If there were a Mt. Rushmore for rock and rollers, who would be worthy of being immortalized in carved granite? I have come up with three names pretty easily, it’s the fourth face I’m struggling to commit to stone. The first guy has got to be Chuck Berry. He defined not only the sound but he was a true one-man innovator in the way music was produced and played on stage. Every rock guitar god who picked up the instrument after Chuck owed him a debt and has borrowed from him probably even more than they realized. John Lennon famously said if they didn’t call it rock and roll they could have called it Chuck Berry. Second on my list is Elvis Presley, an obvious choice but some could argue since he never wrote a song than maybe he shouldn’t be up there. Elvis defined what a rock star was and he inspired everyone to get girls to scream and act as wild as they could which is as good a definition of what made rock and roll dangerous and exciting from the very beginning. His voice turned other people’s material into something special and Jailhouse Rock and Mystery Train set the bar for a whole new musical genre. He had some other songs that did pretty well too!
My third choice is Bob Dylan. Not exactly blessed with an Elvis voice, but he certainly was distinct. He raised the bar for everyone and elevated rock and roll from songs for teenyboppers to songs that have weightier subjects from the spiritual to the dust blowin in the wind. Everyone including The Beatles rethought how to create songs and albums and turned rock and roll into a format that was going to last and be taken seriously. Dylan’s impact may not yet be fully measured since he is still making relevant music. My fourth choice is difficult since there are many worthy candidates and strong arguments could be made for or against since we are talking immortality here. I thought about Jimi, Lennon, McCartney, Mick, Pete Townshend, Freddie, Brian Wilson, Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Page even Phil Spector since he was so influential as a producer (I’d have to ignore recent history in his case plus how difficult it would be to carve his hairstyle!) I chose Jimi Hendrix for several reasons. First of all he elevated guitar to where musicians of all genres could appreciate and admire his contributions to music. With only three studio albums completed in his short recording life he shook up everybody and even drew notice from another virtuoso like Miles Davis who wanted to emulate sounds with his horn that Jimi was getting out of his guitar. Nearly 45 years after his passing his influence is easily heard even if it can’t ever really be duplicated. Plus the guy sang and performed with a lot of soul as he mixed blues, rock and turned psychedelic music into a viable art form.
So those are my four and I’d like to hear from other music geeks/admirers and who they would nominate for their immortal stone-worthy foursomes. Let the debate begin and get your carving tools ready!