Music Makes Me‘Music Makes Me’ – Musical Success

Craig FerrySeptember 9, 2021

In last week’s Music Makes Me I explained all the reasons I felt people needed to support their local open mics. If you didn’t read that article I strongly encourage you to check it out. I was expecting to go back to my normal format this week, but when reading an article, I decided instead to talk about musical success.

Everyone has their own standard of what defines their own personal successes in life. And most people could probably come up with some definition of what defines a successful musician. The article that triggered this topic was discussing the count of #1 hits by Eric Clapton. I consider Clapton to have had a very successful career. He had so many great songs and a prolific musical career. Surprising to me though was that he only had one #1 hit, “I Shot The Sheriff”. And even more surprising were the big names, like Bruce Springsteen, of other artists that had none. Conversely though, Milli Vanilli had three of them. So I wondered, what other standards could be used to define musical success?

Perhaps another indicator of musical success should be Grammy award winners right? In this case, the number that Clapton has won did not surprise me. He won 17 for his music and a lifetime achievement award. But there are a number of others including Queen, Diana Ross, Sia, Abba, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix to name a few that have not had a single award. Obviously it has nothing to do with musical talent or popularity as these musicians had one or both of these qualities. And I was shocked once again to learn that Milli Vanilli beat out these Grammy-less musicians by winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 1990. On a side note, it was revoked later after their scandal (sorry Milli Vanilli fans). I’m sure you would agree after this evidence that a Grammy isn’t a definitive indicator of success. How about another metric that would have to be the definite foolproof way to measure success?

Being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame must be foolproof. Eric Clapton was inducted in 2000. Milli Vanilli was never inducted. That’s evidence enough for me. So I am sure that Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden, The Guess Who, Sammy Hagar, Pat Benatar and Joe Cocker really weren’t that successful in the music world were they?  I say that tongue in cheek because they aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  When all else fails, Google has to be able to help set that bar.

So that’s where I went to next. As you can imagine the internet is full of lists like this one that tell either the best or in this case the worst musicians of all time. When reading their picks, I agree with some of their choices for the list even though it doesn’t state their criteria. But I have to shake my head on others.

For example, America was in this article as one of the 100 worst artists of all time. But they had three number one hits, ten top ten hits, won a Grammy, but are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Is there really no way to show musical success?

I will wrap up with this real life conversation. I think by pretty much any standard the Beatles would be considered a successful band. When talking about their music to someone over the summer, they told me they didn’t really care for their music. Being a die-hard fan, I was taken aback, but in that person’s eyes, they were just not that good. But success really is in the eyes of the beholder and when it comes down to it the only person that should define success of a person is that person. If my goal is to learn some songs on my guitar in my living room and I do that, I have achieved my standard of success. I have talked to musicians whose only goal is to play the local music scene and they have a regular set of gigs they play. For them, they have achieved success. I hope you all have achieved your own success and if you haven’t, keep striving to reach that goal. But more importantly, enjoy the little successes on that journey on the way to your successful destination.

I would love to hear from you about your own musical success. Feel free to send me an email with those stories. Until next week, if you’re a music lover, you can hear, see or learn about new music every day on my Facebook group, Spotify playlist or YouTube playlist. And as always, feel free to reach out and let me know about your favorite new musical discovery.

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