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My list of musical genius

Listening to some of my CDs on a drive last eve, it occurred to me to make a list of Musical Genius -- of the music I listen to.

In no particular order:

Jimi Hendrix



Significance: At the same time, Hendrix is the best technical guitarist -- playing blues, acid rock, pop rock, progressive rock, seminal hard rock, among others -- as well as the most creative. No other guitarist has so innovated the instrument.

Listen to this: the solo on "Machine Gun," from his post-Jimi Hendrix Experience phase.

Bob Dylan



Significance: Dylan transformed the limits of the modern popular song. His best songs have defined two decades -- 1960s and 1970s -- and his weakest era, from about 1977 to 1996 -- is the kind of stuff Alan Lomax would have recorded (i.e. not the most popular, but significant nonetheless).

Dylan is sometimes called "The Modern Shakespeare," but in terms of narrative breadth -- from "Blowin' in the Wind" to "Thunder on the Mountain" and all the songs in between -- he may have more stuff. Linguistically, he has defined post-WWII American idiom.

Listen to this: "Love Sick," from Time Out of Mind, 1997

Kurt Cobain



Significance: Although Thom Yorke and Radiohead may have defined the postmodern mode of technological, urban alienation, Kurt Cobain personified alienation writ large. Cobain, with his band Nirvana, voiced the congealed mess of emotions that are the children of the Baby Boom generation. No other musical artist has turned the emotions of the amygdala into artistic statement. His seemingly-throwaway lyrics operate at the levels of deep sarcasm and deep empathy at once, and his always-in-tune scream is one of the most unique vocal methods yet seen.

Listen to this: the Saturday Night Live version of "Rape Me"

I may pick up this topic again, and make a larger list of "associate genius" musical artists, but for now, these three are the only ones I think are at the genius level -- Beatles included.
 
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