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Who's the Biggest Musical Icon of the Past Century?

With the passing of musical legend Michael Jackson, the game of comparative history can begin: who do you think is the biggest musical icon of the past century - Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, or Frank Sinatra?

Asylum blog has the low down comparing The King, The King of Pop, and the Chairman: Link


I love them all but I would have to say Elvis. He was there for and instrumental in the early evolution of rock n' roll. Maybe MJ can catch up over time, but Elvis is such an iconic image in so many cultures around the world. They were all influential in their own way, unfortunately MJ's troubles have altered the way much of the world views him.
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There is no such thing as a "musical icon." An icon is a religious painting, found mainly in the homes and churches of "eastern" Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
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@mmm - that darned English language. It keeps on changing on us poor sods:

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1: a usually pictorial representation : image

2 [Late Greek eik?n, from Greek] : a conventional religious image typically painted on a small wooden panel and used in the devotions of Eastern Christians

3: an object of uncritical devotion : idol

4: emblem, symbol

5 a: a sign (as a word or graphic symbol) whose form suggests its meaning b: a graphic symbol on a computer display screen that usually suggests the type of object represented or the purpose of an available function
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Well, they're not asking who was the greatest singer of the past century (none of these guys would make that list), but rather who was the biggest musical icon. Sinatra and Michael Jackson were big, but in terms of popularity and widepsread appeal, I don't think either of them could seriously hold a candle to Elvis.

Then again, I live in Memphis, so I'm biased.
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Aucan, I'm curious to know what non-US musical icon you would pick to compete in the last century with Elvis, Sinatra, or Michael Jackson. I think the Beatles would be good, but they are a group, not a single performer.
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Sinatra by far as a music icon; people still listen to him/use his songs in movies and such on the regular. You can almost call the music timeless, as even in today's loudness wars pop-music its hard to find someone who doesn't like a Sinatra song.

People are just pretending to be die-hard MJ MUSIC fans because he died, seriously, hes been nothing other then a media story since the mid 90s, which has nothing to do with music. Thriller was an amazing album; but frank was active with a following for over 60 years!

Elvis, was too campy to survive, his songs are 50s rock, nothing more (he wasn't around long enough).

So as a Media Icon, Jackson for sure; Music, Sinatra.
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a) Michael Jackson was an amazing singer and half of what you hear on the radio right now owes something to the styles he pioneered. Sinatra was a drunken crooner with good connections.

b) I urge you to go to a remote village in the Himalayas and ask them if they know who Sinatra is. Then try asking them if they know who MJ is. Pretty sure they'll be able to tell you how many hairs are on Bubbles' arse. There are over 6 billion people in the world, no one cares about Ol' mob-eyes outside of the U.S. Everyone loves Jacko.
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Duke Ellington. Master composer, arranger, performer. A Beethoven of his time. They will play Ellington for hundreds of years to come. Next would be Gershwin.
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If I'm getting it right, it says who is the best/biggest ICON. This is not about the best musician nor about how diverse his talents were etc. ICON-wise I think, Elvis is top. At least world wide. No doubt there were better singers/songwriters/actors all over the world! I have to agree that Sinatra does not really fit the comparison. What about Prince? Musical genius? Ok, I see, still alive. Darn. ;-)
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Guest, that would make mmm the biggest moronic icon.

Of course, it's Michael Jackson. People feel it's okay to praise him now that he's dead, when they were too afraid to be associated with him when he was alive.

Frank Sinatra was a great singer, but he just doesn't have the same influence on music that Presley or Jackson had. I'd have been more inclined to put the Beatles in that list than him.
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I'm in my 30s, non-european, and in my opinion, the whole world would probably say MJ, followed closely by Elvis, then Sinatra. When it comes to skills, its like comparing apples with oranges.
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Sinatra is timelessly cool.

But out of the three - MJ wrote his own music (most of it, anyway). That, to me, is the line that separates a performer from an artist. It's all about "performance" now, with all this American Idol garbage. I truly respect someone who writes their own music.
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Well - it would have to be Michael Jackson
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While Sinatra and Elvis were phenomenally popular they sang songs in they same style their whole career. Michael Jackson continually tried to innovate and create something new throughout his life.
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How can you guys even think for a second that Sinatra or Elvis are more iconis than Michael Freakin Jackson. Maybe their is a generational gap between me and the majority of the posters on here but Sinatra and Elvis' song stealing ass have nothing on MJ. He's Michael Jackson. Elvis? Are you serious. I can consider Sinatra at least arguable, but Elvis? You guys have to be playing.
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Yeah, I strongly suspect that older white males would go for Sinatra (completely understable). But objectively assessing and considering the size of the crowds that attend MJ's concerts, his quirks, his style, his songwriting and dancing abilities, MJ is more iconic. But Elvis and Sinatra are also up there.
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You have to give Alex credit for these middle-of-the-road photo choices. None of them are particularly flattering, but certainly not the worst possible examples, either.
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To really judge this, you need to be familiar with music from the whole of the 20th century.

I'd say that the biggest musical icon of the 20th century was Louis Armstrong, by far. His popularity and influence were far greater than any of those others mentioned when considered over the whole of the 20th c.

Second probably Gershwin, you might not know that you know his tunes, but you do. For a guy with such a short career, he had a huge impact. After him, the next forty years of music were all heavily influenced by him, and his songs are still Jazz standards today.

For a third I'd go with Duke Ellington. He was a giant in his day, and I agree with K*T that he's a strong contender for the title of the greatest songwriter of the 20th C. He started in the 20s and was still releasing major records in the 50s and 60s.

Fourth, I'd go with either Frankie or Bing Crosby. Both were huge for more decades of the 20th C. than Elvis, the Beatles, or MJ.

Between Elvis and the Beatles it's hard to say who was bigger, but I think both were bigger than MJ.
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My preferences run toward Sinatra, since Elvis was played far too frequently when I was young, and I never enjoyed MJ's music to the extent of being a fan.
I did however, see some references to singing abilities, and wanted to point out that Elvis really did have some amazing pipes. Forget the pop tunes and Vegas show songs he did- take a moment to listen to the range he had in songs like "It's Now or Never", or some of his gospel tracks. He could really belt it out. Sinatra was smooth and silky, a crooner-- two different styles I think.
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I don't like the choices. Lennon and McCartney were orders of magnitude better than any of these. And Bing Crosby was 100 times the star that Sinatra was. Open the door to my world.
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HersHers..I love your comment

My vote to "MJ" of course !!

I'm in third world country and yes...everyone knows MJ not Senatra...Elvis is actually popular for 50 yr+ people group only...but MJ..is another story...everyone knows him from my son (and his friend)to my grandma and her friends...That's tell something.

I don't know if this is because of media growing stronger nowadays...but he still rank #1 to me.

and I'm so glad all his case are cleared before his pass away !!!...

Come on...someone (in here) who implys he rapes kids...
Have you heard "not guilty until proven???"..and in this case..it's ACTUALLY PROVED AS NOT GUILTY !!! Get over it !!!...Do you think you can judge better than U.S. Court by reading from distant and use your own logic????
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I'm sorry !! I'm even spell "Sinatra" incorrectly (not on purpose)...but that's how much I don't know him...

My point is that I'm not in "MUSIC OCCUPATIONAL RELATED" so I might not really know who is the "MUSICAL" icon...but from one general eye view..MJ wins as icon that people knows and admires

in my country, all the fact with his help to poor, children, aids, and long list of charity gives him this respect..

I did see many gossips after his charity??..I really dont understand why???...Also, as people keep wondering about the fact with his surgery (either for beauty or health)....Don't get it as well???

As when you die...your body simply get back into the earth..both fresh or plastic do not matter anymore..what's matter is what he has done to the world !!! like his well-written and thoughtful lyrics(PERIOD)
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Ummmm....There is only who has so many nick-names. Sinatra had it all - singing, acting, sex appeal, a following for 60 years, and I could go on and on. Yes, MJ had a big influence on other artist, but what songs do we really think of that we want to put into a movie? (I'm not a big fan so there may be some and I just don't know). But Sinatra continues to have albums come out and people gobble them up. The last MJ album I bought - Off the Wall. My tastes changed after that but I never felt the urge to ever purchase any of his other albums. Yet as the Sinatra albums continue to come out, I buy each and every one of them as well as buy the older stuff when I come across them. So, IMHO, Sinatra wins - hands down.
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I agree with Pak
MJ is the best. Talent and human being
no one can compare with him. He is the artist who gave most for charity and did much for better world.
Elvis may sang songs very well, but MJ not only can sing very well but dance, write songs, write books, films produce, choreograph, and innovate. No one is perfect except Michael Jackson. No one is more popular than Michael Jackson.That's the reason why media concentrated on him and built a lot of rumor around him.
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I'm in my 30s, non-european, and in my opinion, the whole world would probably say Elvis. He have too many young fans in the entire world... Only the black Africa don't like him because they are simply racists. But the north of Africa adores the King.

This game should be between the King and the Beatles. Others are too small ...
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"This is it" MJ all the way hands down the 50 sell out shows was just the beginning, he would of sold out the whole world in few minutes.

Number 1 stage king the ultimate in entertainment

Love MJ
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Why is John Lennon or The Beatles not on this list? I mean jesus... Elvis had a brilliant voice and is an icon in his own right but for someone who was jealous of the popularity of the The Beatles in America and someone who didnt even write is own matieral how can he be classed above The Beatles??

Michael Jackson suddenly went from a hasbeen to the biggest god in musical history, He became alot more popular with people when He died, Dont forget this man was the centre of a paedophilia scandal! Great entertainer back in the day but from 1996 onwards he was abit of a fruitcake and an hasbeen!

Sinatra would be My pick of these three but when it comes to musical icons of the 20th century theres no-one bigger than The Beatles!
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EVERY ONE KNOW THE ANSWER IS MICHAEL JACKSON.EVERY MUSIC ARTIST OF TODAY LOOK UP TO MICHAEL AS THEIR INSPIRATION.iT' VERY STUPID THAT MANY PEOPLE WOULD CALL ELVIS THE KING WHEN HE DID NOT WRITE HIS OWN MUSIC AND FRANK SINATRA DID NOT SELL OVER 600 MILLION ALBUMS.uNLIKE ELVIS AND FRANK SINATRA, MICHAEL WROTE HIS MUSIC AND SOLD OVER 600 MILLION ALBUMS. MICHAEL JACKSON IS NOT JUST THE KING OF POP BUT KING OF MUSIC.
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MJ...I dont really hear ppl say the were inspired by elvis...even ppl in like the 80's and 70's the were either inspired by MJ or the beatles...I dont see the point in this...
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Elvis was simply far more popular than any other solo singer,look at his record sales / films made / fan base over the world/ most impersonated singer/ thousands still visit Gracelands today, even the beatles paid homage to the king when they arrived in america - no other singer in the world had the same pulling power as presley, as for jackson he sure was weird, man!! never heard many people speaking about him when he was alive the same way they spoke about presley or sinatra yea man most young guys sure as hell wanted to look like elvis when they were young. 1st presley 2nd sinatra 3rd crosby jackson is a way down the list, if the parker guy had let elvis tour the world man his concerts would have been massive
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