Yeah, yeah, we know. The top 20 greatest musicians of all time, in any genre. Where do we get off? Well, we'll tell you where we get off — at Accuracy Station. Our team of writers listened to thousands and thousands of hours of music for this list, digging deep into the annals of history and exploring the sounds of the entire globe. We painstakingly researched the shit out of practically all music ever made, modern and classical, popular and experimental, chart-topping and obscure. You may not agree with every artist on this list, but one thing is for certain: You're going to respect the hell out of it. -Ben Westhoff
20. Johannes Sebastian Bach
Bach was a total badass. His name is practically synonymous with Baroque music, and by the turn of the 18th century he had become its master composer. His choir, instrument, and orchestral arrangements are painstakingly technical and well-organized, and he was a compositional powerhouse. Over his lifetime, he produced over 200 cantatas, concertos, and suites, which are still considered among the most beautifully arranged pieces of all time. Not exactly a lightweight. -Chris Walker
19. The Rolling Stones
They may have claimed "It's only rock n' roll," but the music of the Rolling Stones helped define a generation. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the crew came to represent the edgier side of the British Invasion, serving as countercultural symbols of youthful rebellion and sexual liberation during a time of sweeping social change. By 1965 the Stones were dominating charts around the world. We owe much of today's pop-rock structures to the music they pioneered. -Chris Walker
18. Xian Xinghai
Chinese composer Xian Xinghai's 1939 epic Yellow River Cantata was written as a protest against the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. His seminal composition, it is a moving and patriotic call for solidarity. But Xinghai's legacy also includes over 300 other works, and his unique perspective on western classical traditions challenged his contemporaries to move beyond imitating European composers. In the process, he gave form to a distinctive Chinese art form that has guided generations of Eastern musicians. -Chris Walker
17. Notorious B.I.G.
The man born Christopher Wallace brought a swagger to hip-hop that other rappers today — fifteen years after his death — still can't touch. Considered by many to be the greatest MC ever, Biggie told complex and emotional stories through intricate rhymes that sounded effortless. Never contrived and never soft, he remains beloved by underground and mainstream fans alike. Just as his career was taking off, he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, the details of which are still disputed. -Chris Walker
16. Bob Marley
Reggae singer-songwriter Bob Marley has become a college-stoner icon, but in his embrace of the Rastafari movement he was as much a fighter as a lover. His political and social calls to action, which urged repatriation to Africa, are as galvanizing today as they were 40 years ago. Though he hailed from Jamaica, he remains perhaps the cultural icon of island countries and the African diaspora around the world.
The rest of the list will be rolled out this week on West Coast Sound.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!