “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the double album Exile on Main Street (1972) remains their creative and iconic peak. Including the studio albums Let It Bleed (1969) and Sticky Fingers (1971) plus the in-concert Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! (1970), it gave them the repertoire and image that still defines them and on which they have continued to trade ever since: an incendiary blend of sex, drugs, satanism, and radical politics delivered with their patented fusion of Jagger’s ironic distance and Richards’s tatterdemalion intensity.
Their records and concerts at this time both explored and provided the soundtrack for the contradictions of a collapsing counterculture at a time when almost everybody else still seemed to be in a state of psychedelic euphoria. Their recordings of this period found them adding country music to their list of influences and—most notably on Beggars Banquet—adding more and more acoustic guitar textures to their already impressive command of musical light and shade. Yet their blues-powered foray into the era’s heart of darkness bore bitter fruit indeed: when a young black man was murdered by Hell’s Angels at a disastrous free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif., during their 1969 American tour, it seemed to many observers that the Stones’ own aura of decadence and danger was somehow to blame for the tragedy.
The quality of their music began to decline after Exile on Main Street. Jagger and Richards began to act out the group’s fascination with the juxtaposition of high society and lowlife: the singer became a jet-set figure; the guitarist, a full-time junkie who finally “cleaned up” in 1977 and thereby saved both his own life and the band’s future.
Taylor left in 1975 to be replaced by Wood, formerly of the Faces, and, despite the occasional bright spot like Some Girls (1978), Emotional Rescue (1980), or “Start Me Up” (1981), the Stones’ albums and singles became increasingly predictable, though their tours continued to sell out.
Both Jagger and Richards recorded solo albums that performed relatively poorly in the marketplace, though Richards’s work was significantly more favorably reviewed than Jagger’s. The Stones embarked on their Steel Wheels album and tour in 1989. Wyman retired in 1992 and was replaced on tour by Daryl Jones, formerly a bassist for Miles Davis and Sting, and in the studio by a variety of guest musicians.
Jagger, Richards, Watts, and Wood continue to trade as the Rolling Stones, and, whenever they tour, audiences flock in the thousands to discover if the old lions can still roar. Several prominent directors have sought to translate the electricity of the Stones as live performers to the screen, including Jean-Luc Godard, with the impressionistic Sympathy for the Devil (1968); Hal Ashby, with Let’s Spend the Night Together (1982); and, perhaps most notably, David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, with Gimme Shelter (1970), which covered the group’s 1969 tour and Altamont Speedway concert.
More recently, in the wake of the group’s well-received album A Bigger Bang (2005), director Martin Scorsese, long a fan of the group, focused less on the spectacle of a Stones’ concert and more on the band as performers. The result, Shine a Light (2008), met with critical acclaim and confirmed that the Rolling Stones remained a major presence in the rock scene of the 21st century.
1. Paint it Black 0:00 2. Gimme Shelter 3:10 3. Sympathy for the Devil 5:56 4. Satisfaction 8:57 5. You Can’t Always Get What You Want 15:12 6. Brown Sugar 22:40 7. Under My Thumb 26:26 8. 19th Nervous Breakdown 30:10 9. Angie 35:57 11. Paint it Black 43:48 12. Gimme Shelter 47:08
Luciano Pavarotti: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
Italian operatic lyric tenor Luciano Pavarotti (b. Oct. 12, 1935, Modena, Italy—d. Sept. 6, 2007, Modena), was considered one of the finest bel canto opera singers of the 20th century.
Even in the highest register, his voice was noted for its purity of tone, and his concerts, recordings, and television appearances—which provided him ample opportunity to display his ebullient personality—gained him a wide popular following.
Luciano Pavarotti graduated from a teaching institute in Modena (1955) and then taught elementary school for two years. He studied opera privately, mostly in Mantua. After winning the Concorso Internazionale, a singing competition, he made his professional operatic debut in 1961 as Rodolfo in La Bohème (1896) in Reggio nell’Emilia, Italy.
He then played in opera houses throughout Europe and Australia and performed the role of Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo (1781) at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1964. He made his first appearance in the United States in Miami in 1965, singing opposite Joan Sutherland as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (1835). In 1968 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, and from 1971 he was a regular performer there. Pavarotti toured the world, performing to as many as 500,000 fans at a time in outdoor venues, as a solo performer or as one of the “Three Tenors” (with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras).
Among his many prizes and awards were five Grammy Awards and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. His most notable operatic roles included the Duke in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851), Tonio in Gaetano Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment (1840; a part remarkable for its demanding sequence of high Cs), Arturo in Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani (1835), and Radamès in Verdi’s Aida (1871), all of which are available as sound recordings.
He performed in a number of televised opera broadcasts. In addition to his opera work, Pavarotti also recorded a collection of Italian love songs (Amore [1992; “Love”]) and a pop album (Ti adoro [2003; “I Adore You”]). With William Wright he wrote Pavarotti: My Own Story (1981) and Pavarotti: My World (1995).
In 2004, Pavarotti gave his final performance on the operatic stage, although he continued to sing publicly until 2006. His last public appearance was in the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, where he sang his signature aria, Nessun dorma, from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot (first performed 1926).
Buddy Holly: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
American singer and songwriter Charles Hardin Holley, professionally known as Buddy Holly, (b. Sept. 7, 1936, Lubbock, Texas, U.S.—d. Feb. 3, 1959, near Clear Lake, Iowa) produced some of the most distinctive and influential work in rock music.
Buddy Holly (the e was dropped from his last name—probably accidentally—on his first record contract) was the youngest of four children in a family of devout Baptists in the West Texas town of Lubbock, and gospel music was an important part of his life from an early age. A good student possessed of infectious personal charm, Holly was declared “King of the Sixth Grade” by his classmates.
He became seriously interested in music at about age 12 and pursued it with remarkable natural ability. The African American rhythm and blues that Holly heard on the radio had a tremendous impact on him, as it did on countless other white teenagers in the racially segregated United States of the 1950s. Already well versed in country music, bluegrass, and gospel and a seasoned performer by age 16, he became a rhythm-and-blues devotee.
By 1955, after hearing Elvis Presley, Holly was a full-time rock and roller. Late that year, he bought a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and developed a style of playing featuring ringing major chords that became his trademark. In 1956, he signed with Decca Records’ Nashville, Tennessee, division, but the records he made for them were uneven in quality, and most sold poorly.
In 1957, Buddy Holly and his new group, the Crickets (Niki Sullivan on second guitar and background vocals, Joe B. Mauldin on bass, and the great Jerry Allison on drums), began their association with independent producer Norman Petty at his studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Together they created a series of recordings that display an emotional intimacy and sense of detail that set them apart from other 1950s rock and roll. As a team, they threw away the rule book and let their imaginations loose.
Unlike most independent rock-and-roll producers of the time, Petty did not own any cheap equipment. He wanted his recordings to sound classy and expensive, but he also loved to experiment and had a deep bag of sonic tricks. The Crickets’ records feature unusual microphone placement techniques, imaginative echo chamber effects, and overdubbing, a process that in the 1950s meant superimposing one recording on another. While crafting tracks such as “Not Fade Away,” “Peggy Sue,” “Listen to Me,” and “Everyday,” Holly and the Crickets camped out at Petty’s studio for days at a time, using it as a combination laboratory and playground.
They were the first rock and rollers to approach the recording process in this manner. When the Crickets’ first single, “That’ll Be the Day,” was released in 1957, their label, Brunswick, did nothing to promote it. Nevertheless, the record had an irrepressible spirit, and by year’s end it became an international multimillion-seller. Soon after, Holly became a star and an icon.
Holly and the Crickets’ association with Petty (who, serving as their manager, songwriting partner, and publisher, owned their recordings) was far from all beneficial, however. According to virtually all accounts, Petty collected the Crickets’ royalty checks and kept the money. By 1959, the hit records tapered off, and Holly was living in New York with his new bride. Estranged from the Crickets and broke, he was also contemplating legal action against Petty. This left him little choice but to participate in the doomed “Winter Dance Party of 1959” tour through the frozen Midwest, during which he and coheadliners Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) were killed in a plane crash.
The music of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, their innovative use of the studio, and the fact that they wrote most of their songs themselves made them the single most important influence on the Beatles, who knew every Holly record backward and forward. In 1986 Holly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he was honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences with a lifetime achievement award.