Your Mount Rushmore of American Music

Ray Charles
Duke Ellington

I’m going to stick with artists mainly known for their performance, not the composing since I almost think of those as separate topics. And I couldn’t limit myself to just 4 otherwise.

Louis Armstrong - No question, first ballot HOF’er
Elvis Presley - Again, first ballot without question
Frank Sinatra - An icon for so long
Bob Dylan - Revolutionized popular American music

Goddamn, that would be one UGLY mountain!

Stephen Foster
Cole Porter
George Gershwin
Norman Granz

I suggest at least two (maybe three) separate polls using the names suggested in this thread to establish the most frequently voted for names in at least these genres/categories:

Group One

Large Orchestra/Symphonic/Big Band
Movie Scores

Group Two

Rock (instrumental}
“Pop” (wherever you put Ray Charles, Sinatra, Michael Jackson)

Group Three

Rock (vocal}

I know how you love your little compartments with everything on a spreadsheet but this ain’t that. It’s Mount Rushmore. Not the music hall of fame. You only get 4 choices. That’s what makes it interesting.

You only get one Mt. Rushmore. Although I think music should be universal rather then national.

But here’s mine:

Woody Guthrie
Louis Armstrong
Frank Sinatra
George Gershwin

Sticking with popular music post 1950:

Elvis. No debate.
BB King. Ditto
Hank Williams
Bruce Springsteen

Revised since my first post:

John Philip Sousa
Irving Berlin
Richard Rodgers
Bob Dylan

Where are the women?

Elvis Presley
Johnny Cash
Ella Fitzgerald (Aretha Franklin or Patsy Cline also in the running)
Bob Dylan

I like the way you think. But Duane just wasn’t around long enough to be included IMHO.

Largely relegated to societal expectations of the time. They were allowed to sing, but mostly not write, nor create genres.

Not fair, but reality. Much as I like Memphis Minnie, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, and others, they don’t rate Rushmore. Mahalia Jackson comes the closest in my estimation, because she is the face of gospel music. But gospel music doesn’t quite rise to the level of “American Music in 4 faces” level.

I did have Odetta in my “five through eight” group. A phenomenal interpreter of several strains at the heart of American musics.

One obvious woman would be “Mother” Maybelle Carter. You can draw a straight line from the Carters up through pretty much all of Country Music - and country music royalty with the Johnny Cash connection, etc. Add to that the fact that her guitar playing was very, very innovative - simple counterpoint basslines that put the groove in the low end - influenced all country guitar, e.g., Travis picking - and arguably led to twang guitar - e.g., Duane Eddy’s instrumental work and surf guitar. And she played a badass Gibson L-5 archtop with banjo tuners - an iconic guitar.

Others might be Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie (whose version of When the Levee Breaks led to Zep’s). Of course folks like Aretha the Queen - but I would go for Carole King from a songwriting standpoint…

Well, in fairness, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra have gotten several mentions here and neither of them are really thought of as songwriters. I’d personally put Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Aretha Franklin ahead of them on the list.

John Coltrane
Miles Davis
John Phillip Sousa
Leonard Bernstein

Pat Boone, Will Smith, Tipper Gore and Reba McIntyre

Johnny Cash
Emmylou Harris
Chad Mitchell
Elvis Presley

::grinds teeth::


Without reading any of the replies in the thread:

George Gershwin
Robert Johnson
Hank Williams
Chuck Berry