Saturday, August 26, 2023

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Classic Rock’s 8 Biggest Icons



Rock ‘n’ roll has been around for decades. In one or two more, the genre will be celebrating its centennial anniversary, bringing up memories of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. But classic rock is something different. It’s meant for muscle cars.

Classic rock is big and anthemic. It’s buzzy. Less, maybe, blues-centric. And more electrified. It’s one of those things that may be hard to define but you know it when you hear it, like when you turn on the radio and hear a Get The Led Out segment or when AC/DC’s Brian Johnson sings “Thunderstruck.”

[RELATED: 5 Most Influential Figures in Rock History]

Below, we dive into the eight icons of the genre.

1. Jimi Hendrix

In the 1960s, when the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were popularizing rock through the British Invasion, Hendrix was doing something a little bit different. And it shows in droves today. For every “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Hendrix was writing songs like “Purple Haze” and recording covers like “All Along the Watchtower.” He was bigger, badder and bolder.

2. The Who

While The Who was part of the British Invasion, too, they were a different beast than, say, the Stones and the Mop Tops. The Who, like Hendrix, preferred to cause a ruckus. Drummer Keith Moon wanted his drums to be mush by the time he was done with them. Similarly, the band wanted their guitars to resemble rubble. As such, they’re icons of the subgenre.

3. Led Zeppelin

Like The Who’s Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham was known for his pulverizing style. When it comes to classic rock, Led Zeppelin defines the style. Singer Robert Plant soars like an eagle, Jimmy Page was both frenetic and smooth on his electric guitar, and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones filled in every gap. There’s a reason radio stations play Get The Led Out rock blocks all over the country.

4. Queen

If you slide over to Webster’s dictionary and look up icon, chances are you’re going to see Freddie Mercury there with his toothy grin and mustache. He defines the term. He’s magnetic. He’s an artist’s artist. He’s a frontman’s frontman. He wrote freaking “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It doesn’t get more classic than that.

5. Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd represents a bit of a left-turn here, thanks largely to the British-born group’s psychedelic nature. But don’t let their cerebral, social commentary trick you. This band could fill up a stadium with sound like none other. Guitar solos become beams of light. Lyrics become tattoos. The band’s LP, The Dark Side of the Moon, remains a must-own for any classic rock fan.

6. Creedence Clearwater Revival

You can look far and wide, under rocks and through the swamp lands, and you won’t find a voice that’s better than John Fogerty’s for the classic rock genre. Gritty and clear, heartfelt and scarred, Fogerty, though his band Creedence Clearwater Revival didn’t last atop the charts for long, was an icon amongst icons. The moment the Beatles broke up, Creedence was the biggest band in the world.

7. AC/DC

If this list was a horse race, AC/DC might be considered the “dark horse” or the underdog. This Australian rock band, which has included several lead singers over the years, is like an electric shock to your body—that you actually crave! With songs like “Back in Black,” “Thunderstruck” and “You Shook Me All Night Long,” if there was ever a power outage in your home, you could spark your system with AC/DC.

8. Tom Petty

The smooth, smirking songwriter lands on this list because his songs are so sticky they might as well be chewing gum. But he performs them with such an American edge that it’s impossible not to love them. Bridging the gap between the formative rock years of the ’60s with the more “classic” style of the following decades, Petty is as essential as fields of wheat.

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