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Sunday, July 3, 2011
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I have never been the biggest Michael Jackson fan in the world, but I enjoyed a lot of his work, and when he died just over two years ago I was very disappointed that I had never seen him perform live. It would have been cool to see — and, even more so, to one day be able to tell my kids that I had seen — the “King of Pop” sing and dance first-hand. Shortly after his death, I made a pact with myself: henceforth, I will always keep a list of the top five music artists who I would most regret not having seen in-person if they dropped dead today — not necessarily my personal favorites, just the most important/influential/iconic — and if the opportunity ever arises to see any of them in concert (meaning in my general geographic area, and assuming I can afford a ticket), I will go, even if none of my friends or family want or are able to accompany me.

Formulating such a list is not as easy as you might think, especially when you’ve heretofore only had a (bizarrely eclectic) handful of concert-going experiences, as I have — David Bowie (comped), Simon & Garfunkel (comped), The Temptations (free), Ringo Starr (comped), the Goo Goo Dolls (comped), Jonsi (gift), Gloria Estefan (gift), Harry Connick, Jr. (gift), and Tony Bennett (comped), and that’s really, pathetically, about it.

As I set about coming up with five names, though, I found that there was one no-brainer: Paul McCartney. The man may be 69 years old now, and he may not look or move or sing like he once did… but he was arguably the coolest and most talented member of the greatest band of all-time, man, and is the most commercially successful songwriter in the history of popular music, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Between 1960 and 1970, The Beatles were the biggest stars in the world and churned out more hit songs than any other band before or since — consider the fact that 23 of them made it onto Rolling Stone‘s 2010 list of the 500 greatest songs of all-time, including five in the top 25 — “Hey Jude,” “Yesterday,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be,” and “In My Life.” Moreover, unlike the other Beatles, McCartney continued churning out hits after the band broke up as a member of the band Wings (1971-1981), a partner in a number of high-profile duets, and a solo artist — including nine singles that topped the Billboard charts.

For all of the aforementioned reasons, I dropped a not inconsiderable chunk of change last week in order to procure myself a ticket on the “floor” (i.e. outfield grass) to see McCartney perform at Yankee Stadium on the night of July 15, the first of two sold-out performances that he’ll be giving that weekend (i.e. roughly 55,000 people on Friday and Saturday) at “The House that George [Steinbrenner] Built.” There wasn’t much interest among my friends and family to do the same, but a pact is a pact, so I’m going solo and planning to make some new friends.

For the record, my post-McCartney “list of five” is:

    1. The Rolling Stones — The closest thing to The Beatles… and just shy of fifty years after it formed, the core of the band is still together!
    2. Bob Dylan — I know he can’t sing anymore (listening to him perform at the 2011 Grammys was a real eye-opener for me)… but dammit it’s Bob Dylan!
    3. Stevie Wonder — How many hits can one man churn out? This one has had more than 30 crack the top 10 and won 22 Grammys, more than any other.
    4. Diana Ross — She’s been associated with an unbelievable number of hits and more #1 records than any other female artist ever (many with The Supremes, but also many after).
    5. Madonna — The female Michael Jackson, it seems to me, in the sense that her quirky personality and prowess as a dancer have been just as pivotal as her ability to sing (if not more so) en route to becoming an icon of the music video age.

    All that being said, I could just as easily have given one of the slots to any of the following: Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Stresiand, Smokey Robinson, Prince, U2, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Chuck Berry, or Eric Clapton.

    What would your list of five be and why?

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      • GL

        I am very young, so I already respect those icons automatically. But to me the top 5 umissable live performers are:

        Lady Gaga
        Kings of Leon