Prince (2) vs. Marvin Gaye (15)
Posted by metaphorical on 19 March 2007
When James Brown died in December, my friend Brooklynite and I ended up on the short and long ends of a debate on a mailing list we’re both on—short in terms of people agreeing with us, and long in terms of being right.
It started with Brooklynite writing:
I was pleased to see that the AP obit gave him his due:
“Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years.”
(I’d have put it in stronger words than that, actually.)
Surprisingly, I was one of the few to jump in and agree, more by instinct than thought-out opinion. It took me about a month to sort out for myself why I thought that (a rumination that can be found here).
The next time we were together face to face, Brooklynite brought up the subject and another startling gauntlet was thrown down: James Brown might be the most influential artist of the second half of the 20th century, and he would certainly be—I remember these words very well—”one of the final four.”
That naturally made us think of the NCAA’s March Madness, a knockout tournament in which 64 (actually 65) teams are paired off in 16 brackets of 4. Brookynite’s thesis is that while few if any would put Brown at the top of a list of 64 music artists, he might well win every face off, one-on-one, with other artists.
So, in short, this is how great ideas are born in the Internet age: you double-dog dare someone to enact his theory on the Web. Voilà. March Madness—of Musicial Artists.
Today Brooklynite put up the first bracket of 16. I think he did a really good job of filling out the bracket with quietly influential artists who you probably wouldn’t have thought of, but in hindsight make perfect sense. Some of the seeds will seem insane, which is what makes for good horseraces, marriages, and bar debates. I myself made my picks with a Guinness-and-Harp black-and-tan beside my MacBook; if you vote, let me know and the next round is on me.