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Top 10 Musical Geniuses (According to Canada.com)

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Guest Low Roller

Top 10 musical geniuses

Be wary of using the word genius when describing a musician. Once, we championed Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails as such (hey, it was around the time of 1994's The Downward Spiral, which is pretty awesome).

But our comment elicited immediate scorn from our classically trained friend. "Beethoven is a genius," he said, looking down upon us in a manner familiar to classically trained musicians, "not the half-wit you're talking about."

Given our past predilections, when fellow TC arts reporter Adrian Chamberlain sent our way a list of the Top 100 Living Geniuses, as published last week by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, we approached it with hesitation.

We couldn't resist the opportunity to create our very own Top 10 list citing our favourite pop, rock, country and rap geniuses. Musical snobs likely won't agree -- as payback, we aren't including classical composers or musicians -- but this is our list, not theirs. So there.

1. Rick Rubin. Anyone who can produce speed metal act Slayer and country king Johnny Cash -- in the same year -- deserves to top our list. Rubin, via his rap record label, Def Jam, brought us the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy; his rock record label, Def American, gave us the Black Crowes and System of a Down. On the side, he worked with Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Dixie Chicks and Neil Diamond. No one has created more meaningful music in the modern era than Rubin. Choice recording: 99 Problems, from Jay-Z's The Black Album.

2. Jimi Hendrix. By pioneering the use of sustained feedback in rock music, Hendrix catapulted past everyone in the late 1960s, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. His mastery of the electric guitar has drawn frequent comparisons to classical composers for its sheer brilliance. Hendrix, who died of a drug overdose at 27, arguably will never be surpassed. Choice recording: Red House, from Are You Experienced?

3. Prince. His ability to survive lawsuits and trends, along with a controversial name change, has kept Prince in the spotlight for much of his 30-year career. He's bizarre and contradictory, but his challenging melange of funk, blues and rock has nonetheless earned him a place among rock royalty. Choice recording: Purple Rain, from Purple Rain.

4. Dr. Dre. When rappers and singers want that "Dre sound" -- a laidback groove bursting with big beats, tinkling pianos and THC-induced keyboards -- they pay as much as $2 million for the famed producer, who is credited with popularizing previously unknown rappers Snoop Dogg, Eminem, the Game and 50 Cent. Choice recording: Still D.R.E., from 2001.

5. Bob Dylan. The degree of deception at Bob Dylan's disposal is limitless. He's an irreverent folkie -- no wait, a babbling bluesman. Or is he a latent protest singer? Whatever hat he's wearing, or instrument he's playing, Dylan prides himself on being a paradox. Still capable of brilliance at 66, Dylan continues to surprise. Choice recording: Tryin' to Get to Heaven, from Time Out of Mind.

6. The Beatles. The Fab Four are an obvious choice, given their past contributions. But it is important to remember the state of the music world at the time of their arrival. They changed everything for the better, and became the world's biggest-selling group in the process. Choice recording: Norwegian Wood, from Rubber Soul.

7. Björk. One of the best debuts in history is 1993's Debut, a dizzying and slightly disturbing dance-pop classic that reinvented this former Sugarcubes frontwoman as an Icelandic island unto herself. Weird? David Lynch is weird. Björk is seriously freaky. But in a good way. Choice recording: Human Behaviour, from Debut.

8. Muddy Waters. Never has the blues been more effective than when performed by one of its great pioneers, Muddy Waters. When he had his mojo working, the hoochie koochie man's kinetic music was a direct extension of his libido, his piston-chugging voice a garrulous weapon of mass destruction. Gritty ain't the half of it. Choice recording: Mannish Boy, from Hard Again.

9. Ray Charles. They didn't call him The Genius for nothing: Brother Ray, blind since the age of seven, remains one of the most adored performers in pop history. His contributions to numerous genres (soul, country, jazz, pop, gospel) have earned him hall of fame status many times over. A little lovin' went a long way with Ray. Choice recording: What'd I Say, from Yes Indeed!

10. Sam Cooke. If Cooke, who was shot at 33 under suspicious circumstances, had made it out of the 1960s, more fans would be hip to the Man Who Invented Soul. The singer of 29 Top 40 hits between 1957 and 1965, Cooke was, simply put, one of the greatest. He's also sorely underrated. Choice recording: A Change is Gonna Come, from Ain't That Good News.

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why is classical music held to a higher regard than contemporary?

They also left out jazz. Where's Miles Davis' date=' John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, or Charles Mingus (to name just a few)?[/quote']

We couldn't resist the opportunity to create our very own Top 10 list citing our favourite pop, rock, country and rap geniuses. Musical snobs likely won't agree -- as payback, we aren't including classical composers or musicians -- but this is our list, not theirs. So there.
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