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By December 5, 2017Music

Sixty-three years to accumulate and one anguished day to narrow down my 19 favorite musical artists — as of December 2017.

For the record, my criteria considered originality, influence, quality musicianship and songwriting, and consistency.

  • The Beatles (because, they are)
  • The Rolling Stones (ditto)
  • Van Morrison (for “Moondance” alone)
  • Bob Dylan (most influential)
  • Annie Lennox (commitment to craft)
  • Simon & Garfunkel (extraordinary lyrics)
  • Bruce Springsteen (most authentic)
  • U2 (despite Bono’s pretentions)
  • REM (despite Michael Stipe’s pretentions)
  • The National (pure emotion)
  • The Walkmen (best alt-rock)
  • Teddy Thompson (the true Voice)
  • Ryan Adams (unparalleled singer-songwriter)
  • Beck (most idiosyncratic)
  • Arctic Monkeys (UK’s new best of)
  • The Helio Sequence (most underrated) (above photo)
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (legit rockers)
  • Kasabian (awesome, live!)
  • The Head and the Heart (sharp and tender)

Some incredible artists who just missed the cut include Leonard Cohen, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kings of Leon, The War on Drugs, TV on the Radio, Longwave, The Stills, Gomez and Josh Ritter. Also, break-out artists Future Islands and X-Ambassadors.

PLEASE sound off. I’m always curious to hear recommendations, reviews and rants.



  • Gary Greenbaum says:

    Death Cab for Cutie, The Who, Tower of Power, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young to begin my list.

  • ed says:

    Yes Gary,
    Jean Luc Ponte also, as well as Randy Newman, and Stu, who was that great band we photographed at “Garden of Earthly Delights”?
    Oh yeah, the Flaming Groovies, on name alone.

  • Zac says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to procrastinate. Although, the fear of forgetting someone is very real. So, I will say here are *some* of my all-time favorites:

    Johnny Cash
    Joy Division
    Talking Heads
    The White Stripes
    Michael Jackson
    TV on the Radio

  • Sally Michael says:

    Great list! Although I must admit, I don’t know the last five. Thanks for the introduction!

  • I defer to your excellence, but two I can’t forget Steely Dan and Joe Jackson…Love that you have Beck on your list- Freeway Jam!

  • Lucy Fisher says:

    Agree with Sally – who ARE those last five? And what about Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson?

  • Steven Vanderville says:

    What a quality list, Stuart. I love these artists as well (except Kasabian, who I don’t know but–on your recommendation–I’m sure I will). I didn’t realize you felt so strongly about the Head and the Heart! Everything they’ve done is fantastic.

    I don’t even know where to start. Favorites lists are so cruel! Everything David Bowie has done is awesome but I wouldn’t call him a favorite. And several of my favorites are more personal endearments than objective geniuses (a-ha holds a special place in my heart).

    Top 10 in no order:
    1. U2 (despite Bono’s pretentions)
    2. New Order
    3. Echo and the Bunnymen
    4. Ryan Adams
    5. The Police
    6. The Smiths
    7. The Clientele
    8. The National
    9. Editors
    10. Siouxsie and the Banshees

    (I just deleted two paragraphs of other artists who deserve recognition. But now I’m going to listen to them.)

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