20 Mar 4 Legendary Musicians That Were At The Peak In Their Time
Music always had an important role in the lives of individuals, community building and even, social change. The first instrument mankind worked with was something that we’re born with: the vocal cords. Before the introduction of writing scripts, most communities introduced, expressed and taught wisdom, beliefs, art and ideas via songs, folktales or prose.
Even now, music still retains that importance, although its role is slightly different. Apart from playing an enormous role in our psyche and emotional state, in the bigger stage, music is a cultural artefact. Musicians who stood at the zenith during their time became legends, immortalised in their music and other ways. The aftermaths of the movements and societal change that they took part in still lingers today. Here are four musicians that shone brightly during their time.
1. Ray Charles
Often referred to as The Genius, Ray Charles was the one who pioneered the soul music genre in the 1950s. He opened up an avenue and a safe space for black musicians to make music that was categorised as solely theirs, which was essential in a racially charged climate. Ray Charles also contributed to the integration of rhythm and blues, pop and country music. Frank Sinatra even acknowledged his skills by declaring that Ray Charles was the only true genius in show business.
Despite having lost his sight at the tender age of 4, Ray Charles still pursued and developed music. His music lessons vary from the traditional lessons, as he had to use braille music which was challenging in its own way. He started with classical music before delving into jazz, blues and country music. Some of his notable tracks include What’d I Say and Georgia On My Mind, which later won two Grammy Awards.
2. Aretha Franklin
You’ll know the voice of an angel when you hear one. Started as a young gospel singer, Aretha Franklin rose to become a commercial success. With songs such as I Say A Little Prayer and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, she was later dubbed as The Queen of Soul. She was described as the personification of soul at its most gospel-charged.
Soul music is often characterised by the emphasis on vocals and ad-libs. Aretha Franklin was known for her powerful mezzo-soprano voice, vocal flexibility and interpretive intelligence. Receiving vocal lessons from her father, C.L Franklin, she gained vocal techniques that cemented her path as a singer. Aretha Franklin was more than a mere vocalist; she was also a social activist. Have a listen to Respect and you’d understand why that particular song was championed as the civil rights and feminist anthem.
3. John Lennon
If there was a musician that successfully spearheaded a significant subculture in history, John Lennon is your guy. Widely known as the founder of the Beatles, John Lennon was one of the formidable musicians of the 20th century. The Beatles and his individual success were largely attributed to the acerbic wit displayed in his music. The collaborative songwriting partnership between himself and his band member, Paul McCartney, remains one of the most successful in history, landing over 600 million records sold worldwide.
Even after the Beatles’s disbandment, John Legend was still making music and dabbling in art-making. As a political activist, he criticised the Vietnam war and engaged in a non-violent peace by holding a two-week-long experimental test, Bed-Ins for Peace. His Give Peace a Chance was adopted as the anti-Vietnam War anthem.
4. Michael Jackson
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t include the King of Pop in this section. As one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century, his influence should never be understated. Not only was he an inspiration to several artists, his music, specifically his Thriller album, but was also credited to break racial barriers.
Contrary to popular belief, Michael Jackson couldn’t read or write music. He could dabble with instruments, but he couldn’t play any proficiently. Despite that, he was still recognised for being a genius. With the strings, chords, harmony and lyrics played out in his head, he would sing the entire arrangement to his team. His top-notched music sense won him several awards and accolades, with Thriller winning 8 Grammy awards in one ceremony alone.
These musicians are a few out of the many that have made a name for themselves. Their passion for the art form has fueled the drive to bulldoze their way to success. Even now, they are largely celebrated for their contributions not only in the industry, but society as a whole. Take a step towards that direction by enrolling in a music class in Singapore! You don’t have to necessarily be a vocalist like the musicians above. Be different by signing up for drum classes at Studio72, for instance! After all, being legendary isn’t limited to vocalists alone.