Who are your favourite music artists of all time?

It seems every few weeks or so we have a thread about worst songs ever, worst artists ever, lots of discussions about whether so-and-so artist is shit - which is all well and good but how about some positivity?

So who are your absolute favourite music artists ever, and why? These are your “desert island” singers and bands, if you had to pick a handful of artists that mean the most to you/have given you the most enjoyment over the years, who would they be?

Husker Du, The Replacements, The Pogues, The Beatles, Prince, The Clash, The Go-Betweens, The Smiths, R.E.M., Minutemen, New Order, Elvis Costello, U2 (in the '80s only), XTC, Billy Bragg, The Feelies, Robyn Hitchcock - all helped me get through a tough adolescence.

Keeping it very brief:

Frank Zappa
King Crimson
Jethro Tull
Gentle Giant
Yes (1969-1978 period)
Procol Harum
Gustav Mahler
Igor Stravinsky

Add the Beatles and Stones to make it a Top Ten…

Ooh, woodstockbirdybird reminded me I forgot Elvis Costello!

Mark Knopfler and Neil Young.
Those guys cover a lot of musical ground.
So does Warren Zevon, the Grateful Dead, as well as the White Stripes.
I’ll reserve judgment on the Avett Brothers, but they seem darned good to me so far.
I am almost 56 years old, and these guys, IMHO, have staying power.

Thomas Dolby
A-Ha (yes, THAT a-ha…they’ve got, like, a dozen albums)
Nine Inch Nails

Current flirts:
Amanda Palmer

Sarah Fimm, Dessa, Tool, Vienna Teng, K’s Choice, Grand Ole Party.

My all-time-super-mega-idol-favourites-forever-and-ever-amen are Michael Jackson and Madonna, followed closely by Prince and Kate Bush. Bjork and Kylie Minogue are then just below those two.

As far as duos/groups go, Pet Shop Boys are my favourite because they combine thoughtful, smart lyrics with upbeat electronic music - perfect. The Beatles, Culture Club and Eurythmics are also among my favourite groups.

Honourable mention to Janet Jackson, George Michael, Johnny Cash, Cher, Eminem, Darren Hayes, Tori Amos, Yoko Ono, Britney Spears, Kraftwerk, Iron Maiden, ABBA, Girls Aloud and Dolly Parton.

You would think from all the eighties-type artists on my lists that I would be a child of the era, but I was born in 1990!

Joni Mitchell
Leonard Cohen
The Beatles
The Incredible String Band
John Renbourn
Bob Dylan
Jethro Tull
Stevie Wonder
Patty Griffin

Why? According to Pandora it seems to be because I like “strong folk roots, acoustic sonority, demanding instrumental part writing, major key tonality, melodic phrasing, a vocal-centric aesthetic and a good dose of guitar pickin’.”

Really it’s because I’m an anachronism. Also because I always listen to the words.

Benny Goodman
Artie Shaw
Glenn Miller
The Andrew Sisters

I never get tired of listening to them.

Bonzo Dog Band, Beatles, Allman Brothers Band, The Who, It’s a Beautiful Day (one album, but I keep being drawn to it), Blood Sweat and Tears (“Child is Father to the Man” only), The Band, Tom Lehrer, Lyle Lovett, Traffic.

I’ll stop now.

My shortlist:

The Who
Big Star
The Smiths
The Pogues
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Bright Eyes
The Decemberists

My Short List:

The Who
Jethro Tull
Pink Floyd

I also have an inexplicable fondness for Renaissance.

My long list is a lot longer. :smack:

My top 10, ranked:

  1. Pearl Jam – nobody even comes CLOSE to doing as great of a live rock show as them. Their post-grunge albums are even better than the ones released when they were one of the biggest bands in the world.

  2. They Might Be Giants – I’ve met a number of friends (and two gf’s) through this bizarre band’s bizarre fandom. Flansburgh lives about half a mile from me (I run into him on the subway or Bedford Ave from time to time - he’s a real nice and down to earth guy), and their fondness for doing local shows means I’ve seen them perform more than any other band. Their style of music just fits my tastes perfectly. Just sucks that they only do children’s music/concerts now…

  3. The Who - my dad raised me to know that there is no Beatles, there’s no Stones, there’s only The Who.

  4. Iron Maiden - triple guitar metal, an opera-trained lead singer, lyrics to scare your mom, what’s not to love? This band keeps the 80s alive!

  5. Weird Al Yankovic - As Kurt Cobain said himself, he’s the most talented musician in the whole industry, and one of the few who actually seems to enjoy what he does. He had a huge influence on me from when I was 6 all the way up to the present.

  6. The Decemberists - probably the more intelligent band out there. Really original stuff. Now, if I could only break the curse and actually see them live…

  7. The Four Postmen - this band should be huge, but they’re more interested in being actors than musicians, so they rarely leave LA. Extremely talented group, and hilarious too.

  8. Infected Mushroom - I’ve only been into them for a couple years, but they’re the only electronic band I’ve seen live, and they have really original music. Insane too.

  9. Regina Spektor - Another really fun musician to see live, with original and insane songs.

  10. The Killers - their last album sucked, so they started to fall off the list, but their first two albums are probably my favorite works to come out this decade (the 2000s, although it might as well have been the 80s).

Terry Scott Taylor is responsible for more music that I love than anyone else (as a solo artist and with his bands Daniel Amos, Lost Dogs, and the Swirling Eddies). A mastery of a wide variety of styles, with superb lyrics that range from the silly to the profoundly moving.

Listening to Trip Shakespeare (especially their album Lulu) always makes me happy, from the sheer joy of pop music making they exude.

The Kinks, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Moody Blues: all classics for very good reasons.

They Might Be Giants: quirky, intelligent, insanely catchy.

Stevie Wonder: mostly, I’m hopelessly white in my music tastes, but I loves me some Stevie Wonder!

Madness: My favorite band when I was a teenager (and I still love them).

And I could list many more…

Springsteen, Renaissance, Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Buffett, Stevie Nicks, Jethro Tull.
RealityChuck**, Qadgop and I could share a music collection easily.

eta: Right this minute I am listening to the remastered Scheherazade and Other Stories.

My overall top three are John Zorn, Ennio Morricone, and Bjork.

I also like Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus in jazz, Swizz Beatz in rap, Blur and The Fiery Furnaces in rock, and the Kronos Quartet and Prince in…whatever. Astor Piazzolla and Girls Aloud are also big favourites.

Hardly scientific, but I ran some stats against my iTunes collection. Over 8000 songs, 1500 artists that dates from today back to the 60s. Based on a complex algorith combination of play counts, number of songs, ratings and other factors:

Beastie Boys
Blues Traveler
Dave Matthews Band
Green Day
Iron Maiden
Jack Johnson
John Mayer
Led Zeppelin
Linkin Park
Paul Oakenfold
Pink Floyd
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sarah McLachlan
Snoop Dogg
The Killers
The National
Tori Amos
Van Halen
Wu-Tang Clan
I’d say it’s a pretty representative sample of my favorite artists based on what I actually still listen to. There are a couple more that could be on there like Pearl Jam, Public Enemy, The Clash, Smashing Pumpkins, Beck and some others.

It’s really hard to pick a favorite. A lot depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to chill to the raw smooth misogyny of Snoop Dogg. Sometimes I want to relax to the bitter-sweet misandry of Tori Amos.

The Beatles, Prince, Led Zeppelin, R.E.M., Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, the Band, Midnight Oil, U2, The Smiths, Morrissey, Public Enemy, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Sherman brothers, Stephen Sondheim, Elton John, Alan Menken & Howard Ashman, Stephen Schwartz, Frank Sinatra, Dave Brubeck, the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Vince Clark, John Barry, Tom Petty… and so many, many more.

(After all, you didn’t require a limit.)

A top ten?

Cocteau Twins
Joy Division
The Velvet Underground
Aphex Twin
Husker Du
The Fall
My Bloody Valentine
The Smiths

in no particular order.

Peter Hammill (obviously including Van der Graaf Generator) Innovative, wonderful noise for over 40 years! Although a lot of the recent solo studio stuff is all a bit similar. Still wonderful live, though. I’ve been going to his gigs for 35 years or so and probably the best solo gig of his I’ve seen was just a few months ago…

Grateful Dead + solo projects Other people can wax more lyrical about the Dead than I can. My experience is almost solely confined to the recordings…
Beach Boys/Brian Wilson The first album I owned (a Christmas present) was Sunflower.
Yello You Gotta Say ‘yes’!
Mark Eitzel (including American Music Club) see him live - you’ll be emotionally savaged! Great snarly music when he’s playing with a band, as well!
Mercury Rev I love the songs, and the instrumental hurricanes they descend into!
Curved Air I’ve liked them since Airconditioning came out - finally saw them for the first time on Thursday! Love Sonya and the prog improv!
David Thomas/Pere Ubu iconoclastic
Cyndi Lauper also iconoclastic, in her own way.
John Doe (including X ) great, tired voice
Jackie Leven punk turned celtic folkie! Intimate songs, brilliant raconteuring between songs when he plays live. Celebrity soap, drinking with Lawrence Olivier, playing in a Norwegian jail… great stories
Bunny Wailer reggae king
Keith Hudson another reggae great!