This week, Rolling Stone published a ranking of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time, naturally opening the floodgates of debate. Now, let’s be fair; lists like this are made to start arguments, and it’s impossible to make everyone happy, so let’s not start frothing at the mouth with rage over the artists we like who didn’t make the cut. Still, there’s no reason this list (or any other) can’t be given some gentle constructive criticism. With that in mind, let’s look at five artists who were incredibly snubbed from Rolling Stone‘s ranking.
This has to be the most baffling exclusion on the list. The critical reception of Kate Bush’s work is near-unanimously positive, and singles like “Wuthering Heights” and “Baboushka” were nothing short of revolutionary — and that’s before we even get into the endless brilliance of Hounds Of Love and The Sensual World. Bush has often been compared to Joni Mitchell, who came in at No. 9, which makes it even stranger that she was left off. Look, let’s just state this in the simplest way possible: There is *no way* that Taylor Swift – who came in at No. 97 – is a better songwriter than Kate Bush.
Chuck D./Public Enemy
Considering how essential Public Enemy was to the development of hip-hop, this seems like a particularly egregious exclusion. It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear Of A Black Planet both rank among the best and most important hip-hop albums ever made. Chuck D. also played a huge role in the rise of political hip-hop with anti-authority screeds like “Fight The Power” and “Rebel Without A Pause.” Public Enemy is simply one of the most important acts in hip-hop history, and leaving Chuck D. off this list feels like a slight not only to the group, but the genre as well.
The exclusion of Mellencamp is a bit surprising considering how well his most immediate contemporaries did. Bruce Springsteen was No. 14, John Fogerty was No. 40, and Tom Petty came in at No. 59. So, it’s not like the compilers of this list didn’t have any appreciation for heartland rock. With that in mind, you’d think Johnny Cougar would have gotten some more consideration. He wrote classic tales of young love like “Jack And Diane,” along with class-war screeds like “Rain On the Scarecrow.” Like Springsteen, his music focused telling a story of America that thoroughly explored its best and worst parts.
This one seems like a case of a guy being punished for having too small a discography. Sure, Drake only made three proper albums before his tragic death in 1974, but they were all fantastic records, and displayed a surprising amount of diversity within the folk genre. While Bryter Layter had a lush, orchestral sound, Pink Moon was a stripped down, confessional recording. While Drake didn’t record much during his lifetime, what he did give us has remained relevant for decades, as younger generations have discovered his music.
As the leader of Electric Light Orchestra, Lynne wrote some of the most innovative pop songs of the 1970s. ELO’s early records were a thrilling combination of rock and classical unlike anything we had heard before. Later, on albums like A New World Record and Out Of The Blue, he wrote believably catchy classics like “Turn To Stone,” “Telephone Line,” and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman.” And really, let’s be honest, he should’ve made this list on the strength of “Mr. Blue Sky” alone.