From The Other Wiki: "Over time, his hearing loss became profound: there is a well-attested story that, at the end of the premiere of his Ninth Symphony, he had to be turned around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience; hearing nothing, he wept."
Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique was one of the first symphonies with an accompanying storyline and may have possibly invented the Leitmotif.
Richard Wagner deserves a mention apart from the "Walkürenritt", not only for his own music (which has seen a lot of use in film scores), but for his pervasive influence on film composers particularly in popularizing both the Late Romantic style and the use of leading motives and themes to characterize characters and ideas in dramatic music.
Russian Christmas Music by Alfred Reed, notably the Cathedral Chorus at the end. There's a reason that this is one of the most-played wind ensemble pieces ever written.
Phillip Glass, pretty awesome, don't care what people think about minimalism.
Ennio Morricone. One of the most prolific soundtrack composers ever, who's put music on everything from Spaghetti Westerns to Science Fiction, from prestige films to sleazy exploitation flicks. The quality of the movies may vary, but you can always count on a kickass soundtrack.
The 1812 Overture, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Ya gotta love a piece of music that was written specifically to be accompanied and punctuated by artillery fire.
Tchaikovsky is also the best-known ballet composer, including Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and especially The Nutcracker.
Arnold Schoenberg. Although he himself never composed for the movies, many of his students did and his music had a huge influence on the scoring of Film Noir. To this day, when composers want to depict somebody cracking up, they imitate Schoenberg. Some people find his music hard to listen to, for that very reason.
Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin, successfully melding classical and jazz stylings.
Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings. Try to sit through it and not get something in your eye—you will fail.
There's a reason it was used for the opening, the closing, and the most poignant scene in Platoon.
His Piano, Violin, Cello, and "Capricorn" Concerti all deserve mention as well, as does his transcendent Piano Sonata and his three essays for orchestra.
Debussy, whose Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune ushered in the era of musical modernism. La Mer is one of the most enduring symphonic works of all time.
Edgard Varese, the father of electronic music. He released less than twenty complete works, yet remains one of the influential composers of all time, including to a young boy named Frank Zappa...
Karlheinz Stockhausen was the 1960s in classical music. As one of the leaders of the Darmstadt School, he and Pierre Boulez were pioneers in both serial, aleatoric, and even spectral music, changing the classical music landscape for years to come.
Iannis Xenakis. He studied under the famous architect Le Corbusier and then the famous composer Olivier Messiaen. He incorporated all kinds of mathematical ideas into his music. He once wrote a beautiful (if a bit harsh) piece called Metastasis, then proceeded to design a building based off of it. That building was the famous Philips Pavilion.
Georges Bizet's Carmen, an opéra comique. Don't mistake it for a comedy though—it's most definitely a tragedy. The most recognizable/popular of parts are "Toréador's Song," and ''Habanera.''
Harry Partch, who almost single-handedly introduced just intonation note tuning based upon pure mathematical frequency ratios into the dialogue of modern classical music. A massive influence on musicians like The Residents.
Christoper Tin's Calling All Dawns, the leading piece of which—Baba Yetu—became the first piece of video game music to win a Grammy. The other songs aren't featured in video games but are equally awesome.
Robert Johnson is certainly the most mythical figure in blues history. He may be the definitive Delta Blues artist, but there are a few runners-up who came before him:
Son House may be the most powerful vocalist of the Delta Blues era, with his early recordings still one of the most intense listening experiences in blues, and music in general. He also taught Robert Johnson.
Charley Patton was the first true star of the Delta blues, and one of its most innovative guitar players, too. He was definitely no slouch in the vocal department himself, with a voice that made him sound like a man twice his size.
Lead Belly. This Hot-Blooded folk and blues singer is practically a nucleus of traditional American standards. So potent a performer was Lead Belly that he’s reportedly twice gotten jail sentences reduced simply by singing/recording a song for the governor.
Blind Willie McTell, the master of the 12-string. Possesses a fine tenor voice that makes him a standout in the genre's long history.
Blind Willie Johnson, not to be confused with McTell. A Baptist minister with a distinctive guttural wail and a huge devotion to God.
Peetie Wheatstraw, aka William Bunch, was an interesting case. Understanding what a level of notoriety can do for a person's success, he spread the rumor that he sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads, and began referring to himself as "The Devil's son-in-law." (Alternately, "the high sheriff from Hell.") Combined with his tales of loose women and the gritty lifestyle of black Americans, this made Peetie sort of a forerunner to the shock rock and rap of the future.
The melodic sensibilities (not to mention the incredibly prolific body of work) of Lonnie Johnson made him very influential in his own right. He was also one of the first to go electric.
Ma Rainey, the Mother Of The Blues, one of the earliest blues singers to make records, with a deep singing style and all manner of backup bands to compliment it.
Her protégée, Bessie Smith, the Empress Of The Blues, was the first. She even eclipsed Rainey in popularity, with a strong, passionate vocal of her own.
Lucille Bogan is (in)famous for her "tell it like it is" attitude to writing lyrics, which were blunt, upfront and sometimes obscene. Her 1935 song "Shave 'Em Dry" is still one of the most sexually explicit songs ever recorded.
Memphis Minnie. There aren't too many women in blues who handle guitar and vocals, and Minnie did both of those things with considerable gusto.
T-Bone Walker was the man who first started playing the blues on electric guitars. On top of that, he was an incredible showman; playing the guitar outward, or while doing the splits, or behind his back. And on top of that, he channeled the sounds of jazz music and swing music, becoming one of the first to widen the palette of blues. Definitely another obvious influence on rock & roll, if there ever was one.
Muddy Waters. With the help of a strong band behind him, he helped move the music out of the deep South and up north. While T-Bone founded the electric blues, Muddy perfected it. He also discovered Chuck Berry (see the Rock & Pop section for more on him), and set some of the groundwork for rock & roll in his own right - hell, he wrote a song called “Rolling Stone”.
Howlin’ Wolf, and his scratchy, growling voice that’s now iconic, brought out the real sleaziness of the music.
John Lee Hooker’s minimalist jams, and "talking" style of vocals, gave an infectious boogie to the music like no other bluesman before or since.
Harmonica virtuoso Little Walter, who was the only man ever inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame by virtue of being a harmonica player.
Willie Dixon is one of the great songwriters of the blues, an architect of its 40s and 50s sound, and fought hard to get his efforts recognized in his lifetime.
Jimmy Reed. His music was undeniably formulaic and simple, and yet it became some of the most accessible blues ever recorded.
B.B. King, the blues guitarist for many, and often cited as the King Of The Blues. Certainly the most highly renowned living figure of the genre.
By the way, B.B.'s cousin, Bukka White, a slide guitarist, came earlier, and his work is a highlight of the Delta blues era.
Taj Mahal emerged as a traditionalist blues musician in the late 60s and 70s, and then spun off into a multitude of other musical styles, influenced by Africa, Hawaii and pure Americana.
Clifton Chenier, the King Of Zydeco!
Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn spearheaded a renewal of interest in blues in the 1980s, and would probably still be at it today were it not for a fatal helicopter accident which cut his career short.
Bing Crosby, singer, actor, innovator, businessman and consummate "everyman." Had an (at the time) unique approach to vocals that we know now as crooning, which not only fit perfectly with emerging microphone technology, but it made him an American icon. Set the tone for most vocal musicians to come after. Most notably, Perry Como was obviously influenced by him.
Billie Holiday, not only a powerful vocalist, but a distinctive and influential one, too. Also one of the most tragic figures in musical folklore.
Vera Lynn, an undisputed icon of the post-war era.
The Boswell Sisters were one of the most gifted, playful vocal trios of all time. The Andrews Sisters followed in their footsteps to even bigger success in the post-war era.
Nat King Cole; jazz pianist, television personality, and a commanding presence in vocal pop.
Frank Sinatra went from teen idol - he may have been one of the first teen idols, actually - to one of America's most charismatic singers of songs. Mixed traditional pop music with jazz, and set a new standard for pop in the process. Plus, he pioneered the concept album along the way.
Dean Martin, quite simply the coolest guy in vocal pop.
Doris Day, much like other singers in this section, made an impact as both a singer and an actress. Her sugary-sweet, personal vocals made her a much beloved figure in vocal pop.
Eartha Kitt, one of the most distinctive singers by any measure; a ravenous, powerful singer, fiercely expressive of her wants and desires. She was also a dedicated LGBT activist, the original Catwoman, and was generally the baddest bitch.
Ella Fitzgerald, an exuberant singer who combined jazz vocals, scatting and sheer enthusiasm to charm millions of listeners for decades.
Barbra Streisand is one of the best selling singers of all time, and became a vocal pop legend long after rock and roll made its impact.
Bette Midler, a.k.a. The Divine Miss M.
Rock and Pop 1950s-1960s
1950s (the dawn of the rock era)
Ray Charles. He laid down the foundation for Rock and Roll by mixing gospel and Rhythm & Blues. Without him, there would be no Rock and Roll.
Bill Haley And His Comets, often forgotten in the wake of the bigger superstars later in the decade. Haley and his motley crew were one of the first ensembles to hit upon the idea of mixing swing music and country music to create a newer, fresher sound, and with the smash hit "Rock Around The Clock," are the first act to send rock & roll to the top of the charts.
Chuck Berry: He helped bring rock and roll to a huge mainstream audience. Not to mention Outer Space. Chuck was the Trope Maker for many early conventions of rock & roll music, such as the "Chuck Berry guitar intro" which has been imitated countless times (even by no less than The Beach Boys), not to mention that he crammed rock & roll into the 4/4 beat that's still the standard even six decades later. Chuck is crucial to the style's development.
Before Elvis, rock & roll was a radical movement that was thought to be simply a strange phenomenon with teenagers. After Elvis, rock & roll was the biggest thing in music, and you could probably divide the 20th century into what came before Elvis' breakthrough and what came after.
He established the rockabilly sound as the early template of rock & roll, which carried the movement through much of its first decade. Not even content with that, he incorporated numerous styles into his music and demonstrated that rock & roll had significant range to it. When asked what kind of music he played, Elvis famously replied "I play all kinds of music."
With his penchant for putting an emotionally and sexually charged energy into his performances, Elvis set in stone the presentation of a rock star, not to mention shook up a lot of parents, and wooed a ton of teenage girls, in essence becoming the first true sex symbol in music for better or for worse. Essentially, when people call Elvis "the king of rock & roll," they're not messing around.
Buddy Holly: In a mere 18 months as a professional musician, he pioneered numerous new techniques in recording and in songcraft, changed the entire concept of what a rock star was supposed to look like, set the stage for rock music's redefinition in the 1960s, and, of course, rocked and rolled like nobody's business. Sadly he's also part of one of popular music's most infamous tragedies.
Roy Orbison was another guy who didn't fit an archetype: he didn't have the charisma or dynamic stage presence of some of those other rock & rollers, but he instead created his own archetype of the hopelessly romantic loser in his songwriting, and put it over with mournful, operatic vocals that inspired generations afterward.
"The Killer" Jerry Lee Lewis, the eclectic wild man of early rock & roll. As far as performances go, this lunatic set the bar impossibly high with his manic, aggressive piano playing and on-stage theatrics (kicking out his stool, standing on his piano, setting it on fire). Nearly derailed his career with one of the first big rock & roll scandals, then reinvented himself as a country singer.
Bo Diddley: Not often recognized for what he did. He was known as "the Originator" for being one of the first artists to start playing Rock & Roll. The Beatles cited him as a favorite, and Hendrix and Clapton were directly inspired by him. His most famous contribution was the "Bo Diddley Beat" that rock bands the world over still use.
Duane Eddy, one of rock's first instrumentalists who forged a distinctive "twang" sound, and one of the first guys to make the electric guitar "cool."
Link Wray, a guitarist and mainly an instrumentalist, is the guy who invented the power chord. That's decades of rock music based on a technique he started.
Also brought reverb into the guitar lexicon to create a "wet" sound for his intense, rapid-fire playing style. He was so intense, in fact, that the first 100 watt amp was made especially for him.
Fabian (aka Fabian Forte) is notable not so much as a musician per se, as even fans of his music will tell you he couldn't really carry a tune. Fabian is more influential from a marketing standpoint: he was an incredibly handsome young man, and Bob Marcucci - co-owner of Chancellor Records - banked that he could "manufacture" Fabian into a Teen Idol, by electronically lowering the deficiencies in his voice and exploiting the rock & roll sounds of the day around him. The gambit worked, Fabian became a huge sex symbol, and scored some major chart success until he bought out his contract and moved into acting in the 60s. "The fabulous Fabian" is the archetypical manufactured pop star, and the business model around his success is still liberally used to this day.
1960s (British Invasion, folk rock, psychedelia and the rise of the hippie era)
The Beatles redefined pop music with Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (commonly known as "The White Album") and Abbey Road. They also redefined pop music with every single other album they released, just not as much. Also responsible for a unique fandom phenomenon: what other band has ever been so popular that they had to stop touring for fear of widespread riots? Their music went from '50s-influenced rock to folk-rock to swirly psychedelia to acoustic pieces to blues, soul, jazz, pop, music-hall, country, rockabilly, the avant-garde, reggae/ska, Beach Boys influences, proto-punk, proto-metal, proto-prog, proto-funk... and yet, they developed their own distinctive style(s), and distinctive slant on the styles they tackled.
Not only is that not unique, but they weren't even the first to have riots at their shows. The first showing of Igor Stravinski's The Rite of Spring in 1913 actually incited a riot because of the music itself.
The difference is probably that most music-related riots tend to be because of fan disappointment, either due to a poor performance, or failing to show up, not zeal and joy. The Beatles could show up, do their thing very politely, and still have thousands of screaming fans going insane.
The Rolling Stones, arguably theTrope Makers of Hard Rock, elevated the three-minute riff-oriented rock song to an art form. Threw blues and pop in a blender, and everyone knows what came out - "Satisfaction." Fronted by the archetypical rock & roll vocalist, Mick Jagger.
The Beach Boys: the Sixties' masters of memorable melody. Pet Sounds, arguably the band's finest album, is a masterpiece of songwriting and production by Brian Wilson; they'd still be going strong today if Wilson hadn't suffered a massive Creator Breakdown while working on SMiLE... and if manager Murry Wilson (father of the three Wilson brothers) hadn't created a massive tangle of royalty- and copyright-related red tape that took the judicial system twenty years to resolve.
Chubby Checker didn't have much in the way of longitivtiy compared to other artists in this section, but "The Twist," one of the biggest dance crazes of all time, was designed to be done without a partner, reestablishing the whole atmosphere of the dance floor. The Twist was so popular, he had two hit songs about it!
Cream, in their live material, for setting the whole twenty-minute jam era of rock and roll into motion and beginning the golden age of rock & roll supergroups.
But that's nothing compared to Eric Clapton and the legacy he built by himself. He's seen as the UK's answer to Jimi Hendrix.
Velvet Underground. Hippie-era Beatnik-punks who wore black clothes, wraparound shades and played noisy songs about illegal drugs, illicit sex and guys who mail themselves to their girlfriends. Female drummer, with John Cale and Lou Reed up front. Their four albums collectively sold very few copies, but as Brian Eno famously said, everyone who bought their 1967 debut formed a band. Immeasurably influential, particularly on punk rock and the 1980s 'indie' scene.
Jimi Hendrix: extremely experimental musician who invented a whole series of revolutionary new electric guitar techniques, most notably incorporating electronic distortion such as feedback loops and static noise into the music itself. (Also helped create the rock-industry superstition around the number 27 by dying at that exact age, just like Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and later, Kurt Cobain, and most recently Amy Winehouse.)
Speaking of Janis Joplin, in the 60s, she raised the bar big time for women in rock music thanks to her aggressive stage presence and incredibly powerful blues vocals. Former Ensemble Darkhorse of Big Brother & The Holding Company, she became a legend after going solo, and influenced countless women in rock & roll music for future generations, like Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks, and even P!nk.
And if you're talking powerful vocals, you have to talk about Tom Jones, who came to define what it meant to be a pop star over a decades-spanning career. Since the 60s, he's changed with the times by singing all sorts of different styles of music, from classic pop to show tunes to country, and carried it all off with an intensely deep baritone voice and a sexually-charged stage presence that has become his trademark (to the point that, famously, women began throwing their panties on stage during his shows).
Cher, speaking of definitive pop stars. Beginning in her career partnered with Sonny Bono (you may remember their partnership for the legendary "I Got You Babe"), Cher and her strong contralto voice showed an ability to change with the times that maybe dwarfed even Tom Jones, hopping from flower-power pop music to arena-ready rock & roll to dance music, meanwhile becoming a fashion icon, a successful actress, becoming one of the biggest LGBTQ icons of all time, and (as "Weird Al" Yankovic once referred to her) the O.G. of Auto-Tune. She's pushing 70 and still putting out music in the 2010s. You'd be hard-pressed to find another career with that kind of impact.
The Monkees began as a wholly manufactured British Invasion pop group, complete with their own TV show. After finding huge success, asserted their independence to become a more authentic band. This had mixed results, but the Monkees remain a beloved 60s artifact.
The Who, brought a rougher side to rock that hadn't been seen before and led to the punk genre, as well as influencing 70s rock greatly. Also famous for Tommy; the first "rock opera". Their followup album, Who's Next, was also influential for its use of synthesizers, which would become increasingly common in '70s rock.
Neil Young. Pioneer of folk-rock, but also willing to experiment with different styles like hard rock, jazz and even grunge, and arguably one of the best acoustic guitarists alive. Lots of personal lyrics abound in his work.
Buffalo Springfield, although rather short lived, proved no less influential.
Pink Floyd emerged from the psychedelic era and survived a change in frontmen to become one of the most evocative bands in rock history. They didn't invent concept albums, but they proved to be masters of the form - most notably with The Dark Side Of The Moon, Animals, and The Wall.
Led Zeppelin, arguably one of the definitive Hard Rock bands - in fact, they're the highest selling hard rock band ever. They're also the Trope Codifiers of AOR (album-oriented rock) and four of the finest musicians of their time. IV is the album that set the foundation for modern rock and roll.
King Crimson, whose guitarist, Robert Fripp, is one of the most influential people on Alternative music of all time, are notable for having done everything in their career. Examples include an anthemic song that they refused to play, shouting at audience members for being too loud, releasing a Prog Rock album, a jazz album, and a metal album, a new-age album, an invisible album, and an acoustic album within ten years, and publicly stating that they don't give a rat's ass about their public image.
The Plastic People Of The Universe: A late '60s Czech avant-rock who faced constant pressure from the communist regime (even getting some of their members arrested at one point), and one of the few rock bands that can be said to have a true historical impact.
True. Few bands inspire both the punk movement in music AND a revolution in Czechoslovakia.
The Byrds: Besides Bob Dylan, they were Trope Makers and Trope Codifiers of Folk Rock (1965), then helped popularize psychedelia (1966-67), and country-rock (1968-69), as well as the jangly 12-string guitar sound that a million power-pop and alternative bands would imitate in later years. Their guitarist, Clarence White, is quite popular amongst guitar aficionados (and within that circle, Tele enthusiasts) for his invention of the B-bender, meant to imitate the sound of a pedal-steel guitar by raising the note on the B string by one whole step.
The Band: Used timeless lyrics and a rootsy sensibility to introduce Americana to rock music. Which is kind of ironic, considering that all but one of them is Canadian (although in fairness, the one American was the Face of the Band) and they met in Toronto. They got their name from being Bob Dylan's backing band for a while in the late 60s and early 70s.
Actually, their record company gave them the name because no one could figure out what to call them after their first album. The guys themselves were partial to The Honkies or The Crackers. You can see why that wouldn't go over so well...
Simon & Garfunkel showed us how much you can do with a harmony and guitar chords. Sing "Hello Darkness my old friend" and see how many eyes light up. They also are responsible for the most equally haunting, and most recognized version of "Scarborough Fair." Also responsible for the powerfully emotional Bridge Over Troubled Water". It should also be noted that Paul Simon himself had a fruitful solo career as well.
The Kinks. Masterful pop craftsmen and standouts in the British Invasion, their first hit "You Really Got Me" alone is cited as the genesis of dozens of genres and subgenres of modern rock. In many ways, the Kinks are the quintessential British rock band.
Frank Zappa: Used xylophones and kazoos on a rock album in the mid sixties, inspired everything from Captain Beefheart to Music/They Might be Giants, and explored everything from blues-rock to jazz fusion. Politically vocal, musical omnivore, satirically pointed and to top it all off blessed with a good sense of humor that often attacked the pomposity of classical music and rock 'n' roll itself.
The Wrecking Crew, a collection of legendary studio musicians in 1960's and 70's Los Angeles. Helped producer Phil Spector create his renowned "wall of sound" signature style, and are also the guys you hear adding all those layers of music on top of the Beach Boys' best songs.
The Mamas And The Papas, the definitive sunshine pop band, known for their strong harmonies and the brash lead vocals of standout member Mama Cass.
The Doors represented the other side of psychedelia; the darker impulses of the human psyche. Concocted a twisted, trippy sound that stood in contrast to the peace and love era, punctuated by the distinctive keyboards of Ray Manzarek and put over by ravenous frontman Jim Morrison.
The Bee Gees, a beloved British pop band who wrote a string of hit singles that embodied the style of the time, then changed direction once they hit the mid-1970s to become the Trope Codifiers of Disco.
Creedence Clearwater Revival. As the hippie aesthetic widened the palettes of much of the rock world, CCR became a massive success simply by going the other way and getting in touch with rock & roll's roots, namely rockabilly, rhythm & blues and good old driving rock music. They wound up with a distinctly American sound that laid the groundwork for the southern rock and heartland rock movements. Just check out Willy And The Poor Boys.
Speaking of distinctly American rock & roll, there's Bob Seger, who slowly rose to prominence to define the style of heartland rock as well as anyone else, and has a slew of radio mainstays to show for it.
The Grateful Dead, anyone? Between their highly influential jam-band music, revolutionary live performances, rabid subculture, and having their own ice cream, it's shocking to see the page go so long without them.
Rock & Pop 1970s-1980s
The 1970s (the classic rock era, singer-songwriters, disco, and the punk and new wave movements)
Eagles. Originally the backup band of Linda Ronstadt (who's quite notable in her own right), they struck out on their own to enormous success, simply because for many, the entire motif of Classic Rock is summed up by the Eagles. In truth, their good-time Southern Rock influences and crowd-pleasing, polished songwriting firmly established the 1970s template for Arena Rock (and, for their harshest critics, corporate rock). Want an example of how crowd-pleasing the Eagles are? Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) is one of the highest selling albums in the history of mankind, surpassing forty million copies.
Yes (Not as "in agreement with the previous item," but the band called "Yes," (Owner of a Lonely Heart), the quintessential art-rock band, who's twentyminute long songs and guitar/synthesizer duels inspired music geeks for a generation.
Jethro Tull: Famed for being the only well known band with a flute driven sound. They combine hard rock, the blues, jazz, English folk music and progressive rock styles, and combine electric, acoustic and electronic instruments on the same tune at the same time.
Steely Dan, known for convoluted, erudite lyrics that masked a lot of the content and a distinct jazz-rock fusion sound. Not the only fusion act out of the decade, but probably the most recognizable.
Not to mention being one of the most successful artists to never tour or promote their music much.
Rush, which took Zeppelin-esque hard rock and added philosophical lyrics, science fiction themes, and a level of musical virtuosity rarely seen in popular music. It's no surprise that drummer/songwriter Neil Peart is often called one of the greatest musicians of all time, and Geddy Lee is one of the most influential bassists of all time. Generally, one of the most influential Canadian bands ever.
Anything by Queen, which further incorporated theatrical and operatic themes into rock & roll without alienating John Q. Rocker, and recorded the soundtracks for Highlander and the 1980 film adaptation of Flash Gordon. The Wayne's World movie featured a highly memorable scene acted out to the tune of the band's "Bohemian Rhapsody", the after-effect of which is that head-banging during the guitar solo is mandatory - yes, even if you're driving. Notably, Queen had one of the greatest rock frontmen of all time in the operatically-trained showman, Freddie Mercury.
And who did America respond with? A little group called Kiss. They were responsible for bringing harder rock to much larger audiences, and were American rock's biggest spectacle during the early 70s. As their fame grew, they began embarking on more and more capitalist ventures in an attempt to secure more money and fans, ranging from a widely-derided film to a comic book series, and culminating in their attempt to cash in on the disco era.
Journey, who emerged out of the prog-rock scene of the 1970s to put out some of rock's greatest anthems, such as the now-legendary "Don't Stop Believing."
Cheap Trick. By bridging the gap between the chiming rock sound of the British Invasion and the oncoming punk rock movement, these guys wound up becoming pioneers in Power Pop.
Peter Frampton's time as a hitmaker was relatively brief, but it was long enough to make him one of the preeminent guitar gods of the time. Put out the definitive Arena Rock live album, Frampton Comes Alive, and popularized the talkbox, a device allowing the user to "speak" through their instrument.
David Bowie. Released definitive albums (or at least songs) in a vast variety of genres, including glam rock, ambient music, electronic music, industrial rock, heavy metal, and folk — with a constantly shifting look and approach to match. A highly theatrical artist, his elaborate stage shows made him one of the first performers to bring Spectacle to rock in The Seventies; also a key figure in the rise of the Concept Video. In part, it's that flair for spectacle that makes Bowie one of the most pivotal figures in music.
Brian Eno: glam rock figurehead, influential producer, inventor of ambient music, creator of Oblique Strategies... the list can go on longer.
Meat Loaf, and his frequent songwriting partner Jim Steinman, belong here thanks to the album that encapsulated everything glorious about the rock & roll excess of the 70s: Bat Out Of Hell. It spawned two sequel albums, and Meat Loaf's long career.
Talking Heads: this outlet for David Byrne's weird arthouse funk poetry is possibly the only "New Wave" band that is still considered good music. They were one of the many bands to come out of New York's CBGB club, and combined esoteric lyrics with African polyrhythms, helping to spread the interest in African music. Their concert film Stop Making Sense is considered the definitive work of it's genre.
Blondie was one of the first bands to be called New Wave (a term invented by their record label to differentiate the group from the punk scene) and were also one of many bands to play at the now legendary CBGB club. "Heart Of Glass" was their breakthrough single, cashing in on the disco craze of the era, and "Rapture" was one of the first songs to introduce rap to a wider audience.
Speaking of New Wave, Devo are the godfathers of the scene. Built around the idea of "deevolution" - man is in many ways regressing rather than evolving - they reflected their cynical, subversive views with tense, tightly-structured (and often flat-out bizarre) rock music, and became one of the first bands not playing Progressive Rock to integrate the synthesizer (many of theirs were intentionally wired incorrectly), not just inspiring New Wavers but giving rise to theSynth Pop era. Briefly became a sensation in the 80s based off the hit "Whip It," and conceived the idea of music videos as short films (a concept Michael Jackson later ran with).
The Cars, and their tight, mechanical form of rock & roll music, created some of the most successful music of the whole New Wave movement - certainly some of the catchiest. A permanent fixture on classic rock radio if there ever was one.
Television were another group that came from CBGB's, and were probably the most technically talented group to have ever played there. Though they initially fronted by Richard Hell, they only achieved recognition under the leadership of Tom Verlaine a few years later.
Alex Chilton and Big Star have been credited with influencing dozens of artists and bands from the Replacements to REM, Beck, and Wilco. Chilton also wrote the 1967 hit "The Letter" when he was sixteen.
AC/DC: One of the largest pub-rock bands and one of the few to gain massive support outside Australia. How massive? They've sold more than The Beatles and Back In Black is the world's second best selling album. Probably the dividing line between hard rock and heavy metal - you don't rock harder than AC/DC without crossing over into heavy metal.
Aerosmith: The Boys from Boston. Hard rock, considered to be the all-American rock band by many. Really, they were America's answer to the Rolling Stones, right down to Steven Tyler's bluesy vocal leanings and showmanship. Aerosmith were one of the first bands to come up with the power ballad, with the immortal "Dream On" from 1973, which paved the way for more to come later, such as "Beth,""Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Love Hurts," "I Want To Know What Love Is," and many, many, many more. They also had one more notable achievement: see Run-D.M.C.'s entry.
Blue Oyster Cult: They started out as a band of college students from New York who called themselves the Stalk-Forrest Group and Soft White Underbelly. But with the release of Blue Oyster Cult in 1970, they tapped into something stranger and became founding fathers of American heavy metal. They occasionally borrowed imagery from H.P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock wrote the lyrics to their songs "Black Blade" and "Veteran of the Psychic Wars". Their 1988 album Imaginos is an out-of-print classic concept album. Their most recent album is ''Curse of the Hidden Mirror", and they are still touring today. Notable hits include: "Cities on Flame with Rock 'n Roll," "Subhuman," "Astronomy," "Career of Evil," "Godzilla," "Burning for You," "Black Blade," "Veteran of the Psychic Wars," "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
Bruce Springsteen! One of if not the most inspirational live performers of all time. Springsteen is one of the most influential and important singer/songwriters in modern music. 40 years into his career his top grossing epic 3 hour concert marathons cross generation gaps as audiences of young and old alike travel around the world to partake in what many consider to be the most communal concert going experience on the planet.
Van Halen, the band that started the craze of 80's rock. They had a larger-than-life, over the top attitude that helped them. Eddie Van Halen is a guitar god, for good reasons. The song Eruption, which is basically just a guitar solo is probably the only song of it's kind to enjoy extensive radio-play.
Rod Stewart, who blended folk, rock, and R&B to become one of the most well-respected and original singers of his time...until the disco period, that is. Along with Elton John and James Taylor, he headed the singer-songwriter boom of the early 1970s.
Actually, Elton John deserves his own entry, as he's also credited with bringing the piano to the forefront in rock music, and, with the help of longtime friend and collaborator Bernie Taupin, was still racking up hits into The Nineties.
Kate Bush also deserves credit for bringing the piano back into the limelight, albeit in her own way, with elegant songs and her ghostly vocals. You know all those female singer/songwriters of the 90s who sang brooding songs on piano? They all have roots with this woman.
And America's answer to these British piano-thumping singer/songwriter virtuosos? None other than the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel, a masterful pop songwriter who racked up hit after hit for the better part of two decades.
Carpenters, a.k.a. Richard and Karen Carpenter, with their lush, expansive production and airy melodies, are easily the most beloved soft rock band of all time.
The Runaways, who were the first successful all-female rock group.
ABBA. They're the fourth highest selling artists ever, selling 1-2 million records per year nearly 30 years after breaking up. They refused a one billion dollar offer to reunite. Many of their songs are instantly recognizable all over the world.
For as much as people crack about Disco, it produced some of the most fondly remembered musicians ever:
Donna Summer was the disco diva, such a beloved figure in dance music that she far outlasted disco itself.
KC & The Sunshine Band showcased the R&B influence in the style and had a string of hit singles showing this off in spades. One of the preeminent party bands of the time.
Chic, the ultimate disco band, with a winning formula of dance music infused with relentless funk. One of Chic's songs, "Good Times," was Sampled Up in "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, which kickstarted the hip-hop movement.
Michael, who as a commercial force has been described as "an unstoppable juggernaut," was THE de facto MTV superstar. His videos made the biggest case for the music video as its own art form, while Michael himself was easily the most dynamic singer and performer of his time (who hasn't tried to imitate that Moonwalk?) He also has some of the most cross-sectional appeal of any pop singer, ever, demonstrated by the blockbuster Thriller, and add to that the fact that his success helped break color barriers in mainstream music. Michael has sold over 400 million records worldwide.
Madonna, expanding on David Bowie's "chameleon" reputation in music, changed her image countless times over a three-decade career, challenging ideals and conventions for women in music. Through all this, she set the tone for most mainstream pop music to come after her, and paved the way for the more image-centric, provocative image of the pop landscape as time went on. Madonna (or "Madge" as critics like to call her) has sold over 300 million records worldwide.
Kylie Minogue could be considered a less grandiose Madonna, but definitely a spectacular success in her own right. She only had a select few hits in America, but her native Australia, Europe and other corners of the world have celebrated her steady stream of dance-pop since the mid-80s, and she shows no signs of slowing down in the 2010s.
Whitney Houston set a new standard in mainstream pop music with her huge, dramatic, melismatic vocal style, solidifying the "diva" archetype and inspiring countless singers in pop and R&B.
The Cure, who emerged out of post-punk and new wave to become perhaps the most beloved goth icons of their time.
The Smiths, a founding band in the British indie scene of the 80s and cited as a key influence by practically every Brit band from the 90s on. Ditto The Stone Roses.
Joan Jett, the woman that founded the Runaways, became a big star in the 80s. Joan Jett was the gal that proved without a shadow of a doubt that women could rock just as hard, if not moreso, than men, thus influencing countless female rockers, not to mention pointing the way towards the Riot Grrrl movement. "So why should I care 'bout my bad reputation?!"
My Bloody Valentine, the quintessential shoegazing band, famous for their ability to make mountains of raging distorted guitars sound beautiful.
And the only band I can think of to give out earplugs to concert attendees. They do, because they have to, for insurance reasons.
R.E.M. grew out of the post-punk movement to popularize celebral 'alternative' garage rock in the late 'eighties. (Radiohead took over in the '90s.)
They Might Be Giants is the only band that has an accordionist as a permanent member their most famous member.
Allow me to introduce you to Turisas and Korpiklaani... though not as noteworthy as TMBG, if you like accordion, definitely worth a listen.
Sonic Youth: rose from simple 80s No Wave alumni to being the pioneers of noise-rock as we know it with a narcotic haze of feedback, detuned fuzziness, deadpan vocals and strangely composerly mid-song breakdowns.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds produced some brilliant, disturbing post-punk albums in the 80's. Cave's lyrics are fantastic - hilarious and wise and powerful and weird, all at the same time, and he has a talented band behind him. Recently, the Bad Seeds have softened up a bit, but most of these softer songs are quite beautiful, and their most recent album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and Cave's Grinderman side project have brought them a bit more of their 80's sound.
The Pixies, often described as the Velvet Underground meets Talking Heads, formed in the mid-1980s and released several albums now counted among the greatest to come out of the decade. They had a unique sound formed mostly from the contrast between the two main vocalists voice and the chaotic, "angled" music of the lead guitarist. They influenced many bands that followed, with Kurt Cobain listing them as one of his favorites, and citing their influence as evident in Nirvana, especially the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
Peter Gabriel: Co-founder and former frontman of one of the most famous and influential prog-rock bands of all time, Genesis; helped pioneer the use of African influences in popular music and was confronting topics such as disease in Africa and elsewhere long before it became vogue. His solo career has made him even more popular, with hits such as "In Your Eyes," "Big Time," "Games Without Frontiers," and "Sledgehammer," the music video for which helped pioneer the medium, and is probably second only to "Thriller" as the most-played and most famous music video ever.
For that matter, his old bandmate Phil Collins, whose contemporary pop talents made him a surprise success in the 80s.
U2. Well known for their massive live tours. Their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, was a huge success and got them a load of Grammys and the title of "biggest band in the world". They continue their success today with albums such as Achtung Baby, Pop and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
In the late 80s, the producer of New Edition - a very popular R&B group who are rather notable in their own right - decided to replicate their success by assembling white teenagers instead. The result was the New Kids on the Block, who were, for better or for worse, the biggest teen pop sensation of the 80s and the forerunners to the boy band explosion a decade later.
Bryan Adams, Canada's answer to guys like Seger and Springsteen, was equally at home doing a straightforward rock anthem and a tender ballad, and made huge splashes in both fields. Still one of the best-selling Canadian musicians ever.
John Mellencamp, aka John Cougar, aka John Cougar Mellencamp. Whatever his name, he's one of the most passionate, earnest American musicians of his time and an early MTV favorite.
Living Colour. Their funk/metal/R&B hybrid was a fresh sound that led to a more diverse rock landscape.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are pretty much the definitive funk-rock band. They exploded in the late 80s and dominated the 90s with tons of hit singles and albums that gathered audiences across the board.
The 1990s (punk goes mainstream, the alternative rock era, Britpop and the teen pop takeover)
Nirvana, with the unique vocal stylings of Kurt Cobain, changed the rock scene forever by bringing Alternative Rock into popular consciousness. The famous Nevermind album is adrenaline-pumping Grunge, the release of which arguably ended the "classic rock" era and put the final nail in the coffin of hair metal. Overplayed at the time; now it can be enjoyed again.
After Kurt was found dead, drummer Dave Grohl went out and formed his own band, the Foo Fighters. Their no-frills, hard rock blitzkrieg wound up carrying the alt-rock flag long past the time the wave ended. They're still one of the biggest rock bands in the world, and have cemented Grohl as one of rock & roll's true renaissance men.
Pearl Jam was at the time even bigger than Nirvana, their debut Ten outselling Nevermind ten-times. They had a grunge sound with a strong influence from classic rock, for example playing with Neil Young. They were also one of the few bands not to die out by the end of the "grunge era".
PJ Harvey. Undoubtedly, one of the most influential and inspirational female rock musicians of the 90s.
Weezer, the American Power Pop group of the 1990s, with a gawky, open-hearted approach fuelled by gawky, open-hearted Rivers Cuomo. Their latter-day albums are controversial, but their 90s output is universally beloved. The Cult Classic album Pinkerton in particular has been cited as having laid the groundwork for the second wave of emo music.
Keeping with the power pop theme, there's Sloan, who helped spread the alt-rock craze into Canada, and became one of Canada's biggest exports for guitar-based pop/rock music.
The Barenaked Ladies are another. Coupling naggingly catchy hooks with a cheeky sense of humor (as evidenced by possibly the goofiest band name on this page), they steadily grew a legacy in Canada with much beloved radio staples before they hit it big internationally by the end of The Nineties. No less than Paul Mccartney has praised their songwriting gifts.
Radiohead: British group largely responsible for bringing alternative rock to worldwide attention. Also, they put on a kickass live show. In terms of Last.fm play counts, more popular than the Beatles (amongst the younger demographic of course). The more sedate sounds of British rock (such as Coldplay and James Blunt) would never have happened without stuff like The Bends coming beforehand. Cementing their huge impact on alternative music was their fascination with innovation and electronics, which blossomed on the famous Kid A.
The Smashing Pumpkins, one of the most successful bands of the alternative rock era, musically and commercially. Their music had a more intricate, poetic approach, reflecting a refusal to be pigeonholed into any of the scenes of the time. To this end, they combined early heavy metal, psychedelia, prog-rock, grunge, a few electronic influences and a bunch of other indescribable stuff. Lead by the (very) prolific Billy Corgan, your go-to guy for theatrical doom & gloom in The Nineties.
Tori Amos, considered a Spiritual Successor to Kate Bush, was a piano-playing monster who mixed haunting melodies with emotional lyrics. Little Earthquakes set the bar really high for women in rock music for the rest of the decade.
Former pop starlet Alanis Morissette refashioned herself with a hard-edged pop/rock sound that made her one of the most famous Singer Songwriters ever, and the unlikely success story of 1995.
The numerous hits of Sheryl Crow were the sound of 90s radio pop in a nutshell: breezy, feel-good roots rock that wasn't shy about getting eclectic.
blur: They started out as Britpoppers, then in 1997 they changed direction to a more rockin' sound. Like Oasis, but with more than two strong albums.
Their lead singer, Damon Albarn, deserves a special mention not only for Blur but also singing in 'Gorillaz' and 'the Good the Bad and the Queen' and also composing the music for the operatic version of 'Monkey: Journey to the West'. Every single one is a complete and utter gem and their songs should all be heard at least once.
Blur and Oasis seem to the major influences on most of the major british bands of the 90's and 00's, with a new resurgence of britpop as well as a few influential indie bands who claim heavy inspiration from the two bands. Recently, this trend has even extended to the US with increasing influences on popular alternative rock bands.
Neutral Milk Hotel: Basically the Descartes of the indie scene, they combined your usual fuzzy lo-fi guitars and unusual vocal style with brass, accordion, musical saw, bagpipes, and some of the most mindwarpingly odd yet strangely poignant lyrics ever created.
Faith No More: Though they weren't the first to do it, not to mention the term came much later, they pretty much defined the Rap/Rock genre that many artists like Rage Against the Machine and P.O.D. would eventually display. Not to mention they are very influential to many current Rock artists.
Experimental band Mr. Bungle has been influential on many artists as well as inadvertently inspiring most bands of the Nu Metal genre.
Red House Painters are usually considered the go-to band for Slowcore, a subgenre that consists of lengthy, depressing songs to counteract the Grunge scene. Mark Kozelek's later project, Sun Kil Moon is also a great example.
Codeine is often considered another top contender for the best Slowcore band, although they lack the consistent critical appeal and longevity of RHP.
Kyuss forged a path for "stoner rock" with their fuzzy guitars and love of spacey, heavy jams, and became an underground sensation.
Idlewild. Unofficially known as "the most popular unheard-of band in the world".
No Doubt. From the ska scene of the 90s came a catchy, danceable pop/rock band who infused ska, punk rock, and later reggae and hip hop. They were also blessed with singer Gwen Stefani, one of the most dynamic, distinctive and outright girlish singers of her time (and quite a fashion icon, too).
The Spice Girls, the best selling Girl Group of all time. If you're ever wondering when The Nineties started the transition from the days of Grunge, Britpop and Gangsta Rap into the Teen Pop era, the rise of the Spice Girls marked that point. They were instrumental in unveiling a whole new market of young girls for pop music, which is why, nowadays, they are considered one of the decades' greatest Guilty Pleasures.
The Backstreet Boys were far from the first white boy band, but in the 90s they became the definitive one, helping to put teen idols back in the spotlight and unleashing leagues of imitators to flood the marketplace.
Say what you will about Britney Spears, but she changed mainstream music to the point that we still feel her effects today. Her overwhelming success reestablished the power of the pop diva, and made "scandalous" part and parcel of the whole pop star experience. She also thoroughly ended the alternative rock era, with one critic commenting that she was Nirvana "in reverse; pushing all those adventurous sounds back to the fringes." In essence, Britney wound up laying the groundwork for the glamorous pop star world of today. How big was Britney, exactly? The Britney backlash actually kickstarted a brief "anti-Britney" movement in pop. (See next section.)
Don't forget about Christina Aguilera, Britney's main rival. She tried to keep a more adult sound than Britney so she ultimately had a smoother transition to maturity.
The early 2000s (pop dominates, alternative goes indie, revivalist bands)
P!nk. Pink hated being pigeonholed as another teen pop singer like Britney, so on her second album, M!ssundaztood, she completely revamped her sound, combined pop, rock, R&B and dance music, let her colorful (pardon the Pun) personality hang out, and upped the ante for the whole pop star game. Many pop stars enjoying success today (including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry) owe their careers to Pink and her trailblazing approach to pop music.
On a similar note, Avril Lavigne. Avril adopted a "punkier," more down-to-Earth image (to great controversy), and cemented Pop Punk as fully mainstream music along the way.
Michelle Branch was the original "anti-Britney." When she didn't work out people switched to Avril.
Gorillaz is known for being a band comprised of cartoon characters (one of the first virtual bands), each with their own tastes in music. This is reflected in their songs, which are notoriously difficult to pin down to a particular genre. Their influences range from Electro to Punk to Hip Hop to Dub to Disco to Reggae and many more styles. They are also known for the veritable army of collaborators they have had working with them since the birth of the band, as well as the special techniques employed during live performances to visually bring the characters to life. Outside the music, there is also a plot between albums that chronicles the misadventures of the different band members.
The Strokes used a tight, pulsing, old school rock sound and a dual-guitar attack to set the tone for Alternative Rock and Indie Rock in the 2000s, as well as bringing on the brief "garage rock revival," made up of bands like The Hives, The Vines and The White Stripes.
Actually, the White Stripes, with their obsessively minimalist approach to rock and blues and general mystique, became pretty notable in their own right, as they became one of the surprise success stories of the 2000s.
When Kyuss fell apart in the mid-1990s, singer Josh Homme moved on and formed Queens of the Stone Age, a more modern, radio-friendly update on the Kyuss sound (with no less of a penchant for jams), and made an even bigger commercial impact.
After Radiohead went electronic, Coldplay stepped up to the plate and picked up where Radiohead's original sound left off. Instead, though, they wound up going in a more melodic, pop-oriented direction, turning introspective power ballads into U2-influenced, Arena Rock anthems, while downplaying the heavy guitars that characterized the previous decade of Britpop. Coldplay faced their share of critical backlash for it, but their sound actually inspired the next decade of rock music.
If Coldplay can't be considered Radiohead's successor, than certainly people found it in Muse.
Viewed as the spiritual successor to the likes of U2 were The Killers. Their music was an indie pop-rock style that was very catchy and popular. It quickly turned them into one of the most popular bands of the mid-00's. Other alternative-rock bands like 30 Seconds to Mars, Kings of Leon, and Imagine Dragons would dominate afterwards.
Louis Armstrong: The man who comes closest to the Trope Codifier for this genre. His innovative and influential trumpet solos essentially created the role of the modern jazz performer. Not to mention he also sung and invented the singing style known as Scat.
Duke Ellington: One of the greatest popular composers of all time, and a damn good pianist and bandleader too.
Count Basie: Jazz composer and bandleader (and pianist as well) at the same time as Ellington, Basie's unique styles mark him solidly as a quintessential Big Bandleader, along with Ellington.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Redefined what could be done with bebop, bringing avant-garde polyrhythm and polyphone to the masses with such oddly-timed instant classics as "Take Five," "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Unsquare Dance."
All of the members proved to be influential, not just Dave. Joe Morello was more or less the Neil Peart of jazz; Eugene Wright showed future bassists how to play polyrhythm; saxophonist Paul Desmond's laid-back style is instantly recognizable — he used to say he wanted to sound the way a dry martini tastes.
They were also racial equality pioneers, refusing to play any gigs where black bassist Wright would be treated unfairly.
Thelonious Monk: Best known not for his beard, his odd onstage antics, or his collection of unusual hats, but for his idiosyncratic style of playing — you have to be a really good musician to play that haphazardly and still make it come out exactly right. Check out Brilliant Corners.
Vince Guaraldi: Jazz pianist who wrote and performed the music in the early Western Animation/Peanuts specials. The piece "Linus and Lucy" is considered the de facto theme for Peanuts.
Jaco Pastorius: Widely considered to be the most innovative bass player ever. Pretty much every modern jazz bassist cites him as a major influence.
Herbie Hancock: Wrote three of modern jazz's standards — "Cantaloupe Island," "Dolphin Dance" and "Watermelon Man." His lineup on the Head Hunters album more or less created jazz fusion by adding funk influences into the mix. The first artist to have a jazz-hiphop crossover hit with "Rockit", memorable now for its Mind Screw of a video.
Medeski Martin & Wood: Brought fusion into the 21st century with a mix of funk and hip-hop. Known for packing audiences in at their live appearances, and for a level of instrumental virtuosity comparable to Rush.
Art Blakey: Brilliant drummer whose band, the Jazz Messengers, created almost as many big names as Coltrane's various lineups.
Benny Goodman: Master clarinetist and band leader, he brought hot swing with a big focus on improvisation into the mainstream at a point when most big bands were almost exclusively using arrangements. He also made a major effort to include the best musicians he could find regardless of their race when most jazz orchestras were officially segregated. When he was booked into Carnegie Hall, it was the first time that the whole bill would include nothing but jazz.
Music/Charles Mingus: The angry man of jazz, absolutely brilliant and over-opinionated in every place that counted. Known for taking pot shots at other jazz musicians, being a brilliant social activist, and writing a guide for how to toilet-train cats.. Check out Mingus Ah Um.
Bob Dylan is ridiculously influential. His politically-conscious style of folk music inspired such contemporaries as Joni Mitchell, Peter Paul & Mary, and the Byrds. He's the Trope Codifier, in many aspects, of the modern day Singer Songwriter. He paved the way for many styles of rock music to come, such as Folk Rock, heartland rock, country rock and more. Influenced the latter-day direction of The Beatles, and rock luminaries such as Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams would never have become household names without him. Known in some circles as "the most influential living musician."
Gordon Lightfoot: Author of such tracks as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Early Morning Rain," "Ballad of Yarmouth Castle," "Sit Down Young Stranger," and "Ghosts of Cape Horn."
Pete Seeger, one of the greatest folk musicians and greatest Americans to ever live.
Stompin' Tom Connors. There are few musicians as fiercely proud of their heritage as Stompin' Tom, and he was a Canadian institution for decades, inspiring politicians, blue-collar workers and athletes, all across the country.
Great Big Sea, an upbeat folk quartet with a gift for singalong hooks, who hit major crossover success in Canada and worldwide. Possibly the most famous group to come out of Newfoundland.
Black Sabbath, the first band to be widely referred to as "heavy metal". From their debut album in 1969, they pioneered VERY heavy riffs and portentious, ominous lyrics about war and Satan. They contained multitudes.
Deep Purple. The other band (besides Black Sabbath) that laid the foundation of heavy metal guitar work. Trademark sound was relatively simple riffs overlaid with virtuoso, orgasmic solos. For reference, the opening licks to "Smoke on the Water" are possibly the most recognizable guitar riffs ever. Also, Jon Lords experiment with piping a Hammond organ through a Marshall amp with distortion was unique, and virtually indistinguishable from a guitar. Meanwhile, "Fireball" and "Highway Star" prefigured what would become speed metal while the non-speedy sort was still in its infancy, and Ritchie Blackmore invented the neoclassical guitar solo.
Motorhead. Speed + metal = speed-metal. Actually satisfied hardcore punks and metallers alike, and beget many a sincere emulation.
On a note, Lemmy claims that they only play rock n roll.
And, since Lemmy=God, he would know.
Judas Priest. Black Sabbath invented heavy metal, but Judas Priest helped to make metal its own genre rather than a blues rock/hard rock subgenre by removing all of the blues influences. They helped create the speed metal subgenre, which influenced both power and thrash metal in the eighties.
On a less music note, they also popularized studded leather among fans of metal and gave us an iconic figure in Rob Halford.
Pentagram. The Trope Maker for Doom Metal. Though they started in The Seventies, drug abuse, inter-member friction, and bad luck prevented them from releasing any official albums until 1985, and even then, it took them until 2001, with the release of the demo compilation First Daze Here, to get anything resembling attention from anyone other than doomsters.
Iron Maiden: One day, some time in the drug-fuelled 1980s, a bunch of guys from London's West End discovered one could play beautifully intricate interlocking guitar figures and complex time-signatures over metal of punk-worthy velocity. Along with Motorhead, Maiden's arrival kickstarted the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (without which, we wouldn't have bands like...
Metallica. Their Kill 'em All album was the first example of thrash metal, then they were at the forefront of the move to more progressive metal, then they went mainstream before leaving the metal scene entirely. 20 years later, they made a much-heralded return to their original genre.
Death, the first band to play Death Metal (although Possessed were the first to release an album). Their 1987 album Scream Bloody Gore might not have been the first death metal album, but it was the first to be successful. Directly responsible for the Florida death metal scene, as well as the emergence of death metal as a genre wholly separate from thrash metal and for the separate emergence of technical death metal (with Human). The band also provided the genre's iconic figure in Chuck Schuldiner.
Helloween. Before Helloween, power metal was regular metal with added dragons. After Helloween, power metal was an absurdly energetic, impossibly epic genre of speed metal based on powerful vocals, complex compositions, and awesome choruses.
And even before Helloween set the power metal formula in stone, there was Manowar, the Ur Example of power metal, and one of the most testosterone-fueled bands to ever walk the Earth.
Voivod, whose guitarist (the late Denis "Piggy" D'Amour) inspired a whole generation of players with his idiosyncratic—and often downright weird—playing style.
Venom. The albums "Welcome to Hell" and "Black Metal" are two of the most influential albums in the history of metal. It can be argued that without Venom, Thrash, Death, and Black metal would not exist.
Slayer. Classified as one of the "Big 4" of thrash metal in the 80's, their 1986 album Reign in Blood proved to be one of the most controversial albums of the 80's, and its lyrical content and brutal aural onslaught provided the framework of later death metal bands.
Dream Theater: The forerunners of the Progressive Metal genre (although not the first), they proved the genre's commercial appeal with their early '90s single "Pull Me Under", and, while they have fallen under the mainstream's eye, they have built up perhaps the strongest fanbase in all of modern metal, thanks in large part to the classically-trained virtuosity of all four musicians and incredible Rush-inspired stage shows. Most of their lyrical content is derived from personal experiences and hardships, the most notable being a 12-part suite written by drummer Mike Portnoy about his recovery from alcoholism.
Bathory. First-Wave Black Metal band and the one of the genre's most influential bands alongside Venom and Celtic Frost. In addition to pioneering the genre's signature shrieked vocals on their early releases, their fourth album Blood Fire Death created the subgenre of "Viking Metal" and popularized Norse Mythology-based lyrics in metal in general.
How about credit to Rage Against the Machine for bringing politically agitating music back into the mainstream? Most notoriously for their protest concert outside the 2000 Democratic National Convention, but also acts like their video "Sleep Now in the Fire" outside the New York Stock Exchange, their involvement in the protest concerts against the 2008 Republican National Convention, their attempts to hang inverted American flags on Saturday Night Live in protest of Steve Forbes and numerous other moments. But you're probably wondering about the music: Rage built upon the influences of 1970s funk, hip hop, and heavy metal, to create a fresh fusion of styles that heavily influenced the metal scene of the 1990s, and by the time they had three albums under their belt, there were Rage-imitators all over the airwaves.
Pantera. When grunge almost laid heavy metal to rest, Pantera was one of the few bands that carried the flame until metal's next flowering in the late '90s. Also noted for Phil Anselmo's massive and self-destructive heroin addiction, and the brutal murder of Dimebag Darrell after their breakup, an act that galvanized metal fans worldwide.
It's hard to say Pantera "carried the flame" when the 90's is more or less the rambunctious adolescence of power metal, death metal and black metal, but they were certainly one of the few metal bands who managed to be popular in the 90's. Still, they were playing manly, excessive, and dare I say ——ing hostile metal without compromise. Pantera excelled as a mainstream metal act in a time nobody thought such a thing could exist.
Fear Factory! Something of a prototype of industrial metal and Alternative Metal; their tightly-wound, thrashy attack turned out to be ahead of its time.
Mayhem. A Norwegian band deriving influence from extant thrash metal bands (and especially Venom, above; their name came from one of their songs), who between their demo Deathcrush and their (infamous) debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas they defined what would become known as black metal, and inspired legions of Scandinavian extreme metal bands.
Nine Inch Nails, responsible for popularizing industrial rock, and adding humanity to its formerly cold, mechanical sound. Its sole member is brilliant multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor, who eventually pushed the sound of the group into more experimental territory. Trent has gotten a reputation for being one of the premier "doom & gloom" guys in heavy music, most famously on The Downward Spiral (possibly the most bleak Concept Album ever recorded) until his latter-day career when he cleaned up his life and became more vocally resistant against music industry practices. Either way, Trent is now one of rock's great cult figures.
KMFDM, one of the most notable and longest-lived industrial rock bands, who struck gold with a blending of industrial sounds and electronic dance music. Recently took a turn for a more heavy-rock sound, but still faithful to its industrial roots. Also known to be very personable, chatting with fans online frequently.
Apocalyptica started as a chamber music Metallica cover band that used four cellos. After three albums of covers (the first was entirely Metallica, the other two were other metal bands such as Slayer and Pantera), Dave Lombardo of Slayer met them at a festival and asked to do a set with them, then one of them quit the band, so instead of hiring a fourth cellist, they called Lombardo and started making original songs that still use the three cello and a drummer line-up.
Tool, most famous nowadays for having one of the most obnoxious fanbases in existence. Still, the band was one of the most influential of the Alternative Metal movement, adding darker lyrics and sound to the previously rather happy genre, something that resulted, for better or for worse, in the creation of nu metal thanks to bands like KoRn and Deftones, who were greatly inspired by Tool's take on alt-metal. As well as this, the band members are all renowned for their musical skill, and their albums are almost always critically acclaimed as masterpieces. They also brought Progressive Metal to a much wider audience, and are regarded as one of the founding fathers of "post-metal" (metal + post-rock), along with Godflesh and Neurosis.
Burzum. Extremely controversialone-manBlack Metal band from Norway whose minimalistic sound proved highly influential to the genre. Only member Varg Vikernes gained great infamy after burning down three churches, murdering Mayhem's guitarist/bandleader Euronymous, and condoning far-right, Nazi- and racism-influenced politics.
Korn, the first Nu Metal band. Based their sound on downtuned guitars and sheer catharsis, had a deeply disturbing sense of humor put over by a dark, lurching sound that resonated with millions of disaffected 90s kids, and wore a ridiculous amount of Adidas.
Deftones. If any band transcends the Nu Metal era, it's them, thanks to their strong gift for melody and a particularly textured sound that creates an intensity all their own.
Love them or hate them, Limp Bizkit did leave a major impact on the rock world by putting Rap Metal in the mainstream spotlight, thus beginning the second and final phase of Nu Metal. But when their antagonist antics became too much, Linkin Park took over, with their more ear-friendly, cathartic blend of hip hop and aggro metal. So accessible was the latter band, in fact, that they were not only one of the last major successes of the subgenre, but they maintained a level of notoriety years after Nu Metal became Deader Than Disco.
Following in the footsteps of KMFDM, the infamous Rammstein. They overcame the language barrier of their German lyrics to popularize the style of industrial metal. Often include provocative messages in their songs, ranging from songs against American consumerism to songs against German sex holidays. Bear an intensely focused sound, huge, chunky riffs and a flair for the dramatic. Also have quite possibly the most fiery live show in the history of mankind.
Marilyn Manson for a few years was the 90s' answer to Alice Cooper, mixing a gender-bending gothic image with a twisted approach at social commentary, while taking a Glam Rock approach to industrial metal to create a demonic, heavy metal grind that's uniquely his own. He's fallen from the spotlight in recent years, but in his prime he scared the shit out of parents and religious zealots.
Slipknot, nine lunatics in masks and prison jumpsuits who took the psychosis of Korn to its most brutal depths, then added some Hip Hop overtones, doubled the tempo, and won one of metal's most loyal followings (the Maggots).
Skyclad: Although only moderately successful in themselves, their first album, The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, was the earliest attempt to combine folk music and heavy metal, laying the foundations for the now-popular genre of folk metal.
Bathory's Blood Fire Death is often counted as the first example of a viking metal, a related genre which often overlaps in the Nordic countries.
Within Temptation: Started at the same time as Nightwish (though they were oblivious to each other at the time) and is the other "biggest band" in the symphonic metal style, influencing many others, though they went less with the operatic style than Nightwish.
System of a Down. Socially and politically conscious metal may be nothing new, but the way they went about it was seriously unique, with jagged, angular guitar riffs, abrupt shifts in mood and/or tempo, and vocals that range from operatic to deep metal growling. These guys were a huge breath of fresh air during the rap-metal era.
Evanescence became notable as one of very few female-fronted heavy metal bands to find mainstream success in America.
Wendy Carlos progressed from Derbyshire's innovations to make pop and classical music electronically. She famously reinterpreted the works of Bach (and other classical composers) with early synthesizers, and even composed the score to TRON!
Kraftwerk - the archetypal electronic pop music act. Almost single-handedly influenced the evolution of numerous musical genres, ranging from rock to hip-hop to house, to techno, and so forth.
Producer Giorgio Moroder knew early on that synthesizers were the way of the future, and with them he helped fuel Disco and the emerging dance-oriented electronic music spectrum as a whole.
Throbbing Gristle made some of the most uncompromising and downright scary music ever with primitive synths, drum-machines and unnerving echo effects. Produced plenty of genuine musical horror(try 'Hamburger Lady', if you're game) but also capable of sweetness and light.
They also pioneered digital sampling- with primitive machines of THEIR OWN construction, no less!
Tangerine Dream, who like Kraftwerk, helped define the genre. Christopher Frank has had success using the style as a solo composer for a offbeat variety of projects, including the First Tenchi movie and "Babylon 5".
Yellow Magic Orchestra, arguably the first Synth Pop band, was highly influential in electronic music and J-Pop. Their sound also crossed over into America and was used by early Hip Hop artists.
Suicide were pretty much considered an abomination in their day (the late 1970s) for their confrontational live performances, which have occasionally incited riots, but their minimalist electronic grooves wound up inspiring countless musicians that came afterward in Industrial, Post-Punk and Synth Pop. They also created "Frankie Teardrop," possibly the most terrifying song ever recorded.
The Art Of Noise, an experimental outfit who fused many genres of music together and set them to synthesized drum machines, brought Sampling into the mainstream, and generally set the tone for a lot of electronic-based music of the 80s and early 90s.
Juan Atkins! aka Model 500, aka Cybotron, aka Infiniti. Progressing from Kraftwerk's robotic grooves, Atkins and his 1980s electro beats went a long way in defining Techno, as it came to be known.
Orbital, who were obvious Kraftwerk fanboys to begin with. They were one of House Music and Techno's first crossover acts, attracting rock fans on the strength of their cohesive albums, diverse sound, and powerful live shows.
New Order, mixed Kraftwerk-style electronica with post-punk rock songs.
Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys- both were hugely successful, helped keep electronic music popular during the late 80s/early 90s and influenced HUGE number of later musicians from many different genres, within the fields of electronic music, rock, pop and even Metal (bands like Fear Factory, Paradise Lost and In Flames cite them as influences, for example).
Negativland! Mastered the craft of sampling and cutting up tape recordings. Throughout their career, they made obvious their anarchist political agenda with humorous sound-collage masterpieces and booper symphonies. Hard to call it "electronica," but it does fit fairly well enough.
The KLF, Justified and Ancient of Mu Mu, the JAMS, The Timelords = Bill Drummond & Jimi Cauty doing whatever they feel like doing. Very Media savvy and more known for their stunts as their music, but still a notable addition to the genre of electronic music.
Their music was built on "The Manual," which was their explanation of how the pop music business worked. It's still a must-read for aspiring musician.
1990s and beyond
Moby - He used samples that no artist in their right mind would use in his day, and he made them work. He's known for being able to bring a tear to people's eye by having a repeated sample looping over and over again to epic beats and touching piano riffs or downright having no vocals at all. And if that's not enough, Moby has also spent his career challenging the form of EDM by dipping into alternative rock, ambient and new age, and even courting pop audiences with his most famous album, Play, still one of the biggest sellers in electronic music at over 12,000,000 copies.
Underworld. Unleashed a dark, progressive sound of long-winded, exhilarating trance/rave workouts, with heavy breakbeats and scattered, surreal lyricism. Signature track: "Born Slippy (Nuxx)."
Music/Plastikman, aka Richie Hawtin, pretty much the guy in minimal techno. Started with an acid house sort of sound, then worked his way into creepy ambient stuff.
Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky are British pioneers of trip-hop, and have recorded some truly original and startling work since in the 1990s.
To that we can add DJ Shadow, the sole most influential American representative, famous for making excellent albums entirely out of samples. Music/Endtroducing and The Private Press should be mandatory listening.
The Big Beat phenomenon of the 90s met major crossover success thanks to artists like:
The Prodigy. Began as an Essex-rave act but mixed rave sounds, breakbeats, hip hop and hardcore punk for massive crossover success. Defied the "faceless" nature of electronic music by pushing Maxim Reality and Keith Flint as prominent vocalists.
Fatboy Slim, a.k.a. Norman Cook, a DJ who pasted together a wall of samples, acidic synthesizers, infectious melodies, and huge-sounding drum machines, to make some highly-renowned singles for the time.
The Chemical Brothers, the big beat group for some, with their onslaught of psychedelic sounds and booming, clattering percussion.
The Crystal Method, regarded as the USA's answer to the Chemical Brothers, juxtapose pumping electronic sounds with a strong rock band feel. Their sound is also very movie score-like, and that earned them the right to appear in the soundtracks for movies such as The Fast and the Furious, Blade, Ballistic and Cursed. They have also created the theme song for the TV series Bones.
Aphex Twin, a notoriously introverted (and incredibly self-indulgent) electronic artist who started out making dreamy ambient works, and went on to pioneer electronica genres such as drum'n'bass, jungle, electronic pop, and everything in between.
Daft Punk, aka Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, aka "those guys in the robot helmets." If ever there was a group always one step ahead of the game, it's Daft Punk, who started out as an eccentric French house group, then swiftly rose to prominence to become trailblazers for dance music. Their fondness for Disco and 1980s electro & hip-hop, blended with an intense focus on album-oriented music, and still gave way to now-legendary singles like "Da Funk," "Around The World," "One More Time," "Harder Better Faster Stronger" and "Technologic." The album Discovery set the tone for dance music in the 2000s, with a kaleidoscope of colorful samples, bumping dance beats and their trademark "robot" vocals. More recently, they've switched to an EDM take on old school funk & R&B to huge critical and commercial success. Oh, and they scored TRON: Legacy along the way. Not bad for only five studio albums.
Goldie. Created timestretching, founded one of the most renowned drum'n'bass labels around, and his debut album was a turning point for the genre of d'n'b as a whole.
Björk, one of the most singular experiences in electronica or any other genre, and one of the consummate "weird chicks" of the 90s. Her music incorporates EDM and pop while adding jazz, classical, industrial, a capella, and whatever else she feels like, and puts it all over with scattered, twisted lyrics and a raw, emotional vocal that's equal parts disarming and compelling. She may have influenced many musicians after, but there will never be another Bjork.
Boards of Canada proved to be a revelation for Ambient techno, and EDM in general. They plucked eroded old samples out of obscurity, and mixed them with hip-hop beats and haunting melodies made on old synthesizers.
Pendulum codified drum and bass with their mythical debut album Hold Your Colour, and kept on striding with their later releases, that have a very fresh, powerful rock-influenced sound, which at first was heavily contested by old-school d'n'b fans, but is now regarded as a notable mark of such genre.
Air, a curious outgrowth of French electronica, weave together old 60s pop, 70s electronics, prog-rock and a real knack for atmosphere, and carved out a unique place for themselves in pop music as a result. Moon Safari functions as a chillout record, a makeout record, or an intoxicating exploration of a rich new sound.
Chromeo, with their infectious brand of funk mixed with synthpop and house, gave a softer, more retro vibe to the electronic music scene that is currently dominated by heaviness and grittiness. They've only managed to be known in the mainstream thanks to their recent fourth album, White Women, but many are already comparing them to Zapp and Daft Punk, and rightfully so.
1960s-1970s (punk rock's rise to prominence and infamy)
MC5, a energetic late 60's hard-rock band that first paved the way for punk with their loud, raw and political music. Also notable for: getting the Stooges a record deal, and for being the first band ever to release a song, Kick Out The Jams, that included the word "motherfucker."
Iggy Pop and The Stooges. They actually invented abrasive three chord Punk Rock music in the late 60s, though it wasn't called that at the time. Nowadays, they're considered the archetypical "proto-punk" outfit. As for Iggy himself: between vomiting, exposing himself, stage-diving before it was a thing, smearing stuff all over his shirtless body and bloodying himself with glass, Iggy Pop brought outrageous stage antics to a whole new level.
The New York Dolls, a deliberately provocative (as in crossdressing) Glam Rock band, was a bare-bones approach to Hard Rock. They, and Richard Hell's song "Blank Generation," were very influential on Malcolm McLaren's eventual creation of the Sex Pistols.
The Ramones are the first punk rock band ever. The Ramones' crucial synthesis of buzzsaw thrash and bad taste lyrics was a reaction to what they saw as rock & roll becoming too indulgent for its own good. In distilling rock down to its essences as much as possible - in essence, the poster boys for Three Chords and the Truth - they became the first true examples of 1970s punk proper. Signature tracks: "Blitzkrieg Bop," "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Rock & Roll High School."
The Sex Pistols crystallized and exemplified the social outrage of UK punk, and became one of the most shocking bands ever seen up till that time. Their swift collapse, and the horrific end of bassist Sid Vicious, is now a famous chapter in rock & roll folklore.
The Clash: If the Ramones introduced punk and the Sex Pistols established the UK style of punk, the Clash raised it to an art form. Their album London Calling is widely considered the greatest punk album of all time (and one of the all-time greats in general).
Punk/Rock n' Roll band The Heartbreakers (not Tom Petty's band), fronted by ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders, who co-founded the band with ex-Television member (and builder of the stage at CBGB's, which helped many early NY punk bands get an audience) Richard Hell, who sang some lead vocals as well before he left/got kicked out and started the Voidoids, a jazzy art-punk band. Also featured fellow ex-New York Doll Jerry Nolan and co-lead guitarist/co-lead vocalist Walter Lure.
The Buzzcocks, one of punk rock's catchiest bands, who showed as much as anyone else what an essential element pop was to the punk rock sound.
Joy Division, the raw, ragged, emotional core of Post-Punk. Led by the perpetually crestfallen Ian Curtis, who ended this incarnation of the band with his untimely suicide, after which the band became New Order (see the Electronic section).
The Germs, who were primitive even for punk rock. Take the rudimentary attack of the Stooges and turn it Up to Eleven, then add Darby Crash, the most haphazard frontman in the history of rock. Three Chords and the Truth doesn't get much more belligerent than this band.
Crass, known for being anarchists, and getting banned in the UK for blasphemy. Godfathers of Anarcho-Punk but due to their use of tape collages, graphics, spoken word releases, poetry and improvisation they are also considered Art-Punk. Still haven't sold out.
It's been argued over who were the first hardcore punk band. It comes down to either Black Flag, Bad Brains or a little known band from California called The Middle Class.
Minor Threat: The definite Hardcore band. Known for (inadvertently) starting the straight-edge movement and never ever playing a concert that wasn't open to all ages. Also known for being one of the most awesome bands in the history of the world.
Bad Religion: Credited with singlehandedly reviving the Punk Rock genre in the 80s with their third album Suffer. Bad Religion is considered by some to be the fathers of modern Punk Rock.
The Misfits: probably the most iconic Punk Rock band ever, not to mention the pioneer of what is known as 'Horror Punk.' Like Motorhead, the Misfits are extremely popular in both hardcore punk and heavy metal circles and bands as diverse as AFI or Metallica have cited them as a prominent influences. Their use of the Crimson Ghost (or Fiend) logo is also a well-known example of something that is Older Than They Think.
The Pogues combined punk rock with Irish traditional music, founding the related genres of folk punk Celtic punk (the latter arguably a sub-genre of the former).
The Dead Kennedys did not create Hardcore Punk, but their hard hitting lyrics and memorable songs make their first album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables a must listen to for any fan of punk. Not to forget Frankenchrist
NOFX. Sophomoric hardcore punks that avoided major labels and became legends.
GG Allin could easily be billed as the most controversial (or at least insane) hardcore punk musician to ever live. Drug abuse, sexual harassment at live shows, on-stage defecation, and his tombstone being constantly vandalized (so much so that his mother actually ordered it removed) are just the finer points of his career.
The 1990s (punk's breakthrough, the riot grrrl movement) and beyond
Fugazi, the anti-commercial masterminds of post-hardcore.
Bikini Kill: Leaders in the Riot Grrrl movement of punk rock during the 90's, and an inspiration not only for many female punk rockers, but also for the better-known band Sleater-Kinney.
L7, four pissed-off chicks in leather who mixed Joan Jett's punk rock flavor with heavy metal and grunge, thus becoming one of the most Badass all-girl bands ever.
Green Day: A popular band in The Nineties, a trio of punk revivalists mostly responsible for the rise of Pop Punk in the mainstream during the latter half of that decade, thanks to the hugely successful Dookie. They were willing to be more "mature", and saw a huge revival of interest in the Turn of the Millennium with the rock opera American Idiot. Arguably, Green Day are just as influential as Nirvana, with a slew of bands that would never have hit the airwaves without them paving the way, from blink-182 to My Chemical Romance to Paramore.
blink-182 are worthy of note in their own right. They brought Green Day's mainstream breakthrough to its logical conclusion: they turned the "pop" in Pop Punk basically Up to Eleven (with catchy singles like "Dammit" and "What's My Age Again?"), became Teen Idols - possibly the first proper teen idols in Punk Rock - and with the success of their downtrodden "Adam's Song," laid the groundwork for the second wave of Emo to hit the airwaves. They further cemented their legacy by expanding their song structures past their usual Three Chords and the Truth (nearly a year before Green Day did).
Time has judged Fall Out Boy as the band that breathed new life into Pop Punk. They avoided puerile lyrics of earlier mainstream punk bands, and adopted more of a sense of urgency, emo, hardcore punk and other outside genre influences to the music. They also introduced a Deadpan Snarker attitude to the lyrics and song titles, which a few bands afterward (like Panic! at the Disco) eagerly seized upon.
Hawthorne Heights was pretty much the genre codifier for modern Emo-Screamo's angsty lyrics and vocals.
Rap and Hip Hop
DJ Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell invented hip-hop as we know it today by spinning two records of the same track at somebody's house party, so as to isolate that drumming "break" in the song and make the funkiness last.
And then, Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash (The Message) and Jazzy Jay followed suit and took it another level. Meanwhile, the Sugarhill Gang made "Rapper's Delight" and twigged everyone else to the fact that a new music style had been born.
Run-D.M.C.: It would've been enough if they'd simply initiated some major changes in the sound of rap, shortening the typical song length from 6-12+ minutes to a more radio-friendly 3-5 and bringing a more aggressive, hard-hitting style in both beats and rhyming, usually aided by then-innovative techniques like rapid-fire mic passing and production heavily reliant on drum machines. But they also became the first rap superstars: they were the first group to cross over to rock audiences (thanks to Aerosmith collaboration "Walk This Way"), claim a top ten pop and #1 R&B album chart position, go gold - then platinum - then multi-platinum, appear on MTV, get a Grammy nomination, and appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. Incidentally, "Walk This Way" is considered the song (and video) that revived interest in Aerosmith and launched their second successful period in the late 1980s.
The Beastie Boys, who have quite the career narrative: Once referred to as "the first white hip-hop group of any importance," MCA, Mike D and Adrock were hardcore punks who went rap, and capitalized on Run DMC's Rap Rock dabblings with the hedonistic License To Ill,the party record of the late eighties. Not taken seriously by many, they revealed an ambitious side to themselves with the sample-heavy kaleidoscope Paul's Boutique, a popular choice for best rap album ever. They changed direction again by picking up their instruments for a couple of ultra-eclectic hip-hop albums rooted in alternative rock and old school funk, and then..... well, to sum it up, the Beasties came to define Genre Roulette and they have one of hip-hop's most diverse bodies of work. They also bear claim to the most ridiculous Boastful Raps of all time.
Herbie Hancock's "Rockit". Watch Scratch (2000), the quintessential movie about the turntablist movement, and see who the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the X-Men (now the X-Ecutioners), Mix Master Mike, and everyone else all say inspired them to start fucking up their mommas' records.
Afrika Bambaataa took a Kraftwerk record and invented electro, giving us the basis for the use of synthesizers in hop-hop.
The period from the late '80s to the early '90s is considered to be hip-hop's Golden Age, as it was a time of extraordinary innovation in rhythms, sounds, lyrical styles, and content. The level of self-awareness and intellectual thought makes the music from this time still extremely popular amongst middle-class white college students looking to show how down they are. Notable acts include: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Gang Starr, Digable Planets, PM Dawn, KRS-One, Cypress Hill, and Wu-Tang Clan.
This style of hip-hop experienced a resurgence in the late '90s, featuring such acts as The Fugees (The Score), the Roots, Common, Mos Def, Jurassic 5, DJ Shadow, Kool Keith, Mobb Deep, and Dead Prez.
While mainstream hip-hop during the '80s had devolved into a gimmick, West Coast hip-hop (Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, NWA) gave birth to gangsta rap and made hip-hop a force to be reckoned with.
NWA in particular are the nucleus for gangsta (though they themselves called their music "reality rap"), bringing the grittiest of lifestyles to the mainstream just as rap was becoming more socially conscious. Indisputably changed hip-hop forever.
Dr. Dre rose from the ashes of NWA to release The Chronic, where he pioneered the g-funk sound that became a benchmark for hip-hop for the next several years. Still one of hip-hop's premier producers.
Snoop Dogg, formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, demonstrated a stoned, laid-back flow atypical of most M Cs, and yet it fit perfectly with the g-funk era and has made him an icon to this day.
Death Row Records: Released The Chronic and Doggystyle; founded by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight.
MC Hammer brought rap music to the pop audience, and showed once and for all that the genre did, in fact, have huge commercial appeal.
Bad Boy Entertainment: label founded by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, a.k.a. P. Diddy; home to Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G..
Busta Rhymes, in his prime one of the wackiest, most unpredictable rappers going.
Everlast, and his group House Of Pain. Everlast has quite an interesting, eclectic career, starting with House Of Pain, the blue-collar Irish thugs who were among the few white rappers taken seriously in the mid-1990s (mostly known for their classic party joint "Jump Around" and their seminal debut album). When they dissolved, Everlast bounced back, and, with 1998's surprise hit "What It's Like" pioneered an blend of country, blues and hip-hop that wound up surprisingly influential over the next decade.
Cash Money Records (Li'l Wayne, Juvenile, Big Tymers) and No Limit Records (Mystikal, Master P, Silkk the Shocker, C-Murder) were responsible for bringing the "Dirty South" and bounce music into the limelight in the late '90s.
Lil Wayne became a superstar on his own in 2008. He formed Young Money and discovered two more future superstars in Drake and Nicki Minaj.
Eminem, who shook up America with his gleefully psychotic "Slim Shady" persona, and in the process proved himself to be one of the most gifted rappers of his time, if not all time. He is the top selling musician of the 2000s, and he's still raising eyebrows and topping the charts today.
Jay-Z is not only one of the finest rappers of the 90s/2000s, with a refined, unflappable flow, he's also one of the most financially successful musicians ever. He and wife Beyoncé later became popular music's Ruling Couple. He also discovered Kanye West.
Kanye ruled the hip hop world ever since he broke out. Even when his ego and a bunch of controversies came into play, it did nothing to derail his career.
Outkast, who were a more melodic, pop-friendly rap outfit who nonetheless showed more innovation than any of their peers.
Hank Williams. More or less established the vocabulary for 20th century country music.
Johnny Cash, a forerunner for the face of country music for over two decades, and one of the early founders of rock and roll (and he always refused to restrict himself to any one genre). Experienced a lull during the early 80's to 2000. Instead of fading away, he used a simpler style and went on to create the emotionally fueled "American" series of albums.
Dolly Parton. She is one of country music's most recognizable and loved singers; behind the sweet voice is a survivor who wrote many of her hits, including "I Will Always Love You" (yeah, that one).
Dwight Yoakam was written off by many people as just a "hat act" back in the day of his popularity. It wouldn't be until the late 2000s when new, young country artists started listing him as an influence that people found out just how important he was to the genre.
Dixie Chicks were nothing out of the ordinary when they started. Then in 1998, they got a new lead singer, started pushing the bounds of Neo-Traditionalism and successfully broke through with their 2002 album Home.
Louis Jordan, saxophonist, bandleader, and the face of jump blues in the 1940s.
Cab Calloway; simply put, one of the most flamboyant, and influential, entertainers in the history of the genre.
Fats Domino, who churned out a powerful, rollicking rhythm & blues sound that pointed the way straight towards rock & roll. Known for his breezy, easygoing sound and for being Elvis Presley's idol.
Etta James, a strong blues vocalist who sang R&B with jazzy overtones. Possibly a Ur Example of Soul.
Big Joe Turner, the Boss of the Blues. Big Joe could belt out rhythm & blues with the best of them, while bringing in influences of jazz, boogie-woogie, and even early rock & roll.
In the same vein, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was a guitarist and gospel singer who brought the spirit of the music to the world of pop and R&B in the late 30s and 40s, and while this was controversial at the time, she proved to be one of the first precursors to rock & roll.
Little Richard, maybe just behind Chuck Berry for influencing rock & roll, but undoubtedly the first major influence for funk.
The Isley Brothers. Lasted half a century, and existed in multiple incarnations, through different generations of R&B music, such as soul and funk. They're basically an institution of the genre.
The doo-wop craze of the 1950s generally produced more classic songs than classic groups, as many one-hit wonders filled up the subgenre. There were a few that stuck around as genuine hitmakers, such as the Platters and the Coasters, but the most revered of the decade was easily the Drifters. The Drifters were at the forefront of the style despite being a Revolving Door Band with multiple lead singers, and they're responsible for iconic songs like "Money Honey," the ahead-of-its-time "There Goes My Baby," and "Under The Boardwalk." By the way, Ben E. King, prominent singer in a later incarnation of the group, struck out on his own, and scored the hit "Stand By Me," one of the most famous pop songs in history.
The Funk Brothers, possibly the ultimate gang of session musicians. You may not know them, but if you've heard even one of Motown's greatest hits, you've heard them.
And many of the acts they backed up:
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: One of the earliest signings to Motown, Smokey is a world-renowned presence in pop and soul, as well as a major songwriter behind the scenes.
Marvin Gaye: Became soul music's Trope Codifier in the 60s and 70s thanks to his seductive, sophisticated brand of R&B that wasn't the least bit shy about tackling social and political issues.
Stevie Wonder: Rose from a child prodigy to become one of the genre's most soulful, colorful talents, with a diverse approach that led itself to a plethora of pop hits.
Diana Ross and the Supremes: The definitive Girl Group of the 60s, arguably the yardstick by which all others of the era are judged. Diana went solo by the time the 70s rolled around and just kept rolling out the hits, in both pop and soul.
The Temptations: If the Supremes were the definitive girl group, the Temptations were the definitive male vocal group. Went from powerful, soul-influenced pop to embrace psychedelic soul upon reaching the 70s.
Wilson Pickett, and his gritty, impassioned vocals and muscular grooves. His music is a must-hear if you like your soul music raw.
Aretha Franklin, considered by some to be the greatest female pop singer ever. Her big hit, "Respect", is often-parodied, but it's an early establishment of feminism in pop music, and she had a string of hits in the late 1960s and a comeback in the 1980s. Last seen at the Obama inauguration.
Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Memphis's answer to the Funk Brothers, were the house band for Stax Records. They were the architects of the Memphis Soul sound, thanks to both their own recordings and the acts they recorded with, including:
Sam & Dave
Rufus Thomas, and his daughter Carla Thomas
Barry White. You may know him for his deep bass voice and loverman persona, which deservedly made him an icon, but his rich, sultry production technique helped set the tone for R&B and pop music in The Seventies.
The Jackson 5, later simply the Jacksons, a relentlessly funky pop band who were major teen idols in the 70s and the launching pad for Michael's later success.
Earth, Wind & Fire, commercially one of the most beloved funk acts of the 70s, and musically one of its more diverse.
Rick James helped move the style of funk from the looser jams of the 70s and into the 80s, with a slicker, rock-inspired funk sound he called "punk funk."
Kool & The Gang, themselves a big name in funk in the 70s, pulled this trick off in their own regard, except they did it by embracing pop instead. Compare "Jungle Boogie" from 1973 to "Celebration" in 1980. It's like two different bands.
The Commodores, relentlessly funky Top Ten mainstays for Motown in the 70s, and the launching pad for Lionel Richie's even more successful, pop-oriented solo career in the 80s.
1980s, 1990s & early 2000s
Prince. The only reason he's in the R&B section is because that's where he started and based the better part of his music around, but the man is one of the best examples of Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly of all time. He redefined Funk for The Eighties. His use of synthesizers set the stage for the early 80s Synth Pop sound. His sexually-charged content set a new standard for what could be said on record (which wound up inspiring the Parental Advisory stickers). His music became so textured critics could only call it The Minneapolis Sound. He wrote so much material, he had to give tons of his songs to other artists, and went so far as to create protege acts (such as Vanity 6, Appolonia 6 and most famously The Time) just as additional output for him. This just scratches the surface of his achievements, but let's just say he has one of the richest bodies of work in modern music. Oh, and he plays guitar like a man possessed.
Sade and her distinctive alto voice would've caught lots of attention on her own, but her band also created a jazz/soul/pop hybrid that made a big splash with contemporary audiences.
New Edition, a sensation with teenagers in the 80s, and the group who ushered in the new jack swing era. Boyz II Men picked up where they left off in the 90s.
Janet Jackson eventually became the only member of the Jackson family to overcome Michael's shadow, by combining dance-pop, R&B and a fierce sense of independence. Firmly became a superstar after the breakout success of the 1986 album Control, and she never looked back.
The success of Mary J. Blige was a definite point at which R&B and hip hop began to rub shoulders.
Mariah Carey. Armed with a distinctive voice featuring a staggering five-octave range, she began as a spirited dance-pop singer but soon refreshed her image and sound by transitioning into modern R&B. In fact, while Mariah's diva status is her defining image, she also changed R&B forever with "Fantasy," featuring Ol' Dirty Bastard. This seemed like a strange combination at the time, but the merging of hip hop and pop wound up redefining R&B (and pop itself, to a certain extent) for the next couple decades. Through all this, Mariah became the highest selling solo artist of the 90s, and remains one of popular music's great divas to this day.
The loose, funky sound of TLC appealed to hip hop, R&B and pop fans, and they became superstars, not to mention feminist icons, in the 90s.
Destinys Child picked up where TLC left off in the late 1990s and early 2000s to become the hottest Girl Group in the genre; despite various lineup changes and legal drama within the group. They had both R&B and pop success, and gave way to the solo career of Beyoncé.
Beyoncé practically defines the R&B scene of the 2000s, practically a deity of the genre. Not far behind, though, is Rihanna.
Amy Winehouse; though she sadly did not leave behind as large a body of work compared to some of the other artists in this section (only two proper studio albums, in fact!) she still nevertheless made a huge impact in a very short space of time. She revived both the popularity of British artists abroad and soul music, as well by their own admission paved the way for many prominent female singer songwriters such as Adele, Lady Gaga, Paloma Faith, Jessie J, Emeli Sande and Florence Welch.
Reggae and Ska
Bob Marley, the most famous reggae performer of all time, famous for his many quotable quotes and catchy songs, including, but not limited to, "I shot the sheriff", "Redemption Song", and "One Love."
Not to mention the early Wailing Wailers who featured him, Peter Tosh and Bunny (Livingstone) Wailer, who would both become successful solo musicians in their own right. Whilst Marley's Island stuff is more famous, many fans and critics tend to agree that his Wailers career from 1967-1971 is his best.
Let's not forget the late-Seventies and early-Eighties bands of the 2-Tone movement, like the Specials and the Beat, who revived ska in the U.K. Not to mention Madness, who helped to bring it to mainstream attention.
The first reggae heard by American audiences was Millie Small's 1964 cover of "My Boy Lollipop" (actually done in "bluebeat" style), then Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" in 1968.
The Toasters. The Toasters were the first third wave ska band from the United States and helped to popularize the genre in America.
Reel Big Fish, the first breakout hitmakers of the Orange County ska scene. Their song 'Sell Out' has become a ska/punk anthem.
And whose live shows are just about the most fun it's possible to have without, y'know...
How did this page go so long without Five Iron Frenzy? One of the best Christian bands.
How did this page go so long without Sublime? "Santeria" is one of the most well known modern reggae songs.
How did this page go even longer without the Skatalites, arguably the first ska band ever, and ancestor to everything else in this section?
Prince Buster was one of the most influential members of the first wave ska movement, cited by Madness, the Specials and the Selecter as a big influence. One of his songs lends Madness its name (and he himself is referenced by their very first single, "The Prince").
If you don't mention Buju Banton, Beenie Man or Bounty Killa, you're doing it wrong. These ARE the legends of 90s reggae, and this is the one genre on this page for which "of note" doesn't only mean "popular in the US".
Les Paul & Mary Ford. Not so much as a vocal duo (though they were certainly good singers); Les Paul is one of the most notable innovators in music. He brought the technique of overdubbing to a mass audience, as well as tape delay and multi-track recording (the multi-tracked chorus of Mary Fords on "How High The Moon" is a famous example). He also pioneered the solid-body guitar. Needless to say, that's quite a distinctive reputation considering he and Mary emerged in the pre-rock & roll era.
The Shaggs may go down as one of the worst (if not the worst) bands to ever record music, yet they're icons of Outsider Music and one of pop music's strangest curiosities.
The Residents: Bought the 3rd digital sampler off the assembly line, and put pop, anonymity, utter strangeness, and a twisted sense of humor into a blender. Also helped fuel genres such as punk and industrial without even realizing it.
Dr Demento. Not a musician per se, but a radio DJ, who based his shows around novelty records, as well as the more strange and unusual artists in popular music, Demento won a loyal cult following, and also gave the world.....
"Weird Al" Yankovic. It seems easy to dismiss Al as nothing more than a comedy parodist. But to deny that the man is a true musical genius in his own right is to bury your head so deep in the sand as to have it come out the other side of the world. The list of artists he names as his musical influences reads like a Who's Who of musical legends. He's proficient in any genre of music he cares to turn his hand to (from polka to hard rock to pop rock to rap to country to punk... just about the only genre he hasn't done is Opera), and has actually become a musical influence all his own. Consider that for a second... a guy who makes his living making fun of other musicians work has become an influence on mainstream musicians in nearly every genre of music!
Bob Rivers will take any random (usually rock) song and change the lyrics into a parody that quite often relates to something current at the time the song was rewritten. Example not surprisingly, much of his work is incorrectly attributed to "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Ween, the embodiment of the willful weirdness of the alternative rock era. Genre Roulette on hallucinogenic drugs. As you can probably guess, they played some of the goofiest, and outright strangest, music of their time.
Beck. Like Ween, Beck encompassed the weirdness of the 90s, except his approach was more abstract and postmodern. His sound could be described as psychedelic-folk-hip-hop-funk-rock... and even that doesn't quite capture his music. If anyone ever asks you what the alternative era was like, just put on Odelay, arguably Beck's definitive album.
Primus: Most rock bands don't have a bass player as such a focal point of the band, but the wacky Les Claypool and Primus aren't most bands.
Stereolab, who lived up to their name with a curious, mixture of 1970s experimental rock, Kraftwerk, lounge music and 60s pop. Never hit huge commercial heights, but they're a big name in British alternative music.
Prominent musicians post- 2005
Paramore, a.k.a. the biggest female-fronted pop-punk band of the 21st century.
Lady Gaga became a phenomenon by mixing pop music with electronic dance. However her main selling point was her bizarre wardrobe and enigmatic persona. This brought back the concept of pop-divas in a way not seen since Madonna.
Katy Perry was considered the anti-thesis to Lady Gaga. Rather, she had a more "girl-next door" persona, and was more relatable to audiences than her rival.
Taylor Swift started off as a popular country singer before her popularity unexpectedly exploded well beyond what was expected from a country artist and into rare pop superstardom. This led to her ditching her country schtick and going full-out pop for her fifth album.
Adele was very popular in the UK for a few years when her sophomore album 21 became a worldwide megahit. She was a very rare type of star with near-universal appeal and kept her music at the forefront rather than her image - not hard to do, since her huge, powerhouse voice raised the bar considerably at the height of an era obsessed with Auto-Tune.
After being dormant for a long time, teenage girls reignited their love affair with heartthrob musicians. Most dominant at the time were Justin Bieber and, later, One Direction.
Easily the biggest male pop star of the 2010s is Bruno Mars. He is seen as a very eclectic pop star whose music is comparable to the likes of Michael Jackson and Prince. He helped bring old school R&B (especially funk) back to prominence.
Lorde and Lana Del Rey were very unique female "indie-pop" singers. Their music was very minimalistic at best, but was highly acclaimed and accessible to all types of audiences. When people found out Lorde was only 16, it was quite shocking.
Kendrick Lamar is easily rap's fastest-rising star. His 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d. city put him on the map and 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly solidified him as an A-list superstar act.