Much of what musical pioneers leave behind is difficult to quantify. Sure, success might be measured in albums sold, concert tickets and merchandise revenue, but that doesn't do much in terms of addressing those things an artist strives for creatively. Influence. Resonance. Cultural impact. Yes, the money is nice, but perhaps not always as important as the memories and mark left behind.
It brings up an interesting question. Using those difficult to define criterea as a guide, who might be considered the most important, the most successful, artist of the rock and roll era. It's a discussion my wife an I had last night. She voted for Michael Jackson. I argued in favor of James Brown. If we're being fair, then Elvis Presley must also be thrown into the mix. I mean, Elvis legitimized the raucous sound of rock. James Brown invented a totally new form of music -- twice. Michael Jackson was the master amalgamator, the artist who constantly and consistantly found ways to bridge the gaps between rock and pop and soul, establishing a sound that was unique yet accessable and crossed demegraphic lines like no artist before or since.
So let's start the discussion. Who ranks as the most significant artist of the rock era -- 1955 forward? Is there an artist I'm leaving off the list? Certainly an educated case might be made for Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney or Prince. Who do you see as the most culturally significant rock, pop, country or soul artist?
We'll also be discussing the artistic and cultural legacy of Michael Jackson today at 2 p.m. on a live chat at augustachronicle.com.