The Immortals: The 100 greatest artists of all time

by Jewel
Rolling Stone
April 21, 2005

It is a fundamental lesson in the history of rock & roll and its continuing power to inspire and transform. The Immortals is a tribute to those who created rock & roll, written by their peers and heirs, those who have learned from their innovations, struggles and legacies. These legends and the stars paying homage to them here come from every walk of rock & roll life -- singers, songwriters, musicians, record makers -- and together they reflect the roots and long branches of a music now entering its second half-century. These vividly told histories and recollections take you deep into blues, rockabilly, soul, funk, punk, heavy metal, reggae, garage rock and rap. You are there, at the birth of genius and in moments of intense, personal revelation.

The Immortals is the essential story of rock & roll, of the men, women and bands at the heart of the revolution, as told by those whose lives they changed and who now change ours. An expert panel of musicians, industry figures and critics, selected by the editors of ROLLING STONE, was asked to pick, in order of preference, the twenty most significant artists of rock's first fifty years. The votes were tabulated according to a weighted point system overseen by the accounting firm Ernst & Young. 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 the Immortals, remember: This is what we have to live up to.

1) The Beatles by Elvis Costello
2) Bob Dylan by Robbie Robertson
3) Elvis Presley by Bono
4) The Rolling Stones by Steven Van Zandt
5) Chuck Berry by Joe Perry
6) Jimi Hendrix by John Mayer
7) James Brown by Rick Rubin
8) Little Richard by Little Richard
9) Aretha Franklin by Jerry Wexler
10) Ray Charles by Van Morrison
11) Bob Marley by Wyclef Jean
12) The Beach Boys by Lindsey Buckingham
13) Buddy Holly by John Mellencamp
14) Led Zeppelin by Dave Grohl
15) Stevie Wonder by Elton John
16) Sam Cooke by Art Garfunkel
17) Muddy Watters by Billy Gibbons
18) Marvin Gaye by Smokey Robinson
19) The Velvet Underground by Julian Casablancas
20) Bo Diddley by Iggy Pop
21) Otis Redding by Steve Cropper
22) U2 by Chris Martin
23) Bruce Springsteen by Jackson Browne
24) Jerry Lee Lewis by Moby
25) Fats Domino by Dr. John
26) The Ramones by Lenny Kaye
27) Nirvana by Vernon Reid
28) Prince by Ahmir Thompson
29) The Who by Eddie Vedder
30) The Clash by The Edge
31) Johnny Cash by Kris Kristofferson
32) Smokey Robinson and the Miracles by Bob Seger
33) The Everly Brothers by Paul Simon
34) Neil Young by Flea
35) Michael Jackson by Antonio "LA" Reid
36) Madonna by Britney Spears
37) Roy Orbison by K.D. Lang
38) John Lennon by Lenny Kravitz
39) David Bowie by Lou Reed
40) Simon and Garfunkel by James Taylor
41) The Doors by Marilyn Manson
42) Van Morrison by Peter Wolf
43) Sly and the Family Stone by Don Was
44) Public Enemy by Adam Yauch
45) The Byrds by Tom Petty
46) Janis Joplin by Rosanne Cash
47) Patti Smith by Shirley Manson
48) Run-DMC by Chuck D
49) Elton John by Billy Joel
50) The Band by Lucinda Williams
51) Howlin' Wolf by Buddy Guy
52) The Allman Brothers Band by Billy Gibbons
53) Eric Clapton by Little Steven
54) Dr. Dre by Kanye West
55) Grateful Dead by Warren Haynes
56) Parliament/Funkadelic by Ice Cube
57) Aerosmith by Slash
58) Sex Pistols by Billie Joe Armstrong
59) Louis Jordan by Ahmet Ertegun

60) Joni Mitchell by Jewel

Joni Mitchell is a bigger icon than she is a star. Bob Dylan and Keith Richards became famous in such a worldwide way that they became stars and icons. But Joni is still quite unknown to a lot of people. The impact she had wasn't big and flashy. But she influenced people who became stars.

I remember a friend in high school playing me "A Case of You," from Blue, and me liking it -- a lot. I could tell that Joni was a painter by the way she wrote lyrics. She describes smells and sounds to translate what is happening in her songs, using fewer words to transmit more feeling. Her melodies are all about shapes. The singing lines are slow, steep plateaus. One of the things that I learned from Joni, and that I love about her: If you can tell the story right and keep things moving, you don't need to return to the chorus on time.

Joni never tries to make herself more perfect in her lyrics. What she writes is closer to journalism: On Blue, you hear everything she experienced, the highs and the lows. It's such a lonely album: not in the "I don't have any friends" sense but in the sense that you're a little bit removed, and always watching. And it takes a lot of courage to be that honest, especially as a woman -- to talk about love and other intimate things so frankly. When she first did it, it was a very fluffy time -- pretty girls singing about pretty things.

Joni had an edginess that not many women expressed then. Most women singers had strong vibratos and a lot of mascara. Joni Mitchell never made a big deal out of being a woman. She had such a strong sexuality, but she didn't feel the need to deny that part of her in order to be taken seriously. She also didn't play it up -- although many of her songs are about sex.

I met her only once, at a Vanity Fair photo shoot. It sounds like a pathetically feeble Hollywood story, but Stevie Wonder introduced us. He took my hand -- I guess I led him to her -- and he said, "Joni, I'd like you to meet Jewel." I just shook her hand and tried to swallow. I didn't have anything to say to her. Her influence on me is so obvious. I hope she can hear it.

61) Tina Turner by Janet Jackson
62) Etta James by Bonnie Raitt
63) Phil Spector by Jerry Wexler
64) The Kinks by Peter Buck
65) Al Green by Justin Timberlake
66) Cream by Roger Waters
67) The Temptations by Rod Stewart
68) Jackie Wilson by Peter Wolf
69) Carl Perkins by Tom Petty
70) The Police by Brandon Flowers
71) Frank Zappa by Trey Anastasio
72) AC/DC by Rick Rubin
73) Radiohead by Dave Matthews
74) Hank Williams by Beck
75) The Eagles by Sheryl Crow
76) The Shirelles by Paul Shaffer
77) Beastie Boys by Darryl "DMC" McDaniels
78) The Stooges by Thurston Moore
79) The Four Tops by Smokey Robinson
80) Elvis Costello by Liz Phair
81) The Drifters by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
82) Eminem by Elton John
83) N.W.A. by Ahmir "Guestlove" Thompson
84) James Taylor by Art Garfunkel
85) Black Sabbath by Dave Navarro
86) Tupac Shakur by 50 Cent
87) Gram Parsons by Keith Richards
88) Miles Davis by Mos Def
89) The Yardbirds by Steven Tyler
90) Carlos Santana by Henry Garza
91) Ricky Nelson by John Fogerty
92) Guns n' Roses by Joe Perry
93) Booker T. and the MG's by Isaac Hayes
94) Nine Inch Nails by David Bowie
95) Lynyrd Skynyrd by Al Kooper
96) Martha and the Vandellas by Fred Schneider
97) Diana Ross and the Supremes by Antonio "LA" Reid
98) Roxy Music by John Taylor
99) Curtis Mayfield by Boz Scaggs
100) Lee "Scratch" Perry by Adam Horovitz


Hal Blaine has been a session drummer on recordings by Elvis Presley, Phil Spector, the Beach Boys and many others.

Nathan Brackett is a senior editor at Rolling Stone, where he edits the record-reviews section.

Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Cliff Burnstein is the founder of QPrime Management, which handles Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Garbage.

Chuck D is a musician, writer and activist who founded Public Enemy in 1982.

Anthony DeCurtis has written for Rolling Stone for more than twenty years.

Neil Diamond's thirteen Top Ten hits include "Sweet Caroline," "Cherry, Cherry" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon."

Bo Diddley, one of the inventors of rock & roll, began his career with Chess in 1955.

Dr. John has released nearly thirty albums of New Orleans funk, jazz and R&B.

The Edge started U2 with schoolmates Bono, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton in 1978. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Jason Fine is an assistant managing editor at Rolling Stone.

Bill Flanagan is a writer as well as senior vice president and editorial director of MTV Networks International.

David Fricke is a senior editor at ROLLING STONE, where he has worked since 1985.

Gil Friesen was president of A&M Records for twenty-seven years and worked with Sting, Janet Jackson and the Carpenters.

Art Garfunkel had his first hit with Paul Simon -- a doo-wop song, "Hey, Schoolgirl" -- under the name Tom and Jerry in 1957.

David Geffen began his career managing artists including Laura Nyro and Crosby, Stills and Nash. He founded Asylum Records in 1971 and Geffen Records in 1977.

Billy Gibbons is a guitarist with ZZ Top, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Mikal Gilmore has been a writer for ROLLING STONE for more than twenty years.

Albert Hammond Jr., guitarist for the Strokes, lives in New York.

James Henke is the chief curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He was music editor at ROLLING STONE from 1981 to 1993.

Don Henley launched his career in 1970 as the drummer in the Texas rock band Shiloh. He is a founding member of the Eagles.

Robert Hilburn is a pop-music critic and editor at the Los Angeles Times.

Chrissie Hynde worked as a rock critic for London's New Musical Express in 1974 before founding the Pretenders.

Don Ienner is the president of Sony Music Label Group U.S. He started working in the Capitol Records mailroom while in high school.

Lenny Kaye compiled Nuggets, a classic garage-rock anthology, in 1972. He plays guitar for the Patti Smith Group.

Jon Landau began his career at ROLLING STONE in 1967. He has produced albums for the MC5, Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen, whom he has managed for twenty-six years.

Joe Levy is a deputy managing editor at ROLLING STONE.

Kurt Loder is a correspondent at MTV and a ROLLING STONE contributing editor.

Greil Marcus was ROLLING STONE's first record-reviews editor. His books include Mystery Train, Lipstick Traces and Dead Elvis.

Joe McEwen is an A&R consultant who has worked with Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Wilco and the Beastie Boys.

Moby released his first record with the punk group Vatican Commandos in 1983. His 1999 breakthrough, Play, sold 10 million copies.

Doug Morris wrote the Chiffons' 1966 hit "Sweet Talkin' Guy." He is now chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group.

Ric Ocasek was the lead singer for the Cars and has produced albums by Iggy Pop, Weezer and No Doubt.

Joe Perry has been playing guitar with Aerosmith since the band formed in 1970.

Antonio "LA" Reid, along with his partner Babyface, founded LaFace Records, home to TLC and OutKast. He is currently chairman of Island Def Jam Records.

Keith Richards started his career singing in a boys' choir that once performed for the queen of England. He has played guitar for the Rollling Stones since 1962.

Smokey Robinson had eighteen Top Thirty hits with the Miracles on Motown Records, and wrote and produced songs for Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye.

Rick Rubin co-founded Def Jam Records in 1984 from his New York University dorm room. He has produced albums for Run-DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash.

Carlos Santana's band Santana debuted at Bill Graham's Fillmore West in 1968. The guitarist's 1999 album Supernatural sold 10 million copies and earned nine Grammys.

Mike Shinoda is a vocalist in Linkin Park, which won a 2001 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for "Crawling."

Slash was the lead guitarist for Guns n' Roses and now plays with Velvet Revolver.

Bruce Springsteen has won ten Grammys and an Academy Award since he began releasing albums in 1973.

Seymour Stein is co-founder of Sire Records. He helped launch the careers of Madonna and the Ramones, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Stephen Stills formed Buffalo Springfield in 1966. Two years later he joined Crosby, Stills and Nash, with whom he still tours.

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker and aficionado of soul, surf and obscure rock music.

Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson produces and plays drums for the Roots. He has played on albums by John Mayer, Joss Stone, D'Angelo and many others.

Pete Townshend began his career in the 1950s playing banjo in a Dixieland band with John Entwistle. Both were founding members of the Who in 1964.

Little Steven, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, hosts the radio show Little Steven's Underground Garage.

Butch Vig, drummer for Garbage, produced Nirvana's Nevermind and the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream.

Bob Weir is a singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist for the Dead.

Jann S. Wenner is the editor and publisher of ROLLING STONE. Last year, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Jerry Wexler is a producer and former vice president of Atlantic Records, where he guided the careers of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

Lucinda Williams started writing songs as a teenager. Her music has earned three Grammys and has been covered by Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris and others.

Peter Wolf often visited Harlem's Apollo Theater as a kid to see Otis Redding and James Brown perform. He formed the J. Geils Band in the late 1960s and has recorded six solo albums.

Adam Yauch is a member of the Beastie Boys and a co-founder of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts.

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