Billy Bob and Music from 1980-Present

Jun 27 2009 Published by under Film/TV, Music, Random

Last night on the annoying show Real Time with Bill Maher, Billy Bob Thornton said something that bugged me immediately and then forced me to think about for a whole day before responding.  He was relaying a discussion about music that he had with a PA on one of his movies.  He challenged her to come up with a list of musicians from 1980 to the present who would be remembered 100 years from now.  He gave her two names: REM and U2.  And, he said, that was about it–compared to the hundred plus names he could come up with for the music from 1955 to 1979.  Now, Thornton is right that there are tons of great artists from that earlier period who have already stood the test of time.  He’s an idiot, however, because he assumes that any music created after his time sucks.  Here’s just a sprinkling of artists who emerged after 1980 who could compete with the people on his list (and I’m even going to leave out the punk and post-punk artists like The Clash and Joy Division who created their music on the cusp of this era):

  • Radiohead
  • Nirvana
  • The Minutemen
  • Meat Puppets
  • My Bloody Valentine
  • Neutral Milk Hotel
  • Robyn Hitchcock
  • Sigur Ros
  • The White Stripes
  • Massive Attack
  • Tricky
  • Portishead
  • Tim Hecker
  • Chris Watson
  • Public Enemy
  • Beastie Boys
  • Run DMC
  • De La Soul
  • NWA
  • Dr. Dre
  • Eminem
  • Pan Sonic
  • Fennesz
  • Random Inc.
  • Taylor Deupree
  • Autechre
  • Boards of Canada
  • Depeche Mode
  • Aphex Twin
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Kode9
  • William Basinski
  • The Caretaker
  • Stars of the Lid
  • Primal Scream

And that’s based solely on my iTunes collection right now.  If I spent more time thinking about this, I can easily come up with 200 or 300 names whose music rivals anything created in 1965.  The problem with people like Thornton is that they assume that, because everyone listened to the same music when they were growing up, that music today is inferior because there’s more of it and (hence) people’s listening tastes are way more eclectic than they used to be.  He’s assuming that uniformity equals quality, in other words.  Or perhaps he just thinks that his taste in music is the be all and end all of music, period.  Either way, he’s way off.  But at least he got me thinking.

So, please, tell me: what names have I forgotten here?

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