100 Greatest Artists – Rolling Stone
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100 Greatest Artists

The Beatles, Eminem and more of the best of the best

Best Artists of all time 100 Rolling Stone

Rolling Stones in London circa 1960s.

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In 2004 — 50 years after Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studios and cut “That’s All Right” — Rolling Stone celebrated rock & roll’s first half-century in grand style, assembling a panel of 55 top musicians, writers and industry executives (everyone from Keith Richards to ?uestlove of the Roots) and asking them to pick the most influential artists of the rock & roll era. The resulting list of 100 artists, published in two issues of Rolling Stone in 2004 and 2005, and updated in 2011, is a broad survey of rock history, spanning Sixties heroes (the Beatles) and modern insurgents (Eminem), and touching on early pioneers (Chuck Berry) and the bluesmen who made it all possible (Howlin’ Wolf).

The essays on these top 100 artists are by their peers: singers, producers and musicians. In these fan testimonials, indie rockers pay tribute to world-beating rappers (Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on Jay-Z), young pop stars honor stylistic godmothers (Britney Spears on Madonna) and Billy Joel admits that Elton John “kicks my ass on piano.” Rock & roll is now a music with a rich past. But at its best, it is still the sound of forward motion. As you read this book, remember: This is what we have to live up to.

51

Pink Floyd

By Wayne Coyne 

When I was growing up in the 1970s, Pink Floyd were ever-present. My brothers and my older sister and all their friends constantly played records in their rooms while they smoked pot. Especially Dark Side of the Moon. You heard that every day of your life, for at least three or four years around then.

Turning 14 years old is already a heavy combination of things. For Dark Side of the Moon to be playing in the background during that time was perfect. As you looked deeper into their music, everything you find out leads to something interesting. Pink Floyd were always a group of great creative minds who did whatever the fuck they wanted and didn't worry about all the little rules.

They had an amazing ability to change between records. You don't realize how powerful that is when you're just a listener. But being a person who's made 14 records, you see how big a deal it is. They have a phase one, a phase two, maybe even a phase three and four. A lot of groups — if they're lucky — just have a phase one.

They started out with Syd Barrett writing these whimsical stories, these songs that were kind of surf-rock, kind of R&B, but in his own fucked up way. Later you had Roger Waters evoking these big, universal landscapes of human crises. And Pink Floyd came to embrace this idea of "We can play stadiums and we can fill them up with giant fucking pig balloons." Their music could just always hold that.

Yet, despite all these different pieces moving around, there is a lot of very simple musicality going on. Compared to the prog-rock groups they get thrown in with — King Crimson or Yes or Genesis — their music is actually very simple. You can grasp the chord progressions and melodies the first time you hear them. I love all those other groups but with Pink Floyd I understand the emotion.

Take a song like "Fat Old Sun," from Atom Heart Mother. Living in Oklahoma, I sometimes can't relate when English bands sing about English things. When David Gilmour sings about the sun going down, there's something simple about it. It didn't seem like the sunset was happening in some king's country, in some other world. It seemed like he was singing about me walking in the sunsets in Oklahoma.

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