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Saturday, June 20, 2009

100 Important 20th Century Musicial Works

Throughout the year 2000, National Public Radio (NPR) presented the stories behind 100 of the most important American musical works of the 20th century. These special features cover music from a wide variety of genres -- classical, jazz, rock'n'roll, country, R&B, musical theatre and film scores. Murray Horwitz, Vice President of NPR Cultural Programming, stated, "In the first instance, we tried to get a ballot from which listeners could vote, but as importantly -- perhaps more importantly, frankly -- we wanted musicians to vote. And we put together a panel of 18 musicians, from the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas to the country singer Kathy Mattea to the soul singer Isaac Hayes. And, frankly, when the two lists came in, they really weren't that far apart." Here are the major entries in the category of rock. *AIN'T THAT A SHAME, words/music FATS DOMINO (1955); as performed by FATS DOMINO *BLOWIN' IN THE WIND, words/music BOB DYLAN (1962) *BLUE SUEDE SHOES, CARL PERKINS (1956) *BORN TO RUN (LP), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1975) *FIRE AND RAIN, words/music JAMES TAYLOR; as performed by JAMES TAYLOR (1970) *GOOD VIBRATIONS, THE BEACH BOYS (1966) *GRACELAND (LP), PAUL SIMON (1986) *GREAT BALLS OF FIRE, JERRY LEE LEWIS (1957) *THE GREAT PRETENDER, THE PLATTERS (1955) *HOUND DOG/DON'T BE CRUEL, words/music JERRY LEIBER/MIKE STOLLER; OTIS BLACKWELL/ELVIS PRESLEY; as performed by ELVIS PRESLEY (1956) *LA BAMBA, words/music WILLIAM CLAUSON; as performed by RITCHIE VALENS (1958) *LET'S STAY TOGETHER, words/music AL GREEN/WILLIE MITCHELL/AL JACKSON; as performed by AL GREEN (1971) *LIGHT MY FIRE, THE DOORS (1967) *LIKE A ROLLING STONE, BOB DYLAN (1965) *MAYBELLENE, words/music by CHUCK BERRY, RUSS FRATTO, and ALAN FREED; performed by CHUCK BERRY (1955) *MY GIRL, words/music by WILLIAM ROBINSON and RONALD WHITE; as performed by THE TEMPTATIONS (1965) *ONCE IN A LIFETIME, THE TALKING HEADS (1983) *OYE COMO VA, words/music TITO PUENTE (1963); recorded by SANTANA (1971) *PAPA'S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG, JAMES BROWN (1965) *PEGGY SUE, words/music JERRY ALLISON/BUDDY HOLLY/NORMAN PETTY; as recorded by BUDDY HOLLY (1957) *PURPLE HAZE, JIMI HENDRIX (1967) *RAPPER'S DELIGHT, SUGARHILL GANG (1979) *RESPECT, words/music OTIS REDDING (1965); as performed by ARETHA FRANKLIN (1967) *SHAFT (single), ISAAC HAYES (1971) *SITTIN' ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY, words/music OTIS REDDING and STEVE CROPPER (1968); recorded by OTIS REDDING *SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, NIRVANA (1991) *TALKING BOOK (LP), STEVIE WONDER (1972) *TAPESTRY (LP), CAROLE KING (1971) *THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO (LP), THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (1967) *WHAT'D I SAY, RAY CHARLES (1959) Detailed explanations for each selection are presented by NPR at the website. The article is "The 100 Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century" at This task of narrowing the most important musical works to 100 seems almost impossible to research and to accurately complete. Any such list is open to critical question, but the choices are defended with interesting written arguments. And, they include NPR's audio commentary. For example, here is the entry for "Good Vibrations." "Written by Brian Wilson, this song epitomized the sound of garage-band rock and featured a theremin, prototype for the modern synthesizer. All Things Considered Director Bob Boilen speaks to Wilson, who tells that the song was stitched together from hundreds of recording sessions. Hear the hit song in its various stages of development and learn about one of the most influential pop bands of our time." One of the artists most noticeably absent from the list is the Beatles, but, of course, they were not an American group. I would interested to see what grievous omission you believe was made in the rock selections on the list. I lean towards Sam Cooke (many selections), Big Joe Turner "Shake, Rattle and Roll," Creedence Clearwater Revival (many selections), and possibly Jimmy Webb (many selections). Remember the selections must come from the 20th Century and must be American.
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