Ask a 6th grader and his grandfather if they’ve heard music by bands like The Beatles, Santana or Van Halen, and it’s likely that they’re both going to answer yes; despite the two-generation, 50-year age gap. Now ask that same duo about Duran-Duran and The Chainsmokers, and there will probably be some puzzled faces. Why do some artists appeal only to the era in which they gained popularity and others transcend time?
If you grew up in the 20th century, then you remember the barometer by which the public evaluated music. This is before the world became digital, music was all but created in a studio, and Disney pumped out child entertainers like Twinkies on an assembly line. An unknown artist could send in a cassette tape to a radio station, and if the DJ liked it, it got air time.
The path to fame has changed
Most of those artists wrote their own songs, played at least one instrument and relied on the “ear value” of their music to gain a following. Fast forward to 2019, and the barometer has changed dramatically. MTV, online media and music producers have irreparably altered the way a star is made. Artists can be created in a boardroom, and rolled out to the public like well-timed advertising campaigns.
To gain a following, they put on spectacular stage shows, make constant appearances on talk shows and gossip sites, and employee an entire staff of social media experts to keep them in the public consciousness. When they go into the studio to record, everything from instrumentation to vocal tones are tweaked and perfected, and live performances depend heavily on showmanship.
That’s not to say that prior to the digital age, artists didn’t exploit the power of the live performance. Elvis and the Beatles had showmanship coming out of their ears — cue the teenage girls fainting in the audience — but what differentiates them from some of today’s performers is that their music held up even after the furor had died down. Both of these artists changed the direction of music, rather than jumping on a bandwagon that was already in motion. Their success depended on the music they created appealing on a purely emotional level to the audience.
Santana: The embodiment of natural talent
Carlos Santana is another musician who exemplifies the concept that raw talent can supersede high level production and marketing. His career has spanned almost seven decades, and he’s managed to stay relevant to the listening public. Santana can’t be lumped into a category with dozens of similar bands, like Seattle grunge, techno or ‘80s hair bands. His music literally transcends labels and time, and at nearly 72 years old, he is still writing and performing.
To gain a reputation as one of the elite Santana tribute bands, like Savor in Southern California, hard work and dedication are the key to enthralling their followers. The band, lead by lead guitarist, Michael Caroff, rehearse tirelessly to perfect the percussion, vocals and melodic guitar riffs and solos that define Santana’s signature style. What sets them apart is that they also perform originals in the Latin Rock vein, written by Caroff. These pieces, while unique, blend seamlessly with the cover songs, and have the audience on their feet.
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen and Santana are all bands that achieved fame by virtue of their artistic brilliance alone. They introduced the public to a new style of music that appealed to the listening audience at a deep, emotional level, one that has allowed it to stand the test of time.