Rolling Stone Magazine recently published it’s ’100 Greatest Artists Of All Time’, which has been expanded since its introduction in 2004. At first, after reviewing the list, I was taken back by the broad term “artists of all time”. Putting my opinions and objections aside as to the order of the list (They really put U2 at #22 and The Doors at #41… Really?), the integrity of the list itself is flawed. The introduction (see the article link) tries to lend merit to the list by describing it as the most influential artists of the Rock & Roll Era. In that statement alone they are already back-peddling, perhaps as a means to justify the fact that the list clearly goes far outside the definition of Rock & Roll, or even Rock for that matter.
But before I go further, it’s important to first look at Rolling Stone Magazine’s partner in crime, the ever compromised (and bastardized) Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If my understanding of the definition of Rock & Roll is correct, it’s a fairly broad umbrella term that includes Rock & Roll, Rock, Metal. Heavy Metal, Rockabilly, Punk, Grunge, Progressive and several other sub-genre classifications which I’m certain I’ve missed. Its influences – like other types of modern music – were Blues, Swing, Country, Hillbilly, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz and again, likely a few more I’m again missing, although these are not themselves genres of Rock. What clearly does not fall under the definition of Rock & Roll is Funk, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Soul, Disco, Gospel and Standards, which leaves me confused as to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees that are clearly not Rock & Roll.
Here are a few examples:
2010 – Abba (Disco)
2009 – RUN D.M.C. (Hip Hop/Rap)
2008 – Madonna (Pop)
2006 – Herb Alpert (Pop/Jazz) and Miles Davis (Jazz)
2005 – The O’Jays (Disco/Soul/Funk)
2001 – Michael Jackson (Pop)
2000 – Billie Holiday (Jazz) and Nat “King” Cole (Pop/Standards)
1998 – Jelly Roll Morton (Jazz)
1997 – Mahalia Jackson (Gospel) and The Bee Gees (Disco/Pop)
1990 – Louis Armstrong (Jazz)
1987 – Hank Williams (Country)
The Hall of Fame justifies some of these inductees as “early influences” (Hank Williams, Louis Armstrong), yet others – who are clearly not “Rock & Roll” (Madonna, Michael Jackson and Abba) – as “performers”. I think it’s a safe bet to say that if Madonna toured with Abba, it would not be called a “Rock” Concert. Why then is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame not called the “Pop Music” Hall of Fame? And where are the Swing and Jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa who rocked as hard if not harder than any Rock drummers today? Who is in charge over there? In any case, in my opinion, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is somewhat of a joke, merely a commercial vehicle with diminished significance – much like Rolling Stone Magazine.
So, Rolling Stone Magazine publishes yet another insignificant list. Its Top 100 include Blues pioneer Howlin’ Wolf and Country great Hank Williams, but exclude Louis Armstrong, perhaps the greatest virtuoso of the 20th Century. As a matter of fact, not one Jazz artist was included, with Miles Davis being omitted from the original 2004 list, to be replaced in 2011 by Jay-Z. There you have it folks, Rolling Stone says that Jazz doesn’t matter and that Hip-Hop is Rock & Roll, and if Rolling Stone says it, it must be true (not).
DJ and Musicologist
Cutting Edge @ September 5, 2011