This category features artists whose music formed the roots of much of the music we listen to today, particularly in three genres that freely borrowed from one another: rock, folk and country.

Please note that “much of the music we listen to today” does not include 21st-century pop music. I have no idea where the hell that crap came from.

Everything begins with Louis Armstrong, particularly his earliest work with the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens. Armstrong is a seminal figure in multiple genres (jazz, blues, rock) but what people often overlook is his influence on vocal performance. Prior to Armstrong, you weren’t a singer if you didn’t have a pretty or pleasing melodic voice. Armstrong’s sandpapery, bluesy voice caused quite a sensation to those huddled around the monstrous radio sets of the 1920s, particularly when he introduced scat on “Heebie Jeebies.” Soon many vocalists started to add touches of grit and smatterings of blue notes to their vocals, a trend that reached full flowering when rockers began to discover the works of Delta and Chicago blues singers. Bottom line: Kurt Cobain would have been an impossibility if it weren’t for Louis Armstrong.

The number of musicians who cite Jimmie Rodgers, Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and Muddy Waters as influences is endless, but most common among the musicians who practiced their craft in the 60s. I think the fact that those musicians made an effort to learn from the masters has a lot to do with the superior quality, craftsmanship and diversity of 60s music—which is why this Millennial spent so much time reviewing albums from that decade.

Louis Armstrong – The Best of Louis Armstrong: The Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings

Jimmie Rodgers – The Essential Jimmie Rodgers

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

Billie Holiday – Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday

Woody Guthrie – Woody at 100

Hank Williams – 20 of Hank Williams Greatest Hits

Muddy Waters – The Best of Muddy Waters


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