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Top of the Tops
Dr. Spin answers who’s the most talented.

by Dr. Spin
May 5, 2003

Top of the Tops_Dr. Spin-Dr. Spin answers who’s the most talented. Dr. Spin,

Who do you consider to be the top five most talented rock artists of all time, and who are the most talented under the age of 40 working today? ("Artists" can mean individuals or groups.)

Mr. Curious

Dear Curious,

Your question seems very straightforward, but it leaves a lot of interpretation. What do mean by “talent,” musicianship, composition, vocals? Are all “talented” people the best? I can admire the talents of Joe Satriani, or Rush, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily like them. No one would class George Harrison with Eric Clapton, yet they were close friends and even appeared on each other’s works. While Clapton is a master of the blues, can we not also acknowledge Harrison’s unique gift of the catchy riff, the solo that never overpowered but always enhanced the song? Does this make Harrison and Clapton equally talented, yet at different things?

If I choose all guitarists, does that mean there are no bassists or vocalists of equal talent? Is a virtuoso, more talented at one instrument more talented than a “good” musician who can play several instruments? Most people recognize Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen as guitar greats, but can we praise them while undermining the impact of their bandmates? And what about “talentless” bands, such as the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, whom without, Rock as we know it might not exist?

If you asked me what my favorite artists of all time were, that would be easier (although the list is perpetually changing), but I am not about to tell you who is “most talented” mainly because it is impossible to compare persons with so many distinct styles. Who is a better songwriter Lindsey Buckingham or Paul McCartney? I like the Beatles and Wings better than Fleetwood Mac, but is “Eleanor Rigby” better written than “The Chain?”

People may think I’m coping out on this question, but for me, comparing artists is like comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing Piccasso to Cheagall; both artists lived around the same time, painted in the abstract, yet to call one more talented, is to discredit the other’s vision. To be sure, some musical artists are more talented than others, just like some painters are better than others, but when you talk about the cream of the crop, it’s hard to choose who’s best.

About the Author:
Dr. Spin's talent is using a whole column to answer a question without really answering it.

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