Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Uncommon Wealth

Remember when Sufjan Stevens said he was going to make an album about each of the 50 states? With only two in the bag, Michigan and Illinois, Stevens clearly is not going to live up to that promise but we admire his ambition. In the spirit of making promises that may be a little too big to keep, we give you our fourth installment of the Top 10 bands from each state in the Union. Ladies and gents - Virginia.

During his campaign John McCain argued that there were two Virginia's - a real one filled with gun toting nutwacks and a fake one full of suburban liberals with enough gall to vote for a black man. Well John McCain is a douche bag but there is one thing that's for certain - the Commonwealth has given us some of the most diverse and influential musicians in history. Here are the 10 best musicians from Virginia.

10. Dave Mathews
Admittedly, not my favorite, but it's hard to argue against a guy who has sold millions and millions of records and has convinced countless frat boys to stop date-raping for at least one night in favor of hitting the bong, kicking the hacky-sack and seeing Dave Mathews live (too far?).

9. D'Angelo
Because even I was a little turned on by his abdominal muscles and because the song "Brown Sugar" was one of the coolest songs of the last 20 years.

8. Ralph Stanley
No, George Clooney did not sing that song. No one outside of the bluegrass world had even heard of Stanley until the release of the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. But he'd been writing amazing, tortured Appalachian ballads for decades.

7. Timbaland
The beat-maker behind just about every hip-hop song on the radio over the last fifteen years.

6. June Carter Cash
While more famous for being Johnny Cash's wife, she was a great musician and totally unique voice in country music in her own rite.

5. Jim Morrison
Hard to believe the lead singer of the seminal psychedelic Doors came from Alexandria, Virginia, in the shadows of the nations capitol, but it's true. While I do agree that really, he was more of a drunken buffoon than a true poet, there's no denying that the hollowed halls of rock history would be a lot less trippy without The Doors.

4. Missy Elliot
Missy, with the aid of Timbaland (no. 7 on our list) has done more than any other woman in music in recent times to help us all get our freak on.

3. Dave Grohl
Even if he would've stopped after Nirvana he'd still be on the list, but instead of resting on his laurels he's been churning out some of the best (early Foo Fighters) and most annoying (later Foo Fighters) radio-friendly rock in recent memory.

2. Patsy Cline
Think about what it means to be a country cross-over star these days - Hannah Montana, Shania Twain, Faith Hill. Now think about Patsy Cline.

1. Ella Fitzgerald
Let's face it, for her to become what she did in the face of the discrimination that was certainly in place in the state Jefferson Davis used to call home is a triumph in and of itself. Also, she only had one of the most amazing soulful voices in the history of the world.


  1. Anonymous24/3/10 17:08

    Ella is definitely number 1, but I think Dave Matthews should be higher, he's sensational!

  2. Anonymous25/3/10 15:07

    You forgot about Virginian natives "Ken and the Cucinellis"!...Remember the hit song, "I hate everybody different than me (so I'm going home and you can't play with my truck)...?

  3. I think I missed that one...

  4. dave matthews was from charleston, south carolina, at least at one time. maybe he moved to virginia later. he is also from south africa, so when you get to top ten bands from each country in africa, you can include him there too.

  5. Techinically he is definitely from South Africa. I didn't find anything about his having lived in South Carolina however I included him as a Virginian because that's where it seems he truly came into his own as a musician and his family originated from. This from his Wikipedia page:

    "Matthews moved to New York in 1986 where he worked for IBM for a short time,[6] then joined his mother in Charlottesville, Virginia, the same year, a town Matthews' family had lived in before he was born.[6] It was in Charlottesville that he became part of the local music community.[8] Pursuing various interests, Matthews acted in various local productions.[citation needed] Although Matthews had started playing the guitar at the age of 9, it was only in Charlottesville that he started performing publicly.[6] From time to time local star (and future collaborator) Tim Reynolds had Matthews join him on stage, and another friend, Ross Hoffman, persuaded Matthews to record some of his own songs.[6][9] This eventually led to his first professional musical gig at a modern dance performance by the Miki Liszt Dance Company, based at McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, singing "Meaningful Love", composed by John D'earth and Dawn Thompson.[10] In 1991 he hatched the idea to form his own band."[6]

  6. be sure to hit me up once you get to montana. i bet you'll need some help with that.