Top 5 Singular Musical Forces

Top 5 Singular Musical Forces

Great bands are a dime a dozen. How often has a great band broken up, only to have the individual efforts of the ex-members lambasted by critics and public alike? Sometimes the chemistry of a band, collectively, makes them great, but sometimes it's "The Talent," a singular musical force.

When I speak of a singular musical force, I speak of musicians who transcend a group, band or even a musical genre. These are artists in the truest sense of the word.

Singular musical forces do not just achieve singular success: Their achievements range from critical and commercial successes and often are accrued over multiple decades. To qualify for this list, the artist must be alive, so no Beethoven, obviously.

These are current artists, who are so remarkably badass as to only be called what they are: Singular Musical Forces.

5. My Friend Russ Willis

Everybody who grew up playing music knows that one guy who is just incredible.

That's my friend Russ. Obviously, it's slightly biased by personal experience, but Russ makes the list if for no other reason than the fact that he could play "Eruption" by Van Halen, note-for-note, when I first met him at age 12.

Russ currently plays in some of the best local acts you can find around town. My personal favorite is Don't Poke the Bear. If you've never seen them, go do so as they are one of best rock acts you can hear around town.

Russ plays just about every instrument under the sun and also is one of the best dudes I know.

4. Paul McCartney

Top 5 Singular Musical Forces

Maybe you've heard of a little band called The Beatles? You haven't?

Oh, well, they were sort of a big deal. You should check them out.

What about Wings? Maybe you actually haven't heard of Wings, but that's actually OK.

McCartney is such a badass that he married a chick with a fake leg. I mean, how bored do you have to get having the most beautiful women in the world throwing themselves at you that, just for a change of pace, you hook up with the amputee? Pretty badass, I'd say.

McCartney does, in fact, transcend generations and musical genre. He may not still be putting out the defining music of his time -- he just turned 70 this week, so give him a break -- but he can still charge $400 a ticket for a show and asses will still be firmly in seats.

He also wrote "Rocky Raccoon," one of my favorite songs ever.

  3. John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones with Them Crooked Vultures, Stubb's, October 2009
John Paul Jones with Them Crooked Vultures, Stubb's, October 2009
Photo by Craig Hlavaty

John Paul Jones played bass in Led Zepplin. He also did all of the arrangements for the group, too. That, in it of itself, qualifies you as a singular musical force. Jones is also an accomplished producer and studio musician, and can play just about any instrument with strings, including sitar, mandolin, ukulele, lap guitar and violin. Jones also plays the recorder on "Stairway to Heaven."

On most other musical lists, playing the recorder instantly shoots you to No. 1.

More currently, you can find Jones rocking shit in Them Crooked Vultures, the supergroup consisting of himself, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. If you like QOTSA, then the Vultures' album will be right up your alley, if not, give it a pass, but watch some of their live footage to get an idea of Jones' rock fortitude.

Jones is a multiple-instrument master and, even though he's old enough to be Grohl and Homme's grandfather, he is still able to thoroughly melt faces despite his advanced age.

2. Dave Grohl

Nirvana. Foo Fighters. Queens of the Stone Age. Tenacious D. Them Crooked Vultures.

It's fairly hard to argue that Dave Grohl is one of -- if not the -- most successful and influential musicians of the modern era. Children of the '90s literally grew up watching Grohl go from a long-haired, baby-faced grunge icon, pounding the skins for Nirvana into a long-haired, baby-faced Rock God, selling millions of albums and becoming something of a household name along the way.

Dave Grohl is one of the best rock drummers alive today, flat out. He has also proven himself a capable (if somewhat repetitive) songwriter. The Foo Fighters are a pretty poppy band, but they sell a shitload of records and have enjoyed tons of success, so you really can't knock them. The Colour and the Shape remains one of my favorite albums, even if their most recent one was a little bland.

He also had big enough balls to record their most recent album in his garage, and totally on tape. On fucking tape! You can't go back and Pro Tools-fix a wrong note on tape.

The band put out a great documentary chronicling their recording process, and if you are a fan, you should definitely check it out. Grohl comes off so wildly unpretentious as to seem, well, normal. At one point in the film, his daughter interrupts a vocals recording session, demanding to be taken to their backyard pool.

"You promised," the little girl says to Grohl. He suspends recording, leaving his engineer and bandmates to wait while he takes his little girl swimming.

Add on great dad to musical force, then.


Top 5 Singular Musical Forces

1. Prince

Who else?

Prince is the ultimate singular musical force. He is so good, in fact, that even when Morris Day and the Time was his backing band, he was still the best musician onstage, at every instrument.

I refer to Greatest Musical Force No. 2, Mr. Grohl, who was once quoted as saying the best live act he'd ever seen was Prince.

Prince writes all his own music, produces and records his own music and he plays almost all instruments for his albums. Prince has produced ten platinum albums and 30 Top 40 singles.

He also discovered Carmen Electra, which I think we can all agree is his greatest artistic contribution to the world. Thanks, Prince, for the person even lamer than Jenny McCarthy as Singled Out host. We didn't think it could be done, but it was.

If you have never seen Purple Rain, drop whatever you are doing and go buy it on DVD. Just buy it. Trust me, one view is not enough.

Even though he's 4'10", freaky-deeky and a Jehovah's witness, Prince is the greatest singular musical force.

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