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 411mania » Music » Columns

The 411 Music Top Five 11.03.13: Top 5 Rock Innovators
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 11.04.2013


Criteria: Last Sunday, as you may know, Lou Reed passed away at the age of seventy-one. Reed can be considered many things in terms of a musician, but one thing you cannot deny is how innovative he was as a rock musician and how much impact he had as a songwriter and an artist. This week in honor of Reed, we're looking at the most innovative artists to influence rock music.

5. Euronymous

There have been plenty of people who credit him with coming up with the black metal riffing style. Plus, if I'm not mistaken, his band Mayhem was one of the first black metal bands. So I think the two things conincide with one another to him being pretty influential in the metal (as well as rock) world!

4. Bob Dylan

I'm really looking at him on more of a lyrical level, because I can't say much about how innovative he was to the musical side of things, because it's honestly not my genre to talk about. Lyrically, the guy was on a totally different level than most of the other members of the playing field. His lyrics inspired many others to try harder and do better, and made them think about their lives, which was pretty rare for his early days.

3. Elvis Presley

I originally wasn't going to even have Elvis on the list, but I felt that even if he technically didn't add anything to the rock genre (except for helping start it), he deserves at least as spot on this list. He took the two existing genres of country music and rhythm and blues and turned it into a early version of rock and roll, though I'm not sure if he was the definite first to do so, he was by far the most popular, and I think that accounts for something.

2. Chuck Schuldiner

One of the two people I automatically knew would be on this list. He is my idol, and a man I wish I could have met, and he's also the godfather of death metal. There were elements of early death metal before he came along in bands like Possessed and Celtic Frost, but it was never death metal until he took vocal influences from them and added his own brand of gore lyrics, as well as a sound that was pretty unique for its' time. I'd say that after the first Death album he started taking his band in a more technical and progressive journey with each passing album. I would say he innovated anything like progressive death metal, but I will say that he did help foster its' popularity along with bands like Atheist and Cynic. But I couldn't quite give him the top spot.

1. Tony Iommi

Was this any surprise? The dude practically gave us heavy metal on a platter. His downtuned guitars and bluesy riffs, in combination with the rest of his band, gave birth to what is my favorite genre in the whole wide musical world, heavy metal. His amazing riffs, and atmosphere of doom innovated style that is still used today, and while there are plenty of rock artists who have innovated just as much as Tony Iommi, none of them can say thatt the innovated the groundwork for one of the larger subgenres in all of rock music.

Honorable Mentions: Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson, Lou Reed, Freddy Mercury, Frank Zappa

5. The Beatles

Let's even throw the British Invasion aside, though they were largely the popular innovators of that. The Beatles did such amazing things for rock and where it could go. This is a group that started off as a purely pop-oriented band and transitioned themslves into a more rock-oriented sound (with a psychedelic edge, no less) without losing their pop credentials. That fusion of genre was almost unheard of at the time and it can be heard in almost every subgenre of rock music. No ifs, and or buts, they deserve to be on this list.

4. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix did things with a guitar I don't think any human being has physically been able to do since. But damn if he didn't get armies of people who became famous (and innovative in their own right) trying to. For Hendrix, his guitar was practically like an extension of his body and he introduced elements into guitar-playing that completely changed the face of the instrument's history. I don't know how anyone could deny his innovational impact.

3. Led Zeppelin

As much as I'm a Sabbath fan, I've always viewed Led Zeppelin as the guys who really got Iommi, Osbourne and company on the right track to heavy metal. Zeppelin did new things with rock and essentially created the concept of hard rock at all, taking heavier licks and combining them with a bluesy sound to create a sound that influenced a ton of genres. Hard rock, heavy metal, punk and alt-rock (among others) all owe an incredible debt to the musical inventions of Page, Bonham, Plant and Jones.

2. Bob Dylan

It really pained me not to have Lou Reed on the list that his passing inspired, but there was one guy who did more innovation in the area of lyrics and also managed to top Reed musically; that person is Bob Dylan. Now I know that my Dylan fanboy nature is no secret, but you really have to give it up for the guy. Not only did he show the world that you could be a truly intellectual lyricist and make it within rock music, he also brought folk music kicking and screaming into the genre and rock's never been the same. Dylan took the best elements of folks and merged them with the best of rock to inspire more artists than I would have room to count in this column.

1. Elvis Presley

There would be no rock and roll if not for the King. And that's not to say, by the way, that he was the first person to blend country and blues into one potent musical mix. But he was the first person to do so in such a way that really kickstarted rock and roll. Being innovative isn't always about being first; sometimes it's about being the person who gets it to the masses in a way that they can accept and fair or not, it was Elvis who pulled that off. And it's not like he's undeserving of praise, either. He would be just as influential today no matter what the case. No matter what kind of popular music you listen to, it wouldn't be the same (and probably wouldn't exist, at least in any recognizable form) if not for this guy.

The Final Word

As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it


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