What were the 80 most important musical recordings, artists, trends, events, and performances of 2008? What were the eight things this year that broke our hearts—or, at least, our ears? We’re happy to announce 80 ’08 (and Heartbreak), Idolator’s year-end overview. The list is below the jump.
“There are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter which of them is death,” wrote esteemed poet/ author Kenneth Patchen. Yet the accrual of such dying over the course of a calendar year belies such “little”ness. As we nudge into the 21st century, the luminaries of the previous one begin to wane, the architects and innovators of prime American music forms: blues, jazz, folk, rock. The obituary page for 2008 may not feature so many marquee names, but the crucial people behind the stage—the gurus, the producers, the poster artists, the record executives, the session men—all continued to vanish as well.
We lost studio drummers like Earl Palmer and guitarist Robert Ward, Phil Spector’s engineer Phil Levine, jazz photographer William Claxton, Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black, Thelonious Monk saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Number groups diminished by one, be they the Count Five, the Four Tops, the Dave Clark Five, or the Kingston Trio. Here are a few of the folks-–some well-known, some never heard of— whose work and influence created a great resonance here and whose efforts will hopefully continue to reverberate in the generations to come.
This year wasn’t a particularly spectacular one for Christian music—solid releases from Anberlin, the Myriad, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, and the Classic Crime, but otherwise the key adjectives were “slow” and “mediocre.” Somehow, the genre’s biggest news items came from the ’70s and early ’80s, a time period that was swept under the rug by the advent of Christian Contemporary Music and the late-’80s rise of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Petra. Back then, there were some artists who just made music informed by their beliefs, similar to George Harrison writing a pop song about Hare Krishna.
Larry Norman passed away in February and in many ways, the time immediately following his death was probably the height of his popularity, with tributes and obituaries coming from such corners as Entertainment Weekly, Christianity Today and even here. Norman’s death seemed to crystallize his weird, scattered fame, with those who had experienced his music and subsequently departed the insane world of Christian culture mourning alongside people who had ridden along the whole time. With the forthcoming release of Fallen Angel, a documentary on Norman’s life, things might get stranger and uglier.
Larry Norman, often referred to as “The Father of Christian Rock”, died at age 60 on Sunday. The complimentary title bestowed on Norman sounds like the ultimate left-handed rock compliment, making it seem as if he spawned a parade of goateed chubby guys strumming acoustic guitars and singing about Jesus. But Norman, a renegade in a musical genre that often rejects those with any opinion whatsoever, merits a moment in the mainstream spotlight for a life well-lived and vastly underappreciated–and even more importantly, he deserves a lot more attention from the industry to which he gave birth.