Your Mount Rushmore of American Music

I agree with Dylan, Cohan, and Bernstein, but no love for Pete Seeger? He was the original, the best and as of today, the longest lasting at age 94 and still going strong. His influence on Dylan and other 1960’s singers, particularly the folkies, is phemoninal.

Ha! I was going to go with Pete Seeger as my very first pick, but I decided the same “territory” could be covered by Woody Guthrie, Odetta, and Stephen Foster.

George Gershwin
Hank Williams
Leontyne Price
Louis Armstrong

Duke Ellington
Billie Holliday
Woody Guthrie

I decided not to mess with a poll on this. It wouldn’t really add anything to the conversation, I don’t think. Here’s what the group-think is about a week or so after the OP - these are all artists with multiple mentions from all of the responses that came in the “four faces” format, but not from the general conversation:

Elvis Presley - 14
George Gershwin - 11
Bob Dylan - 10
Duke Ellington - 7
Aaron Copland - 6
Louis Armstrong - 5
Miles Davis - 5
Hank Williams - 4
John Philip Sousa - 4
Johnny Cash - 4
Ray Charles - 4
Chuck Berry - 3
Frank Sinatra - 3
Irving Berlin - 3
Leonard Bernstein - 3
Robert Johnson - 3
Stephen Foster - 3
Woody Guthrie - 3
Cole Porter - 2
George M Cohan - 2
James Brown - 2
Jimi Hendrix - 2
Jimmie Rodgers - 2
Willie Dixon - 2

I think that Gershwin was clearly the biggest oversight in my original picks (not just because he was so heavily represented on others’ lists). If I added him, I’m not sure who I’d bump, but it would probably be Johnny Cash.

One interesting absence on all lists so far is Michael Jackson. There was some mention of his name in a few of the posts (including some comments from me). For all of his popularity and critical acclaim, I would have thought that somebody would have put him on their mountain. That would be kind of interesting, actually, they could go back every few years and change his nose…

I’m glad you did this summary. I had thought I would for my own amusement but decided not to. It’s pretty convincing, I believe.

Thanks for this; it’s been an interesting thread…

I know I’m a bit late to the party, but this shocked me too. I know the SDMB’s penchant for voting for more obscure, seemingly influential artists instead of popular musicians, but how do you not include Michael Jackson in the last. From his Motown days to the King of Pop, to all the knockoffs and wannabes that populate the airwaves now, he would have to be on the list over Gershwin, Copeland, Sousa and the like, and, since he actually wrote a lot of his music, I’d put him way ahead of Elvis too.

I’m also a bit shocked Bruce Springsteen (although I am no fan of his) didn’t get a mention. It’s like the last 20 years didn’t happen.

For shits and grins, here’s the best selling American music artists:

Garth Brooks
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson
Barbra Streisand
George Strait
Bruce Springsteen

I think that Springsteen actually made one list. I only listed the ones that got multiple nominations. I like him a lot, but I wouldn’t put him on the short list myself.

Oh, and I made my thoughts about both Elvis & MJ pretty clear earlier in the thread (hugely overrated). But for my money I would agree that MJ would probably belong on the mountainside ahead of Elvis (clearly a minority opinion here) for the reasons that Hamlet listed. That said, I probably enjoy Elvis way more than MJ myself.

I had Springsteen on my list.

Jackson was an massive pop success who did many great things but did them within the confines of a business and culture that was already there. Presley basically created an entirely new genre that transcended the music itself. His impact was truly phenomenal and was greater and deeper than anything Jackson did (and that’s no knock against Jackson) just the reality as to how big Presley was. They called him the King for a reason (just like there was a reason Jackson started calling himself the King of Pop). Even he knew he was no Elvis.

Les Paul was certainly a very important figure in the development of the electric guitar, but he sure didn’t invent it.

Bob Dylan -
Ray Charles -
Glen Miller -
Les Paul -

I wouldn’t call “being white” a new genre of music.

Presley was bigger than Jackson, but he didn’t write his own music, he didn’t invent new genres of music and he created nothing that people like Little Richard and Otis Blackwell weren’t already doing. He was good looking, charismatic, and more acceptable to the majority of Americans at the time, but he was clearly much more style over substance than Michael Jackson.

Obviously, the group Mountain would have to be represented on a musical Mount Rushmore, but Leslie West poses logistical difficulties.

Thanks for that info. I guess I’m not the only one with that misperception, when I just googled ‘electric guitar invented’ it tried to autofill with ‘electric guitar inventor Les Paul.’

Let’s just carve the Four Tops up there, and be done with it! :wink:

He was one of the earliest experimenters with solidbody electrics. The group/company that has evolved into Rickenbacker is thought to have created the earliest solidbody + magnetic pickup guitars with their “Frying Pan” guitars - not quite ready for prime time.

Les Paul was super important as an innovator; not sure how that fits on Mt. Rushmore…

Frankly, MJ is just too skeevy to put on Mt. Rushmore.

It just got him taken off of mine. My guess is that most of his innovations (including the solid body, which was already underway) would have been done by somebody else. American music would sound pretty much the same without him, is my guess.