“The 3” - A bit of a game

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Drew D. Saur, Oct 19, 2015.

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  1. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    For a very, very long time now, I have considered something that is, I think, a great bar room game, with a musical theme.

    I am fascinated with the idea of people who are multi-talented in unusual ways. Since I am a huge music fan, it once occurred to me to think about what I feel is a particularly rare form of musical multi-talent.

    How many musicians are all three of the below?
    • A world-class instrumentalist, who possesses both expressiveness and technical chops that are simply breathtaking;
    • A world-class songwriter, with more than just a few famous songs;
    • A world-class singer, with a voice that is so desirable, other songwriters want this artist to perform their work.
    By world-class, I mean, all three of these talents have to be so-off-the-charts-good that — if an artist had any one of them without the other two — a large number of people agree that the artist would still be timelessly famous. And not just fans of that artist; even people who aren’t fans would still have to largely concur that each of these talents, on its own, was enduringly world-class.

    I call these artists “The 3.” To my mind, there are very, very few musicians who fit into this group.

    Now, what makes this a bar room game interesting is that it is obviously somewhat subjective.

    There are so, so, so many musicians who would easily fit into “The 2,” if that sort of thing fascinated me, which it doesn’t.

    But after literally decades of thinking about this, I truly believe that a global, objective discussion of this could result in a largely agreed-upon definition of this list, over time.

    A while back, I registered a domain name (“the-3.com”) as a potential home to this discussion. But as the years have gone on, I find myself not wanting to play host to a web site (something that I did daily for 15+ years, as the host of www.macorchard.com). And, the Steve Hoffman forums seem to be the ideal place to host such a discussion.

    So, let’s have at it. Can you open up your minds and share, with the world, who you think belongs in “The 3”?

    Here is an initial list, to kick things off. These are three artists who, over time, I have gotten the most agreement about, from the largest number of people:
    • Stevie Wonder
    • Steve Winwood
    • Prince
    There are a number of other folks (about 30 or so) who I have considered, but they are more debatable. I have reasons for considering them for inclusion, and reasons for not, and the logic might be flawed. I won’t reveal them at this point in time, as they muddy the waters (no pun intended) by exhibiting subjectivity into the mix.

    Perhaps I will throw them out there once this discussion takes off a bit.

    Before signing off to let this discussion ensue, let me highlight one example of a person who might be considered “The 3” upon initial reaction, but who I think exemplifies what makes this game so difficult: Elton John. Elton is clearly a great songwriter and great piano player – no doubt. Of course, people will say that he’s not a lyricist — fine. But I think Elton’s voice, while distinctive, is not so world-beating that he would have achieved his fame on that voice alone. That can be difficult for Elton John fans (of whom I am one) to swallow. But there is no shame in being “The 2.”

    [Later edit] Oh, and Paul McCartney. (The Beatles are my favorite band, ever.) Amazing songwriter? Well duh. Amazing bass player? Well, he wrote groundbreakingly melodic bass lines and played bass very well, but I don't know if his bass playing skills alone would make him famous. Ditto for his voice.

    This is the level of consideration that I think needs to go into defining “The 3.”

    So, I want to state that there are artists outside of “The 3” who I might like better, overall, than people in “The 3.” Being able to let these feelings co-exist is a sign that you are playing the game more-or-less “correctly” if I may be so bold as to define that.

    So…after years of me waiting…let’s play! Go!

    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
  2. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

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  3. Jim B.

    Jim B. Forum Resident

    Prince and Stevie Wonder are the first two examples that came to mind. I don't think Winwood is fit to sit in that company myself, his songs are good but he's not written that many really classic songs, compared to the others.

    I would add Ray Charles - wonderful voice, great pianist, and has written classic songs (not enough maybe).
    James Brown - I think he beats your criteria in that he has a couple of things on top. Great singer, great songwriter, and he could play the drums and organ pretty well. Add the stagecraft (an amazing dancer) and the skills of a band leader and he is very hard to beat.
    impalaboy likes this.
  4. zphage

    zphage Beatard

    Bucks County, PA
    Funny, I don't think of Stevie Wonder as much of multi-instrumentalist, Stevie Winwood, yes and probably, Prince.

    Stevie Winwood as a songwriter is definitely solid but so are Prince and Wonder.

    Voice wise, Winwood, yes, that is how he first came to notice for many with Spencer Davis; and Wonder And Prince are solid. There are many many soul singers who would come before all three.

    I think one's three is definitely gonna vary with age and perspective.

  5. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Oh, I want to be clear - this isn't about being a multi-instrumentalist at all. That's a completely different topic.

    And you're right about this being age-dependent. Although I think that artists need to have stood a certain test of time in order to prove the point of "The 3."

  6. Jasonb

    Jasonb Forum Resident

    Great writers and players out there but vocals is that "3" that can cause a problem.
  7. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    See my edit, above :)
  8. SquaRoots

    SquaRoots The North Star Grassman

    Laniakea Superba
    First artist sprang to my mind: Joni Mitchell

    World Class In Many Respects.
    Damiano54, bartels76, drasil and 4 others like this.
  9. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Absolutely "The 2" - no doubt. I suppose that her inclusion of the "100 Greatest Guitarists" of all-time in RS may qualify, but I haven't heard much similar praise outside of that. Is there a general consensus that her guitar playing would be enough to make her world-famous on that skill alone?

  10. longaway

    longaway Forum Resident

    Charlotte, NC, USA
  11. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Ah, you know, I didn't realize that he, by himself, was responsible for so much of Queen's compositional output. Nice one. If we get a little more agreement on this from others, I will add him to an updated list for sure.
    warewolf95 and Jasonb like this.
  12. noyoucmon

    noyoucmon Forum Resident

    Richard Thompson
  13. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    He has come up in many conversations I have had, but there doesn't appear to be uniform agreement that his voice, by itself, is world-class. However: it is artists like Richard Thompson who make a more global version of this game important. I think that, with more discussion, there is a chance he could be on the list.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
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  14. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Let me throw one out there: Dolly Parton. Great singer and songwriter for sure. But is she really as great a guitar player as her reputation? I have heard mixed things about that.
  15. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    And then there is Lindsey Buckingham. Super songwriter and guitar player for sure. And his voice is pretty damn good. But is it good enough on its own to be world-class? Hmmmm.....
    SuntoryTime, JimC and Mathew like this.
  16. Maybe not, but you could make a case for 'technique' and 'expressiveness' on the basis of all those unusual tunings.

    Anyway, I'll nominate Todd Rundgren. Qualifies in your criteria 1. & 2. for sure, I think. No.3 is a bit more problematic, but if not a "3", then a "two and a half" at least.
    maxnix, Michael P and majoyenrac like this.
  17. Digital-G

    Digital-G Forum Resident

    Dayton, OH
    Dan Fogelberg

    Acoustic and electric lead and rhythm guitars, as well as bass guitar. Piano and keyboards. I'm not really sure about drums.

    But he's written some classic songs too. Same Auld Lang Syne. Longer. Leader Of The Band. Unfortunately, it's the ballads that seem to get the radio attention - his music is actually quite diverse.

    Edit: I reread your lengthy initial post. Not sure if he has a desirable voice or not, that other artist would want. :shrug: It worked for him though. ;)

    Wait a minute. Are you saying that McCartney doesn't count?!?!? I thought he was the OBVIOUS choice. Your reasoning about his bass playing making him famous seems flawed - his bass playing alone didn't make him famous, but his talent to be able to do so many things, especially as a solo artist. He can play nearly every instrument under the sun. How can you not count him?
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
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  18. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Jeez....McCartney should top the list!
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  19. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Like I said, I am a huge Beatles fan. And lord knows that this forum is filled with people like me. Let's say that Paul's instrumentalism is a given, which I will gladly entertain. Is his voice so world-beating that — if it were his only talent — he would still be world-famous? I am not saying no; I just haven't heard too many people talking about Paul's singing alone in the same breath as other great singers, even here on these forums. I'll add him to the list quite readily if more people can present an argument that his voice is indeed nonpareil.
  20. Drew D. Saur

    Drew D. Saur Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Herein lies the crux of "The 3." Having all three talents in good measure isn't enough. All three of them have to be good enough on their own so that the other two could be nonexistent, and the artist would still be world-famous. It's a hard set of tests to pass, I admit! That is what makes it so fascinating. At any rate, see my response to Digital-G, above. I'd like to have Paul in there, if I can get more objective feedback from many other people, especially non-Beatles fans (of which I am not a member...).
  21. Big Swifty

    Big Swifty Forum Resident

    How about Robert Johnson?
    Jonboy likes this.
  22. tmwlng

    tmwlng Forum Resident

    John Fogerty. In addition to writing, producing and playing literally every instrument he wants to, he is also a very energetic performer in a live setting.
  23. Splungeworthy

    Splungeworthy Forum Rezidentura

    Michael P and Aggie87 like this.
  24. Meyer

    Meyer Heavy Metal Parking Lot Resident

    Napa, CA, USA
    Paul Simon- you try learning some of those songs on acoustic guitar when you're just starting out ;-)
  25. Aggie87

    Aggie87 Gig 'Em!

    If Prince's voice puts him on the list, then McCartney's certainly does.
    anthontherun, Buick6, JimC and 5 others like this.
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