The 20 Most Influential Artists of the Rock Era

Starting tomorrow, I’ll begin a four-part series to introduce my list of the 20 most influential artists during the past 50 years. Most music is derivative, having evolved from earlier genres. Artists love to quote their influences as mentors who helped shape their tastes and musical style. And some artists are mentioned more than others.

I’ll go by decades, beginning with the 1960s, and choosing five artists from each decade. (I tried coming up with five artists from the 1950s, but when rock was just starting out, pretty much everyone was influential.) I tried to choose the most influential, not necessarily the most popular. Sometimes it works out that the most popular artists are the most influential, but there will be some surprises. There will also be some eyebrow-raising omissions.

I tried to choose artists by whether they are still influential today. For example, Howard Jones was considered the quintessential New Wave artist in the 1980s, but considering that New Wave pretty much died off in the late 1980s, one can argue (and I would) that his influence today is nil.

So let the controversy begin tomorrow, when I attack the volatile 1960s! As a preview, here are some artists that, sadly, will not be on any of my lists:

  1. Rick Astley
  2. Taco
  3. Gino Vannelli
  4. Aldo Nova
  6. Leif Garrett
  7. Menudo
  8. Paper Lace
  9. Bertie Higgins
  10. Tone Loc
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