So many variables determine what makes an artist or band “essential” — longevity, impact, influence, history. On-air and online, we celebrate the musicians who have shaped our cultural soundtrack for the past fifty years. Let’s love these FUV Essential artists while they’re here, and honor those who have departed too soon.
Sorry, Led Zep fans. Even though the band marks its 50th anniversary in 2018, the likelihood of a band reunion this year—or any year—is pretty much nil. But from Robert Plant's expanded tour with the Sensational Shape Shifters to a March tribute show at Carnegie Hall to a new 368-page illustrated book, there are plenty of celebratory Led Zep-releated events on the horizon.
Led Zeppelin (illustration by Andy Friedman)
Patti Smith, a poetic pugilist and rock 'n' roll revolutionary, has always had a profound understanding of American fury—and tenderness too.
Patti Smith (illustration by Andy Friedman)
A brilliant, complex man and musician, Marvin Gaye released his nine-song conceptual suite, 'What's Going On,' 45 years ago in May 1971. Following a perfect storm of despair and determination, Gaye not only transformed his own career, but the trajectory of contemporary protest albums. He also gave black Americans an album that defined their concerns.
Marvin Gaye (illustration by Andy Friedman)
The Talking Heads—David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison—will always be New York's envoys of its golden age of art punk, no wave, new wave and post punk, but they concurrently laid the foundations for the future of artists like Radiohead, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem.
Talking Heads (illustration by Andy Friedman)
Radiohead might cherish its outlier status and relish more cerebral tangents, but it's also a band that intimately understands the hearts of so many of its admirers.
Radiohead's Thom Yorke (illustration by Andy Friedman)
[Update for November 2018: Joni Mitchell turns 75 on November 7, and events are planned to celebrate this astonishing singer
Joni Mitchell (illustration by Andy Friedman)
The sardonic bite of "Loser" might have helped vault Beck Hansen into a label deal and a career, but it was almost regarded as a novelty song. Its loopy, self-deprecating refrain—"I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me"—wasn't a confession, but a challenge. Beck was always far more sophisticated and complex, a man on a long road of self-discovery.
Beck (photo courtesy of the artist)