What defines a great artist?
Is it synchronicity – being in the right place at the right time, being in and of the moment, seizing the zeitgeist? Or is that altogether too fleeting to define greatness? Does greatness require longevity? Perhaps a great artist must build a great body of work – one which surpasses fashion or trend. Is consistency a necessary – or even desirable – ingredient?
Popularity is probably not a good measure. Many far from great artists have attained popularity, while many great artists never rise above cloistered critical respect among devotees.
Innovation is surely a factor – the ability to bring something new and fresh to the table and to influence others in a way which contributes to the continued evolution of the popular music form.
There is no accounting for taste. Music is inherently subjective. The definition of greatness is intrinsically ephemeral. All my favourite artists have a combination of some or all of the above attributes.
Ultimately, for me (and, from my observation, others who are as passionate about their music as I am) the only compelling ‘must have’ is soul. The ability to not just move the body but to emotionally connect with the listener at a deeper level. It is that soul – or truth – that anchors all great music, surpassing fancy or whim and hitting you where it hurts.
Music that connects with you on that level leaves a scar. It becomes part of your reality – your being, your future and your past. It inspires you to dream, to reach higher. It helps you deal with sadness or loss. It elevates you, plugs you into something vibrant, beyond the paint by number dreams of everyday life. Listening to such a song years after you first heard it can provide a bridge to your past, associations of where you were, who you were with and what you were feeling when it first made that connection with you. The ability to create music which affects others on that level is great artistry. That, is soul.
This blog is dedicated to great music, the artists who make it and the enthusiasts who, like me, have been scarred by it.