Musician

PrintPrintEmailEmail Most Overrated Musician:

Elvis Presley. If we put aside the posthumous madness, Elvis had a pretty tenor voice and a distinctive way with ballads, but his rhythmic sense was often clumsily ersatz, and even within the idiom that declared him king, he is less inventive, daring, and satisfying than Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others. (Runner-up: Barbra Streisand.)

Most Underrated Musician:

Louis Armstrong. This may seem perverse, given the magnitude of his fame, but not so perverse as the inclination among academics to discuss American music solely in terms of text-driven composers, while failing to recognize Armstrong’s vision as the dominant force in defining a new world music that puts a premium on improvisation, blues tonality, and rhythm. Armstrong’s power and universality brought American music to a plateau our symphonists could only hypothesize. (Runner-up: Ethel Waters.)