They’re Icons, Whether You Like Them or Not

(Photo by Jeff Kravitz)

In more than a couple of ways, social media groups make me a little crazy.

I joined more than a few of these groups hoping to share intelligent musical thought processes and conversations with like-minded fans. And sometimes, that actually happens.

But more and more these days, I’m finding a cesspool of lowbrow people who can’t see beyond their own myopic self-image of what music was, is, should and should not be.

It’s a drag.

More than anything, these people seem to have trouble accepting the possibility that any music they don’t care for can be loved by millions of others nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong: until the late 90’s, I was right there with these people. But I got over it. These people need to do the same.

This thought process struck me one day when I read a Facebook post stating (paraphrased), “I’m sorry, but I don’t see how Kurt Cobain can be considered iconic.”

Had there been some well-considered thought process behind this, I would have understood. But the poster’s lack of understanding came down to one simple factor: she didn’t like his music.

Well I hate to break it to you, sister, but your individual love of an artist has next to nothing to do with said artist’s iconic status. That train leaves the station with or without you.

I like Nirvana. I’m a fan. But even if I wasn’t, I’m well aware of the mark Kurt Cobain and his band left on the sonic landscape in the early 90’s. Nirvana helped usher in the “Grunge” movement, which completely re-shaped rock and roll as we knew it. Now a few people have just muttered to themselves how much they hated grunge. And again, that’s beside the point.

(And to keep things simple, let’s put aside any personal/character flaws attached to anyone discussed. What I’m talking about comes strictly from a musical standpoint.)

How do you even define “iconic” where music is concerned? In most ways, I believe that to be highly subjective. That being said, if a metric ton of people share that highly subjective belief, then I believe you may have achieved something like iconic status.

Is the music groundbreaking? Did it change the way the genre was perceived? Was it embraced by the masses (relative to the given population of that particular genre)? Is the music now part of that genre’s lexicon? Do you know who the artist is, even if you can’t name any of their songs? I’d say those factors go a long way toward defining iconic status.

You personally don’t care for the music? Not a factor.

I’m no fan of Madonna. Never was, never will be. But there’s no questioning her iconic status in pop music, a door she opened for Lady Gaga, who took Madonna’s title. I suppose it can be argued that Madonna walked through the door opened by Cher, who probably overtook Diana Ross. All these artists own a piece of the pop pantheon, and I own a grand total of ZERO records between them. And that couldn’t matter less.

Michael Jackson owned popular music for the last part of the 20th century. Everybody, it seemed, owned a copy of Thriller, including me. I have no problem saying that pound-for-pound, it is one of the greatest albums ever made. During the same time, Prince was every bit as iconic. In a few circles, you might have been forced to choose a side in this battle. For what it’s worth, I chose Prince. But that didn’t make Michael any less viable.

I’m no fan of country music. But that doesn’t make the contributions of Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, or Garth Brooks any less significant to that genre. Those artists, and many like them, matter. They put country in the map, period. They even had an icon who transcended the genre in Johnny Cash. He was bigger than country, and that helped me become a fan.

You may not have cared for disco, but Saturday Night Fever assured you knew it was there. That release is iconic to both the music style and soundtrack albums (and another pound-for-pounder, as far as I’m concerned). My sister drove me absolutely berserk with her love of Donna Summer. But the lady owned the genre. That’s for damned sure.

Within my thrust-upon field of specialty, progressive rock, I can’t say a word without acknowledging Yes, Genesis, or King Crimson. They represent prog’s top tier, though this inevitably brings bands like Gong, Camel, Soft Machine, and a host of others to the conversation. And most of the music spoken of was released between 1969 and ’74, which for reasons beyond understanding seems to be where most prog fans have taken up residence with no intention of moving.

Don’t dig it? Sucks to be you. They’re not going anywhere.

Even if you don’t like jazz (and a lot of people don’t), I’m confident you’ve heard the names Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, or Dizzy Gillespie at some point. They, among others, are the titans. And somebody out there adores them, even if you don’t.

The Who. Led Zeppelin. Stevie Wonder. James Brown. The Rolling Stones. Joni Mitchell. Aretha Franklin. The Eagles. Icons, one and all. And yet I guarantee you’ll find someone who will complain about someone on that short list. They just will.

Then there’s that old saying, “You’re either an Elvis man or a Beatles man.” I personally have little use for Elvis Presley, but I have no problem acknowledging his contributions to rock and roll. And that contribution is huge, with a capital HUGE. My love for the Fab Four is boundless, to the point where I have no problem telling people who say they don’t appreciate the Beatles to take their music collections outside and set them on fire. Because something in the music they love — whether in the music or the recording of same — came from the lads from Liverpool, no matter how small.

Deal with it.

No doubt you’ve come up with some pretty iconic names yourself by now. And you know what? You’re right! Doesn’t matter if it’s a classical musician or a boy band, each has its icons. And I’d rather be dragged across carpet tacks and dipped in rubbing alcohol rather than be subjected to the Backstreet Boys.

How many times have I had to endure the words “rap” and “crap” in the same sentence? Even if you don’t care for it, you know what’s coming when you hear names like Run-D.M.C., Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., N.W.A., and Public Enemy. You can’t have hip-hop without their influence.

My point to my Facebook Group friend (and all who think like her) is this: you don’t have to like the music for it to be iconic. If you can’t bring yourself to enjoy it, that’s your prerogative. Just get out of the way and let the sounds pass you by. It’s no big deal.

Believe me, the music will go along just fine without you.


You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs)

My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

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  1. There are loads of bands and artists that I don’t like, but I’d never say that I can’t understand why they’re regarded as icons, that’s just crazy. Of course we’ve all got different tastes but, as you say, that’s not the point.

    I’ve also met people who can’t perceive that something they don’t enjoy and don’t ‘get’ can’t be good, can’t be iconic, can’t be enjoyed by someone else.

    It’s rather like the generational thing, don’t you think? My grandparents couldn’t understand the music I listened to as a teen – it wasn’t what they were used to, they couldn’t tune in to it. But that stuff I listened to then – I still do, now.

    Your comment on Donna Summer made me laugh. I’m still trying to decide if her version of MacArthur Park was genius or if she ruined it!! Either way, it doesn’t lessen her iconic status.

    Liked by 1 person

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