There are several musical artists that completely created, reinvented and revolutionized their specific genres of music. Some of their legacies were created after their deaths and left their names and faces as symbols for the genre, itself. These people have forever changed music and subcultures.
Kurt Cobain – Grunge Music
Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in Seattle. The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle’s independent record label Sub Pop, but by the early 1990s its popularity had spread, with grunge acts in California and other parts of the U.S. building strong followings and signing major record deals.
Grunge became commercially successful in the first half of the 1990s, due mainly to the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind. The success of Nirvana, as well as, several other bands boosted the popularity of alternative rock and made grunge the most popular form of rock music at the time. Although most grunge bands had disbanded or faded from view by the late 1990s, their influence continues to affect modern rock music.
Grunge typically fuses elements of punk rock and heavy metal, such as the distorted electric guitar used in both genres, although some bands performed with more emphasis on one or the other. The music shares with punk a raw sound and similar lyrical concerns. However, it also involves much slower tempos, dissonant harmonies, and more complex instrumentation—which is reminiscent of heavy metal. Lyrics are typically angst-filled, often addressing themes such as social alienation, apathy, confinement, and a desire for freedom.
A number of factors contributed to grunge’s decline in prominence. During the mid-late 1990s, many grunge bands broke up or became less visible. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, labeled by Time as “the John Lennon of the swinging Northwest”, appeared unusually tortured by success and “struggled with an addiction to heroin before he committed suicide at the age of 27 in 1994”.
Bradley Nowell – Ska Music
Two hotspots for the United States’ burgeoning ska scenes were New York City and Orange County, California. In New York, Toasters frontman Robert “Bucket” Hingley formed independent record label Moon Ska Records in 1983. The label quickly became the largest independent ska label in the United States. The Orange County ska scene was a breeding ground for ska punk and more contemporary pop-influenced ska music, personified by bands such as Reel Big Fish, No Doubt and Sublime. It was here that the term “third wave ska” was coined and popularized by Tazy Phyllips (host of the Ska Parade radio show) to describe the new wave of ska-influenced bands which were steadily gaining notoriety. By 1996, third wave ska was one of the most popular forms of alternative music in the United States. By the late 1990s, mainstream interest in third wave ska bands waned as other music genres gained momentum.
Nowell was the frontman to the Ska band Sublime, which was still gaining an audience. As Sublime gained success, Nowell struggled with a worsening addiction to heroin. He eventually became sober after his son, Jakob Nowell, was born. Nowell shot up again on the morning of May 25, 1996, and died of a heroin overdose in a San Francisco hotel while Sublime was on tour. His death left a legacy and made Sublime one of the most popular ska bands of all time, selling more than 15 Millions albums in the Unites States alone.
Selena – Tejano Music
Tejano music or Tex-Mex music (Texan-Mexican music) is the name given to various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Mexican-American populations of Central and Southern Texas. With roots in the late 19th century, it became a music genre with a wider audience in the late 20th century thanks to artists such as Selena, often referred to as “The Queen of Tejano.” Selena brought joy and hope to her adoring fans, due to her humble demeanor and passion for music. Tejano music was taking off, at the time partially due to her bringing the genre to both Mexico and the United States.
The Quintanilla family appointed Saldívar manager of Selena’s boutiques in early 1994. Eight months later, Selena signed Saldívar as her registered agent in San Antonio, Texas. After the agreement, Saldívar moved from San Antonio to Corpus Christi to be closer to Selena. In December 1994, the boutiques began to suffer after the number of staff for both stores decreased. Selena’s father, Abraham, discovered that Saldívar was embezzling more than $60,000 in forged checks from both the fan club and the boutiques. Abraham banned Saldívar from having any contact with Selena. However, Selena did not want to dissolve their friendship; she thought Saldívar was essential to the success of the clothing line in Mexico. Selena also wanted to keep her close because she had bank records, statements, and financial records necessary for tax preparation.
On the morning of March 31, 1995, Selena met with Saldívar at her Days Inn motel room in Corpus Christi. At the motel, Selena demanded the financial papers; At 11:48 am, Saldívar drew a gun from her purse and pointed it at Selena. As Selena attempted to flee, Saldívar shot her once on the right lower shoulder, severing an artery and causing a massive loss of blood. Selena eventually died from her injuries.
Bob Marley – Reggae Music
Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora. While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that was strongly influenced by traditional mento and calypso music, as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues, especially the New Orleans R&B practiced by Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint, and evolved out of the earlier genres ska and rocksteady. Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and political comment. Reggae spread into a commercialized jazz field, being known first as ‘Rudie Blues’, then ‘Ska’, later ‘Blue Beat’, and ‘Rock Steady’. It is instantly recognizable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat, and the offbeat rhythm section. The immediate origins of reggae were in ska and rock steady; from the latter, reggae took over the use of the bass as a percussion instrument. Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, mento (a celebratory, rural folk form that served its largely rural audience as dance music and an alternative to the hymns and adapted chanteys of local church singing), calypso, African music, as well as other genres. One of the most easily recognizable elements is offbeat rhythms; staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure. The tempo of reggae is usually slower than ska but faster than rocksteady. The concept of “call and response” can be found throughout reggae music. The bass guitar often plays the dominant role in reggae. The bass sound in reggae is thick and heavy, and equalized so the upper frequencies are removed and the lower frequencies emphasized. The guitar in reggae usually plays on the off beat of the rhythm. It is common for reggae to be sung in Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English, and Iyaric dialects. Reggae is noted for its tradition of social criticism and religion in its lyrics, although many reggae songs discuss lighter, more personal subjects, such as love and socializing.
The Wailers, a band started by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963, is perhaps the most recognized band that made the transition through all three stages of early Jamaican popular music: ska, rocksteady and reggae. Over a dozen Wailers songs are based on or use a line from Jamaican mento songs. Bob Marley remains the most popular reggae icon, even after his tragic death in 1981. Marley was Diagnosed with a type of malignant melanoma in 1977, Marley died on 11 May 1981 in Miami at the age of 36. He was a committed Rastafari who infused his music with a sense of spirituality. He is considered one of the most influential musicians of all time and credited with popularizing reggae music around the world, as well as serving as a symbol of Jamaican culture and identity. Marley has also evolved into a global symbol, which has been endlessly merchandised through a variety of mediums.
Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actor. Called the King of Pop, his contributions to music, dance and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.
The eighth child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his elder brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon as a member of the Jackson 5 in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971. In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller” from his 1982 album Thriller, were credited with breaking down racial barriers and with transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. The popularity of these videos helped to bring the then-relatively-new television channel MTV to fame. His 1987 album Bad spawned the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “Dirty Diana”, becoming the first album to have five number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. With videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream”, he continued to innovate the medium throughout the 1990s, as well as forging a reputation as a touring solo artist. Through stage and video performances, Jackson popularized a number of complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His distinctive sound and style has influenced numerous artists of various music genres.
Thriller is the best-selling album of all time, with estimated sales of 65 million copies worldwide. His other albums, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling albums. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He is recognized as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time by Guinness World Records. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Dance Hall of Fame as the first and only dancer from pop and rock music. His other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records, 13 Grammy Awards, the Grammy Legend Award, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 26 American Music Awards—more than any other artist—including the “Artist of the Century” and “Artist of the 1980s”, 13 number-one singles in the United States during his solo career,—more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era—and estimated sales of over 400 million records worldwide. Jackson has won hundreds of awards, making him the most awarded recording artist in the history of popular music. He became the first artist in history to have a top ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades when “Love Never Felt So Good” reached number nine on May 21, 2014. Jackson traveled the world attending events honoring his humanitarianism, and, in 2000, the Guinness World Records recognized him for supporting 39 charities, more than any other entertainer.
Aspects of Michael Jackson’s personal life, including his changing appearance, personal relationships, and behavior, generated controversy. In the mid-1990s, he was accused of child sexual abuse, but the civil case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and no formal charges were brought. In 2005, he was tried and acquitted of further child sexual abuse allegations and several other charges after the jury found him not guilty on all counts. While preparing for his comeback concert series titled This Is It, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide, and his personal physician, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Jackson’s death triggered a global outpouring of grief, and a live broadcast of his public memorial service was viewed around the world.
Marvin Gaye was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of hits, including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, and duet recordings with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul.”
During the 1970s, he recorded the concept albums “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get It On” and became one of the first artists in Motown to break away from the reins of their production company.
Gaye’s later recordings influenced several contemporary R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo-soul. Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, Gaye released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing” and its parent album Midnight Love.
Tammi Terrell was an American recording artist, best known as a star singer for Motown Records during the 1960s, most notably for a series of duets with singer Marvin Gaye.
Terrell’s career began as a teenager, first recording for Scepter/Wand Records, before spending nearly two years as a member of James Brown’s Revue, recording for Brown’s Try Me label. After a period attending college, Terrell recorded briefly for Checker Records, before signing with Motown in 1965.
With Gaye, Terrell scored seven Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need to Get By”. Terrell’s career was interrupted when she collapsed into Gaye’s arms as the two performed at a concert at Hampden–Sydney College on October 14, 1967, with Terrell later being diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had eight unsuccessful surgeries before succumbing to the illness on March 16, 1970 at the age of 24.
On April 1, 1984, Gaye’s father, Marvin Gay Sr., fatally shot him at their house in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. Since his death, many institutions have posthumously bestowed Gaye with awards and other honors—including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur – Rap Music
Tupac Shakur was an American rapper and actor. As of 2007, Shakur has sold over 75 million records worldwide. His double disc albums “All Eyez on Me” and his Greatest Hits are among the best selling albums in the United States. He has been listed and ranked as one of the greatest artists of all time by many magazines, including Rolling Stone which ranked him 86th on its list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He is consistently ranked as one of the greatest rappers ever, as well as one of the most influential rappers of all time.
The themes of most of Shakur’s songs revolved around the violence and hardship in inner cities, racism, and other social problems. Both of his parents and several other people in his family were members of the Black Panther Party, whose ideals were reflected in his songs. During the latter part of his career, Shakur was a vocal participant during the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry, becoming involved in conflicts with other rappers, producers, and record-label staff members, most notably The Notorious B.I.G. and the label Bad Boy Records.
The Notorious B.I.G, was an American rapper. Murdered at age 24, Wallace is consistently ranked as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time.
Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. When he released his debut album “Ready to Die” in 1994, he became a central figure in the East Coast hip hop scene and increased New York’s visibility in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop was dominant in the mainstream. The following year, Wallace led his childhood friends to chart success through his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. While recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud.
On September 7, 1996, Shakur was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was taken to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, where he died six days later.
Six months after Shakur’s death, On March 9, 1997, Wallace was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His double-disc album Life After Death, released 16 days later, rose to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000, one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification. Wallace was noted for his “loose, easy flow”, dark semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities. Two more albums have been released since his death. He has certified sales of 17 million units in the United States.