Your Turn: Who Are the Greatest American Bands…EVER?

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Lists are fun, spur debate, and are ultimately in the eye of the beholder.  We posted our list of The Best American Bands Ever in honor of July 4th, and we received some amazing responses from you. So we thought we’d let you have your say.

We used specific criteria, featuring twenty voters with a point system that gave twenty points for first place, and one point for twentieth place. As you can imagine, this means that bands that were more consistently on lists, even if not near the top, often landed higher in the mean than in their median. (One example: The Red Hot Chili Peppers.) That list didn’t show off our favorite bands, per se, but the bands we think are the best. Try to use these same criteria, and make YOUR choices..What are the Greatest American Bands ever?


1. The band must be a true band: a GROUP of musicians that created a body of work, not a backing band for a solo artist. Hence, The Supremes (who were a successful group before they were re-christened “Diana Ross & The Supremes”) are eligible; any band with an “ampersand” that was really a backing band for a solo artist (Prince & The Revolution, for instance) was considered ineligible. Bruce Springsteen famously petitioned the Rock Hall of Fame that he should enter the Hall as a solo artist, independent of the E Street band, who he hoped would be considered later on their merits separately.  This isn’t Greatest American Artist…it’s Greatest American band.

2. Longevity. Note that this can be a double-edged sword—bands that held on too long and put out music that detracted from their genius were penalized. This criteria provoked perhaps the most strenuous debate among voters—many didn’t penalize Nirvana for its relatively brief career, but numerous voters took off points for The Beach Boys, who soldiered on embarrassingly after Brian Wilson called it quits.

3. Influence on other artists. This requires more thought and possibly some research if you read about these things in your normal course of events, but we believe it to be an essential measure of a band’s greatness.

4. Breaking new musical ground; creating a unique sound, genre or movement. There are few that fall in this category, which almost guarantees a place on the list.

Pick YOUR Top 20…Enjoy!


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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.