It's virtually impossible to overstate the importance of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, who ranks among the most pivotal figures in all of American music. After cutting his teeth in The Big Easy, the young trumpeter moved to Chicago in the early 1920s and quickly rose to fame. Not only would his versatile talent influence various decades and eras of jazz music, but his crossover success helped tear down racial boundaries.
Despite their origins as a space rock outfit, Pink Floyd's legacy is famously grounded by perennial turbulence and dispute. What began in the mid-1960s as a cornerstone of the British psychedelic scene continued to evolve over the five decades that followed. It all makes for a brilliantly diverse oeuvre, which includes timeless albums like “The Wall” and “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
English singer Petula Clark was just nine-years-old when she made her broadcast debut on BBC radio, spontaneously soothing listeners in the wake of a Nazi air raid. In the 1960s, chart-topping songs like “Downtown” and “I Know a Place” helped make her the “First Lady of the British Invasion.” Continuing a career that spans seven-plus decades, she's currently scheduled to star in an upcoming revival of “Mary Poppins.”
One doesn't need to see “Rocketman” to know that Elton John's career is as long as it is accomplished. After teaching himself to play the piano at the age of four, he went on to become one of the best-selling acts in the world. From “Your Song” up to “Circle of Life” and beyond, his repertoire remains second to none.
Before launching his meteoric solo career, Neil Diamond penned the hit song “I'm a Believer” for The Monkees. He became a popular solo act soon after, selling over 100 million albums and scoring 13 Top 10 singles. Diamond is a such a consummate performer that a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease hasn't stopped him from making the occasional live performance.
The once-undisputed “Queen of Pop” didn't arrive on the scene as much as she did completely dominate it overnight. Her early singles like “Everybody” and “Burning Up” became dance floor staples in the club scene, paving the way for an explosive debut album. Madonna has reinvented herself repeatedly in the time since, to perennial chart-topping effect.
After winning a talent show in 1978, post-punk outfit U2 used their prize money to record a demo and build up a local fanbase. It was an inauspicious start to a long and storied journey, which would see the band embracing a broad swath of styles and themes. When 2017's “Songs of Experience” soared to the top of the Billboard chart, U2 became the fourth musical act in American history to score a #1 album in four straight decades.
As one half of the husband and wife duo Sonny & Cher, this iconic singer kicked off her career with the 1965 single “I Got You Babe.” Performing as a solo act around the same time, Cher quickly established herself as an autonomous female force. In 1998, her hit song “Believe” was both a personal best-seller and the best-selling single by a female artist in U.K. chart history.
Diana Ross broke onto the scene as the lead singer for The Supremes, also known as America's most successful vocal group to date. Her subsequent solo career is likewise the stuff of legend, thanks to hit songs such as "I'm Coming Out" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Once dubbed the "Female Entertainer of the Century" by Billboard, she won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Tina Turner first turned heads as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, cultivating a powerful R&B sound. In the wake of her rocky marriage and subsequent divorce, she embarked on a solo career starting in the 1970s. Her 1984 album “Private Dancer” and its hit single, “What's Love Got to Do With It,” sparked a major comeback on the world stage.