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Biography

Richard Ashcroft: All You Need To Know + Tickets…

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With Richard Ashcrofts 2017 shows (get tickets) becoming ever so close, here’s a little light reading for you to get you in the mood… Ashcroft was born on September 11, 1971, and grew up the eldest of three children in the Wigan suburb of Billinge, England. While Ashcroft was attending Upholland Comprehensive School (along with future Verve members Simon Tong and Peter Salisbury), his father died of a blood clot to the brain when Richard was only 11 years old. His mother later remarried, but Ashcroft’s family grew up quite poor, and often struggled just to get by. Though young…

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Stevie Ray Vaughan

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Before his untimely death in 1990, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan had become the leading figure in the blues-rock-revival he spearheaded in the mid-’80s. Vaughan’s first musical inspiration was his older brother Jimmie, a guitarist who later helped form the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Together, the brothers immersed themselves in the work of blues guitar greats like B.B. King, Alberty King, and Freddie Kings, and early rock guitarists like Lonnie Mack (whose 1985 comeback, Strike Like Lightning, Vaughan would coproduce). By the time he was 14, Vaughan was already playing Dallas blues clubs with a variety of bands including Blackbird, the Shantones, and…

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Sly & The Family Stone

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Sylvester Stewart was born the second of five children (Loretta, Sylvester, Freddie, Rose, and Vaetta, known as Vet) in Denton, Texas, on March 15, 1944. His devout African-American family was affiliated with the Church Of God In Christ (COGC) and took their beliefs with them when they moved to Vallejo, California, a northwest suburb of San Francisco. Reared on church music, Sylvester was eight years old when he and three of his siblings (sans Loretta) recorded a 78 rpm gospel single for local release as the Stewart Four. A musical prodigy, he became known as Sly in early grade school,…

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My Chemical Romance

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Formed in 2001, My Chemical Romance played a big part in bringing emo mainstream. The band fused the rage of 1980s hardcore with gloomy introspection and a strong pop sensibility. Their mass appeal owed both to the cathartic nature of their songs and the band’s sense of theatre: Their 2006 record The Black Parade, a concept album about a dying man, featured angst-y, Queen-sized choruses. During concerts from the era singer Gerard Way would howl from a hospital bed while the band performed in matching black uniforms. Way graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1999…

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My Bloody Valentine

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Led by guitar visionary Kevin Shields, My Bloody Valentine were one of the most unique bands of the alt-rock era, introducing a groundbreaking concoction of discordant effects and fragile melodies and kick-starting Britain’s late-Eighties dream-pop scene. After moving from New York to Ireland at age six, Shields befriended Colm O’Ciosoig, who shared his obsession with pop music. In 1984 the two formed My Bloody Valentine, named for a B movie, with singer Dave Conway. It wasn’t until 1988’s Isn’t Anything, however, that MBV locked into its unusual, influential sound, inspired equally by the churning guitars of the Jesus and Mary…

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Motorhead

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Known to produce no less than 126 decibels in its live shows England’s Motörhead is easily one of the world’s loudest rock & roll bands. The heavy-metal group’s raunchy leather biker image underlined its fascination with violence, as did such album titles as Overkill, Bomber, and Iron Fist. Motörhead ‘s hard-and-fast sound prefigured the thrash and speed-metal genres of the late ’80s and ’90s, and the group was cited as an influence by Guns n’ Roses (who had Motörhead open on their 1992 U.S. tour) and Metallica. Bassist/vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, formerly with progressive British rockers Hawkwind, put together Motörhead in…

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Motley Crue

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The poster boys for Eighties hair metal, Mötley Crüe parlayed whip-lash hard-rock songs, melodic power ballads and a hedonistic image into platinum-level heavy-metal superstardom, topping the charts with Dr. Feelgood (Number One, 1989) and coming close with Theatre of Pain (Number Six, 1985), Girls, Girls Girls (Number Two, 1987) and a greatest-hits collection, Decade of Decadence – ’81-’91 (Number Two, 1991). The Crue still record and tour, though many Americans remember the band less for their music than for their womanizing and insane chemical intake. The Crüe chronicled their exploits in their best-selling 2001 tell-all book The Dirt. Nikki Sixx…

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Moby

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Often tagged the king of techno —as well as the first face of techno —Moby is notable among the hordes of anonymous DJs merely because he has stepped out from behind his turntable to seek the attention typically awarded only to rock stars. Yet his music —a symphonic combination of disco beats, punk-rock speed, and anthemic lyrics —withstands the focus. Conveniently, Richard Melville Hall’s nickname, given to him as a child (in reference to his great-great-great-uncle Herman Melville’s Moby Dick), fits perfectly with the pseudonyms of other techno artists like Aphex Twin, the Orb, and the Prodigy. But Moby’s devout…

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Minutemen

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The Minutemen were one of the most adventurous hardcore punk bands, taking the music to places no one expected it could go —into funk, free jazz, even folk. Fiercely independent and to the far left politically, the trailblazing power trio delivered brief, angular blasts of formless music at breakneck speeds, though with a gutsy, unaffected groove. Mike Watt and D. Boon were childhood friends in the blue-collar town of San Pedro, California, when they formed the Reactionaries, a fairly conventional rock four-piece. With the rise of punk in the late ’70s, they renamed themselves the Minutemen (for the new brevity…

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Megadeth

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When guitarist Dave Mustaine was booted out of Metallica early in its career, he formed Megadeth, which continued his former group’s thrash-metal style with even more speed and intensity. Mustaine was seven when his parents divorced, and his family wound up living in poverty in the Southern California suburbs. During his teens, Mustaine’s mother was often away, leaving him with his sisters; he told a journalist that a brother-in-law once punched him in the face for listening to Judas Priest. Mustaine’s revenge was to join a heavy-metal band, and in 1981 he became a founding member of Metallica [see entry],…

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Meat Loaf

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It’s unclear exactly when and how Marvin Lee Aday became Meat Loaf, but by 1966, when he moved from his native Texas to California, he’d formed a band alternately known as Meat Loaf Soul and Popcorn Blizzard, which, until its breakup in 1969, had opened shows for the Who, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Johnny and Edgar Winter, and Ted Nugent. He then auditioned for and got a part in a West Coast production of Hair and traveled with the show to the East Coast and then to Detroit, where he hooked up with a singer named Stoney to record…

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Joe Cocker

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British white-soul singer Joe Cocker parlayed Ray Charles–ish vocals and an eccentric stage presence into a string of late-’60s hits only to suffer from his excesses in drugs and alcohol by the mid-1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, he went from tragic figure to well-respected interpreter, and his gritty, powerful voice remains one of the most distinctive in rock & roll. Cocker attended Sheffield Central Technical School and worked as a gas fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board. In 1959 he joined his first group, the Cavaliers, playing drums and harmonica. He moved to lead vocals in 1961,…

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Jackie Wilson

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Jackie Wilson was one of the premier black vocalists and performers of the late 1950s and the 1960s. No other singer of his generation so perfectly combined James Brown’s rough, sexy style and Sam Cooke’s smooth, gospel-polished pop. Wilson grew up in a rough section of Detroit. In the late ’40s, he lied about his age, entered the Golden Gloves, and won in his division. He later quit at his mother’s request. He had sung throughout his childhood, and after high school, he began performing in local clubs. He was discovered by Johnny Otis at a talent show in 1951.…

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Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin was perhaps the premier blues-influenced rock singer of the late Sixties, and certainly one of the biggest female rock stars of her time. Even before her death, her tough blues-mama image only barely covered her vulnerability. The publicity concerning Joplin’s sex life and problems with alcohol and drugs made her something of a legend. In recent years, periodic attempts to recast her life and work within the context of feminism have met with mixed results. Sadly, Joplin was one of three major Sixties rock stars (the others being Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison) to die at the beginning…

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Howlin’ Wolf

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Delta bluesman Howlin’ Wolf was one of the most influential and imposing musicians of the post-World War II era, and his later electric Chicago blues — featuring his deep, lupine voice — helped shape the sound of rock & roll. Numerous blues-based rock artists, from the Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton, sang his praises and helped sustain his career throughout the 1960s and beyond. Chester Arthur Burnett, named after the 21st president, was born on June 10, 1910, in White Station, Mississippi, a small railroad stop in the state’s hill country between Aberdeen and West Point. At 13, he ran…

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Evanescence

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Some say the devil is in the details. If that’s true, the particulars of the Evanescence story add up to an epic allegory involving a Judas-like betrayal of the band’s early Christian fanbase during its rise from a little-known Southern goth-metal band with religious underpinnings to a massively successful mainstream band in the secular pop world. From the beginning, Evanescence was well crafted and well-marketed. Lead singer Amy Lee had the right goth look, from her ghoulish make-up and left-eyebrow piercing to her Victorian-style clothing, corsets and fishnets. Her ex-boyfriend, original guitarist and co-founder Ben Moody, was in a Christian…

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Elliott Smith

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Elliott Smith emerged from the Pacific Northwest rock scene of the early 1990s, a performer soaked in both grunge’s soul-baring angst and Beatles-infused pop. Smith’s refined sense of arrangement and composition made him a singular figure among singer-songwriters and produced a stellar solo catalog until his presumed suicide in 2003. The Texas native, born Stephen Paul Smith, spent his teenage years in Portland, OR. After graduating from Hampshire college in Amherst, Massachusetts, Smith moved back to Portland with university pal Neil Gust in 1992 and started the group Heatmiser. The band released two albums on Frontier Records — 1993’s Dead…

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Echo & The Bunnymen

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The standard-bearers of Liverpool’s neopsychedelic movement, Echo and the Bunnymen’s moody, atmospheric music combined punk’s energy and edge with the Doors’ poetic theatricality. Self-consciously literary, outspoken, and sometimes arrogant (singer Ian McCulloch was known as “Mac the Mouth”), they never matched their popularity in Europe in the United States. Their influence can be seen in the attitudes and guitar textures of such ’90s English bands as Suede. The Bunnymen were formed when McCulloch was kicked out of an early version of the Teardrop Explodes. (He had earlier played with Teardrop leader Julian Cope in the seminal Liverpool punk band the…

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Depeche Mode

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Depeche Mode were the quintessential Eighties techno-pop band, parlaying a fascination with synthesizers into huge success on the British charts (where its albums consistently went Top 10) and eventually on the U.S. pop chart. Whereas a more traditional four-piece rock band might feature three members playing instruments and the fourth singing and perhaps playing guitar or bass, the lineup of this British group — whose name was inspired by a French fashion magazine — was described like this in a 1993 press release: “Dave (Gahan) is the singer, Martin (Gore) the songwriter, Alan (Wilder) the musician, and Andrew (Fletcher) the…

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Death Cab For Cutie

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Death Cab for Cutie were an unlikely success story in the 2000s, a band that started on a small Seattle-based label and gradually became standard-bearers for a style of sweet indie rock that emphasized gentle melodies and vulnerable, emotionally candid lyrics. Unlike many of their contemporaries, their relatively slow ascent mirrors the pattern set by bands like R.E.M. in the 1980s, they first built a foundation among a dedicated fanbase and then graduated to more commercial appeal. Taking a name from a 1960s rockabilly song about a girl name Cutie who gets in a taxi accident after cheating on her…

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Daft Punk

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With their thoroughly modern disco sound — a blend of house, funk, electro and techno — this French duo were one of the biggest electronic music acts of the late 1990s and 2000s. Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter wore shiny droid costumes at every live show (and only allowed themselves to be photographed in said costumes) but their music was only sometimes robotic: Daft Punk were as influenced by rock bands like AC/DC as they were by classic disco acts. De Homem-Christo and Bangalter met in a Paris school in 1987 and eventually formed an indie rock band,…

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Crosby, Stills and Nash

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The close, high harmonies and soft-rock songs of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash as Crosby, Stills, & Nash—or CSN&Y, with the frequent addition of Neil Young —sold millions of albums and were widely imitated throughout the Seventies. The members were as volatile as their songs were dulcet, and since 1970 have continually split up and regrouped. Rock’s first supergroup, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young each had successful recording careers before coming together—Crosby with the Byrds, Stills and Young with Buffalo Springfield, and Nash with the Hollies—and each has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

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Cream

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Fronted by Eric Clapton, Cream was the prototypical power trio, playing a mix of blues, rock and psychedelia while focusing on chunky riffs and fiery guitar solos. In a mere three years, the band sold 15 million records, played to SRO crowds throughout the U.S. and Europe, and redefined the instrumentalist’s role in rock. Cream formed in mid-1966 when drummer Ginger Baker left Graham Bond’s Organisation, bassist Jack Bruce (formerly of Bond’s band) left Manfred Mann, and Clapton, already a famous guitarist in the U.K., left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Debuting at the 1966 Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival, Cream established…

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Counting Crows

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Released in the fall of 1993 —smack in the middle of the alternative grunge boom —the Counting Crows’ debut album August and Everything After sounded like a blast from rock’s more organic, rootsier past. Dreadlocked frontman Adam Duritz managed to simultaneously draw comparisons to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison with his literate songwriting and soulful vocals, while the band’s music seemed tapped from the same Americana wellspring that nourished the Band. The album spawned a handful of Modern Rock hit singles —”Mr. Jones” (#2, 1993) and “Round Here” (#7, 1994) —climbed to #4, and went on to sell 7 million…

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Coldplay

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When Coldplay issued their debut, Parachutes in 2000, many assumed they only succeeded because they filled the void left by Radiohead, who had became less radio friendly and more experimental with each new release. No doubt, Coldplay’s sound —elegant, melodic, vaguely spacey and very dramatic — bore plenty of similarity to mid-1990s Radiohead. But the group’s hooks, sharpened by frontman Chris Martin’s ability to pull heartstrings, and the their willingness to evolve their sound, gave Coldplay staying power. As a result, the band became one of the most commercially successful acts of the new millennium. Coldplay formed at the University…

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Chuck Berry

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Chuck Berry melded the blues, country, and a witty, defiant teen outlook into songs that have influenced virtually every rock musician in his wake. In his best work — about 40 songs (including “Round and Round,” “Carol,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Back in the U.S.A.,” “Little Queenie”), recorded mostly in the mid- to late 1950s — Berry matched some of the most resonant and witty lyrics in pop to music with a blues bottom and a country top, trademarking the results with his signature double-string guitar lick. Presenting Berry the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2000,…

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Chicago

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Chicago followed the lead of Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Electric Flag by grafting a horn section onto a rock band. For over a quarter of a century, Chicago has produced 20 Top 10 hits and 15 platinum or multiplatinum albums and sold more than 100 million records. School friends Terry Kath and Walter Parazaider formed the band in 1967 and named it the Big Thing. After they were joined by James William Guercio, who had worked with the Buckinghams and Blood, Sweat and Tears as a Columbia staff producer, they changed their name to the Chicago Transit Authority.…

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Cat Stevens

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For the balance of the 1970s Cat Stevens was a trans-Atlantic superstar whose soft, romantic, hooky, and often-mystical singles were Top Ten mainstays. After eight gold albums in a row, the commercially and critically lauder singer/songwriter’s star began to fade. By the late-1970s, following a near-drowning experience, Stevens converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusef Islam dropping out of music throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s. By the turn of the millennium, however, he began to make a comeback albeit under a different persona. The son of a Greek father and Swedish mother, Stevens (b. Steven…

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Carl Perkins

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One of the architects of rock & roll, Carl Perkins is best known as the writer and original singer of the rockabilly anthem “Blue Suede Shoes” (#2, 1956). Along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins was one of the seminal rockabilly artists on Sam Phillips’ Sun label, but a series of bad breaks, followed by personal problems, undermined his solo career. Despite that, Perkins persevered, creating a body of work that has been both critically acclaimed and extremely influential on songwriters, guitar players, and singers alike. Perkins grew up poor in a sharecropping family that…

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Captain Beefheart

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The irregular rhythms, grating harmonies, and earthy, surreal lyrics of Captain Beefheart’s songs and his blues-inflected seven-and-a-half-octave vocals (or, depending on who you believe, three-octave; the voice is impressive no matter what) suggest a near-chaotic improvised blend of Delta blues, avant-garde jazz, 20th-century classical music, and rock & roll. Actually, Beefheart’s repertoire is a sort of modern chamber music for rock band, since he plans every note and teaches the band their parts by ear. Because it breaks so many of rock’s conventions at once, Beefheart’s music has always been more influential than popular, leaving its mark on Tom Waits,…

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Can

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European art-rock band Can was one of the first groups to use electronic “treatments” of instruments, and it pioneered an exploratory postpsychedelic-rock style that would later influence Amon Duul, Ash Ra Temple, and the generations of new-wave, techno, experimental postrock, and ambient artists that followed. Can’s sound was based on repetitive, trance-inducing rhythms overlaid with atmospheric noise and sudden bursts of distorted electronic effects, with instruments often unrecognizable in the mix. The debut Monster Movie finds the approach still rather primitive. But when vocalist Malcolm Mooney was taken ill and replaced by Kenji “Damo” Suzuki —who the group discovered singing…

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Bono

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With his soaring voice, larger-than-life personality, and ostentatious stage performances — he has climbed the scaffolding at concerts and assumed alter egos like the Fly and Mirror Ball Man — Bono not only helped steer the course for post-Eighties rock & roll, but also became pop music’s global ambassador. Away from the studio and stage, the U2 frontman has helped raise awareness of social causes ranging from world hunger and AIDS to third-world debt relief. He’s met with and won the praises of world leaders from George W. Bush to the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and France. He’s been granted…

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Bon Jovi

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Like an American Def Leppard with a Bruce Springsteen fixation, Bon Jovi used good hooks, pumped-up production and stadium-sized passion to forge the pop-metal alloy that made them one of the dominant mainstream rock bands of the Eighties. As a working-class teenager, John Francis Bongiovi, Jr. (born March 2nd, 1962 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey) showed little interest in school, preferring to sing with his friend David Bryan Rashbaum in local bands. Cousin Tony Bongiovi, owner of New York City’s Power Station recording studio, let Bon Jovi sweep floors there and record demos with such musicians as Aldo Nova and…

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Bob Marley

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The first major rock artist to come out of a Third World country, Bob Marley did more than anyone else to popularize reggae around the globe. He was a gifted songwriter who could mix protest music and pop as skillfully as Bob Dylan, and his songs of determination, rebellion, and faith became important parts of the rock and pop canon. Thirty years after Marley’s death, hits like “No Woman No Cry” and “Is This Love” sound as vibrant as ever. Marley left his rural home for the slums of Kingston, Jamaica at age 14. When he was 17, Jimmy Cliff…

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Blondie

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Blondie started as an ironic update of trashy 1960s pop. But by the end of the 1970s, they were far and away the most commercially successful and adventurous survivors of the New York punk scene, having released three platinum albums (Parallel Lines, Eat to the Beat, and Autoamerican). In bleached-blond lead singer Deborah Harry, new wave’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, the group had an international icon. The group’s repertoire, written by Harry and boyfriend Chris Stein, inhabited the melodic side of punk and grew increasingly eclectic while Harry’s deadpan delivery remained consistent. Born in Miami, Harry was adopted at age…

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Bjork

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The biggest rock band to emerge from Iceland, the Sugarcubes drew notice for their offbeat songs and singer Björk Gudmundsdóttir, an elfin womanchild with a powerful, keening voice. Björk, whose stepfather had been in an Icelandic rock band, recorded her first album at age 11, and later joined Theyr, a legendary Icelandic hard-rock band whose drummer was Siggi Baldursson. Einar Örn Benediktsson launched Gramm Records, and with Bragi Ólafsson formed punk band Purrkur Pillnikk, whose debut EP reached Iceland’s Top 20 in 1981. In 1982 Theyr recorded with Jaz Coleman and Youth of British punk band Killing Joke (who’d suddenly…

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Beastie Boys

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Beastie Boys were the first big white rap group, and they have stayed popular — at times hugely popular — for nearly a quarter century. After emerging from New York’s hardcore punk underground in the early Eighties, the trio crossed over into the mainstream in 1986 with their first full-length album, Licensed to Ill, the first rap album to reach Number One. Featuring “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” (Number 7) and “Brass Monkey” (Number 48 pop, Number 83 R&B, 1987), the album sold 720,000 copies in six weeks, becoming one of Columbia’s fastest-selling debuts ever. In the…

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Bauhaus

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Resembling a convention of the undead and playing songs distinguished by spare, atmospheric guitars, sonorous, death-rattle vocals, and deliberate tempos, Bauhaus was the progenitor of gothic rock. Its founding members have gone on to pursue various other projects in the realm of underground rock. In 1978 brothers David and Kevin Haskins formed the Craze with Daniel Ash, an old school friend. With the addition of vocalist Peter Murphy they became Bauhaus 1919, named after the German architectural group whose credo was “Less is more.” The “1919” was dropped for their 1979 debut single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” an eight-minute epic later…

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Barenaked Ladies

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After a decade of mainstream success in their native Canada, the Barenaked Ladies finally hit big in America with their fifth album, Stunt, and its #1 smash, “One Week.” A deliberately silly hybrid of pop and “rap,” the song and its accompanying video were unavoidable during the summer of 1998, establishing the Ladies as the biggest Canadian cross-over act since Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan. Cofrontmen and childhood friends Steven Page and Ed Robertson began writing music together after attending a summer music camp in 1988. After a couple of years performing in Toronto as a duo, Page and Robertson…

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Axl Rose

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For the past decade and a half, Axl Rose has ranked among music’s most sensationalized sideshow attractions. But as with his fellow Indiana-native Michael Jackson — with whom both his lyrics and lifestyle always shared a certain palpable paranoia, apparently traceable back to an intensely traumatic childhood — nobody would care about him if he hadn’t once been one of the most aurally and visually exciting performer of his day. With Guns N’ Roses, Rose’s whip-cracking mid-Eighties falsetto attained uncharted heights across the emotional spectrum: “Axl sings the most beautiful melodies with the most aggressive tones and the most outrageous,…

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