Tuesday, July 27, 2010


79. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

"I wonder how Smokey is going to sound with no drums!" mused Eddie Murphy's Mr. Robinson. Smokey probably would have pulled it off.

I'll let Bob Seger provide: "Smokey wrote his own stuff, so he had an originality or individualism that maybe the other Motown greats didn't. He was a lyric man, as well as a melody man, a musician's musician." The Miracles put out so many hits they kept Motown alive. They were constant and dependable: easily recognized and always in demand.

Key track: I Second That Emotion, 1967, which shows off Smokey's up-tempo side.

78. John Lee Hooker

Hooker talked the blues. One of the first electric bluesmen his early recordings became genre standards.

Hooker managed to take boogiewoogie piano sensibilities and translate them to guitar. He's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received the Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and his songs have been preserved and revered pieces of our soundscape.

Key track: Boogie Chillen, 1948, which has been preserved as one of the Songs of the Century.

77. Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel sang about weird stuff. The subjects of their songs were not teen romance. Who else could pull off a eulogy to Frank Lloyd Wright on an Album of the Year?

The harmonies stick out at the forefront of their work. The stories they convey are, upon reflection, very unique to that which had come before. Which is odd, since they sound perfectly at home in the tradition of musical storytelling. Their relatively brief tenure would yet launch many artist's careers.

Key track: America, 1968, which, according to Simon and Garfunkel, is typical of Simon and Garfunkel.

76. Janis Joplin

Joplin's voice sounded like Southern Comfort: raspy, yet smooth; subtle, but carrying a punch. Her bluesy songs couldn't be questioned for authenticity.

Janis Joplin has been the inspiration for so many singers I doubt they'll ever let us forget who they are indebted to. The fact that she was regarded as a great singer when she had a voice that was admittedly unpolished had everything to do with emotion. The emotion infused every song she recorded, and created a new possibility for female singers.

Key track: Me and Bobby McGee, 1970, which has become a standard American story.

75. Judy Garland

Garland's voice got better with age, which is rather remarkable. Judy at Carnegie Hall held at number one for three months.

Judy Garland had one of the more impressive set of pipes in the business. Her dual acting/singing career launched numerous standards which singers try, without success, to cover. 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' has become one of the nation's trademarks, and there is simply no other version than Judy's.

Key track: Somewhere Over the Rainbow, 1939, which shows off Garland's incredible voice before it matured.


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