|Five Best American Rock and Roll Songwriters
||[Dec. 21st, 2006|10:32 am]
In my mind's idle moments recently, I've tried to compile the five greatest American rock and roll songwriters. This topic requires a lot of thought because several questions come to mind, first and foremost being how one defines "rock and roll". I decided that old blues and straight country did not count, but that folksy-rock did. The next question I thought of was how to weigh a brief period of great songwriting against a long period of very good songwriting. Anyway, keeping in mind the ambiguities of the definitions and measurement, here is my list of the all-time great American rock and roll songwriters:|
5. Stephen Malkmus of Pavement - I'm a little late to the Pavement party, but their greatness is pretty undeniable.
4. Frank Black/Black Francis of The Pixies - a short burst of great songwriting, followed by a decade and a half of merely good, but just taking the first three Pixies albums into account, this is a great American rock and roll songwriter.
3. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. - the more I listen, the more I appreciate Stipe's songwriting gifts. I think he is an underappreciated rock singer and songwriter, having a prolific career spanning 2 1/2 decades with no significant lapses in productivity with probably a top 5 all-time rock band (IMO).
2. Johnny Cash - a little iffy as to whether or not he is rock and roll, but I think his work is rock enough to count, and he was a great songwriter, as most everyone acknowledges.
1. Bob Dylan - another one who was a little iffy, but it's hard to deny his songwriting abilities.
Also considered: Paul Simon (rejected as too folksy), Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, John Fogerty, Kurt Cobain, many others.
It's amazing how many of the really respected songwriters are not American.
I'd also nominate:
2006-12-22 05:12 am (UTC)
Really good list. Malkmus/Kannenburg is the Lennon/McCartney of indie rock. And I'm glad you've finally made it to the Pavement party. And don't overlook his solo work and the Silver Jews. What I also like about Malkmus is that he didn't sit on his laurels after Slanted and Enchanted, possibly the greatest album of the past 20 years. He completely revamped the band's sound by Wowie Zowie. Pretty ballsy.
I'd consider Ian MacKaye for inventing two subgenres (hardcore and emo), which is a difficult trick.
Oops. Didn't log in. Anonymous was me.
Mine would be
2) Merle Haggard
3) Lucinda Williams
4) Townes Van Zandt
5) Robert Johnson