5 Roy Rogers
You might know Roy Rogers as a place to get a hamburger and some B-rate fries, but for most of the 20th century, Roy Rogers was the stage name of Leonard Franklin Slye, and he was the world famous singing cowboy, of fame for his music, movies and his cowboy cool. Rogers was one of the first “œcross-over”stars (Timberlake, anyone?) who went from music to movies and back again. He was born in 1911 and lived until 1998, so it’s no wonder he left quite a mark on the 1900s.
4 W.C. Handy
In the early 20th century, musical success wasn’t measured by downloads or record sales, it was measured by the sales of sheet music. You had to play the music yourself, but it was men like W.C. Handy who were composing the ragtime rhythms that swept across America in the teens and twenties. He was a ragtime pioneer, bringing this bouncy new style of music to New York City’s famous Tin Pan Alley, the loosely defined “œdistrict”where music publishers, songwriters and performers came together to make music sell big and spread wide. Ragtime paved the way for modern blues and jazz, which led to the rock that still rocks today.
3 Charles “œBuddy”Bolden
No matter who you are, chances are good that Buddy Bolden was cooler than you. Sorry. He is often considered the first superstar of jazz music. In fact, he was playing jazz before it was even really called jazz! Buddy blasted tunes out of his trumpet and across New Orleans until the year 1907, when he unfortunately took ill. He lingered in a hospital for years, finally dying in 1931 after paving the way for the movement that changed music all around the world.
2 Richard Wagner
Wagner was almost as good at creating epic, sweeping masterpieces of opera as he was at skipping town on debts, carrying on torrid love affairs and being kicked out of various regions for his political views and public comments. Aside from such famed musical works as “œThe Ring Cycle,”Wagner was also a prolific writer of books, poems and articles that frequently got him in hot water. His music is often credited with starting the shift away from older, classical styles and toward “œmodern,”20th century music.
1 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Far from being the prim and proper type we might associate with the music of this 19th century master composer today, Mozart was rather crude and off-color in his humor. His early life veered in and out of poverty, and he had a tumultuous relationship with his wife, his family and many of his contemporaries. He dressed in extravagant style, especially when on stage performing (huge, gold-trimmed hats, for example) and he seemed happiest when at the center of adoring attention. And also, he composed some of the best music known to humankind.