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Category:The 100 most inspiring musicians of all Time
Stevie Wonder: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Stevie Wonder (b. May 13, 1950, Saginaw, Mich., U.S.) was a child prodigy who developed into one of the most creative musical figures of the late 20th century.
Blind from birth and raised in inner-city Detroit, he was a skilled musician by age eight. Renamed Little Stevie Wonder by Berry Gordy, Jr., the president of Motown Records—to whom he was introduced by Ronnie White, a member of the Miracles—Wonder made his recording debut at age 12. The soulful quality of his high-pitched singing and the frantic harmonica playing that characterized his early recordings were evident in his first hit single, “Fingertips (Part 2),” recorded during a show at Chicago’s Regal Theatre in 1963.
But Stevie Wonder was much more than a freakish prepubescent imitation of Ray Charles, as audiences discovered when he demonstrated his prowess with piano, organ, harmonica, and drums. By 1964 he was no longer described as “Little,” and two years later his fervent delivery of the pounding soul of “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” which he also had written, suggested the emergence of both an unusually compelling performer and a composer to rival Motown’s stable of skilled songwriters. (He had already cowritten, with Smokey Robinson, “The Tears of a Clown.”)
Over the next five years Wonder had hits with “I Was Made to Love Her,” “My Cherie Amour” (both cowritten with producer Henry Cosby), and “For Once in My Life,” songs that suited dancers as well as lovers. Where I’m Coming From, an album released in 1971, hinted not merely at an expanded musical range but, in its lyrics and its mood, at a new introspection. Music of My Mind (1972) made his concerns even more plain.
In the interim, he had been strongly influenced by Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, the album in which his Motown stablemate moved away from the label’s “hit factory” approach to confront the divisive social issues of the day. Any anxieties Gordy may have felt about his protégé’s declaration of independence were amply calmed by the run of recordings with which Wonder obliterated the competition in the mid-1970s.
Those albums produced a steady stream of classic hit songs, among them “Superstition,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Higher Ground,” “Living for the City,” “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” “I Wish,” and “Sir Duke.” Although still only in his mid-20s, Stevie Wonder appeared to have mastered virtually every idiom of African-American popular music and to have synthesized them all into a language of his own.
His command of the new generation of electronic keyboard instruments made him a pioneer and an inspiration to rock musicians, the inventiveness of his vocal phrasing was reminiscent of the greatest jazz singers, and the depth and honesty of his emotional projection came straight from the black church music of his childhood. Such a fertile period was unlikely to last forever, and it came to an end in 1979 with a fey and overambitious extended work called Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.
Thereafter, his recordings became sporadic and often lacked focus, although his concerts were never less than rousing. The best of his work formed a vital link between the classic rhythm and- blues and soul performers of the 1950s and ’60s and their less commercially constrained successors. Yet, however sophisticated his music became, he was never too proud to write something as apparently slight as the romantic gem “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (1984).
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2005. In 2008 the Library of Congress announced that Wonder was the recipient of its Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
00:00 – I Just Called To Say I love You 04:21 – Superstition 08:48 – Isn’t She Lovely 12:07 – California Roll 16:19 – Happy Birthday 22:16 – Part-time Lover 26:31 – Faith 29:14 – You Are The Sunshine Of My Life 32:05 – I Wish 36:19 – Where The Sun Goes 40:18 – We Are The World 47:18 – Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours 55:06 – What Christmas Means To Me 57:37 – Let The Good Times Roll
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Bruce Springsteen: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
American singer, songwriter, and bandleader Bruce Springsteen (b. Sept. 23, 1949, Freehold, N.J., U.S.) became the archetypal rock performer of the 1970s and ’80s.
Bruce Springsteen grew up in Freehold, a mill town where his father worked as a laborer. His rebellious and artistic side led him to the nearby Jersey shore, where his imagination was sparked by the rock band scene and the boardwalk life, high and low. After an apprenticeship in bar bands on the mid-Atlantic coast, Springsteen turned himself into a solo singer-songwriter in 1972 and auditioned for talent scout John Hammond, Sr., who immediately signed him to Columbia Records.
His first two albums, released in 1973, reflect folk rock, soul, and rhythm-and-blues influences, especially those of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Stax/ Volt Records. Springsteen’s voice, a rough baritone that he used to shout on up-tempo numbers and to more sensual effect on slower songs, was shown to good effect here, but his sometimes spectacular guitar playing, which ranged from dense power chord effects to straight 1950s rock and roll, had to be downplayed to fit the singersongwriter format.
With his third album, Born to Run (1975), Springsteen transformed into a full-fledged rock and roller, heavily indebted to Phil Spector and Roy Orbison. The album, a diurnal song cycle, was a sensation even before it hit the shelves; indeed, the week of the album’s release, Columbia’s public relations campaign landed Springsteen on the covers of both Time and Newsweek. Three years passed before the follow-up, the darker, tougher Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), appeared. With “Hungry Heart,” from The River (1980), Springsteen finally scored an international hit single.
By then, however, he was best known for his stage shows, three- and four-hour extravaganzas with his E Street Band that blended rock, folk, and soul with dramatic intensity and exuberant humor. The band, a crew of mixed stereotypes —from rock-and-roll bandit to cool music professional— was more like a gang than a musical unit, apparently held together by little other than faith in its leader.
Bruce Springsteen’s refusal, after Born to Run, to cooperate with much of the record company’s public relations and marketing machinery, coupled with his painstaking recording process and the draining live shows, helped earn his reputation as a performer of principle as well as of power and popularity. Nebraska (1982), a stark set of acoustic songs, most in some way concerned with death, was an unusual interlude.
It was Born in the U.S.A. (1984) and his subsequent 18-month world tour that cinched Springsteen’s reputation as the preeminent writer-performer of his rock-and-roll period.
Springsteen’s social perspective has been distinctly working-class throughout his career, a point emphasized both by his 1995 album, The Ghost of Tom Joad, which concerned itself with the economically and spiritually destitute in America and by his 1994 hit single (his first in eight years), the AIDS-related “Streets of Philadelphia,” from the film Philadelphia, for which he won both an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.
The other side of Springsteen’s work is reflected in the albums that he produced in the period beginning with Tunnel of Love (1987) and including Human Touch and Lucky Town (released simultaneously in 1992). The songs on these albums are intensely personal reflections on intimate relationships.
In general, they have not been as popular. Bridging all this is the five-record set Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live 1975–1985 (1986), which captures as much of his highly visual stage show of that period as can be rendered in a sole audio form. The breakup of the E Street Band in 1989 and general trends in pop music fashion curbed Springsteen’s popularity.
In 1998, he put together a box set, Tracks, consisting for the most part of leftover material that had failed to make the cut on his albums with the band. This grandiose gesture established him as prolix beyond all but a couple of peers. Sales of Tracks were trivial compared with those for Live. In 1999 Springsteen reunited the E Street Band. They appeared with him when he alone was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in early 1999, then spent a year touring with him, resulting in a live album (Live in New York City ) but only a handful of new songs.
On Sept. 21, 2001, Springsteen performed the national debut of his song “My City of Ruins” on a television special. It was written about Asbury Park but took on a different tone in the wake of the September 11 attacks. That tone continued on The Rising, his 2002 album with the E Street Band, which weighed the consequences of the attacks and their aftermath. Beginning on the Rising tour, Springsteen became an adamant critic of the U.S. government, especially regarding the Iraq War. Springsteen’s 2005 solo tour, following the release of the Devils and Dust album, explored the full depth of his song catalog and continued his opposition to the administration’s policies.
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006) took a turn unanticipated by even the closest Springsteen observers. He made the recording over a period of 10 years with a folk-roots band and a horn section. It featured traditional American folk songs (“Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep,” “Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” and “John Henry”) as well as songs associated with its inspiration, Pete Seeger (“My Oklahoma Home,” “How Can I Keep from Singing,” and “Bring ’Em Home”). Springsteen’s tour of the United States and Europe in 2006 featured a 20-piece band.
Magic (2007), another E Street Band album, sometimes spoke metaphorically and sometimes explicitly in opposition to the war and government intrusions on civil liberties. Springsteen continued his commentary through a worldwide tour with the E Street Band in 2007 and 2008.
After the April 2008 death of the E Street Band organist and accordionist Danny Federici from melanoma, the band’s playing acquired a darker urgency of tone. The later stages of the Magic tour featured arguably the most assertive, inspired playing Springsteen and the group had ever done. Working on a Dream, released in early 2009, concerned itself lyrically with thoughts of love and life, how fleeting both are and what it takes to stay the course. The music on the album was a much more sophisticated version of what Springsteen had done on his first two albums, with a greater emphasis on harmony, especially vocal harmonies characteristic of the later work of the Beach Boys.
In the lyrics, Springsteen’s knack for particular detail served him well. On Feb. 1, 2009, Springsteen and the band were the featured entertainment at halftime of Super Bowl XLIII; with an average viewership of 98.7 million, the game was the most-watched televised sports event in American history.
Many fans and much of the press criticized Springsteen for commercializing himself this way. But in the aftermath, it was generally agreed that he had managed to condense the structure, message, humour, and athleticism of his live show into the 12 minutes allotted. On the largest popular culture platform available, Springsteen established that some rock artists remained determined to sustain their vitality and creative ambitions all the way to the end.
All tracks are written by Bruce Springsteen. Side one 1.”Born in the U.S.A.” 2.”Cover Me” 3.”Darlington County” 4.”Working on the Highway” 5.”Downbound Train” 6.”I’m on Fire”
Side Two 7.”No Surrender” 8.”Bobby Jean” 9.”I’m Goin’ Down” 10.”Glory Days” 11.”Dancing in the Dark” 12.”My Hometown”
Personnel Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar
The E Street Band Roy Bittan – piano, synthesizer, background vocals Clarence Clemons – saxophone, percussion, background vocals Danny Federici – Hammond organ, glockenspiel, piano on “Born in the U.S.A.” Garry Tallent – bass guitar, background vocals Steven Van Zandt – rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, harmony vocals Max Weinberg – drums, background vocals
Additional musicians Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg – background vocals on “Cover Me” and “No Surrender” Ruth Davis – background vocals on “My Hometown”
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Michael Jackson: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
American singer, songwriter, and dancer Michael Joseph Jackson (b. Aug. 29, 1958, Gary, Ind., U.S.—d. June 25, 2009, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.) was the most popular entertainer in the world in the early and mid-1980s. Reared in Gary, Ind., in one of the most acclaimed musical families of the rock era, Michael Jackson was the youngest and most talented of five brothers whom his father, Joseph, shaped into a dazzling group of child stars known as the Jackson 5.
In addition to Michael, the members of the Jackson 5 (all also born in Gary) were Jackie Jackson (b. May 4, 1951), Tito Jackson (b. Oct. 15, 1953), Jermaine Jackson (b. Dec. 11, 1954), and Marlon Jackson (b. March 12, 1957).
Motown Records president Berry Gordy, Jr., was impressed with the group and signed them in 1969. Sporting the loudest fashions, the largest Afros, the snappiest choreography, and a youthful, soulful exuberance, the Jackson 5 became an immediate success. They scored four consecutive number one pop hits with “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There” in 1970.
With Michael Jackson topping the pop charts as a solo performer with “Ben” and reaching number two with “Rockin’ Robin,” and with the Jackson 5 producing trendsetting dance tracks such as Dancing Machine, the family’s string of hits for Motown lasted through 1975. As Michael matured, his voice changed, family tensions arose, and a contract standoff ensued.
The group finally broke with Motown, moving to Epic Records as the Jacksons. Jermaine remained at Motown as a solo performer and was replaced by his youngest brother, Randy Jackson (b. Oct. 29, 1961). As a recording act, the Jacksons enjoyed consistent success through 1984, and their sister Janet Jackson embarked on her own singing career in the early 1980s; however, Michael’s solo albums took on an entirely different status.
Michael Jackson’s first solo effort for Epic, Off the Wall (1979), exceeded all expectations and was the best-selling album of the year. Produced by industry veteran Quincy Jones, Off the Wall yielded the massive international hit singles “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and“ Rock with You,” both of which showcased Michael’s energetic style and capitalized on the contemporary disco dance fad.
Three years later he returned with another collaboration with Jones, Thriller, a tour de force that featured an array of guest stars and elevated him to a worldwide superstar.
Thriller sold more than 40 million copies, captured a slew of awards, including a record-setting eight Grammys, and became the best-selling album in history. The first single on the album, “The Girl Is Mine,” an easygoing duet with Paul McCartney, went to number one on the rhythm and blues charts and number two on the pop charts in the fall of 1982. The follow-up single, “Billie Jean,” an electrifying dance track and the vehicle for Jackson’s trademark “moonwalk” dance, topped the pop charts, as did “Beat It,” which featured a raucous solo from famed guitarist Eddie Van Halen.
Moreover, “Beat It” helped break down the artificial barriers between black and white artists on the radio and in the emerging format of music videos on television. By 1984 Jackson was renowned worldwide as the “King of Pop.” His much anticipated Victory reunion tour with his brothers was one of the most popular concert events of 1984.
Further, solo albums—Bad (1987) and Dangerous (1991)—solidified Jackson’s dominance of pop music, and in 2001 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the Jackson 5 were inducted in 1997.
Michael Jackson’s eccentric, secluded lifestyle grew increasingly controversial in the early 1990s. His reputation was seriously damaged in 1993 when he was accused of child molestation by a 13-year-old boy he had befriended; a civil suit was settled out of court. In 1994 Jackson secretly married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, but their marriage lasted less than two years. Shortly thereafter Jackson married again, this marriage producing children, though it, too, ended in divorce. While he remained an international celebrity, his image in the United States was slow to recover, and it suffered even more in November 2003 when he was arrested and charged with child molestation.
After a 14-week trial that became something of a media circus, Jackson was acquitted in 2005.
The singer was preparing a comeback tour in 2009 when he died suddenly of cardiac arrest. A widespread outpouring of grief culminated in a memorial celebration of his life on July 7, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (b. Oct. 13, 1948, Lyallpur [now Faisalabad] Pak.—d. Aug. 16, 1997, London, Eng.) is considered one of the greatest performers of qawwali, a Sufi Muslim devotional music characterized by simple melodies, forceful rhythms, and energetic improvisations that encourage a state of euphoria in the listener.
Nusrat’s father, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, and two of his uncles, Ustad Mubarik Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, were famous qawwals (practitioners of qawwali) who sang in the classical form.
Although Nusrat began to display a penchant for music and a particular aptitude for singing before he had reached age 10, he did not begin to devote himself to the qawwali tradition until he sang at his father’s funeral in 1964. Two years later he gave his first public performance as a qawwal, singing with his uncles, with whom he continued to perform until 1971, when Ustad Mubarik died.
Qawwali originated in 12th-century Persia. The lyrics are based on medieval Sufi poems that often use images of romantic love to express deep religious faith. The traditionally male qawwal, who knows these poems by heart, unites phrases and passages from different poems to create a new expression.
Qawwali performances are typically held in shrines and are marked by passionate shouting and dancing. Qawwali is similar in spirit to American gospel music.
Following his father’s death, Nusrat continued to study the recordings of his father and uncles, using them as a springboard from which to develop his own style. Within just a few years he had established himself throughout Pakistan as the outstanding qawwal of his generation, singing powerfully and expressively in a very high register (a family trademark), with remarkable stamina and melodic creativity.
In concert, he was usually accompanied by tabla (a pair of single-headed drums played with the hands), harmoniums (or reed organs; small keyboard instruments with a foot-operated bellows), and backing vocals. As he matured as a performer, Nusrat made various adjustments to his style, such as increasing the tempo, as a means to elevate qawwali to a new level of aesthetic and spiritual resonance with contemporary—and international— audiences.
In 1985, he gave a concert in the United Kingdom, and word of his talent began to spread. He was soon performing regularly throughout Europe. He first toured the United States in 1989, and in the 1990s he contributed to the sound tracks of several popular films. Nusrat also worked with a number of internationally recognized figures in popular and art music.
Popular musician Peter Gabriel promoted Nusrat on the world music circuit through his WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festivals and through recordings on his Real World Records label.
Meanwhile, composer Michael Brook helped increase the accessibility of Nusrat’s vocalizations by recasting them within Western rhythmic frameworks. Nusrat believed in the universality of the musical message and strove throughout his career to make his music transcend religious and cultural boundaries. When he died suddenly in 1997, Nusrat was mourned by fans across the globe.
David Bowie: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
British singer, songwriter, and actor David Bowie (born David Robert Jones, b. Jan. 8, 1947, London, Eng.) was most prominent in the 1970s and best known for his distinctive voice, shifting personae, and prescient sense of musical trends.
To call Bowie a transitional figure in rock history is less a judgment than a job description. Every niche he ever found was on a cusp, and he was at home nowhere else—certainly not in the unmoneyed London suburb where his childhood was as reserved as his adult life would be glamorous.
Gifted as a musician, actor, writer, and artist (Bowie attended art school from the age of 12), he would ultimately find his place as a performer utilizing all these skills. Nothing if not an eclectic musician in his own right, Bowie had similarly diverse tastes regarding the work of others, being an admirer of the showmanship of British actor and musician Anthony Newley as well as the romantic lyricism of Belgian musician Jacques Brel.
During the mod era of the 1960s, Bowie fronted various bands from whose shadow he—having renamed himself to avoid confusion with the singer of the Monkees—emerged as a solo singer-songwriter. “Space Oddity,” the science fiction single that marks the real beginning of his career, reached the Top Ten in Britain in 1969, the song’s welltimed release coming just after the Apollo 11 Moon mission.
David Bowie’s third album, The Man Who Sold the World (1970), displayed an unprecedented hybrid of folk, art rock, and heavy metal sounds. But it wasn’t until Hunky Dory (1971) that Bowie became truly popular, the hit single “Changes” being the prime vector of that fame.
The singer’s ever-changing appearance, too, created a record-selling buzz. At once lighthearted and portentous, Bowie’s dramatic chameleonlike approach was tailor-made for the 1970s, his signature decade. Bowie created a series of inspired, daringly grandiose pastiches that insisted on utopia by depicting its alternative as inferno, beginning with the emblematic rock-star martyr fantasy The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972).
In the process he stayed so hard on the heels of the zeitgeist that the doom saying of Diamond Dogs (1974) and the disco romanticism of Young Americans (1975) were released less than a year apart. Bowie’s public disclosure of his bisexuality, rather than derailing his growing popularity, boosted his enigmatic allure.
Similarly, his later recantation of such sexual proclivities had no negative effect on his career. Yet all this public display of personal matters took a private toll. By 1977 Bowie had decamped, ditching his idiosyncratic version of the mainstream for the avant-garde austerities of the minimalist album Low, a collaboration in Berlin with Brian Eno, the influential musician and producer who is perhaps best known for his ambient albums.
As music, Low and its sequels, Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979), would prove to be Bowie’s most influential and lasting, serving as a blueprint for a later generation of techno-rock. In the short run, the albums marked the end of his significant mass audience impact, though not his sales.
In addition to Eno, Bowie also collaborated with guitarists Mick Ronson and Carlos Alomar as well as ace nouveaufunk producer Nile Rodgers for “Let’s Dance” (1983).
In the 1980s, despite the impressive artistic resolve of Scary Monsters (1980) and the equally impressive commercial success of Let’s Dance (1983), which produced three American Top 20 hits, Bowie’s once-innovative work seemed to have lost the musical, intellectual, and boundary-pushing edge of his previous efforts. In tandem with an acting career that, since his arresting debut in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), largely failed to jell, his vague later albums oscillated between would-be commercial moves for which he did not seem to have the heart (Never Let Me Down ) and would-be artistic statements for which he had lost his shrewdness (Outside ).
Yet his 1970s work including, in addition to his own output, service as a producer on landmark albums from Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed, and Iggy and the Stooges remains a vital and compelling index to a time it did its part to shape. Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Ten years later, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
King Sunny Ade: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
Nigerian popular musician Sunday Adeniyi, popularly known as King Sunny Ade, (b. Sept. 1, 1946, Oshogbo, Nigeria) was in the vanguard of the development and international popularization of juju music —a fusion of traditional Yoruba vocal forms and percussion with Western rock and roll.
King Sunny Ade enjoyed noble status not only through birth into the Yoruba royalty of southwestern Nigeria but also through popular acclaim as the “King of Juju” since the late 1970s. In his youth, Ade played highlife, a type of urban dance music that emerged in Ghana in the late 19th century and blended elements of church music, military brass-band music, sea shanties, and various local African traditions. In the mid-1960s Ade abandoned highlife for juju, a related musical genre that arose in Nigeria in the 1920s as an expression of the urban Yoruba working class.
He assembled his own juju band, the Green Spots, which he later renamed the African Beats, reflecting the re-Africanization of the genre that had been occurring since the early 1950s in conjunction with a growing sense of nationalism.
Prior to Ade’s formation of the African Beats, one of his most notable predecessors, I.K. Dairo, had already modified juju through incorporation of Yoruba “talking” drums—which replicate the tones of Yoruba language— and through extensive use of the call-and-response vocal structure that is typical of the traditional music of many sub-Saharan African peoples, including the Yoruba.
Upon this musical foundation, Ade laid a tapestry of guitar voices infused with the rhythmic and melodic colours of rock and roll. Ade’s early albums with the African Beats, most notably Sound Vibration (1977) and The Royal Sound (1979), were tremendously successful, and, when the press declared Ade the King of Juju in 1977, the title became integral to his professional persona.
In the early 1980s Ade signed with Island Records, and the release of Juju Music (1982) propelled him, his band, and juju into the international limelight. Ade’s next album with Island, the synthesizer-enriched Synchro System (1983), drew an even more thunderous response and prompted a surge in international bookings.
By the mid-1980s, Ade had exposed much of the non-African world to Nigerian juju. After his separation from Island in 1985, Ade focused his musical activity at home, at which time he also began to shift the topics of his lyrics from the ills of Nigerian society to more-intimate matters of personal struggle.
Although he maintained a tight schedule of recording and performances in Nigeria, he continued to make intermittent appearances abroad on the rapidly expanding world music concert and festival circuit, where both he and juju music continued to enjoy a strong following.
King Sunny Ade – The Best Of The Classic Years 1969 -1974
King Sunny Ade – The Best Of The Classic Years 1969 -1974
Synchro System 00:00 Mo Gbe De 12:53 Ibanuje Mon Iwon 18:13 Ogun Party Part 1 (Ogun Lakaaye) 32:11 Sunny Ti De Bombibele Horojo Oro Towo Baseti Ko Salapata Adena Ike Afai Bowon
King Sunny Adé’s The Best of the Classic Years brings back a lot of memories, especially for people who were born or growing up in the 70s and 80s.. It was released by Shanachie in 2003. The album showcases Adé’s rawer pre-Island Records sound. This classic compiles material recorded between 1969 and 1974 for the Nigerian market. The 1974 hit “Synchro System” was later re-recorded by Adé for his 1983 album of the same name.
Eric Clapton: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
British rock musician Eric Clapton (born Eric Patrick Clapp (b. March 30, 1945, Ripley, Surrey, Eng.) was a highly influential guitarist in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and later became a major singer-songwriter.
Eric Clapton was raised by his grandparents after his mother abandoned him at an early age. He began playing the guitar in his teens and briefly studied at the Kingston College of Art. After playing lead guitar with two minor bands, in 1963 he joined the Yardbirds, a rhythm-and-blues group in which his blues-influenced playing and commanding technique began to attract attention.
Clapton left the Yardbirds in 1965 when they pursued commercial success with a pop-oriented style. That same year he joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and his guitar playing soon became the group’s principal drawing card as it attracted a fanatic following on the London club scene.
In 1966 Clapton left the Bluesbreakers to form a new band with two other virtuoso rock musicians, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. This group, Cream, achieved international popularity with its sophisticated, high-volume fusion of rock and blues that featured improvisatory solos. Clapton’s mastery of blues form and phrasing, his rapid runs, and his plaintive vibrato were widely imitated by other rock guitarists.
The high energy and emotional intensity of his playing on such songs as “Crossroads” and “White Room” set the standard for the rock guitar solo. Cream disbanded in late 1968, however, after having recorded such albums as Disraeli Gears (1967), Wheels of Fire (1968), and Goodbye (1969).
In 1969 Clapton and Baker formed the group Blind Faith with keyboardist-vocalist Steve Winwood and bassist Rick Grech, but the group broke up after recording only one album. Clapton emerged as a capable vocalist on his first solo album, which was released in 1970. He soon assembled a trio of strong session musicians (bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock) into a new band called Derek and the Dominos, with Clapton as lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter.
The guitarist Duane Allman joined the group in making the classic double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970), which is regarded as Clapton’s masterpiece and a landmark among rock recordings. Disappointed by Layla’s lackluster sales and addicted to heroin, Clapton went into seclusion for two years. Overcoming his addiction, he made a successful comeback with the album 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), which included his hit remake of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” On the album, Clapton adopted a more relaxed approach that emphasized his songwriting and vocal abilities rather than his guitar playing.
Over the next 20 years Clapton produced a string of albums, including Slowhand (1977), Backless (1978), Money and Cigarettes (1983), August (1986), Unplugged (1992)—which featured the Top Five hit “Tears in Heaven,” written after the death of his son—and From the Cradle (1994). He explored his musical influences with a pair of Grammy-winning collaborations:
Riding with the King (2000) with blues legend B.B. King and The Road to Escondido (2006) with roots guitarist J.J. Cale. The critical and commercial success of these albums solidified his stature as one of the world’s greatest rock musicians. Clapton, an autobiography, was published in 2007. In 2000 Clapton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bob Marley: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
The thoughtful, ongoing distillation of early ska, rock steady, and reggae forms by Jamaican singersongwriter Bob Marley (b. Feb. 6, 1945, Nine Miles, St. Ann, Jam.—d. May 11, 1981, Miami, Fla., U.S.) blossomed in the 1970s into an electrifying rock-influenced hybrid that made the musician an international superstar.
The son of a white rural overseer, Norval Sinclair Marley, and the black daughter of a local custos (respected backwoods squire), the former Cedella Malcolm, Bob Marley would forever remain the unique product of parallel worlds—his poetic worldview was shaped by the countryside, his music by the tough West Kingston ghetto streets.
Bob Marley’s maternal grandfather was not just a prosperous farmer but also a bush doctor, adept at the mysticism steeped herbal healing that guaranteed respect in Jamaica’s remote hill country. As a child, Marley was known for his shy aloofness, his startling stare, and his penchant for palm reading. Virtually kidnapped by his absentee father (who had been disinherited by his own prominent family for marrying a black woman), the preadolescent Marley was taken to live with an elderly woman in Kingston until a family friend rediscovered the boy by chance and returned him to Nine Miles.
By his early teens, Marley was back in West Kingston, living in a government-subsidized tenement in Trench Town, a desperately poor slum. In the early 1960s, while a schoolboy serving an apprenticeship as a welder, Bob Marley was exposed to the languid, jazz-infected shuffle-beat rhythms of ska, a Jamaican amalgam of American rhythm and blues and native mento (folk-calypso) strains, then catching on commercially.
Bob Marley was a fan of Fats Domino, the Moonglows, and pop singer Ricky Nelson, but, when his big chance came in 1961 to record with producer Leslie Kong, he cut “Judge Not,” a peppy ballad he had written based on rural maxims learned from his grandfather. Among his other early tracks was “One Cup of Coffee,” issued in 1963 in England on the Island Records label.
Marley also formed a vocal group in Trench Town with friends who would later be known as Peter Tosh (original name Winston Hubert MacIntosh) and Bunny Wailer (original name Neville O’Reilly Livingston). The trio, which named itself the Wailers (because, as Marley stated, “We started out crying”), received vocal coaching by noted singer Joe Higgs. Later they were joined by vocalist Junior Braithwaite and backup singers Beverly Kelso and Cherry Green.
In December 1963, the Wailers entered Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One facilities to cut “Simmer Down,” a song by Marley that he had used to win a talent contest in Kingston. “Simmer Down” was an urgent anthem from the shantytown precincts of the Kingston underclass. A huge overnight smash, it played an important role in recasting the agenda for stardom in Jamaican music circles. No longer did one have to parrot the stylings of overseas entertainers; it was possible to write raw, uncompromising songs for and about the disenfranchised people of the West Indian slums.
This bold stance transformed both Marley and his island nation, engendering the urban poor with a pride that would become a pronounced source of identity in Jamaican culture—as would the Wailers’ Rastafarian faith, a creed popular among the impoverished people of the Caribbean, who worshiped the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I as the African redeemer foretold in popular quasi-biblical prophecy.
The Wailers did well in Jamaica during the mid-1960s with their ska records, even during Marley’s sojourn to Delaware in 1966 to visit his relocated mother and fi nd temporary work. Reggae material created in 1969–71 increased the contemporary stature of the Wailers; and, once they signed in 1972 with the (by that time) international label Island and released Catch a Fire, their uniquely rock-contoured reggae gained a global audience.
It also earned the charismatic Marley superstar status, which gradually led to the dissolution of the original triumvirate about early 1974. Although Peter Tosh would enjoy a distinguished solo career before his murder in 1987, many of his best solo albums (such as Equal Rights ) were underappreciated, as was Bunny Wailer’s excellent solo album Blackheart Man (1976).
Eric Clapton’s version of the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff ” in 1974 spread Marley’s fame. Meanwhile, Marley continued to guide the skilled Wailers band through a series of potent, topical albums. By this point, Marley also was backed by a trio of female vocalists that included his wife, Rita; she, like many of Marley’s children, later experienced her own recording success.
Featuring eloquent songs like “No Woman No Cry,” “Exodus,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Coming in from the Cold,” “Jamming,” and “Redemption Song,” Marley’s landmark albums included Natty Dread (1974), Live! (1975), Rastaman Vibration (1976), Exodus (1977), Kaya (1978), Uprising (1980), and the posthumous Confrontation (1983). Exploding in Marley’s reedy tenor, his songs were public expressions of personal truths—eloquent in their uncommon mesh of rhythm and blues, rock, and venturesome reggae forms and electrifying in their narrative might.
He also loomed large as a political figure, and in 1976 survived what was believed to have been a politically motivated assassination attempt. Marley’s attempt to broker a truce between Jamaica’s warring political factions led in April 1978 to his headlining the “One Love” peace concert. His sociopolitical clout also earned him an invitation to perform in 1980 at the ceremonies celebrating majority rule and internationally recognized independence for Zimbabwe. In April 1981, the Jamaican government awarded Marley the Order of Merit.
A month later, he died of cancer. Although his songs were some of the best-liked and most critically acclaimed music in the popular canon, Marley was far more renowned in death than he had been in life. Legend (1984), a retrospective of his work, became the best-selling reggae album ever, with international sales of more than 12 million copies.
The Who: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
The principal members of The Who were Pete Townshend (b. May 19, 1945,London, Eng.), Roger Daltrey (b. March 1, 1944, London, Eng.), John Entwistle (b. Oct. 9, 1944, London, Eng.—d. June 27, 2002, Las Vegas, Nev., U.S.), and Keith Moon (b. Aug. 23, 1946, London. Eng.—d. Sept. 7, 1978, London). Moon was replaced by Kenny Jones (b. Sept. 16, 1948, London, Eng.).
The Who was a British rock group that was among the most popular and influential bands of the 1960s and ’70s and that originated the rock opera. Though primarily inspired by American rhythm and blues, the Who took a bold step toward defining a uniquely British rock vernacular in the 1960s. Eschewing the Beatles’ idealized romance and the Rolling Stones’ cocky swagger, the Who shunned pretension and straightforwardly dealt with teenage travails.
At a time when rock music was uniting young people all over the world, the Who were friendless, bitter outsiders. Townshend and Entwistle joined Daltrey in his group, the Detours, in 1962; with drummer Doug Sandom they became, in turn, the Who and the High Numbers. Moon replaced Sandom in early 1964, after which the group released a self-consciously mod single (“I’m the Face”) to little notice and became the Who again in late 1964.
The West London quartet cultivated a Pop art image to suit the fashion-obsessed British “mod” subculture, and matched that look with the rhythm-and-blues sound that mod youth favored. Townshend ultimately acknowledged that clothing made from the Union Jack, sharp suits, pointy boots, and short haircuts were a contrivance, but it did the trick, locking in a fanatically devoted core following. Fashion, however, was strictly a starting point for the Who; by the late 1960s the mods were history, and the Who were long past needing to identify themselves with the uniform of any movement.
The band’s early records dealt with alienation, uncertainty, and frustration, lashing out with tough lyrics, savage power chords and squalling feedback by guitarist songwriter Townshend, the kinetic assault of drummer Moon and bassist Entwistle, and the macho brawn of singer Daltrey.
The four singles that introduced the Who between January 1965 and March 1966—“I Can’t Explain,” “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” “My Generation,” and “Substitute”—declared themselves in an unprecedented fury of compressed sonic aggression, an artistic statement intensified onstage by Townshend’s habit of smashing his guitar to climax concerts. While other groups were moving toward peace-and-love idealism, the Who sang of unrequited lust (“Pictures of Lily”), peer pressure (“Happy Jack”), creepy insects (Entwistle’s “Boris the Spider”), and gender confusion (“I’m a Boy”). As one instrument after another ended in splinters, the Who firmly declared themselves proponents of making violent rage a form of rock catharsis.
Until the 1967 release of The Who Sell Out, a sardonic concept album presented as a pirate radio broadcast, the Who were primarily a singles group. They were, however, more successful in this regard in Britain than in the United States (“I Can See for Miles,” released in 1967, was the group’s only Billboard Top Ten single). It was the 1969 rock opera Tommy—and a memorable performance at Woodstock that summer—that made the Who a worldclass album-rock act. In the process, Townshend was recognized as one of rock’s most intelligent, articulate, and self-conscious composers.
The Who cemented their standing with Who’s Next (1971), an album of would-be teen anthems (“Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Baba O’Riley”) and sensitive romances (“Behind Blue Eyes,” “Love Ain’t for Keeping”), all reflecting Townshend’s dedication to his “avatar,” the Indian mystic Meher Baba. That same year, Entwistle released a solo album, the darkly amusing Smash Your Head Against the Wall; Townshend issued his first solo album, Who Came First, in 1972; and Daltrey offered his, Daltrey, in 1973. Still, the Who continued apace, releasing Townshend’s second magnum rock opera, Quadrophenia, in 1973, The Who by Numbers in 1975, and Who Are You in 1978.
Moon (“the Loon”), whose excessive lifestyle was legendary, died of an accidental drug overdose in 1978 and was replaced by Jones. So constituted, the Who released Face Dances (1981) and It’s Hard (1982) before disbanding in Daltrey pursued acting while letting his solo career taper off. Entwistle released occasional records to little effect. Townshend busied himself briefly as a book editor while undertaking a variety of solo entures—from wellreceived Who-like rock records such as Empty Glass (1980) to The Iron Man (1989), a less-successful experiment in musical theatre that nevertheless paved the way for the triumphant delivery of Tommy to Broadway in 1993.
Townshend, Daltrey, and Entwistle reunited for tours in 1989 and 1996–97. The Who was about to embark on a U.S. tour in 2002 when Entwistle died. Tommy remains the Who’s most enduring creation. On its way to the theatre, Tommy became an all-star orchestral album in 1972 and a garish film with Daltrey in the title role in 1975. Quadrophenia also was made into a film, in 1979, and was revived by the touring Who as a stagy rock spectacle in the 1990s.
In 2005, and 2006 Townshend serialized a novella, The Boy Who Heard Music, online, and a set of related songs constituted Wire & Glass, the mini-opera that made up part of Endless Wire (2006), which was the first album of new Who material since 1982. A full-blown musical based on this material and also titled The Boy Who Heard Music premiered in July 2007 at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. A year later, the Who were celebrated (and performed) at a VH1 Rock Honors concert.
“My Generation” appeared on The Who’s debut album of the same name. It was released as a single on 5th November 1965, reaching No. 2 in the UK charts and 74 in the US. “My Generation” was recently named the 11th greatest song by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
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Led Zeppelin: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
The members of Led Zeppelin were Jimmy Page (b. Jan. 9, 1944, Heston, Middlesex,Eng.), Robert Plant (b. Aug. 20, 1948, West Bromwich, West Midlands, Eng.), John Paul Jones (original name John Baldwin; b. Jan. 3, 1946, Sidcup, Kent, Eng.), and John Bonham (b. May 31, 1948, Redditch, Hereford and Worcester, Eng.—d. Sept. 25, 1980, Windsor, Berkshire).
The British rock band Led Zeppelin was extremely popular in the 1970s, and although their musical style was diverse, they came to be well known for their influence on the development of heavy metal.
Initially called the New Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968 by Jimmy Page, the final lead guitarist for the legendary British blues band the Yardbirds. Bassist and keyboard player Jones, like Page, was a veteran studio musician; vocalist Plant and drummer Bonham came from little-known provincial bands.
The group was influenced by various kinds of music, including early rock and roll, psychedelic rock, blues, folk, Celtic, Indian, and Arabic music. Although acoustic and folk-based music was part of the band’s repertoire from its inception, it was the bottom heavy, loud, raw, and powerful electric style that gained them their following and notoriety early on; their first two albums included many of the songs that prompted Led Zeppelin’s categorization as a precursor of heavy metal.
The heaviness of songs such as “Dazed and Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love” was created by Bonham’s enormous drum sound and through Page’s production techniques, in which he emphasized drums and bass, resulting in a sonic spaciousness that has kept the records sounding fresh years after they were made. Page and Jones also wrote most of the band’s music, while Plant contributed lyrics and some musical ideas. Although Page was responsible for the majority of their signature riffs (the short, repeated musical ideas that often structure a song), Jones wrote the riff for the celebrated “Black Dog” and several other songs.
Jones also contributed much to the arrangement of songs. Page’s guitar solos were based primarily on melodic ideas derived from the blues scale (“Heartbreaker” is a good example), and he is especially known for creating multiple, simultaneous guitar parts—a kind of guitar orchestra—in such songs as “Achilles Last Stand” and “The Song Remains the Same.” Page is considered one of rock’s guitar heroes, but, because he was more interested in creating a distinctive mood and sound on a recording than in displaying his virtuosity, he frequently chose not to include a guitar solo in Zeppelin songs.
Plant’s voice rounded out Led Zeppelin’s sound. Exaggerating the vocal style and expressive palette of blues singers such as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, Plant created the sound that has defined much hard rock and heavy metal singing: a high range, an abundance of distortion, loud volume, and emotional excess (“Whole Lotta Love” is a classic example). Plant was, however, capable of a broader stylistic range, including tender ballads (“The Rain Song”) and songs showing the influence of Indian and Arabic vocal styles (“Kashmir”).
Led Zeppelin’s best-known song is “Stairway to Heaven”; its gentle acoustic beginning eventually builds to an exhilarating climax featuring a lengthy electric guitar solo. This combination of acoustic and electric sections was typical for Page, who from the band’s beginning was interested in juxtaposing what he called “light and shade.”
The song appeared on the band’s fourth and most famous album, released untitled, which showed only four runic symbols (intended to represent the band members) on the cover and had the mystical, mythological lyrics to “Stairway” printed on the inner sleeve. The sense of mystery and ritual that this created became an important part of the band’s image.
Thanks in part to their manager, Peter Grant, the band enjoyed phenomenal commercial success throughout the 1970s. While Led Zeppelin never received the kind of critical acclaim or mainstream acceptance accorded the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, their influence on rock music has been prodigious. They are regularly cited as the progenitors of both hard rock and heavy metal. Their sound has been imitated by bands from Black Sabbath to Nirvana. They also inspired hard rock bands to include acoustic elements in their music and were among the first to experiment with Indian and North African music.
Page’s style has served as an important model for most rock guitarists, and Bonham is often cited as the model for metal or hard rock drumming. Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 after Bonham’s accidental death. The group re-formed for short, one-off performances in 1985 (the Live Aid benefit), 1988 (Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary concert), and 1995 (the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).
Much more momentous was the group’s full-blown concert in London in December 2007 to honour Atlantic’s legendary cofounder Ahmet Ertegun, at which Bonham’s son, Jason, played the drums.
Disc One 1. Good Times Bad Times 00:00 2. Communication Breakdown 02:46 3. Dazed and Confused 05:14 4. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You 11:42 5. Whole Lotta Love 18:23 6. Ramble On 23:55 7. Heartbreaker 28:15 8. Immigrant Song 32:33 9. Since I’ve Been Loving You 34:58 10. Rock and Roll 42:21 11. Black Dog 46:02 12. When the Levee Breaks 50:56 13. Stairway to Heaven 58:05