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Old 09-30-1999, 04:15 AM
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Are there any great 20th century American composers not Black or Jewish? Submitted for your approval:

Jews
Irving Berlin
George Gershwin
Aaron Copland
Jerome Kern
Richard Rogers (+Hart +Hammerstein)
Frank Loesser
Leonard Bernstein
Stephen Sondheim
Phillip Glass
Bob Dylan
Paul Simon
Randy Newman
Beastie Boys

Blacks
Scott Joplin
Duke Ellington
Thelonius Monk
Miles Davis
Smokey Robinson
Holland/Dozier/Holland
Prince
Marvin Gaye
Every Great Hip-Hop Artist

Not Jewish, Not Black
Cole Porter – the exception?
John Phillip Sousa
Bruce Springsteen

There are so many blacks and Jews I missed and so many others I didn't it’s not funny--I’m sure you’ll all fill in the blanks. But my point is basically that American music would suck without blacks and Jews. Comments?
  #2  
Old 09-30-1999, 02:51 PM
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How about John Cage? I don't actually know his ethnicity, but a lot of people consider him a great composer. (I don't know his music well enough to have an opinion myself.)

On the subject of Johns, some people might consider Adams and/or Williams to be great composers. I personally consider Williams to be a big ripoff of Igor Stravinsky.

How about Danny Elfman (ethnicity/greatness)?

By the way, do you think the Beastie Boys are great composers but not great hip-hop artists?
  #3  
Old 09-30-1999, 02:53 PM
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How about Lenny Kravitz???
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Old 09-30-1999, 03:31 PM
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Lenny Kravitz -- not great, but 1/2 Jewish & Black
John Cage -- great, and I think he is Jewish. could be wrong.
Danny Elfman -- not great, but a jew

Never heard of John Adams, but John Williams seems to me to represent exactly how lame and white-bread our musical culture would be in a WASP-ier world. John Williams, James Horner (Titanic), and John fucking Tesh.

I threw in the Beasties in the last minute just because 1) they rock and 2) they're so monolithically Jewish. Yes, they're hip-hop.
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Old 09-30-1999, 04:10 PM
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Frank Zappa
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Old 09-30-1999, 04:12 PM
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Also, I would hardly call Bob Dylan a great composer. Certainly a great lyricist but only a passable composer.

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Old 09-30-1999, 04:22 PM
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De gustibus non disputandum est.
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Old 09-30-1999, 04:47 PM
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Frank Zappa -- great and Jewish
Bob Dylan -- How many people have to cover your songs before you're a great composer? His tunes may have a limited range, but his songs (lyrics + melodies) have touched 100 times more people than the collected works of Phillip Glass, an official "composer." Perhaps I should have said musicians or songwriter or performers. I had to limit it somehow. I do see your point. If I count Dylan, I have to count Woodie Guthrie, definitely not Jewish.

Blacks I Forgot
Charley Patton
Robert Johnson
Muddy Waters
Count Basie
Howlin' Wolf
Leadbelly
Willie Dixon


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  #9  
Old 09-30-1999, 04:51 PM
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Beastie Boys???!!??

Maybe you included them just because they are Jewish.

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  #10  
Old 09-30-1999, 04:52 PM
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As an aside, perhaps the answer lies in a line from the old "Golden Girls" T.V. show. (I don't know who said what):

Q: Why are so many doctors jewish?

A: Because thier mothers were!

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  #11  
Old 09-30-1999, 05:24 PM
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It sounds like a Sophia line.
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Old 09-30-1999, 07:00 PM
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What? No Adam Sandler?
  #13  
Old 09-30-1999, 08:43 PM
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OK OK forget everyone from the last thirty years: no Beastie Boys, no rap, no Springsteen.

"Oh what is it about you that makes me so jolly?,
Is it your fifty cotton or your fifty poly?"
Red-Hooded Sweatshirt, Adam Sandler


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  #14  
Old 09-30-1999, 09:26 PM
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OK, obscure music lovers: was Harry Partch Jewish or not?
  #15  
Old 09-30-1999, 10:09 PM
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Irving Berlin.
Samuel Barber.
Charles Ives.
Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Carlos Santana.
Amy Beach.
Fred Jewell.
  #16  
Old 09-30-1999, 11:05 PM
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A lot depends on your definition of "great," of course. Your list contains a lot of names that do NOT qualify as great, in my book. But never mind that- let's just settle for composers and songwriters who've had either critical acclaim or great commercial success.

In the classical arena, there are:

Charles Ives
Giancarlo Menotti

In the area of folk/country, there are:

Hank Williams
Woody Guthrie
Willie Nelson
Johnny Cash

In the traditional pop area, there's

Cole Porter
Jimmy Webb
George M. Cohan
Stephen Foster


And in rock, there are (among many others):

Buddy Holly
Boudleaux Bryant
Roy Orbison
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
John C. Fogarty
Steven Tyler/Joe Perry
Tom Petty
Don Henley
Stephen Stills
Roger McGuinn
Lindsay Buckingham


Beyond that, there are LOADS of people, whose religions/backgrounds I just don't know. And frankly, I'm too lazy and uninterested to do much looking!
  #17  
Old 10-01-1999, 02:10 AM
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Frank Zappa was not Jewish. His ethnic background was a mixture of Greek, Sicilian and Syrian.
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Old 10-01-1999, 09:20 AM
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Alan Lerner and Fred Loewe?
Loewe was German-born, but I have never heard either identified as Jewish.

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  #19  
Old 10-01-1999, 11:37 AM
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Hey, the reason so many musicians are Jewish is that we got natural rhythm.
  #20  
Old 10-01-1999, 02:34 PM
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Umm, did you just refer to Judaism as a "race?" Surely I MUST have misread that.
  #21  
Old 10-01-1999, 03:01 PM
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Flora, until we got hypersensitive on the term due to Hitlerism and civil rights, "race" could mean "ethnic group" as well as "group with biological distinctness." (Remembering a black character in a book I once read who referred to whites as "suffering from a melanin deficiency.")

I think the term can still validly be used, carefully, in both senses, so long as you realize that you are speaking ethnologically or physical-anthropologically and avoid carrying the usage over into social usage where it becomes stereotyping.
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Old 10-01-1999, 06:07 PM
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"Kawlinga-- Are you sure Zappa's not Jewish? His mixed-ethnicity doesn't preclude it."

That's Kawliga, pal.

I looked it up in Zappa's autobiography. He is pretty specific about his background- primarily Sicilian with some Greek and Arab in the mix. Where did you get the idea that he was Jewish?
  #23  
Old 10-01-1999, 07:12 PM
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Kawliga -- I guessed Frank Zappa was Jewish by playing the stereotype odds:

quirkiness + swarthiness + erudition = Jewish

And not to start a debate on whether one can "look Jewish" or not -- some do, some don't, most are in between -- but the man looks Jewish. Of course, I could be totally wrong. [Note that Zappa was the only one in any of the preceeding lists whose background I guessed, lest anyone think I stereotyped my way through the whole thing.]

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  #24  
Old 10-02-1999, 12:05 AM
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tomndebb-- For some reason I thought Lerner & Loewe were English...must have been the settings of My Fair Lady and Brigadoon. Lerner is most definitely a Jewish name. Loewe was born 1904 in Vienna, and there are European Jews name Loewe.

Kawlinga-- Are you sure Zappa's not Jewish? His mixed-ethnicity doesn't preclude it.

Astorian-- I didn't mean to start everyone catologing 20th century musicians by race/ethnicity...it just seems to me that much of the vibrancy and vigor of 20th Century American popular culture (in this case music) is due to our laissez faire attitude toward outside influences, and that we take this for granted. We don't need an Academie Francaise (sp?), for example, to monitor the language. And in music, the influence of Blacks & Jews has been wildly disproportionate to their numbers in the population. Ergo, American culture would be anemic without them.



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  #25  
Old 10-02-1999, 12:12 AM
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Ned Rorem...if you like that type of Art Song. There are many non black/Jewish composers. I figure that you only want to hear about the white ones. Samuel Barber was mentioned previously. Go to The Larrouse Encyclopedia of Music and check out the America section in the very back. Most of the better known composers have been mentioned already at least for classical music. Of them, Samuel Barber is the most respected.

HUGS!
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  #26  
Old 10-02-1999, 12:36 AM
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If I sounded defensive (I don't THINK I did, but I'm hardly impartial), I didn't mean to be.

No question about it, virtually ALL of the popular music genres of the 20th century (blues, jazz, rock and roll, soul, gospel, rap) are, essentially, black music. And, for a race that has never been more than about 3% of the U.S. population, Jews make up a HUGELY disproportionate number of the top songwriters and composers- in classical and theatrical music, especially.

Even the white, Gentile composers I mentioned were HUGELY influenced by black or Jewish musicians (there'd have been no Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, J.C. Fogarty, etc., without Chuck Berry).
  #27  
Old 10-02-1999, 10:11 AM
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There is one name I omitted from my past post, and, as a Hooiser, it is unforgivable:
Hoagy Carmichael
  #28  
Old 10-03-1999, 04:31 PM
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What? No Albert Hay Malotte?

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  #29  
Old 10-04-1999, 08:31 AM
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When I posted earlier, I only thought about classical composers. If you go into the folk genre almost every composer is non-black and non-Jewish. Even though I listen to folk music quite often (and like it), I don't consider it worthy of the label "composed". It is way too simplistic. It is like calling a five year old's diary a novel. It is the classical musician snootiness I suppose. I don't consider most rock, pop, rap, etc... worthy of being called "composed" either.

SC


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  #30  
Old 05-15-2020, 10:48 PM
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A lot of American composers are dope and not straight!


So to the very good question, “Are there any great 20th century American composers not Black or Jewish?” I’d like to propose a third interesting filter. Across the same entire spectrum of American composers and genres, including Jewish and African-American musicians as wrll as others, and classical, jazz, rock and pop forms, a large and lovable cross-fraction were also gay—

Cage, Tredici, Rorem, Carlos, Copland, Bernstein, Oliveros, Sondheim, Blitzstein, Menotti, Harrison, Nyro, Reed, Etheridge, Ashman, Thompson, Cowell and Heggie—and easily another dozen beloved American composers and song writers—were gay.

I often imagine if more Americans knew so many of their fave songs and large works from Hollywood. Broadway, Motown, Tin-Pan Alley and Symphony halls everywhere were created by Queer hearts and souls, a lot of voters would trade their blood-colored hate for a blue-sky ending. “Adagio for Strings,” “West Side Story,” “Appalachian Spring” and “I left My Heart in San Francisco“ were definitely not Anita Bryant’s or Pat Robertson’s theme songs. And they are just the tip of a gorgeous, lavender iceberg of All-American Music.






Jews
Irving Berlin
George Gershwin
Aaron Copland
Jerome Kern
Richard Rogers (+Hart +Hammerstein)
Frank Loesser
Leonard Bernstein
Stephen Sondheim
Phillip Glass
Bob Dylan
Paul Simon
Randy Newman
Beastie Boys

Blacks
Scott Joplin
Duke Ellington
Thelonius Monk
Miles Davis
Smokey Robinson
Holland/Dozier/Holland
Prince
Marvin Gaye
Every Great Hip-Hop Artist

Not Jewish, Not Black
Cole Porter – the exception?
John Phillip Sousa
Bruce Springsteen

There are so many blacks and Jews I missed and so many others I didn't it’s not funny--I’m sure you’ll all fill in the blanks. But my point is basically that American music would suck without blacks and Jews. Comments?[/QUOTE]
  #31  
Old 05-15-2020, 10:57 PM
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Brian Wilson is the greatest American composer of modern history, and he's not black or Jewish.
  #32  
Old 05-15-2020, 10:59 PM
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No kidding!


As Fran Liebowitz said, in various iterations over the years,
“Setting aside the creative work of Blacks, gays and Jews in American culture leaves you holding the finest Florida orange juice commercials ever made.”
  #33  
Old 05-15-2020, 11:07 PM
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It's a bullshit, arrogant statement meant to denigrate people based on circumstances totally beyond their control.
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Old 05-15-2020, 11:12 PM
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Stan Getz?
Dave Brubeck?
  #35  
Old 05-15-2020, 11:16 PM
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Stan Getz was Jewish. Dave Brubeck wasn't, despite many people probably assuming that he was. At any rate this is a pointless exercise.

I could rattle off gifted non-Jewish, non-Black, non-gay composers all day and someone would still say "well, they were building on the work of Jewish, Black, and gay composers." Maybe it's true. But those people were, themselves, building on the work of non-Jewish, non-Black and non-gay composers. That's just how life is, people are influenced by other people. There's no point trying to quantify it by ethnicity or some other personal characteristic like sexuality.
  #36  
Old 05-16-2020, 05:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Boris B View Post
How about Danny Elfman (ethnicity/greatness)?
Jewish.
  #37  
Old 05-16-2020, 12:41 PM
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Charles Ives
Dave Brubeck
Neal Hefti
Meredith Willson
Henry Mancini
John Williams
Harry Nilsson
John Philip Sousa
David Van Tieghem
Arto Lindsay
Carl Stalling
Deems Taylor
Virgil Thomson
Paul Williams
John Corigliano
Leroy Anderson

Pretty certain none of these people are/were Jewish or Black.

And I just noticed this is a 20+ year old zombie.

Last edited by Kolak of Twilo; 05-16-2020 at 12:42 PM.
  #38  
Old 05-16-2020, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Lamoral View Post
Brian Wilson is the greatest American composer of modern history


Might as well throw in at least some of The Ramones and Tom Petty.
  #39  
Old 05-16-2020, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
Charles Ives
Dave Brubeck
Neal Hefti
Meredith Willson
Henry Mancini
John Williams
Harry Nilsson
John Philip Sousa
David Van Tieghem
Arto Lindsay
Carl Stalling
Deems Taylor
Virgil Thomson
Paul Williams
John Corigliano
Leroy Anderson

Pretty certain none of these people are/were Jewish or Black.

And I just noticed this is a 20+ year old zombie.
George Romero?
  #40  
Old 05-16-2020, 02:44 PM
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Zombie or not, is there something to the idea that great creative originality is more likely to come from those who self-perceive as outside of the mainstream culture than those who are of it? ISTM that those of the mainstream culture will be just a bit more likely to beautifully color inside the lines (and rewarded for it), and self-perceived outsiders a bit more willing not only scribble in different directions but understanding that staying in the lines won’t work as well for them ...? A bit more likely to take chances creatively, failing often but swinging for the fence?
  #41  
Old 05-16-2020, 02:44 PM
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Was the Cafe Society Forum not open in 1999 or is there another reason that this is in Great Debates?
  #42  
Old 05-16-2020, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
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Brian Wilson is the greatest American composer of modern history, and he's not black or Jewish.
We are all entitled to our opinions, but I think you would be hard pressed to defend that one with anything beyond "he's a talented songwriter and his music really moves me."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lamoral View Post
Stan Getz was Jewish. Dave Brubeck wasn't, despite many people probably assuming that he was. At any rate this is a pointless exercise.

I could rattle off gifted non-Jewish, non-Black, non-gay composers all day and someone would still say "well, they were building on the work of Jewish, Black, and gay composers." Maybe it's true. But those people were, themselves, building on the work of non-Jewish, non-Black and non-gay composers. That's just how life is, people are influenced by other people. There's no point trying to quantify it by ethnicity or some other personal characteristic like sexuality.
Of course there's a point. Understanding how and why and through what communities we derive our artistic sensibilities helps us understand who we are.

That said, the OP (who I imagine is not here to defend themselves) is problematic as all get-out, and casts an oddly wide in scope net to catch "composers", yet manages to name an arbitrary list of a few dozen people based on, I guess, whoever he could think of off the top of his head.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Zombie or not, is there something to the idea that great creative originality is more likely to come from those who self-perceive as outside of the mainstream culture than those who are of it? ISTM that those of the mainstream culture will be just a bit more likely to beautifully color inside the lines (and rewarded for it), and self-perceived outsiders a bit more willing not only scribble in different directions but understanding that staying in the lines won’t work as well for them ...? A bit more likely to take chances creatively, failing often but swinging for the fence?
That's my take on things as well.
  #43  
Old 05-16-2020, 03:54 PM
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How about the Brill Building and those peripheral to it in NYC?

All of the songwriting teams were Jewish: Mann and Weill, Goffin and King, Bacharach and David, Sedaka and Greenfield, Pomus and Schuman, Leiber and Stoller, Barry and Greenwich.

Also in that scene/mix:

Laura Nyro
Lou Reed
Paul Simon
Neil Diamond
Bert Berns
Shadow Morton
Phil Spector
George Goldner
Jerry Wexler
Herb and Miriam Abramson

Irving Berlin was the one who broke the barrier. Cohan had been the biggest thing in the world, and also Berlins idol.
  #44  
Old 05-16-2020, 04:51 PM
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Russell_(musician)

"Woodman Spare that Tree" has been called the first American hit song. The composer was British born, from a prominent Jewish family.
  #45  
Old 05-16-2020, 05:03 PM
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Dolly Parton
Pete Seeger
  #46  
Old 05-16-2020, 05:17 PM
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Stephen Foster
Johnny Mercer
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Old 05-16-2020, 06:34 PM
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Jimmy Van Heusen
Cole Porter
Neil Young is a non jewish north american. So isn't Joni M.
  #48  
Old 05-16-2020, 07:22 PM
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Stephen Foster
Johnny Mercer
It shouldn't have taken 46 posts to get to Johnny Mercer!

You can find lots more by clicking around here:

Songwriters Hall of Fame
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Old 05-16-2020, 08:27 PM
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Might as well throw in at least some of The Ramones and Tom Petty.
There is no comparison. Brian Wilson has consistently been highly acclaimed for the way he has built songs, using rich layered harmonies in a way that goes far beyond anything that the Ramones or Tom Petty did. Which is not to take away anything from them, because they were great musicians. But no, I don't understand how anyone could listen to Pet Sounds and Smile and be "dubious" (the descriptor of your emoji) that Brian Wilson is a great composer.
  #50  
Old 05-16-2020, 09:10 PM
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nvm

Last edited by Skywatcher; 05-16-2020 at 09:11 PM.
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