The word “Legend” or Legendary is often thrown around casually. Over the years the very term has been watered down. Fans now equate legendary with artist or albums they personally love but the criteria that warrant legendary status is often missing in my humble opinion. Being famous doesn’t mean an artist is a legend. In each genre of Music there are individuals and groups that set a standard of excellence. This excellence often influence artist and fans for generations. We know that music fans can be emotional as people feel a “connection” to their favorite artist. Objectivity is often missing in discussing music but I always attempt to stay in the middle without bias.
When I think of legends names such as Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, LL Cool J, Madonna and Prince come to mind. So, my criteria for a LEGEND is going to be tougher than most people. To me, you have to be 20 years in your genre with influence, success, and a direct impact on peers. Yes, there are exceptions to all rules! Yes, there are artist like Jimi Hendrix (27 years old), Buddy Holly (22 years old) & Biggie Smalls (24 years old) who died early in their careers. Yes, most people in each genre of music they represent consider them legends. There is a reason why The Rolling Stones are legends and not Tears for Fears. Tears for Fears were a great group in the 1980’s and have songs that we still enjoy today. They had a nice run of 4 albums that charted. On the other hand, The Rolling Stones discography showcases 26 albums that have charted and span over 40 years. That’s the difference between a great group that I love and a “Legendary” group that I recognize.
Now, this thread is not to discredit any artist whatsoever. I respect the accomplishments of artist from the Muddy Waters days up to the current climate. I truly believe that's it's very easy to get caught up in the "Star Power" of an artist. It's like a Basketball Player who had 2-3 great years being compared to a player who had 12-14 great years. These two individuals are not in the same league and there is nothing wrong with that. Being a legend takes time in most instances. Stevie Wonder started as a child prodigy and made great music for more than 4 decades. It would be unfair and disrespectful to call him a Legend and turn around and call Migo's Legends because they have a very famous song and album tearing up the airwaves.
Tupac died at 25 years of age but his impact, influence, poetry and music touched various generations, races, and cultures. These are legit reasons why he is called a legend. I'm not the biggest Elvis fan but in my heart I respect his legendary status. There are various artist that I've enjoyed over the years and I take their talent for what it's worth. Every movie isn't The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather or Star Wars and that's perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with enjoying something that's just "Good." An artist can be "good" and that's more than enough. A song can be "good" and it doesn't have to be great for you to like it. I think fans put unnecessary pressure on themselves to LOVE everything. Everything you like doesn't have to be the greatest thing of all time. Every musician is not going to the Hall of Fame but that doesn't mean they aren't talented, or that their contribution to the art is not appreciated.
In conclusion, it’s important not to be a prisoner of the moment. You don’t call Drake a legend because he's famous and can sell a lot of records. Don’t get me wrong, some young artist might end up legendary but you have to give them “time”. Drake is a successful artist but legend in this regard would be Rakim, KRS or the above mentioned LL Cool J. I mean, I don't put people on the same stage as John Coltrane because they can play an instrument. I wait to properly assess musicians, regardless of the genre. I’m eager to see what artist and groups will be considered legends by music fans who will read this blog. I understand that it's very easy to get excited about artist and albums that resonate with us personally. That's the beautiful gift we have in music, there is an emotional connection to it. Music is amazing on so many levels. Nevertheless, I stand firm on my position. As a music fanatic I hold the term “Legend” in the highest regard so it’s rarely used in my conversations and vocabulary.
In a sentimental mood - Duke Ellington and John Coltrane