Certainly, the topic of music is broad. There isn’t even verifiable evidence of the first instrument created. Granted, drums have a lengthy history, as ancient soldiers would row their ships to the beat of a hand slapping a hide stretched over a barrel. Animal horns were used by some cultures, and there are even some tales of prehistoric peoples blowing through birds’ hollow bones – perhaps a predecessor to today’s modern woodwinds.
For the sake of simplicity and conciseness, this article is going to focus on music from the 1900 to today. This era marks a turning point in music and musicians, as sheet music became more affordable to a wider cross section of the population. Unfortunately, this mostly deletes classical music, and two musical icons in Beethoven and Mozart.
The turn of the century ushered in ragtime and jazz. Actually, it ushered in ragtime, and a couple of decades later, jazz slowly stole the show. Ragtime is known for its bubbly, fast, syncopated rhythm, and is often associated with pre-war 20th century America. Revived for a while in the ’40′s, jazz musicians of the time would incorporate it into their gigs. It is said that history repeats itself, and so it went for ragtime; today, it’s a relic that is primarily used only to strike feelings of nostalgia in the listener.
Jazz, on the other hand, has stood the test of time. Ultimately, the main reason for this is most likely its blues roots; blues will never die, and jazz will forever be closely linked with blues music. It started in Chicago and moved south, which is where it matured and blossomed into a nationwide phenomenon, with legends like Louis Armstrong and James P. Johnson playing constantly.
The ’50′s and ’60′s thrust rock and roll on the scene, much to the chagrin of the elders during that time. Coincidently, the evolution of the electric guitar was unfolding simultaneously, allowing for sounds to be achieved that had never been heard before. Huge-name musicians oozed out of this era, including Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, the Beatles, and of course, Elvis.
That golden period of music is what laid the ground work for what we heard in the ’80′s and ’90′s. Pop-rock was introduced, with Madonna and Michael Jackson unequivocally headlining the decade. Metallica and Guns N Roses took rock to another level. As the ’80s turned to the ’90s, Nirvana introduced the grunge movement, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was an anthem for most kids going to school during that time.
While there is a wide variety of music today, this era will likely be known as the rap era. Superstars like 50 Cent, Eminem, Akon and Snoop have claimed this decade as their own, although Snoop has been around for while now.
Since everyone has their own opinion, I’ve opted to give a statistical top ten as opposed to an opinionated one. Here, from number ten to number one is the highest grossing (records and concerts) artists or bands of all time. The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, ABBA, Michael Jackson, Elvis and the Beatles. It should be noted that, in addition to making money while performing, these figures include income after death or dissolution of the band.