Paul Butterfield Blues Band
“I was born in Chicago – nineteen and forty-one...” The racially mixed Paul Butterfield Blues Band blasted off from the Windy City with a wall-of-sound fueled by Butterfield’s inspired harmonica and lead guitarist Mike Bloomfield’s explosive lead guitar – at that moment, American rock and roll collided with the real Southside Chicago blues and there was no turning back. Along with original members Elvin Bishop on second guitar and Mark Naftalin on organ, they conquered the landmark 1965 Newport Folk Festival. It was there Bob Dylan borrowed Bloomfield and the Butterfield band’s African-American rhythm section of Sam Lay on drums and bassist Jerome Arnold (both former Howlin’ Wolf band members) for his world-shaking electric debut that Sunday evening. The Butterfield band converted the country-blues purists and turned on the Fillmore generation to the pleasures of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Elmore James. With the release of their blues-drenched debut album in the fall of 1965, and its adventurous East-West follow-up in the summer of ‘66, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band kicked open a door that brought a defining new edge to rock and roll.
Fueled by the manically prolific imagination of lyricist, guitarist and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day are the perennial punk adolescents, true to the ethos of every basement and garage-rock band that preceded them. Building on the trail blazed by the Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, Green Day are forever wed to The Wild One credo: “What are you rebelling against? What do you got?” The pickings were slim for a pair of teenagers from the East Bay enclaves of Berkeley and Oakland in the 80s, when Armstrong and bassist/backing vocalist Mike Dirnt first hooked up and began playing in high school. Within three years, the drum chair was filled by Tré Cool, and Green Day were on their way. Arguably, the 75 million or so records they have sold, the tours and the Grammys haven’t changed their outlook very much – they’re still on the outside looking in. Who doesn’t hold dear their battered CD of Dookie, with its litany of hits – “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “Welcome To Paradise,” “When I Come Around” and “She” – that collectively held radio hostage for over 15 months in 1994-95? Green Day touchstones raved on as the millennia changed: “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” spent an astounding 43 weeks on the pop chart in 1997-98. Their rock opera masterpiece American Idiot was a damning indictment of the Bush administration, catapulting the group to another level. “American Idiot” went all the way to Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time;” and 2004’s “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” took the Grammy for Record of the Year. Anyone who caught Armstrong in one of his hair-raising stints as St. Jimmy in the Broadway musical of American Idiot witnessed something special.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts created a potent mix of hard rock, glam, punk, metal and garage rock that sounds fresh and relevant in any era. Their biggest hit, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Number One in 1982) is a rock classic – as pure and simple a statement about the music’s power as Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” The honesty and power of their records make you believe that rock and roll can change the world. As Jett once described rock and roll: “It’s a feeling thing, it’s emotion. You don’t think about it. If you start thinking rock ‘n’ roll, you’re f**ked. That’s when you’re homogenized. That’s when it’s boring. And that’s when it’s bullsh*t.” From her days as a founding member of the all-female Runaways, Jett has made loud, hook-laden records that convey toughness and joy. Sporting black leather and a shag to create a sexy and androgynous look, Jett took over a role formerly reserved for male rockers. She formed the Blackhearts in 1982, and their classic four-piece sound muscled past the synthesizers that dominated the 80s and carried the flag for rock and roll. Three of their albums – I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll, Album and Up Your Alley – reached the Top 20, behind songs written by Jett and manager Kenny Laguna. By covering songs from all corners of the rock catalogue – from Gary Glitter to Tommy James to Sly and the Family Stone – the band effortlessly broke down barriers between genres and eras. In the 90s, Jett’s no-nonsense attitude and vocal style was a major influence on the riot grrrl movement, and she went on to produce Bikini Kill and record with L7. She continues to be an inspiration for young female rockers.
With the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed created music that ranked him among the Beatles and Bob Dylan in terms of both importance and influence. Every alternative movement that arose from the late 60s until his death in 2013 – from punk to grunge and beyond – owed Reed an essential debt. In the course of a fearless solo career that lasted more than 40 years, Reed both solidified and enhanced the stature he had attained with the Velvet Underground. He consistently took an uncompromising stance in the service of his artistic vision – often following commercial breakthroughs with daring, experimental projects that initially confounded both fans and critics only to gain recognition decades later. That willingness to follow his creative instincts wherever they led him, regardless of the cost, made him a figure of tremendous symbolic significance to succeeding generations of artists – from David Bowie to R.E.M., from Iggy Pop to U2, from Patti Smith to Arcade Fire. In addition, like James Joyce with Dublin or Bruce Springsteen with the Jersey Shore, Reed became inextricably associated with New York, transforming the city in his songs into a cauldron of moral challenges, a spiritual proving ground in which damnation and redemption were sometimes impossible to tell apart. Reed both observed the world and transformed it, definitively shaping the sound and the sense of contemporary music. His impact has been so total that it can be easy to overlook. It’s hard to remember that one man could be responsible for so much that came after him, but in the case of Lou Reed, it’s not only true, but undeniable.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Legends run deep when memories of Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990) are invoked. David Bowie said, after seeing the 28-year-old Dallas blues guitar sensation for the first time at Montreux in 1982: “SRV completely floored me. I probably hadn’t been so gung-ho about a guitar player since seeing Jeff Beck in the early 60s.” Famed music man Jerry Wexler arranged for Vaughan’s big-time debut at Montreux (which led to him playing on Bowie’s global Number One hit, “Let’s Dance”). Equally famed John Hammond led Vaughan to Epic Records. The studio and live LPs released during the last seven years of his life etched SRV into Stratocaster immortality and influenced the next generation of blues guitarists. From the opening onslaught of “Love Struck Baby,” “Pride And Joy” and “Texas Flood” on his first LP, it was clear that Vaughan belonged in the highest ranks of guitar greats. His devotion to Jimi Hendrix emerged on his second LP, with a blistering cover of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” It turned into a staple of nearly every SRV show, along with Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Vaughan laid out his dedication to the great masters for all to see, especially Guitar Slim (“The Things (That) I Used To Do”) and Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers Buddy Guy (“Mary Had A Little Lamb”), Freddie King (“Hide Away”) and Albert King (“Blues At Sunrise”). During his short-lived career, Vaughan also recorded show-stopping collaborations with B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Paul Butterfield, Dick Dale, Lonnie Mack, Albert Collins and many others.
The "5" Royales
The "5" Royales are responsible for crafting some of rock and roll's first true standards. Over the course of two decades, from 1945 to 1965, the group created a remarkable body of work that laid the foundation for a host of music that followed in its wake, with pivotal recordings and performing techniques that helped define a variety of styles under the rock and roll umbrella. The group transitioned to secular music by the early 50s, and they were among the very first to incorporate elements of gospel, jazz and blues into the genre of group vocal harmony. Their resoundingly soulful sound was built around the dual-lead vocals of siblings Johnny and Eugene Tanner. That combination paired perfectly with Lowman Pauling's exceptional songwriting and innovative guitar playing, which profoundly influenced the likes of Steve Cropper and had many similarities to the single-string soloing favored by Albert King and Freddie King. With a move to King Records in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1954, the "5" Royales hit a stride that produced "Dedicated to the One I Love," which decades later became a hit with versions by the Shirelles and the Mamas & the Papas; and "Tell the Truth," later recorded by Ray Charles and also covered by Eric Clapton. The "5" Royales' "I Think" was a Top 10 R&B hit in 1957 and is a nearly unclassifiable masterpiece. In 1960, "Think" made the R&B Top 10 for a second time in a radical re-working by James Brown and the Famous Flames that pointed toward future funk classics like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "Cold Sweat." In 1993, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger recorded a version of "Think" for a solo album, Wandering Spirit. Not long after recording a handful of singles produced by James Brown, the “5” Royales disbanded in 1965.
In a recording career that lasted only 15 years, Bill Withers mastered the vocabularies of the acoustic singer-songwriter, R&B, disco and even mainstream jazz, while maintaining a distinctive personality as a composer and vocalist. A 33-year old Navy veteran when he had his first hit, Withers remained detached from the hype and nonsense of show business and walked away for good when commercial interests tried to interfere with his art. But what a legacy he left behind: the bittersweet “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a breakout smash in 1971, produced by Booker T. Jones, with backing from Stephen Stills and the MG’s. With his second album, Withers moved onto the funkier territory of “Use Me” and his most enduring hit, “Lean On Me.” Over the next few years Withers scored hits with pop (“Lovely Day”) and duets with several jazz musicians, including “Just The Two Of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. When Withers dropped out of the music industry, his songs stayed alive. Meshell Ndegeocello had a number one dance hit with Withers’ “Who Is He (And What Is He To You).” Club Noveau brought a cover of “Lean On Me” to the top of the pop charts. The number one “No Diggity” by BLACKstreet with Dr. Dre sampled Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands.” Withers’ songs have been covered by an astonishing range of artists – from the Temptations to Garth Brooks, Anne Murray to Mary J. Blige, Gil Scott-Heron to Widespread Panic, along with Isaac Hayes, Fiona Apple, Big Daddy Kane, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Aaron Neville, Mick Jagger & Lenny Kravitz, Alicia Keys & Rob Thomas, Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow, Michael Stipe & Brian Eno and the cast of GLEE. Stubbornly his own man, Bill Withers wrote songs that spoke for everyone.
Learn more: http://www.rockhall.org/