Love, Listen, Loathe: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, The Beatles

babykinsilk05

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Funny but Interseting article on the BIG three...

Love, Listen, Loathe 04.07.10: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, the Beatles
Posted by Chris Crowing on 04.07.2010

It’s Big Hitter Week as the King of Pop take on the Fab Four and King himself in a battle for supremacy, or at the very least my approval…


Last week I said I was out of inspiration, and I couldn't get any traction on any of your marvellous suggestions, so I decided to break with my usual habit of picking bands I quite like and thought about doing a pop week, maybe Backstreet Boys, nSync & Take That, or Enrique Iglesias, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams or something similar but I just couldn't get traction on that either. I wanted to do something popular, given the generally alternative mode of my columns so far but I couldn't find myself to be constructive with the pop angle.

The it hit me – why not go for three of the biggest selling, most influential acts in music? That'll get some hits, spark some controversy and be a decent column until I think of something more personal, right? Well I hope so, so here it goes…

Week Two: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and the Beatles suggested by Providence


Elvis Presley

Of course, Elvis was (supposedly) dead before I was born, but it's next to impossible to escape the impact of the King as a fan of music, movies or pop culture in general. Being British, not a fan of manufactured pop music or cabaret, I was never exactly in the King's target market. He's just more than a bit too cheesy, too cynical in his reinventions and too watered down compared to the stuff I love from the same time period to be really impressed.

That said, you can't really dismiss an artist who still troubles the charts a full generation after their (supposed) death and two generations after their creative/commercial peak, who has a slew of moves and catchphrases well embedded in the popular lexicon (‘thank-you very much' (said with a sneer), Elvis has left the building, etc.) and who a significant number of people refuse to believe is dead.


I guess I need to do this in two parts – what's GOOD about Elvis, and what's BAD. First, the good…

Elvis is largely credited (by the masses at least, I guess there is no substitute for good marketing) as being a pioneer of rock and roll and for popularising the genre for mainstream (given the time period that means White) audiences. In the eyes of many, Elvis is the ultimate musical/cultural grandfather of acts as disparate as Justin Timberlake, Metallica and the Jonas Brothers.

Furthermore he is one of the arch-typical musical chameleons, changing his image and the nature of his work to better suit the zeitgeist of the time from his folksy cowboy look, through the black jumpsuit, the white suit, the black shirt, and finally the white & rhinestone superman look and each look's respective distinctive musical sound. In this way, his most telling successors would be like likes of David Bowie and Madonna.

Elvis' enduring legacy is arguably more tangible in the continuing commercial value of his estate, and there is still a considerable industry in Elvis merchandise and I'd imagine there are at least a few hundred (if not thousand) people who's daily income is reliant on ‘official' Elvis memorabilia and things like tours of Graceland and the continuing sales of his music. If you throw in ‘unofficial' merchandise, then the Estate of Elvis Aaron Presley probably has a higher GDP than a reasonably sized and well-run country. In this respect, Elvis legacy can bee seen best in those bands who have embraced the concept of putting their likeness/logo on every conceivable consumer good, such as KISS or Hannah Montana.


I think that covers the good, onto the bad…

I believe in credit where it's due, and while Elvis' runaway popularity may have popularised elements of rock ‘n roll to the idiot majority who only believe what the mainstream media tells them, he was NO pioneer and the very assertion that he was tends to make my blood boil. I believe, (and I'm sure even the staunchest Elvis fans must know deep down) that Elvis was a charismatic performer, who struck upon a sound which was a little bit MORE than what his white contemporaries were using by the sheer expedient of stealing it from more competent black musicians. At that point his management took over and riding the initial wave of controversy on his SHOCKING stage antics (yep, hip thrusts were on a par with ripping up Bibles and exposing yourself once upon a time) he became a cross-over star and that could have been it.

Instead he got drafted, sent to Germany for a tour, then came home as the clean-cut American hero for the next stage of his career. Then once that got tired, he moved to Vegas and became a parody of himself. Then he got really fat and died.

OR, he switched lives with an Elvis impersonator (who got fat & died) while the king himself ended up in a retirement home in Texas, fighting off zombies. The world would be a much funner place if the story of Bubba Ho Tep was true...

Anyways, Elvis DID NOT invent modern rock music. Indeed I regard his career to be a manufactured anachronism, with all the real work done by guys like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, BB King (and a host of their contemporaries) with credit also due to artists like Glenn Miller, Bill Halley and others.

The next step was taken by acts like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, directly from the real pioneers, with Elvis career standing out between, but not truly linked to the main thrust of progress.

Hence, he's not a pioneer or in truth, that influential.

If I was being pithy, I would also blame Elvis, at least in part, for the decline of American country music from a worthy variation on the folk theme, to the rhinestoned up, super tacky, commercial cowboy nonsense we see today. You see I'm a HUGE fan of folk music, but it seems as soon as anyone approaches the country mainstream, they become so cheesy, neutered and frankly TASTELESS and I can't help but get the feeling that it was Elvis success which caused that shift.

It might sound that I'm pretty down on Elvis, but as a rule I have no great problem with the King, it only bugs me when people seem to want to big him up as a fantastic talent, as an innovative and influential musical figure.

Let's see what Elvis indisputably WAS. He was a charismatic performer, a competent musician and compelling (if not technically brilliant) singer. He WAS one of the artists to first forge the modern image of the pop/rock star, to create the synergy between music and style into PRODUCT, to see the advantage in creating hysteria, to see the value in the concept of image rights. Not all of these things are good, but they are all important, for the commercial viability of the music industry if not so much for it's soul.


I seem to have gone this whole bit without discussing Elvis' individual songs. The thing is, I don't have a massive opinion - almost everything he did was done well, but unspectacularly and to a shinier, yet less interesting than someone else had done before. There are a few Elvis songs I quite like, in a sing-a-long easy listening sort of way and they are the songs I've added videos of.


Michael Jackson

At the commencement, I have to make it clear I will not discuss any of Michael's controversies – just his music. Sorry to disappoint.

In my opinion, Michael Jackson is the greatest Pop icon of our time, and the only artist who can compare in longevity, quality of back catalogue or that (apparently laudable) chameleon-factor is Madonna - but I don't LIKE Madonna. ***** however, has been a guilty pleasure for a long time, as underneath my gnarly metal facade is a disco loving, groovesome, funk soul brother. And if you find that terminology offensive, take it up with Fatboy Slim.

Let's look at *****'s career. Starting out as the youngest, bestest member of the Jackson 5 at the age of SIX, he made his solo debut at the age of thirteen in 1971 and in the ensuing 38 years produced ten solo records, some of which go down as the most influential and certainly the best selling in modern music history.

While the Jackson 5 came storming out the gates, their momentum waned, and it took ***** separating himself from the familial group to find his own niche. Teaming up with long term producer Quincy Jones, not to mention a pantheon of top notch songwriters (Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder) he produced the Off The Wall record, which was actually his FIFTH solo record, but the first outside 'the Jacksons' franchise. A stunningly realised piece of disco-pop, it wasn't even a hint of what was to come...


*****'s next record was an oft-overlooked release called Thriller. I as only one year old when this album came out, but these songs became the background-radiation soundtrack to my youth, in a way I only appreciated when I was much older.

"Thriller" itself was arguably the single of the 80s, and solidified ***** as a cross-over star for mainstream (white) audiences and confirmed the pre-eminence of the music video as one of the prime media for popularising a musical artist - a medium which Michael would continue to excel in. Add to that Eddie Van Halen plays the guitar solo, it's got ZOMBIES in it and that's just a whole ice bath full of COOL.


That said, my personal favourites from the record are the 'other' singles "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" (Ok, there were four other hit singles from the album, but I think these three are enough to be going on with!) as they both rely on a solid musical groove and soulful singing and storytelling lyrics. They are the steak to Thriller's sizzle. This is shown in recent years as both of these songs have been covered more than a few times, while "Thriller" is kinda untouchable (unless it's by a formation dance team of Korean inmates...)

I seriously urge anyone to check out Chris Cornell's acoustic version of "Billie Jean", and the Fall Out Boy version of "Beat It is the best thing they've ever done. Which isn't saying much, mind...

*****'s career would never be the same again as this record catapulted him to a level of fame previously only shared by Elvis & the Beatles (that's why they are all together in this category.) Is it co-incidence that all the genuine controversy started around this time that he became the most famous, recognisable celebrity in the world? I don't think so.

Michael's next record produced less-sales, but is STILL one of the biggest selling records of all time, and has the distinction of having five singles top the Billboard 100 chart.

Unlike most modern popstars, who seem to have one decent single followed by two or three less-good ones, which rely on the fact that the artist is a star to sell them, the singles from Bad (and *****'s other records, in fairness) were wall to wall quality. Which modern popstar has released songs as good as "bad", "Smooth Criminal", "The Way You Make Me Feel", and "Leave Me Alone" all in a row?

Almost DESPITE it's memorable (for being fun, rather than especially good) cover by Alien Ant Farm, "Smoot Criminal" remains probably my personal favourite Jackson song...


I'm not such a big fan of the next stage in Jackson's career as his albums become longer, more impenetrable and somewhat self-indulgent. For all the critical and commercial acclaim, I do NOT like "Black or White" considering the song to be quite dull and the message to be too blunt - it preaches to the choir, and will change no-ones racist attitudes - and somewhat hypocritical given *****'s body dysmorphic issues. Indeed the song I like best from Dangerous is the title track, which I loved when it came out (when I was ten.)

The 'new' portion of HIStory was better, with "You Are Not Alone", "They Don't Care About Us" and "Scream" some of the best pop music released in the nineties. Passionate, musically impressive and emotive, these songs showed that despite the increasing mediocrity of the industry Jackson had helped to form, he could still evolve, still produce something special.


For similar reasons to my dislike of "Black & White", I'm not a fan of "Earth Song" - it's just not that interesting or compelling as a song and the lyrical content is overly preachy, guilt-trippy and for an artist who has benefited from mass-consumer culture, somewhat hypocritical. These are small concerns.

I'll round off *****'s career by saying the remix record Blood on the Dance Floor despite being one of Jackson's weaker efforts is better than most pop music these days and songs like "Blood on the Dance Floor", "Ghosts" and "Morphine" show that Jackson still had relevance and was still evolving as an artist even as court cases, illness and entropy overtook his career.

Michael Jackson is indisputably the biggest selling musician of all time, which is really saying something given the company I've placed him in this week. His influence from a musical perspective is oft overlooked, compared to his commercial and marketing achievements and especially his choreography but he should be considered one of the greatest composers and multi-instrumentalists of our time.


the Beatles

I used to HATE the Beatles. Growing up as a teenager in the indie-obsessed UK of the 90s, the Beatles were venerated as the root of all which is good and awesome in music, by a slew of bands with a combined one tenth of their creativity.

This massive adulation and the general acceptance that the Fab Four were the best thing ever, REALLY put me off them once I broke away from indie mediocrity and started investigating louder, more interesting lands.

It took a LONG time for me to come back to the Beatles, and I can pinpoint the turning point.

The first episode of the the Radio One Rock Show which was instituted the corporation because of the increasing commercial success of alternative rock in the UK in the late 90s (by alternative I mean things like metal, nu-metal, grunge etc. because in the UK, things like indie confusingly tend to constitute mainstream rock) has as it's first guest appearance, the man, the myth, the legend - Lemmy. For the uninitiated, that's the moustachioed, be-warted frontman of Motorhead.

Now as a committed metalhead, a radio show committed to my kind of music became necessary listening (and the show was damned good for the first few years, and is enjoying a resurgence under Daniel P Carter at the moment) and the appearance of a living legend like Lemmy made it doubly so.

When asked for his choice of a song to play, Lemmy said (and I'll quote this as memory best serves)...

"I know you kids might think this is some tired old shit, but i remember hearing this and thinking 'what the fuck, that's incredible' and it really inspired me to get into this music business. The bass-line is also some right impressive shit."

Lemmy swears like a trooper, but he means every word, and on the subject of credible rock, I (and many others) regard him as a bit of an authority. The song he had chosen was this...


So I decided to look closer at these indie deities I had so callously discarded...

It may come as a surprise to many, but the Beatles only existed as a recording, touring band for eight years.

Their education in the folk & rock bars of Hamburg and Liverpool notwithstanding, their first single, "Love Me Do" was released in 1962 and their last recordings were released in 1970. Given the depth and duration of their legacy, their continued critical and commercial success that is fucking incredible.

In those eight years, they released twelve records, each a paragon of the style they chose to evoke at the time, and therein lies the greatest compliment I can pay the Beatles.

Their early records reflected their first influences, the 'rock' influences of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and the 'pop' influences like Roy Orbison which dominated the charts at the time, produced well crafted sing-along pop songs with a credible rock edge. Effectively following Elvis' lead in merging pop hooks with rock drive, this period shot them from debut single, little-band-from-Liverpool to mega-selling transatlantic sensations.


However only a few years passed before the sound started to evolve, becoming noticeably 'heavier' than had gone before, but also tinkering with acoustic and folk music to liberally kick down the walls of what was expected from their (variously) skiffle, beat or Liverpool sound.

The Help! record, despite technically being a soundtrack to a rather awful film shows the increased weight of their repertoire with songs like "Ticket to Ride" combined with McCartney's sense of melody on the slightly out-of-place "Yesterday."

Rubber Soul incorporates folk rock influences from the likes of Bob Dylan and the Byrds - and is also partially credited with Dylan's retaliatory move onto electric guitar in the following years.

Revolver was another step forward, with changes in style which would come in the decade afterwards to be called 'progressive' (especially "Elanor Rigby"), with added political overtones ("Taxman") and the first hints of psychedelia ("Yellow Submarine".)

While Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is widely regarded as one of the most important, influential and best albums of all time, I'm not that much of a fan. This is because, I don't really like psychedila and that almost dreamy feel to the bulk of late 60s, early 70s music is kinda lost on me. That said, I recognise the album as a further evolution in the Beatles' sound, and a landmark record in popular music - it also has two of their most recognisable songs "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

The Magical Mystery Tour is one of my favourite Beatles releases, merging the folk, hard rock and psychedilia to include a canon of awesome songs like "the Magical Mystery Tour", "The Fool on the Hill", "I am The walrus", "Hello, Goodbye", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Penny Lane" and "All You Need is Love."

The White Album was regarded as something of a bible by my musically talented friends in high school and it is indeed an accomplished record - but for me the most telling songs are "Back in the USSR" which again shows the increasing pace of hard rock, so soon to become heavy metal, and George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", which remains one of the most sublime things I've ever heard.


Abbey Road and Let it Be round out the Beatles catalogue on a strong note, despite the much-documented internal tensions in the band, songs like "Come Together", "Let it Be" and their last single, "the Long and Winding Road" are well worth their status as classics.


The Beatles can almost be seen as the symbol of the social revolution that was the 1960s, from their at-the-time shocking mop top haircuts and dangerous rock sound which looks/sounds positively tame by today's standards, their hair got longer, the songs got less conventional and heavier/more progressive and their fame did nothing but increase.

Massively successful and undeniably influential, I'd be pithy to mark them down because of my unreasoning despite for the indie scene in the UK.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about the Beatles is that they show that the distance between pop and rock isn't THAT far, one being merely another facet of the other. There are only twelve notes, a handful of chords and the limited range of the human voice to play with - can't we all just let it be?


The Reckoning

So, I LOVE Michael Jackson because when he was on, his music was SO MUCH FUN. End of story, I'm not saying he's BETTER than either of the acts below, just that I enjoy his work more and listen to it more.

I LISTEN to the Beatles because they are probably the most influential artists of the 20th century, and did it all in less time than it took me to learn to play the guitar. Respect is due, and I still find myself learning whenever the Beatles are on the stereo.

and I LOATHE Elvis Presley because for all his undoubted quality and success, he is more an icon to excess and to consumerism than to ay kind of musical, emotional or intellectual ideal.

http://www.411mania.com/music/colum...vis-Presley,-Michael-Jackson,-the-Beatles.htm
 

DuranDuran

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Interesting, considering it's coming from a fan of alternative & metal music. When I was in school, most metalheads didn't care for anything non-metal and didn't consider it real music, lol.
 

MarielovesMJ

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I like all of them (Elvis and Michael mostly), but I love the fact that the praise for Michael's music is from a metal rocker fan (these are the ones that HATE pop music.)! It's shows that anyone can appreciate his music.

I mean I am so amazed by this article, I'm just gonna Ignore the random use of that nickname.
 
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redcrush

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This was a great read. Thanks for posting it. Also, lol at the comments sections. It never fails.
 

Courtney

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Good read. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
No artist today can ever top those 3.
 

HIStory

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Great article!

I agree with most things written in it (except for his dislike of "Earth song", but then, I have to admit, I agree with his dislike of "Black or white" - though I love Dangerous as an album, especially songs like "Who is it", which is my all time fave Michael song). But all in all, generally well said! This is exactly I feel about these three acts!

I like Michael's music since I have first heard him, when I was about 10, (during "Bad" era) and I feel sometimes, for whatever reason, he is not getting the critical credit he deserves. There were long periods when he was considered "uncool" for music magazine editors (and the media in general) and it was required to put him down, but it was very often undeserved. Of course, he had better and worse efforts, but that's the case with every artist. All in all he was an innovative and exciting genius IMO.

I never got the Elvis hype, and I feel the same way about him as this guy: overrated, overhyped. And yes, that's all because he was white in a social environment, when people were not yet ready to take R&R from the original (black) acts. It's not his fault and like this guy, I don't have any problems with him personally, I just don't like it when people say he was the greatest artist ever and all that. By my definition he wasn't even an artist since to me an artist is creative and he never wrote songs.

The Beatles is tricky to me. I cannot say I'm a big fan (to me they sound a bit boring, I never got the same excitement from their music as from Michael's, or from soul/R&B music from the same era, for example). But I can see why they were influential and why they were big. It's just not my cup of tea, but I respect them and there I can understand the hype even if I don't relate to it.
 

analogue

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Nice article but is calling MJ J***o really needed? Would the world really come to an end of people called Michael Jackson by his birthname?

Sorry but i really despise the name J***o and i hate it because Michael himself hated it and i have enough respect for Michael not to call him that
 

Tony R

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^ I know. Rid the world of people who abbreviate.
 

analogue

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Saying that people call Michael Jackson J***o just to abbreviate is a lame execuse in my opinion. If they wanted to do that then why not call him MJ?
 

HIStory

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Nice article but is calling MJ J***o really needed? Would the world really come to an end of people called Michael Jackson by his birthname?

Sorry but i really despise the name J***o and i hate it because Michael himself hated it and i have enough respect for Michael not to call him that

While I agree that it's not needed, I have to say that sometimes people use that name because they don't know the history behind it and that it's offensive and Michael hated it. They think it's a kind nickname. Of course when they use it as deliberately offensive then I hate it too, but if they use it just out of ignorance I can forgive that.

I think in this case it's the latter since the article is positive on Michael! So let's just concentrate on that rather than the small negative thing!
 

144000

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While I agree that it's not needed, I have to say that sometimes people use that name because they don't know the history behind it and that it's offensive and Michael hated it. They think it's a kind nickname. Of course when they use it as deliberately offensive then I hate it too, but if they use it just out of ignorance I can forgive that.

I think in this case it's the latter since the article is positive on Michael! So let's just concentrate on that rather than the small negative thing!

i don't think it's so small. it's always small if it's not you. but if it's you, it's a different story. the stuff about that nickname has been blasted around the globe for years, and anybody who doesn't know about it, has been living under a rock. the controversy has been discussed on this board before, and Gaz put up an order against it. so..at the very least, if people on here have a problem with it, they shouldn't be intimidated out of expressing their anger towards it. and, what do you have to forgive? the nickname is geared toward somebody other than you. also...everybody that i have seen give the 'ignorant' explanation, themselves, know about it. so that makes the whole thing suspect, as well. it just seems that people are deemed 'ignorant' of things, only when it's convenient. but they are quite knowledgeable of things, if they have a stake in it.

as for the music portion here, i don't have to feel guilty about what i just said, because the music does have much merit, so while i appreciate what the guy says about the music, the reality is, it has the power over him, not vice versa. even haters can't resist it. there isn't anybody on this planet who doesn't know what billie jean sounds like. people who give MJ music good reviews aren't doing MJ any favors. people can't help but to listen to it. they might say different. music either draws people in, or they don't buy it. nobody does a musician any favors, when it comes to spending their money on music.
 
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HIStory

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Who intimidated who? You mean I intimidated someone because I said we shouldn't concentrate on the one negative bit in a generally positive article? LOL!

But OK then guys, let's pick the only small negative bit from a positive article and keep on harping on that rather than concentrate on what the article is really about.
 

Grand Master S

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Pretty good read, although I admittedly stopped reading after the Michael analysis because that's the point where I stopped caring, lol.

Can I just say, though, that even though I dislike "*****" being used as a casual nickname on the grounds that MJ himself hated it, it's really distracting reading articles like these and seeing it censored every single time. It makes the whole article look sinister when it's really not, and in actuality it highlights and emphasizes the name more so than hides it; at least that's what it does for me. When I read something about Michael somewhere other than this forum and I see "*****" being used by someone who doesn't mean for it to be offensive, I'm able to shrug it off (although I wish it wasn't used at all), but when I see it constantly censored it just makes me think about it that much more. Regardless of the extent of how much that word hurts different members of this board, all of us know exactly what's in place of those stars, and that word will be in your head whether you see it in text or in stars. Never really saw what censoring it accomplished, especially since several actual obscenities are allowed here. Just my two cents.
 

144000

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Who intimidated who? You mean I intimidated someone because I said we shouldn't concentrate on the one negative bit in a generally positive article? LOL!

But OK then guys, let's pick the only small negative bit from a positive article and keep on harping on that rather than concentrate on what the article is really about.

ok..we'll do that. like i said...it's not aimed at you, so of course you think it's small. doing an analysis, here...i posted to you, you responded to me. that indicates you are sensitive to my responses aimed at you. get my point? if you hadn't responded to me, i would have a harder time making my case.(not an impossible time.....just a harder time)

the music review is preaching to the choir.
if my main favorite artist was Elvis, and the guy got derrogatory with him, i'd have a problem, there, too.

if people are going to give good reviews about MJ music, why don't they do it with the Jennifer Batten approach. it's not that hard. doesn't take much effort.

there's not a person in here, that doesn't demand respect. it's the first rule of this site. why is it so hard to give it, the way they demand it, without drawing all the 'ignorance' cards? and when we see lack of it, happening elsewhere, why is it treated like such a foreign issue to some? why stir a hornet's nest, when you know you're going to stir one? i don't care how much i don't care for an artist. i make sure i use the full name of that artist.
 
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mistermaxxx

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interesting ready and interesting debates within the context. mj towers above all for me, i respect the songwriting and influence of the beatles and elvis had some songs and was very charismatic.

dude forgot Sinatra.as quincy jones said the 4 cornerstones of modern popular music.
 
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