My good friend and fellow music geek Jason posed this question to me at his birthday/tourney-watching/when-is-this-DC-United-game-going-to-end-so-the-Screaming-Eagles-will-clear-out-of-the-bar extravaganza Sunday afternoon (or evening): What's your Mount Rushmore of rock?
The first three were easy. Lou Reed, my favorite songwriter and a man who influenced more of the rock music I've been interested in since he first recorded with the Velvet Underground than any other. Bob Dylan, hard to imagine a Rushmore of rock without him. Prince, for the pop side of the game and a multi-dimensional talent like no other -- writer, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and one of the best guitarists who ever lived. But what about No. 4?
Bizarre pop rock songwriter Alex Chilton, who came up in his mid-teens with the Box Tops and sang "The Letter" before going on to front the brilliant but under-appreciated pop rock group Big Star before really going on a limb with his solo work? Maybe his producer, Jim Dickinson, who also produced the varied likes of Mudhoney, the Replacements, G. Love and others and who also spawned Cody and Luther, two thirds of the North Mississippi All Stars. Or Chilton follower Paul Westerberg of the Replacements? Maybe Steve Cropper, the guitarist whose understated style was one of the benchmarks of the Stax Records sound and one of the most imitated despite never being flashy. Right there is a host of candidates, and they all come from the same pocket.
Someone from the Stones? It'd have to be Brian Jones, but he died young and was barely a member of the band at the end of his run with them.
What about roots? James Brown, George Clinton, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King.
Or producers? Arrangers?
Elvis? He was the King, after all, and I love him dearly and visit Graceland to pay my respects as often as I can -- then go off to Al Green's Full Gospel Tabernacle to worship. (What about Al Green?) But then the King borrowed so many moves and merely made them more palatable thanks to his sneer, hair and hips -- to take nothing away from his talent. And we're talking presidents, not czars.
David Bowie? The glam legend is a chameleon with a career spanning decades.
I started overthinking. I could pore over so many artists, so many categories, and never be satisfied. And anyway I was asked to shoot from the hip.
Wasn't 'til Jason mentioned Brian Wilson that I knew that the Beach Boys legend had to be it. No. 4. Teddy.
Not exactly a researched and thought-out list, but from the hip, who'd be your four? Who deserves to be on your mountain?