It’s hard to imagine a world without David Bowie, his triumph of of multiple music genres, from punk to techo, new wave to glam rock, makes it difficult to find an artist today that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of Bowie’s influence. Lady gaga, Blur, TV on the Radio, Morrissey; Bowie did it all first and saw himself turn from pupil to teacher, when some of his own influences (Lou Reed, Marc Bolan) began to channel his innovating musical directions. The addiction struggling, fantastical superstar’s career has spanned an amazing five decades, 23 studio albums, countless record sales, and a cult following has never died down despite his constant change of course. Ziggy Stardust inspired a generation of Glam rock and questionable sexuality, the Thin White Duke exposed a drug fuelled political controversy; whatever boundaries Bowie pushed, however he changed, only added to his awe and his relevance as an influential man of music who has no less relevance today as he did fifty years ago. All Hail David Bowie, the musical chameleon that can try anything, and make it his own.
US Army Soldier turned guitar hero to the masses; Jimi’s influence over the development of the guitar’s importance was monumental, I mean he practically invented feedback for god’s sake. The man could play with his teeth, use his body as a jungle-gym for his guitar and all the while never drop a note; his on-stage presence was undeniable, and completely contrasted his humble off-stage demeanour. Kidnapped and allegedly murdered by his own manager, Jimi left behind a legacy of guitar technique that influenced most of your favourite guitarists today; Jack White, Matt Bellamy and Jonny Marr to name a few. Jimi’s effect on the prestige of the electric guitar was phenomenal, his technicality took distortion to another level, his bend on hard rock helped create metal and his on-stage dramatics created a “experience” to die for. Jimi’s career may have been brief, but the influence has lasted the 40 long years since his death.
One quarter of the band that started pop music; what’s not to say about John Lennon’s relevance today? He’s the band member’s hero, the reason most kids pick up a copy of Catcher in the Rye, the one to pay homage to, (Ever heard Oasis’s “I’m Outta time”? It’s almost a musical love letter to Liam’s favourite Beatle) I challenge you to find someone that hasn’t heard imagine; Lennon’s legacy resonates everywhere, and not just because of that, “more popular than Jesus” comment. Whilst his bizarre relationship with Ono made headlines, his love for word play grew to create lyrics that inspired generations of musicians that would follow his lead in introspective reflections. As a Beatle and a solo artist, Lennon’s influence lies everywhere.
The man who helped launch MTV, and with it a new generation of pop music videos and R&B lovers. From his childhood stardom in The Jackson 5 to 2001’s Invincible, Jackson’s voice was unique and instantly recognisable, whilst his show stopping moves created new dance floor trends, (Don’t even try and pretend you’ve never attempted a moon walk). His songs contain a mixed bag of hard rock to funky rhythms that influenced the Beyonces and Ushers topping the charts today. There are hundreds of questions left unanswered about MJ, and his private life can only be described as strange, but somehow the fact that no one really knows the truth about the King of Pop makes him even more awe inspiring.
You couldn’t possibly have a list of the most influential men in music without including the King; half of the musicians on list cite him as an influence, along with a good deal of successful musicians since his reign over rock and roll. Blues, gospel, funk; Presley mastered them all and as a result, has released 21 number 1 albums to this day. He may have died on the toilet, but his effect on the music scene paved way for the 60’s; it was a more then a musical revolution, Elvis changed the youth culture for good, and with it solidified rock and roll as a genuine genre. In terms of his relevance over today’s music, it seems the King’s influence has never really left the building.