Throughout the musical sensations of the last 100 years in history, we've seen some spectacular talent come and go through the bright lights of our lives. There are musical acts that have set the stage for nearly every major moment that we as a culture have experienced. And in the honor of those magnificent acts, I've compiled a list of some of the most influential musical pop culture icons of the last century.
These extraordinary talents were responsible for some of the most notable influences upon music that we still see to this day. And while some may be considered less so than others, I assure you all were wisely chosen based on significant contributions to many mediums of pop culture. Let's begin.
10. Cyndi Lauper
A true tale of rags to riches, Cyndi Lauper started from nothing and became one of the most prominent female figures of the 1980s. With a line of concurrent hits such as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "Time After Time," "She Bop," "Money Changes Everything," and "True Colors," Cyndi Lauper will forever be cemented in American - and the world's - history.
Her unique style and attitude are still felt today in the melodies of our newest generations of female artists. She will also forever be remembered as an outspoken hero for putting her talent and fame toward advocating for female and LGBT equality.
Never before or since has a band that came together to fuse teenage angst and emotion like Nirvana. Kurt Cobain, the late frontman of the legendary rock group, has firmly planted his feet among the true greats of our society; a man who took his pain, his suffering, and his love for music and combined them into a craft like the true musical genius that he was.
Although his time on this Earth was cut entirely too short, his lasting legacy will forever be felt in the hearts and minds of any who've ever experienced insuperable inner turmoil.
8. Lady Gaga
Probably the most controversial and influential artist currently in music, Lady Gaga is one artist who has proven time and time again that one's ability to impress and surprise an audience can never fully be measured. Her ever-adapting styles in fashion, music and pop culture have influenced so many artists that are on the rise today, and even a few whose careers started before hers.
As Gaga makes her return to pop music with Joanne and "Perfect Illusion," her transition into this new stage of her career will undoubtedly help cement her as one of American culture's greatest contributions to the world of entertainment.
7. Elvis Presley
There's a reason Elvis is known as the King of Rock 'n' Roll. As an iconic figure, he acquired that nickname through a career unparalleled by any other singular male musician in the music industry. As someone who crossed racial barriers and brought the influence of traditionally black music to white audiences, his legacy can't be overstated. Although his career was also cut short by an untimely death, his music continues to thrive and endure even in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of modern melodies. Even someone who may be unfamiliar or not a fan of the legendary heartthrob can at least give due respect to the success Elvis was able to capture throughout his distinct career.
6. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton is a titan in the music industry and it feels like she's been around forever. She's sold more than 100 million records in her lifetime and that count, to this day, continues to grow at a rapid pace. Dolly is one of the most successful musicians of all time and that's not limited to the songs she's performed herself. Her contributions to country as a female singer who broke gender barriers, as well as being one of the first significant country-to-pop crossovers, will be remembered.
5. David Bowie
David Bowie, who can probably never be appreciated enough no matter how much we try, led one of the most distinct and visually appealing careers of any on this list. His fearlessness showed in every little thing he did. Bowie's career told a story, a story of wonder and weirdness, of learning to accept one's own uniqueness and finding peace with it.
The world lost a legend this year when Bowie passed away at the age of 69. His presence will never go without being missed and the ideas and creative contributions he made will be kept in the minds and hearts of every living being that ever asked the question, "Is there life on Mars?"
4. Blondie And Debbie Harry
One of the most successful acts to come out of New York's underground scene, there was no way Blondie wasn't going to be included on this list. Led by Debbie Harry, the bleach blonde bombshell with a heart of glass, this band's presence in music has continued to influence fellow female musicians to this day. Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and even rockers like Joan Jett have all admitted to being grateful for the advancements of Blondie.
Even after punk faded away, Blondie was still one of the most innovative bands around. They explored music in a way nobody had seen before and morphed it into songs that became just as iconic as the looks of their multi-talented songstress.
3. The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones pretty much set the standard in rock for almost everyone else that came after. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have written some of the most classic rock songs in the genre. Their influence on glam rock is legendary. Jagger's flamboyant displays and outlandish style of singing are a trademark of their incredible journey throughout the world of rock n' roll, a journey they continue even to this day, proving age really is just a number.
Now we come to Queen, probably my favorite rock band of all time. Their contribution to this list can't truly ever be measured in words in a way that justifies just how greatly they've impacted the music scene. We as a culture are never too shy to rock our heads back and forth with classic hits like "We Are The Champions," "We Will Rock You," and "Bohemian Rhapsody." Modern musicians from Muse to Katy Perry have spoken of being heavily influenced by Freddie Mercury and his music.
These are treasured trademarks in the roadmap to what we've become as an entertainment-obsessed society. Far too many musicians to count owe Queen and the fantastic leaps they made toward true artistic expression for their success today.
1. The Beatles
There never was and never will again be a band like The Beatles. Widely regarded as the most influential act of the rock era, they brought to the world immeasurable joy and love. I can't imagine any others who've had such a ripple effect on the world of music. Their art has become the most regularly sought-after puzzle piece for so many musical acts of the modern age, all endlessly asking, "How'd they do it?"
One man attempting to answer that question is director Ron Howard. The Beatles are the subject of his new documentary titled The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. The film explores the story of the band and how they held such high esteem and had such critical success and then in a moment, let it all come crashing down as the group fell apart. The film is currently streaming on Hulu. Check it out, as it's definitely worth the watch.
- 7 Famous Bands Who Were Influenced By The Beatles
- From Hip Swivels To Piano Prodigies, These Musicians Caused Mass Hysteria Long Before Beatlemania
- 8 Reasons To Watch The New Beatles Documentary 'The Beatles: 8 Days A Week'
Who's your favorite musical icon of the last century? Share them with me in the comments section below.