Billy Joel is often dismissed as just another singer, yet he is a marvelous writer and, as I mention in the thread, can sing hard rock a cappella.
He wrote We Didn’t Start the Fire and managed to list a bunch of historical events in chronological order and make them rhyme. That is talent on a Jabberwocky scale.
My own personal bug on the subject is Tom Paxton. Most people don’t even knoqw who he is, yet they know a lot of his songs, and usually accredit them to someone else, or as a “traditional folk song” (which Paxton says is the folk song writer’s highest acclaim). He tells the story of when his daughter Katy was in France and the song “Rambling Boy” was played. She mentioned to the DJ that “my father wrote that song.”
DJ: No he didn’t. That’s an old American folk song.
Katy: Look at the record’s label.
DJ: Oh. Maybe he did write it.
Paxton has written some fine protest songs, love songs, and children’s songs. The man deserves more credit.
Plenty of them out there. I notice that when people try to attribute science fiction stories on this Board they often go for the Big Names like Asimov, but the story was really written by someone else. Lots of these writers didn’t get enough credit even in their own day, and now people are starting to forget them:
**eric Frank Russel
Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore** (both separately, and as a team)
L. Sprague de Camp (very impressive range of topics and types)
** and plenty of others. Screenwriters in general don’t get near enough credit. Too many people credit the director almost exclusively, and don’t even remember thev screenwriter’s name.
Ernest Lehman – Hitchcock didn’t even care what the script would be for North by Northwest. he had ideas for the locales and the general idea. Lehman came up with virtually the whole script. He also did the script for Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot. In addition, he wrote (often rewrote) many musicals for the screen – the King and I, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Hello Dolly.
Peter Stone – He’s the one who wrote the scripts for *Charade, Mirage, * and Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe. He did uncredited rewrite on Arabesque. He wrote the Broadway shows 1776 (and the screen version) and the stage musical Titanic.
And that’s ignoring legends like william Goldman, Richard Matheson, and others. Does anyone recall that Richard Maibaum wrote or co-wrote the scripts for almost every James Bond movies up through 1989’s License to Kill? He’s more responsible for the way we picture Bond than Ian Fleming was.
This feels different than **CalMeacham’s **list. To me, the “legendary underdog” type of artist is more like the legends of **Jim Thompson **and Philip K. Dick. Both pulp writers who struggled with little notoriety IRL, but have since taken on a life of their own as expert framers of genre storylines that have informed countless movies and other works. Heck, **Vincent Van Gogh **is another classic example.
So - to the extent the question is “Who is another under-recognized VVG or PKD type?” - then I don’t see how **Billy Joel **fits. He’s damn popular, ridiculously rich and experienced career longevity 99.9% of musical artists can’t touch. But it just so happens that a large contingent of music fans think he sucks, or is, at least, cliche and pretentious and not-rock.
You obviously disagree with that, but the bottom line is that a lot of folks agree with you and he is hugely popular as a result. He is far from unsung…
In popular music, it’s Harry Warren. Few know his name, and when they did a big Broadway show featuring his music – a smash hit – his name was barely noticeable on the credits. But everyone here has heard his music, especially if they watched the old Warner Brothers cartoons, which used it extensively.
Some of his songs include “That’s Amore,” “Shuffle Off the Buffalo,” “42nd Street,” “We’re In the Money,” and “Dames.”
More SF writers include** R. A. Lafferty** (overlooked even in his lifetime – once the Nebula Awards committee begged for a US publisher to publish a certain story of his, so it would be eligible for the award), Cordwainer Smith (one of the great stylists of SF), Henry Kuttner (and his collaborator and wife, C. L. Moore), and Robert F. Young.
In films, there’s Jack Arnold. People on the SDMB know the name, but outside no one has heard of him, and few know him as one of the greatest directors of SF films.
An odd case is Howard Hawks. Back when he was making films, he was underappreciated, but in the 60s he was considered one of the greatest of all film directors. Now, however, no one ever seems to talk about him when discussing great directors.
I’m not talking popularity, wealth or longevity here. I’m talking recognity of his abilities. I think very few recognize Joel for the genius he is. Kind of like ABBA–everyone knows they are popular, but until Mamma Mia!, few people thought of them as talented songwriters.
Tom Paxton started his career in the 1960’s and has been covered by scores of people, but ask people to give you two songs he wrote.
Stephen King is someone who is very wealthy, very prolific, and has had a long career. I’ll admit he’s had a few real stinkers, but when he does it right, he is a genius.
I will stop again. “Very few recognize Joel for the genius he is”? I must disagree - I think a HUGE number of people think Joel is a genius. It’s just that a large number of people disagree with that position. It’s like arguing about The Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd with folks who passionately hold their opinions.
Tastes great vs. less filling - but not underappreciated. Sorry.
Same with ABBA - I get where you say that, in mass media, ABBA were derided in their time as soulless pop hacks. But it really didn’t take long after that for their pure pop songcraft - coupled with the enduring popularity of their songs (helped along by Mamma Mia!) - to get folks to re-think that. But, from a musician’s perspective, ABBA was generally seen as great songwriters who blew up huge.
Sorry, I know it’s your opinion, but I just can’t take it as very serious or well-reasoned when you try and argue that a man with those awards and sales figures doesn’t “get the credit that is due” to him.
That’s probably even more true for TV writers. Whenever we have a TV-related thread where people name Favorite Episodes or Classic Moments or Great Lines or whatever, I suspect that in most cases very few of us are aware of who wrote those episodes/moments/lines.
I think because of the way TV episodes have to break up the credit for a collaborative process, often the only way you know who wrote particular moments or lines is to actually ask someone on the writing team. It might not be one of the credited writers for the episode.
It seems to me that Annie-Xmas is arguing that while Billy Joel has gotten a lot of success as a singer, he gets little respect as a song writer, and even those who buy his albums and attend his shows don’t really respect the creative talent he has. I don’t really have an opinion on that, but I think that’s what’s being argued. It’s like Weird Al: he sells lots of records, but a lot of the people who buy them think of them as amusing hack work. But there are a lot of people who credit him as a highly accomplished musician (I personally don’t have the chops to even have an opinion there).
**MJ **- no, I think I hear you and Annie-Xmas. At one level, Billy Joel writes pop songs, and there is a vast majority of folks who simply don’t think about whether a pop song is well-crafted or not. They just know if they like it. And yes, artists like BJ can spend the rest of their lives going on nostalgia tours, getting their audiences to sing along - and yes, most folks singing along are not judging his work based on songcraft.
But the question of BJ’s songcraft has been discussed for decades, and there are clear “battle lines” in the argument. Some folks just don’t like him - and it sounds like that frustrates **Annie-Xmas ** - but it is not that he is “not getting the credit due him.”
If your post is correct, then the thread title should be changed to “If you don’t like Billy Joel’s songwriting - you’re wrong”
“Hidden” creatives - like editors, screenwriters and songwriters, etc. are a completely different matter. See the documentary “Tom Dowd: The Language of Music” for a look at one of the most important folks in the history of recording music that most folks have never heard of…
But arguing for the notoriety of Tom Dowd is not the same as arguing for folks to come around and agree that BJ is a brilliant songwriter…
Emitt Rhodes. The “One Man Beatles,” he put out four excellent self-produced albums that kill Paul McCartney’s whole solo career. Almost nobody knows who he is, and 90% of those who do only know one song of his, Lullaby, from the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack, which is so far from his best song and isn’t even remotely the best representative of his style and abilities.
Speaking of a Rhodes, I nominate Happy (no relation to Emmit). She’s been waiting for her day in the sun for 25+ years. That is, her music (11 albums) has been waiting. She hardly cares, which of course is why she’s so obscure. Which is too bad, because she’s a world-class artist with world-class music and a world-wide cult following, but she doesn’t care if she’s famous or not. Gotta love her for her individualistic ways, but her lack of ambition can be frustrating for fans.
I’m not quite as frustrated about her obscurity as I used to be. It was mostly her choice, after all, and anyway I do believe, to the core of my being, that she will one day be “discovered.” Not by the general public, but by musical historians, musical scholars, serious music lovers and musicians, and be as respected and revered as she deserves. It will happen, I have no doubt. It may not be in my lifetime, but it will happen. For now, the music waits, patiently, to be discovered. It can wait all century and into the next. It’ll be still be just as good, her voice will be just as astonishing, in 100 years as it is now.