ByNathan Fleischman, writer at
Nathan Fleischman

I have finally decided to come back to this after a post I made about possible future acquisitions by the Walt Disney Company generated a bit of controversy. This is Part 3 of a series of posts regarding the most influential composers after the Beatles. These composers are ones of punk rock and related genres that I think would appear on Howard Goodall's 20th Century Greats if it were continued. Here are the composers:

Patti Smith

Punk rock would not have been punk rock without Patti Smith. This woman was a major figure in the New York punk scene. Her album, Horses, proved very influential indeed. The songs she composed for the album combined influences from rock, reggae, and a little bit of classical. This included Smith's expansion of Van Morrison's Gloria. Another song of hers, Because the Night (co-written with Bruce Springsteen), helped a band Patti Smith formed to commercial success. Patti Smith's music influenced punk rock, post-punk, new wave, and alternative rock. That is why Patti Smith is on this list.

The Ramones

When I include the name of a band on this list, that means every member of the bands had a role in songwriting. Such is true of the Ramones and other bands on this list. If you look at the names of the band members, you might mistake them for relatives, but they are not. Those names, each with the last name Ramone, are actually pseudonyms. After all, the band is called the Ramones. The Ramones are one of the most influential rock bands in history. Their most influential album was their self-titled debut album, Ramones. Punk rock, as it turns out, contains influences from minimalism which has been a major influence on popular music.
The lead single of the band's debut album, Blitzkrieg Bop, was built on a three-chord pattern which had been used in pre-Beatles rock n' roll and is very minimalist in form. This sports anthem has been used for sporting events around the world. This song and its album helped create punk rock. That is why the Ramones are on this list.

The Sex Pistols

If the Ramones were Elvis and Chuck Berry, then the Sex Pistols are the Beatles. The controversial rock band did not last long. However, in their time, they were one of the most influential punk rock bands. They only composed one album. It was called Never Mind the Bollocks, Here Come the Sex Pistols. The band's signature songs, Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen, are included in this album. These songs can be difficult to listen to because the lyrics contain a lot of profanities. The band's criticism of British society in this album helped to smash the barriers set by progressive rock bands and disco artists. This is the main reason for the band being on this list.

Joe Strummer and Mick Jones

Another punk rock band that was influential was the Clash. They toned down the language a bit but still wrote protest songs. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were the main songwriters of the band. Their first single, White Riot, part of their eponymous debut album, dealt with class and race issues in the UK. They became popular in the UK. It was with London Calling that they became popular worldwide. The Clash broke down musical boundaries by combining punk with reggae, soul, and dance. Sadly, the band fell apart in 1983 and broke up in 1986. The Clash were just as influential as the Sex Pistols, having influenced alternative rock. That is why they make this list.

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein

Blondie was a rock band formed by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein who wrote most of the band's music though not always together. The reason why they make the list is because through their pioneered the style of new wave that dominated in the 1980s. Initially, Blondie was a punk rock band like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash. Then, they took the sound and expanded on it. The result was new wave. One album, in particular, Parallel Lines, helped influence the development of new wave. Blondie was not shy of incorporating other styles into its new wave sound. Heart of Glass, the band's signature song, incorporated elements of disco, so even though there was a backlash against disco which I think was racist, disco was not going away anytime soon. This was controversial, but Harry and Stein did not care at all. This was the first true new wave song. Rapture, another song by Harry and Stein, became the first hip-hop song to be No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Through their new wave style, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein influenced what came afterwards. That is why they are on the list.


Gordon Sumner is a singer-songwriter who used a plethora of different styles in his music. If his name is not familiar, it is because you might know him better as Sting. Sting was born in Wallsend in Northeast England which is known for its shipbuilding industry. He had ancestors from England, Ireland, and Australia. Sting could not wait to leave Wallsend. His career in music started in 1977 with his role as lead singer and principal songwriter for a rock band called The Police. He composed the band's signature song, Every Breath You Take, which was released on the band's final album, Synchronicity, in 1983. The song was one of the top new wave songs ever written. It was in 1983 that Sting's solo career started. Since then, Sting's songs have incorporated jazz, reggae, classical, ambient, Celtic, new-age, and worldbeat music as well as rock. Recently, Sting has been draw back to his roots in Wallsend with his musical, The Last Ship, which was inspired by his early life. Sting used a plethora of different styles in his music. That is why he is on this list.

John Carpenter

Can you think of an example of a film director who scores his own movies? There is one. His name is John Carpenter, and he has scored all but four of his movies.His best-known score is the one for Halloween. The film that started the slasher film genre was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho for which Bernard Herrmann was the film composer. The film score for Halloween was very minimalist itself. It combined a synthesizer with a piano and atmospherics, a trademark of John Carpenter in his film scores. Carpenter's use of the synthesizers revolutionized both classical and popular music. That is why he is on this list.


Speaking of synthesizers, chances are you have heard of Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, and if his name isn't familiar, it is because you might know him better as Vangelis. Vangelis was a pioneer in electronic music from the start of his career in the late 1960s. Vangelis' heyday was in the 1980s. His first film score was for the movie Chariots of Fire which tells the real-life story of two athletes representing Britain in the 1924 Summer Olympics. A synthesizer would usually seem out-of-place in a film about the 1924 Summer Olympics but not in this film. This was followed by the film score for the movie Blade Runner in 1982. Vangelis used a more modern synthesizer for this score. Vangelis' use of the synthesizer helped influence new-age music and the development of synthpop and electronic dance music. That is why he is on this list.

Duran Duran

Duran Duran was a leading band of the so-called Second British Invasion. They were the leading synthpop band in the US and their native UK during the 1980s. Their songs popularized synthpop in a musical climate dominated by MTV. Hungry Like the Wolf, their signature song, was the song that brought the band to popularity. This along with other songs by the band brought the synthesizer and the drum machine into popular music. This was just as revolutionary as when the Beatles incorporated classical, Indian, and avant-garde elements into rock music. They also pioneered the use of 35 mm film in music videos. That is why Duran Duran is on this list.

Van Halen

The reason why I am putting the entire band Van Halen on this list instead of just its guitarist Eddie van Halen is because the entire band was involved in writing the songs. But the songs are not only thing Van Halen came up with. Eddie van Halen, in particular, pioneered the guitar style of tapping which was taken straight from classical music of which Eddie and his brother Alex, who is also a member of the band, are fans. The band's most successful album, 1984, had
the most use of keyboards ever. The lead single of the album, Jump, incorporated synthpop and arena rock into their hard rock and heavy metal sound. This was the birth of hair metal. Van Halen makes this list for that reason and for revolutionizing guitar play. They also make this list because they influenced the next person on this list.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, started out his career in the Jackson 5. Then, he went solo. How did he become the King of Pop? Behold, MTV. However, he almost did not make it. Walter Yentikoff wanted MTV to play the music video for Michael Jackson's Billie Jean from the album Thriller. MTV would not. Yentikoff responded by swearing. MTV relented and played the music video. More music videos from the album followed including Beat It and Thriller, the titular song which was composed by Rod Temperton. Seriously, this is not just about music videos. These songs incorporated hard rock into its sound. In Beat It, Jackson collaborated with Eddie van Halen who deployed his hard rock style. Songs from later even incorporated hip-hop. With Thriller, Michael Jackson broke down racial barriers. The music video for the titular track was even considered for an Oscar nomination. It was that influential. Michael Jackson makes the list not just for breaking down racial barriers, but also for incorporating hard rock and other influences into his songs.


Prince Rogers Nelson, or Prince, was the pioneer of the Minneapolis sound. That's the reason for him being on this list in the first place. His music combines rock, R&B, soul, funk, disco, hip-hop, psychedelic, jazz, and pop music. The Minneapolis sound, in particular, is a fusion of funk, rock, pop, synthpop, and new wave. Prince's second album, Dirty Mind, helped pioneer the sound. His following two albums, Controversy and 1999, also helped to pioneer the Minneapolis sound. Prince then went beyond it up until his death. He is obviously very influential which is why he is on this list.


Madonna Louise Ciccone has been referred to as the Queen of Pop. She pushed the boundary of mainstream lyrical content in popular music and imagery in her music videos which were a fixture on MTV. She has been known to change her image a lot. She is also known for reinventing her music. Like A Virgin and Material Girl were not composed by Madonna. Into the Groove, however, was. This song incorporated synthpop. Like a Prayer was a pop rock song that incorporated gospel music. Vogue incorporates house music. Vogue also set the trends for the 1990s and beyond. Most of Madonna's recent songs have electronic in nature. She was obviously an influence on the music of today. That is why Madonna is on this list.

Koji Kondo

Video game music is only just starting to be considered classical music, a trend that started int the 1970s and 1980s with film music. One of the most influential video game composers is Koji Kondo. When the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1985, it came with the Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises. The score for Super Mario Bros. was one of the most influential video game scores in history. Though it was just bleeps and bloops similar to synthpop, this video game score paved for all future video game scores of the future. As for the Legend of Zelda franchise, the most influential soundtrack here was for Ocarina of Time. This score was one of the first video game scores to use a full orchestra. It was the last video game score that Koji Kondo scored alone. Through his video game scores, Kondo influenced what came after him. Howard Shore, who will be on a later part of this list, credits Koji Kondo for being a major influence on his film score for The Lord of the Rings. Kondo was a major influence on video game music. That is why he makes this list.

Nobuo Uematsu

Nobuo Uematsu is one of the most influential video game composers in the history of video games. He is best known composing the scores for most of the video games in the Final Fantasy series. Each video game score varies from game to game. For instance, Final Fantasy VIII has a dark and gloomy tone. Final Fantasy IX, on the other hand, has a more upbeat and carefree tone. Uematsu was influenced by rock music, most notably Elton John, and classical music, most notably Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Uematsu has been called the Beethoven of video game music. Nobuo Uematsu influenced video game composers that came afterwards. That is why he makes this list.

James Horner

James Horner started out in concert works before switching to film scores in 1979 with The Lady In Red. However, he established as a mainstream composer with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. He composed the film scores a lot of children's movie including An American Tail and The Land Before Time. While John Williams dominated the late 1970s and early 1980s, James Horner dominated the late 1980s and most of the 1990s with film scores like Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, Braveheart, and Titanic. Horner was well-known for integrating choral and electronic elements into his scores. His motifs were often taken from Celtic music, most notably in Braveheart which is set in Scotland. Titanic, of course, incorporates an art song called My Heart Will Go On sung by Celine Dion. This was common in James Horner's film scores form then on. Avatar from 2009 was worked on really hard. James Horner sought to create music that would sound like it came from the Na'vi. He worked with ethnomusicologist Wanda Bryant to get it right. During his heyday, Horner influenced composers that came after him like Hans Zimmer who will be on a later part of this list. That is why he's here.


U2 was one of the first alternative rock bands to go mainstream. Their albums dealt different aspects of humanity. Their protest song, Sunday Bloody Sunday, criticized the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1971. Their most successful album, The Joshua Tree, had a lot of different songs in which the music was composed by all of the band members while Bono himself wrote the lyrics. Through their songs and albums, U2 influenced the development of alternative rock. That is why they are on this list. The use of spiritual imagery is also a reason.


Run-D.M.C. was the first hip-hop act to go mainstream. They did this by fusing hip-hop with rock music. Most of the songs they composed, like King of Rock, did this. It was not just song they themselves composed during the 1980s. It was also their cover of Aerosmith's Walk This Way which Aerosmith participated on. This, in particular, brought hip-hop into the mainstream. They also made use of a common technique in hip-hop, sampling. This same technique has also been used by Steve Reich who is in Part 1 of this list. They also helped pioneer the fusion genre of new jack swing. Run-D.M.C. was so influential on hip-hop that they had to make this list.

Part 4 will feature alternative rock, grunge, gangsta rap, heavy metal, teen pop, and classical composers (that includes film and video game composers) from the late 1980s and 1990s that were not already on this part of the list. For those of you who thought Whitney Houston should be here, I am sorry for not including her, but this list is for composers which she was not. So please do not complain.


Latest from our Creators