Former music network VH1 (let’s not kid ourselves that it’s anything more than a lifestyle and reality channel at this point) polled 200 artists and “music experts” earlier this year to assemble a list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” This updates their first such list, which was similarly compiled in 1998. When all the votes were counted and the special four-night broadcast was complete, here’s how the new rankings stood (with additional commentary by yours truly):

1. The Beatles (Repeat finish from ’98 and no surprise)

2. Michael Jackson (MJ gets a massive death bump, up from #40)

3. Led Zeppelin

4. Rolling Stones (Surprisingly low showing for the Stones, previously #2)

5. Bob Dylan

6. Jimi Hendrix

7. Prince (Impressively, the highest-ranked artist — MJ notwithstanding — whose apex didn’t occur in rock’s golden age of the ’60s and ’70s)

8. Elvis Presley

9. James Brown

10. Stevie Wonder (Definitely Top 5 for me)

11. Bob Marley

12. David Bowie (The ’70s bi icon slides a tad from #7)

13. The Who (The world’s loudest band, features openly bisexual guitarist Pete Townshend)

14. Nirvana

15. The Beach Boys

16. Madonna (The Queen of Pop soars from #86)

17. Queen (Gay frontman Freddy Mercury is possibly more revered now, a decade and a half after his death from AIDS complications, than when he was singing to packed stadiums)

18. Pink Floyd

19. U2

20. Marvin Gaye

21. Bruce Springsteen

22. The Clash

23. AC/DC

24. The Velvet Underground (The leading lights of NYC’s ’70s omnisexual music scene bound from #74)

25. Chuck Berry

26. Neil Young

27. Aretha Franklin (Too low for the Queen of Soul)

28. Elton John (Too low for the Queen of the ’70s)

29. Radiohead

30. Aerosmith

31. John Lennon

32. Black Sabbath

33. Guns N’ Roses

34. Tina Turner (The greatest all-around female rocker ever should be ranked in the top 20)

35. Johnny Cash

36. Paul McCartney

37. Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks and Co. slip from #22)

38. Sly & The Family Stone

39. The Kinks

40. The Police (All literate gays had a crush on Sting…or am I projecting again? Either way, this is a poor outcome for the band that previously finished #10)

41. Van Halen

42. Metallica

43. Ray Charles

44. Joni Mitchell (Strong female singer-songwriters were abundant in the ’70s and here’s the clear best of the bunch)

45. Al Green

46. Ramones

47. Jay-Z

48. Rage Against the Machine

49. Parliament-Funkadelic

50. Sade (One of my favorite groups ever makes an auspicious debut)

51. Billy Joel

52. Beyonce (The current R&B superdiva makes a grand entrance)

53. Little Richard (Rock and roll’s undisputed architect is a fey mess who remains queerer than a $3 bill — even if he no longer acknowledges it)

54. Public Enemy

55. Peter Gabriel

56. KISS

57. Iggy & the Stooges

58. Cheap Trick

59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

60. Whitney Houston (Gays love drama and nobody’s served it better than Whitney the last decade)

61. Cream

62. Genesis

63. Notorious B.I.G.

64. Talking Heads

65. The Doors

66. Justin Timberlake (Possibly the most divisive pick on the list; #66 is too high but he deserves to be on the list)

67. Coldplay

68. Otis Redding

69. Tupac Shakur

70. Def Leppard

71. R.E.M. (Michael Stipe is comfortably out of the closet, but the band falls from #50)

72. Janis Joplin

73. Van Morrison

74. The Cure (Every gay boy I knew in the late ’80s idolized vocalist Robert Smith)

75. Rush

76. Run-DMC

77. Lynyrd Skynyrd

78. Judas Priest (At-the-time closeted gay singer Rob Halford introduced gay S&M fashion — leather, studs, chains — to heavy metal and changed the look of straight rocker boys forever)

79. Eminem (Are we still boycotting Em for his homophobic lyrics? I can’t remember)

80. Mary J. Blige

81. ABBA (Respectability at last for the

82. Steely Dan

83. Earth Wind and Fire

84. Curtis Mayfield

85. The Band

86. N.W.A.

87. George Michael (Probably the best press this gay train wreck’s received in a while)

88. Bee Gees

89. Beastie Boys

90. Elvis Costello

91. Green Day (Bi frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has led this punk-pop trio to unexpected acclaim the last few years)

92. LL Cool J

93. Pearl Jam

94. Mariah Carey (The queen of the drag ballad makes the cut this time)

95. OutKast

96. Journey

97. Pretenders

98. Depeche Mode

99. Hall & Oates (Everyone assumed they were gay lovers, but it never hurt their hits-heavy career)

100. Alicia Keys


David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at