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Great men who have changed the world of music:influential male musicians and singers

Updated on September 27, 2014
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The world of music has been made richer because of the efforts of many good, musical men. Their music has had the power of far reaching, evergreen influence that has captured many hearts and minds the world over. They are widely respected, whether presently or posthumously, in, pop, jazz, rock and country music genres. Undeniably, their work has affected the lives of millions.

Therefore, it is time to pay tribute to these gentlemen by giving due accolades to their musical efforts. By no means is this list exhaustive, because there are many musicians who have made an impact on our lives.These are a few whose work has stood the test of time and touch our hearts even today. So who exactly are these great men?

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Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock

Fun Facts about Elvis

  • He was one of a pair of twins, his brother Jesse was stillborn.
  • His father, Vernon’s middle name was Elvis. His mother Gladys’ middle name was Love.
  • His real hair color was brown. His black hair was dyed.
  • He came in 5th in a talent contest by singing old Shep.
  • He purchased his first guitar at age 11.
  • He paid $4 to make his first record, a present to his mum, singing My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.
  • He audition for the gospel quartet The Songfellows in 1954, who said no.
  • While on Milton Berle’s program in 1956, the host advised him not to use his guitar, saying “Let them see you, son.”


Elvis Presley

The King of Rock and Roll was given his name precisely because of the that he lasting influence that he had, and still has, over listeners and audiences worldwide. It is difficult to find anyone on the street who would not know who he is.

Born Elvis Aaron Presley but commonly known by his first name, he began his career in 1954 by signing with Sun Records, under the patronage of owner Sam Philips, who wanted to bring African American music to a wider audience. Presley’s appeal came about because of his ability to widen that reach with his voice.

Thus, Presley became the founder of the Rock genre Rockabilly, a fusion of rhythm and blues.His contract was bought over by RCA Records and his first release under the label, Hearbreak Hotel, became a Number 1 hit in 1956.

After his two year stint in the military that began in 1958, Presley relaunched his career in 1960. He spent most of the 1960s making Hollywood Movies that were not so well received. He returned in a celebrated comeback special in 1968 which led to a string of successful Las Vegas concert tours. He died in 1977 due to an overdose of prescription drugs.

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Michael Jackson Billie Jean

Fun Facts about Michael Jackson

  • His favorite cartoon character was Pinocchio.
  • He was very ticklish.
  • He once owned a Boa Constrictor named “Muscles.”
  • He played a scarecrow in The Wiz, a movie version of the Wizard of Oz
  • Quincy Jones nicknamed him “smelly”, a term similar to funky.
  • He had two llamas named Lois and Lola.
  • He won eight grammies in 1984, the highest number won by any person in a single year.
  • He made his first public appearance singing Climb Every Mountain at the age of 5.
  • His favorite food was Mexican.
  • He was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • He has waxworks in 5 Madame Tussaud’s Museams throughout the world.


Michael Jackson

Recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records, Michael Jackson is known for his contributions to music, fashion, dance and his highly publicized personal life. He was an iconic figure in pop music for over four decades. He came into the music scene in 1964 with his brothers as part of the Jackson 5, launching his solo career in 1971.

He broke pop barriers in the 1980s with songs like “Beat it”, “Thriller” and “Billie Jean.” The popularity of his videos soon brought MTV into being, a vital promotional tool for artistes these days. He gained lasting popularity as a touring solo artist, and popularized many dance techniques, including the “moonwalk” with his single, Smooth Criminal. Thriller has become the best selling album of all time.

The iconic pop legend secured 13 grammies and a grammy legend award. He has been lauded with accolades like the Artist of the Century and Artist of the 1980s as well. His death in 2009 marked a great loss to the music world.

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Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze

Fun Facts about Jimi Hendrix

  • His original name was Johnny Allen Hendrix.
  • His dream of playing a guitar began with him playing a broom as a child.
  • He had a two year stint in the military, and constantly fell asleep during training.
  • Hendrix began as an anonymous session musician, playing with Tina Turner, Sam Cooke and the Isley Brothers, who recorded the original of the Beatles Hit, Twist and Shout.
  • He was born in Seattle and became successful in London, where the Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed.
  • He set fire to and smashed many guitars.
  • He set the tone for Hippy rock, made popular at the Monterey and Woodstock music festivals.


Jimi Hendrix

In spite of his limited exposure for a mere four years, James Marshall Hendrix helped to shape the face of electric guitar playing. He is widely known to be the greatest electric guitar player in the history of popular music.

He found initial success with his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, in Europe. He died at the young age of 27 of asphyxia after heading the Woodstock Festival in 1968 and the Isle of Wight festival in 1969.

Influenced by rock and roll and the electric blues, he was instrumental in developing the technique of using guitar and amplifier feedback, previously seen as undesirable. He made famous the use of the ‘wah wah” pedal, used widely in mainstream rock today. He also made famous the use of stereophonic sound effects in music recordings.

For his evergreen influence in the music world, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. His albums, Are You Experienced (1967) Axis : Bold As Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland were ranked among the Top 100 albums of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. It also ranked him as Number 1 on their list of Top 100 guitarists of all time.

Arlo Guthrie Alice's Restaurant

Fun Facts about Arlo Guthrie

  • Born on June 10, 1947
  • Eldest son of Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Greenbalt Mazia Guthrie, a well known dancer who toured with the Martha Graham Dance Company.
  • Woody gave him his first guitar for his 6th birthday.
  • His career was influenced by his father’s friends, Pete Seeger, Cisco Huston and Leadbelly
  • Performed with famous musicians including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Doc Watson
  • Was known to tell his own life story about being arrested and rejected for military service.
  • His star did not fade in the aftermath of his debut album and he released two more, Arlo (1968) and Evening Down the Road (1969).
  • Appeared in the ABC series, Byrds of Paradise
  • Father of four children and lives in Washington, Massachusetts with his wife, Jackie.


Arlo Guthrie

Born Arlo Davy Guthrie, he was famous as a folk singer who sang songs of protest against social injustice in the same vein as his father, Woody Guthrie. One of his famous works is
Arlo’s Restaurant Massacree, a talking blues number about 18 minutes in length. He has been known to spin the story out to 45 minutes in length while in concert. The song is based on a true incident of himself being arrested once for littering and creating a public nuisance on Thanksgiving Day when he was 18 years old. He was rejected as being unfit for military service.

The song was heavily played on radio stations after its release in 1967 and became a symbol of the late 1960s. Many states in the US have made playing the song a Thanksgiving Day tradition. A film, directed and written by Arthur Penn, features Guthrie playing Alice’s Restaurant Massacree himself.

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BB King The Thrill is Gone

Fun Facts about BB King

  • The King of Blues is a licensed private pilot.
  • He was diagnosed with diabetes over 20 years ago and is an active spokesperson against the disease.
  • He has won 15 Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from George W Bush.
  • He has released over 50 albums, with his highest debuting album One Kind Favor coming at the age of 83!
  • He wrote a song Lucille, which is also the name of his favorite guitar that he rescued in a fire.
  • His favorite singer is Frank Sinatra.
  • After WW2, he returned as a disc jockey known as the Beale Street Blues Boy. Hence his name, BB King.


B.B. King

Born in 1925, BB King was listed in the Rolling Stone Magazine as its No 6 on the list of its 100 greatest guitarists of all time. He was No. 17 on Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of all time. He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on string bending and vibrato that would influence all pieces of blues music to follow his.

King’s influence comes about because he has developed one of the world’s most recognizable guitar styles. He built on the styles of others, integrating string bends and guitar vibrato. He has been a model for other guitar greats like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. He has mixed traditional blues, pop and jazz into a unique sound.Signing with Bullet Records, he debuted with his single Miss Martha King. He had his own band, The BB King Review, which performed in major theaters and various Juke Joints.

In the 1960s, he became one of the important figures in R and B music. He had a large string of hits including “3 O’Clock Blues,” “You Know I Love You” and “Woke Up This Morning” among others. In 1962, he signed with ABC-Paramount Records and is now with his current label, Geften Records. He won a grammy for the tune The Thrill is Gone, a hit on both the pop and R and B charts, a rarity at the time.

In 1988, he reached a new generation of fans with “When Love Comes To Town”, a collaboration with U2 on their Rattle and Hum album. He teamed up with Eric Claption in 2000 to record Rolling with the King.

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Hank Williams Cold Cold Heart

Fun Facts about Hank Williams

  • Born September 17 1923
  • He learned how to play folk country and the blues from street musician Rufus Payne.
  • He was 13 when he made his radio debut.
  • He had his own bad, Williams and his Drifting Cowboys.
  • His wife, Audrey Mae Sheppard, played blues in his band.
  • Known as Hank Williams, Sr., he had a son with Audrey, Hank Williams Jr.
  • 5 of his singles were released posthumously.


Hank Williams

Hank Williams has been long considered as one of the most important country musicians of all time. In his career, he recorded 35 singles which were placed on Billboard’s Country and Western List. 11 of them ranked number one.

His career began in 1937 when WSFA radio hired him to perform in a 15 minute program. He backed up the band The Drifting Cowboys, managed by his mother, and dropped out of school to devote all his time to his career.

Williams took to drink during WW2 after he had trouble finding replacements for several of his band members who were conscripted into the army. His wife, Audrey Sheppard, became his manager. He signed with MGM Records after recording “Never Again” and Honky Tonk” with Sterling Records. With MGM, he released the hit, “Moving It On Over” which became a hit. He wrote several hits like “Your Cheating Heart,” “Hey, Good Looking” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” He died in 1953 suddenly after heart failure brought on by pills and alcohol.

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Van Morrison Brown Eyed Girl

Fun Facts about Van Morrison

  • He was born George Ivan Morrison in August 1945
  • He starred in The Last Waltz
  • Originated in Northern Ireland, Belfast
  • Collaborated with artists like the Chieftans on Have I Told You Lately which won a Grammy Award
  • His album, Astral Weeks, is on Rolling Stones List of 500 greatest albums of all time.


Van Morrison

Known as Van the Man to many of his fans, he is known for touching many hearts with his transcendental pieces. He began his career in the 1950s when he started playing a variety of instruments including the harmonica, guitar, keyboards and saxophone. He grew in musical stature in the 1960s as the lead singer of the band Them, with whom he recorded the garage band classic, Gloria. His solo career began with the release of the hit, Brown Eyed Girl in 1967. He has created hits like Jackie Wilson Said, Domino and Wild. His repertoire also includes pieces influenced by Celtic tradition.

In 1968, Warner Bros bought out his contract and allowed him 3 sessions to record Astral Weeks. Though it was successful, Morrison really came into prominence with his later album, Moondance. His music is built around the conventions of Soul and R and B. He has garnered six grammy awards and the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. He has been included in both the Rock and Roll and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

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Conclusion

These are legends who have had great influence on the world of music as it is today, though. of course, there are a host of many others. Evergreen, their music continues to touch, heal and inspire.

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kasman! Jackson had his quirks, but was truly a fine musician and dancer. Glad to connect with a fellow musician!!

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Midget, you rock! Being a musician myself, I can appreciate all the great names up there, especially b.b.! Never knew Michael Jackson had a snake, that was a bit different. All I remember was the chimp, Bubbles. Voted up and a great piece!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Epiman! I have added you as a friend on FB as well. Thanks for the kind comments and I hope to share more music and poetry with you too!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      .....most awesome hub of all time and you are a 'giant' for putting this one together on such a world class level - and yes so says the epi-man, the resident musicologist at the Hub - I should know - lol - but apparently you know as much as me - love this hub immensely but then again - look who wrote it - hubbravo to you and sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie ontario canada 4:19am

      I will post and link your good work here to the Music and Writing FB group

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Darrylmdavis, thanks for coming by and commenting. I am glad you like the selection! Yes, true, there are endless possibilities. Thanks for coming by.

    • Darrylmdavis profile image

      Darrylmdavis 4 years ago from Brussels, Belgium

      A fun hub to read and an interesting selection of artists given the endless possibilities. Well done :-)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Chris! I love them as well! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Kashmir, glad you've liked this.......these men have indeed influenced in their own areas! Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, musical tastes are individual! I love Elvis personally too. Picked these singers because they've made a difference! Thanks for coming by!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great list of music legends that have made a huge and great impression on the music world and throughout the world . Well done !

      Vote up and more !

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      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      Some I would have chosen myself as personal favourites, especially Elvis, others I wouldn't, but without question everyone of these having a massive influence on popular music. A great hub, thank you :-))

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Donna! It's hard to list one absolute favorite because there are so many great musicians out there who've done great songs and influenced music. So hard to decide, and almost impossible to list them all! I really appreciate the visit!

    • Donna Kay Bryan profile image

      Donna Kay Bryan 4 years ago

      Hi Michelle,

      I don't have a favorite. I listened to Elvis and Michael growing up, and I always had a ton of country that I listened to, so I did listen to old records of Hank.

      This was a great list. Voted up.

      -Donna

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Nithya! I love Michael too. A pity he passed away so young. Thanks for sharing!

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      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Very well showcased and a great selection. Voted up. I voted for Michael.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      BB King is a true great, Pamela!! An awesome blues man, without whom blues would never be the same. Thanks for visiting this musical hub!! Glad to share!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, some aspects of their lives may have been a little too colorful, but no doubt that these men have influenced music greatly! Thanks for coming by!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      The King is truly so, Mary, and no one can ever mistake it. It is a pity that he took to the drugs...I guess prescription drugs came about because of the extreme stress he must have been facing. Thanks for the insights!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Martie, glad you liked these facts! I am glad to present them, as these are all my favorite musicians. Thanks for coming by!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi John, Hank and the rest of these men certainly contributed so much in their musical genres. I enjoyed this hub as much as writing it myself!! Thanks for coming by to read!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I love Michael, too,Mike. His songs could move mountains. He had such talent too! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      He's a great, Daisy....and blues wouldn't be the same without him! He's inspired so many blues musicians of today. Your experience in Stockholm seems to have been so exciting! Thanks for sharing it and I am sure that seeing him in person must have been so exciting. Thanks for coming by and sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      No list of influential music men will be complete without Elvis, Linda! They are both greats. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Nancy! These men influenced people in all their different genres. Thanks for coming by!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      Absolutely great musicians! I really enjoyed this hub thoroughly. I have always loved B. B. King, and your other selections are top notch also! Awesome hub.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Michelle, great choice of influential male musicians, love them or loathe them, they have all made a huge impression on the music world and on us, one way or another. Voting up and interesting.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Great selection Michelle...you've covered it all! Each of these gentlemen left a mark that no one will ever reach....their talent and their ability to draw audiences to their voice was incredible. You are so right about Elvis, he is often mocked because he couldn't act and we know he overdid the drugs, but his singing talent is unmistakable.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      Brilliant hub about male musicians who had made a difference. Relevant facts and most entertaining fun facts. Why midget, this will soon be a high scorer. Voted up and fabulous :)

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I love this article! I'm so glad you mentioned these great musicians! My favorite from the list is Hank Williams!

      Voted up

      John

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      Definitely the most legendary musicians .. If I had to pick one that would be Michael,, he was indeed a true Genius except of the Mega pop-star .. I respect and love him so much

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Michelle,

      What a great Hub! Thanks for all the work you put into researching and writing it.

      Of the musicians you discussed, I've only seen BB King in person. I spent six months in Stockholm, Sweden several years ago working on a consulting contract. While there, I attended the Stockholm Jazz Festival. BB King was the most popular musician at the festival.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I was hoping Elvis made the cut, in additon he's listed first! Michael Jackson was influential in my life. I grew up listening to both Elvis and MJ. Fantastic hub Michelle!!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I like your across the board choices. I enjoyed your hub very much.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      HI Hatter. Thanks! Yes, there are others, too many to list all, so I picked one from each genre. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      HI again, Sherry! Jimi rocked, literally. Pity that things got cut short for him too. He was really true to his art! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Alecia!! Yes, he was quirky, wouldn't be surprised if he had a couple of hyenas, wolves, pythons and so one. But he contributed lots to the music scene! Thanks for dropping in, and am so glad to connect with you over music!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, WhydThatHappen. Just did a little edit based on this comment. Thanks for sharing the fun facts too, and for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Janine, thanks so much. That song is a romantic classic. Just chose these men because what they've done has affected music today. Thanks for coming by!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this.You selected some real heavyweights. I'm sure there were other, but your selection was that good.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Ms Larayane! Thanks for coming by. BB King rocks, and the blues has always been my favorite genre. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Richard. I was looking into those who influenced the different genres of pop and helped transform it to into what it is today. Always liked Van Morrison and Them. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Bill, yes, these things are always subjective. Arlo made a difference because of his stand on social issues...what I like about him is his daring to speak up for what he felt was right. Thanks for sharing Bill!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Love them, one and all. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Jimi. I sure wish he had stuck around longer.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I didn't know Michael Jackson had llamas. But I'm not that surprised. You are so good at these kinds of hubs and I always feel like I learn so much.

      The only musician I didn't know anything about was Arlo Guthrie but he seems to be carrying a great tradition of protest music.

      Great hub!

    • profile image

      WhydThatHappen 4 years ago

      I love this page!

      Correction though, Jimi Hendrix did not spend most of his life in England- he grew up in Seattle, began his professional career in the Chicago blues circuit, and became famous in England. Also, he played with Little Richard, and I believe he was first seen playing on television with Little Richard. You can find the video of him playing backing guitar on youtube.

      Another fun fact is he was in the military in lieu of prison time, when he was caught with some friends, joy riding in a stolen car.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, you truly put all the greats in one place. My favorite is Elvis, of course, and even used his song "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" as our wedding song. I can listen to him all day and night. Totally enjoyed learning background information on all of the men and thanks for sharing.. Have of course voted way up and share all over!!

    • msLarayne profile image

      msLarayne 4 years ago from New York, NY

      Dope list! And I'm so glad it included Jimi Hendrix. He's influenced so many artists within and outside his genre! BBQ is my guy too! His soul just sort of speaks when he picks up his guitar and lets that tongue loose.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Michelle, All favorites of mine (perhaps, not so much Hank Williams) that have been icons in the industry. You covered many different genre's here. Them also had a great hit with their version of "Fever" right after "Gloria" (which was also covered by the Shadows of Knight). Great Job!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great list here Michelle! It makes for good discussions and friendly arguments. :) I didn't know Arlo Guthrie was still alive; I loved his quirky voice. Not a big fan of Elvis but without a doubt he was influential.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Some legendary male musicians who have influenced the world of music