In the world of rock and roll there is no cooler job then being
the front man or woman of a rock band. They are usually the lead
singer, and sometimes they play an instrument, but they are always
the person we focus on for the majority of the performance.
Sometimes we have seen some frontmen who don't fit the mold, they
can be quirky, awkward, less then svelt, but they are still up
there and we are down here. A few that come to mind are: David
Byrne (Talking Heads), Meatloaf, and the great Kurt Cobain. (Cobain
was so quirky and intense that he changed the definition of what a
rock star could be.)
So let's get into the meat of the discussion: The five greatest
frontmen in Rock and Roll, according to me. This is not scientific
or by any means official, it is, as always, simply an attempt to
stimulate discussion and debate between runs on the gondola or
between bottles of vino at the ski house.
#1A. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. The
front man that all frontmen are measured by. There is an amazing 50
years of strutting and squirming here to back up this statement,
but it's not just based on longevity, the dude rocks like nobody
else. And he does this without the benefit of a great singing
voice. As a singer myself, I still don't know how he does it.
#1B. Elvis Presley. The "King" was truly the
first frontman of rock and roll, and his early performances were
pretty much the blueprint for all that came after him. The moves,
the voice, and cheesy gold lamee were all new, brand new - well,
unless you were black and had seen the blues cats that Elvis grew
up studying as a young man. Some believe his later Las Vegas
persona hurt his stature as a legendary frontman. I believe the
tragic nature of his demise actually added to his legend. In
reality, he started another whole genre of fronting a band that was
taken on by guys like Neil Diamond, and Glen Campbell, instead of
trying to copy the "English Boys." Well played, King!
#2. James Brown. "Butane James," "Mr. Dynamite"
and of course the "Godfather of Soul" are just a few of his
nicknames. I'd say probably the most influential rhythm and blues
act of all time, much of it is based on his amazing stage show. The
cape, the fake fainting, the splits, the screams and, of course,
the sweating were all part of the legend of the "Hardest working
man in show business."
#3. Jimi Hendrix. Our first legend who, while
fronting a band, was donning an instrument, and in this case
donning it like no other human ever did. Jimi Hendrix, it can be
argued without to far of a stretch, is the most influential
electric guitar player of all time. He changed the entire specter
of what could be done onstage with an electric guitar. But as a
frontman his combination of unbridled sexuality and shyness was a
real breakthrough. Just YouTube his groundbreaking debut at the
Monterey Pop Festival in the Summer of Love in 1967.
#4. Prince. How can I leave out the "the purple
one"? I believe that Prince is actually an amalgam of all the above
artists. He has the dance moves and band leadership skills of James
Brown, the guitar yielding sexuality of Jimi Hendrix, and the
somewhat ambiguous gender bending of a Mick Jagger, a Little
Richard, and a David Bowie. I am extremely happy to see Prince
embraced by non R&B aficionados who IMHO are starved to have a
real rock star to enjoy. So I say: Enjoy!
#5. Jim Morrison of the Doors. There are only
five on this list (well six, really with 1A and 1B) so the cuts
were tough and this, my friends, being the last was the toughest.
(But don't worry I'll throw out some more names for debate sake
that almost made the cut.) Jim Morrison for a very short period of
time had the alchemy that many rock stars aspire to. He was a
good-looking chap (clad in those famous leather pants,) he had an
unmistakable signature sound to his voice, and he was dangerous.
Alleged Miami incident aside, ya never really knew what the "Lizard
King" was gonna do. And let's not forget Ed Sullivan banned him
from his show, but the best part of the banning was that after he
was told he said "how can we be banned we already did the Sullivan
Well that's the ticket my fellow mountain lovers, here's a few
for later discussions that I can't leave out in good conscience.
Roger Daltrey, Iggy Stooge, Iggy Pop, Little Richard, Michael
Jackson (yeah, I left him out), Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, and