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My Favorite Frontmen... and Women (Part One A-J)
This is list is not all inclusive, nor is it stagnant. I'll likely make a series of these as I do with my other music hubs. This first list covers artists from A-J and is based on my taste and my taste alone. David Bowie and Billy Joel narrowly missed the cut, even though I am a big fan of their work. Dylan, all four Beatles and Elvis Costello are great songwriters, but not great performers, so they didn't make the cut either.There are no country artists, even though I considered Johnny Cash and Steve Earle.
The artists were chosen based on my personal tastes and my desire to offer a diverse blend of artists, new and old, dead and alive. You're certainly welcome to scrawl below the artists you think are missing, but don't assume an artist not being on here is an insult to them or their art. Also, there are no artists on this list, part one, lower than "John" in the alphabet, so bear that in mind. Part two is here.
I hope you enjoy this list, some trips down memory lane and some new artists. turn your speakers on and enjoy...
Pat Benatar (January 10, 1953--)
Maybe did as much for woman's fashion in the 80's as that loathsome, no talent, faux-British, Madonna, while maintaining her dignity and good looks. Benatar, classically trained in opera, was late to the game, but brought music with depth and still maintains class, dignity, and good looks, today. I had the opportunity to see her two years ago on my birthday and was pleased that she had not lost a step, vocally or as a performer. Songs like Heart Breaker, We Belong, Sex as a Weapon and Love is a Battlefield (see below) show off the impressive pipes and charisma of this rock n roll icon.
Nearly sixty, she still tours every summer with her husband, guitarist Spider, and recently released an autobiography, where she shows us that she indeed was not a trashy starlet. She is currently working on a novel based on the life of Christ.
Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) February 20th 1967-- April 4/5 1994
I've written much about Kurt both on hubpages and elsewhere, about his impact on my life and my life as a musician. He was a spokesman for my generation and he died far too young. The official ruling is suicide but many, including this author, believe foul play may have been an issue. All that aside, he was a brilliant front man. He suffered from insufferable stomach ailments which conrtibuted to his famously exorbitant heroin addiction and general melancholia. He was a sloppy guitarist but passionate, crass yet insightful, frail yet powerful, unpolished yet refined. The reluctant Father of Grunge, the man who blended punk rock, metal, folk and angst into a wonderfully cacophonous smorgasbord of noise and tone. His magnum opus was his Unplugged performance, filmed just six short months before his passing. The performance below does not do him justice.
Father to Frances, husband to Courtney, musician for all. The man who told us that "it's better to be hated for who you are than be loved for who you are not" and that it is "better to burn out than fade away" lives on.
Hubs on Kurt:
Phil Collins (solo artist, Genesis) January 30th, 1951--
Anyone who watches 30 Rock with any degree of regularity will recall this exchange between Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin):
Jordan: I'll make you a mixtape. Do you like Phil Collins?
Donaghy: I have two ears and a heart don't I?
I'ts true. To know Phil, to have the ability to hear, and to have a heart is to love Phil. Through his time with prog rockers turned pop rockers Genesis to a solo career that cashed in on melancholy, Collins has made male patterned baldness and heartbreak cool for all. There's too many songs to list from In the Air Tonight, In Too Deep, One More Night and Susudio to even pick the best one, so I won't. But you're more than welcome too. Truly, Phil Collins is a man of undeniable genius, whom has an uncanny penchant for mixing humor with tragedy and heartache,
Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave) July 20th, 1964--
Cornell has just enough screech and control in his voice to appeal to the 80's metal scene he grew up in, but enough angst and gravel to appeal to the grunge culture which propelled him to super stardom. Except for a regrettable collaboration with Timbaland, everything Cornell touches goes to audio gold. Whether he's paying tribute to Andrew Wood (late of Mother Love Bone) with Temple of Dog, fusing grunge and metal with Soundgarden, or alt rocking it up with the cast from Rage Against the Machine (minus that whiner, Zach De La Rocha) with Audioslave, Cornell is a consistent force in rock music today. His voice is beyond distinctive and he has good looks and plenty of swagger to boot. Cornell is the complete package. And, unlike those Metallica boys, he cut his hair and quit drinking and still manages to make quality music.
Brad Delp (Boston) June 12, 1951 – March 9, 2007
It doesn't matter if you choose to label Boston Arena rock, riff rock, classic or just rock n roll, Brad Delp is an immediately recognizable, preeminent vocal talent. Known for his high vocal range and insane control, Delp helped take Boston to amazing rock n roll heights during the seventies, which was not a small feat considering the glut of bands featuring catchy hooks, crunchy guitars, twenty piece drum kits and soaring vocals. Boston stands alone, above bands like Kansas, Foghat, Thin Lizzy and even Blue Oyster Cult as the best arena rock band of the 70's. Behind hits like More Than A Feeling, Smokin', and Amanda, Delp helped revolutionize male vocalists who sang in the upper register, a decade before glam rock parodied this skill. His suicide in 2007 left the rock n roll world reeling, but also brought new attention to this amazing talent and amazing band.
Eminem (October 17, 1972--)
Love him or hate him, Eminem's ability to promote himself is genius. Whether he's making disparaging remarks about gays (which he has recanted, in a touching [pardon the pun] exchange with Sir Elton John), talking about killing his ex wife (which he has not done) or taking pot shots at the media, Eminem is an undeniable force, a true icon for the 21st century. Whether he's rapping with lightning fast tongue twisting wit on his solo records, or collaborating with Dr. Dre, D12 and Snoop, Eminem's nasal delivery is instantly recognizable He's a versatile talent as, in addition to rapping, he is an actor and poet. His latest work shows a maturity that his earlier work lacked, but is still as confessional and honest as before. He's kicked drugs and found religion. the bad boy from Detroit has made good.Love him or hate him, "It would feel so empty, without" him.
Anthony Green (Circa Survive, solo artist) April 15, 1982--
Many of my readers have probably not heard of Anthony Green. He's a relative newcomer, especially when compared to the veterans on this list. But, don't let his newness fool you. he is one of the most charismatic and intense front men in alternative rock n roll today, and his lyrics are undeniably cerebral. To understand Green's appeal, one must see him live. He climbs rafters, he crowd surfs, he makes intense faces and pretends the microphone is possessed-- and he does this all sober. His voice can be grating to some, but his vocal progression from the first Circa Survive Record to the latest and into his solo material is insane, as is his control and vocal prowess. He's the perfect front man for Circa Survive, an admittedly cerebral and "hard to get" rock band. Green bears tasteful tattoos, he isn't overly crass and his pants are not too tight. Young alt rocker vocalists could learn a thing or two from Mr. Green. At the ripe old age of thirty, expect to see him rock stages for decades more. This writer looks forward to his creative ventures with bated breath.
Gavin Hayes (Dredg) January 31st, 30ish years ago
Dredg, cerebral indie/prog rockers from California, are known for intricate music mixed with Gavin Hayes' operatic style delivery. Live, Hayes sounds identical to his recorded voice, which is unusual even among the bets singers in rock. His vocal delivery, mind boggling lyrics and gentle sway help Dredg to stand out from the noise of other rock bands trying to be creative and unique. They're not the most prolific band releasing only five albums in twelve years, but, each album is a concept record full of insanely complicated yet infinitely catchy music. Dredg truly is unique, and Gavin Hayes is a large reason. He may be the best vocalist in alternative rock today, but, don't take my word for it. Check out the video below and decide for yourself.
Michael Jackson (Solo Artist, Jackson Five, The Jacksons) August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009
What can be said about Michael Jackson that hasn't already been said? He is arguably the most famous pop star on the planet and,regardless of the truthfulness of the allegations levied against him, his talent as a performer, vocalist and dancer cannot be denied. The man who has sold more records than anyone in history is also one of the most polarizing and misunderstood musicians ever.The boy who never wanted to grow up, and never had a chance at a childhood, left this world too soon. His death was both shocking and imminently foreseeable. Whether he was singing on stage with his afro and his big brothers, introducing the world the moon walk, informing the world about "Jesus Juice" and vitiligo, showing us his Neverland ranch with Oprah Winfrey, or lavishly blowing through more money in a decade then any of us will see in a lifetime, dangling babies out of hotel windows and introducing us to Bubbles the Chimpanzee, Michael Jackson was a talent the world will never see again. He was a tragic-- and all too common-- tale of talent, charisma and drug abuse. And I challenge you not to sing along to him next time one his song comes on your ipod or the radio. The man could write a pop song.
Elton John ( 25 March 1947--)
In 1970, a young man by the name of John Lennon-- arguably the biggest rock star in the world at the time-- encountered Reginald Kenneth Dwight-- AKA Elton John--and quite literally bowed before him. Mr. Lennon had already discovered what the world would discover shortly, that this piano playing Brit, with bad teeth and a healthy paunch, could sing and perform like nobodies business. Millions of dollars in cocaine, who knows how many sunglasses and sequined jacket and two children later, the out and proud pop icon continues to wow audiences with heir versatile voice and playful demeanor. His career long partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin (since 1967, and over thirty albums) has created some of the finest songs ever written. Tiny Dancer, Sad Songs Say So Much, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and karaoke favorite, Rocketman don't even scratch the surface of this long and unparrelled career. Well into his sixties, Sir Elton continues to tour and create phenomenal music.