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Top 10 Little Known Influential Musicians

Satori . . . Comments

This is a list of artists who have influenced fellow artists profoundly in one shape or form and who have pioneered in their own way a part of music. Think of them as musician’s musicians. So, here are the top 10:

10. Richie Havens Jan 1941

Richie1 R2 C2

Havens is a folk singer/guitartist best known for his performance at the original Woodstock. He is also known for his unusual method of using open D tuning and fretting all strings which creates an intense rhythmic style. Also heard on some song recordings is a unique drumming sound which is actually his foot tapping. He had moderate fame when he reached the Billboard charts in the 70’s but until then had maintained a fairly local success within his Greenwich Village scene. He rarely wrote his own songs, but is known for the distinctive interpretations of songs that is uniquely his.

9. Ian Curtis July 1956 May 1980

Ian Curtis Control B

Vocalist and genius lyricist of Joy Division, Curtis committed suicide in 1980. The suicide was thought to be related to combination of anxiety over an upcoming North American tour the band was embarking on as well as his severe epilepsy. His on stage seizures were often mistaken for an erratic style of dance which resulted in Curtis having to be carried off stage at some performances. His legacy has grown and continues to grow World wide since his death.

8. Vini Reilly (Gerard Vincent Reilly) Aug 1953

Vin Contact

Reilly was a guitarist, singer and “Durutti Column” post-punk pioneer. He worked with Morrissey on his groundbreaking first album “Viva Hate” (1988). He also worked with John Cooper Clarke, Pauline Murray, Anne Clark, The Wake, Richard Jobson, Quando Quango, and more. He has been very influential in the musical movement now known as “chill-out electronica”.

7. Gram Parsons Nov 1946 – Sept 1973

Gram Parsons

Parsons was rated 87th on the Rolling Stones List of Greatest Artists of All Time. He was a pioneer of the 70’s rock movement in such bands as International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. He was best known for his “anticipation” recordings of the rock country movement of the 70’s. He has a self described style of “Cosmic American Music”. He died of a drug overdose.

6. Jeff Buckley Nov 1966 – May 1997


Raised as Scotty Moorhead, Buckley was an acclaimed American Singer, songwriter and guitarist. Known for his ethereal singing voice, he was considered to be one of the most promising artists of his generation, especially after the release of his critically acclaimed 1994 debut album Grace. At the height of his popularity Buckley drowned during an evening swim in 1997. There was speculation of suicide as he had taken prescription drugs for his bi-polar disorder before the swim. His work and style continue to be highly regarded by critics and fellow musicians

5. Anton Newcombe Aug 1967


Newcombe was a multi instrumental musician and founder of the moderately successful “Brian Jonestown Massacre”. Unfortunately, his heroine addiction fueled his paranoid tendencies and erratic behavior both on and off stage. He would sometimes berate his band mates and destroy instruments in fits of rage. He proclaims to be versed with 80 or so instruments including guitar, sitar, upright bass, bagpipes, mandolin, lute, piano, organ, accordion, drums, and more. The band went their separate ways after Newcombe failed to produce a highly anticipated and hyped album that he obsessed over, so much so that he insisted they built a studio in his home so he could record at his leisure. He has since toured with a bevy of bands and claims to be sober as of 1999.

4. Dock Boggs Feb 1898 – Feb 1971


Boggs was a singer, songwriter, and banjo master who played in the style of old time mountain music and blues. He developed a 3 finger method of picking on the banjo which allowed for single note runs, much like guitarists. He recorded in 1927 with Brunswick music but didn’t record again until Mike Seeger rediscovered him in the 1960’s.

3. Townes Van Zandt Mar 1944 – Jan 1997


Townes was a musician’s musician in his time, though a virtual unknown until after his death. He was a Country Folk-Rock performer and poet with a style often referred to as “Out-law Country”. Being a heavy drinker, he lived a reclusive life during the 70’s in a cabin in Tennessee making music. He Died on New Year’s Eve 1997 due to complications from heart surgery. He has left a legacy of music that to this is day held sacred and performed by a bevy of musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, My Morning Jacket, and even the Meat Puppets.

2. Moondog: Louis Thomas Hardin May 1916 – Sept 1999


A blind homeless by choice, Hardin was an American composer who invented several instruments. He was also known as a poet and cosmologist. Eccentric at best, he went so far as to wear clothing that only he made and interpreted to be in the likeness of the Norse God Thor. It wasn’t until his later years that he began to be recognized as a musical genius and innovator. He was known for 20 years of 30 that he lived in New York as the “The Viking of 6th Ave”.

1. Daniel Johnston Jan 1961

800Px-Daniel Johnston At Emos 1

The bizarre and heart breaking story of Daniel Johnston is one recently made popular by the documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” which is about his music and art, as well as his fight with mental illness. His songs poignantly display childlike wonder and hope, infused with darker themes. He had never recorded inside a studio until recent coercing because of his growing popularity and until then his method had been to simply record into a boombox. Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain was sometimes seen wearing a T-Shirt with the cover of a Daniel Johnston tape, the words “Hi, how are you?” and a quirky drawing. Johnston still produces art and music and is often called “genius” and “brilliant”.

Contributor: Satori

  • kiwiboi

    I’d add Donny Hathaway

  • kiwiboi: I can’t make a judgement on that addition as I do not know who he (or any person on this list) is!! I need to get out more :)

  • Lewis

    3rd, :(:(:(

  • Lewis


  • Lewis

    good list tho, Jeff B rules!

  • kiwiboi

    jfrater –

    Hathaway was a big R&B influence. He died by defenestration (ouch!).

    Though he was a superb musician, I do kinda wonder whether his early death added some additional caché to his work…

    And, no, you don’t need to get out more. You just need to borrow my DH cds :)

  • romerozombie

    I think Jeff Buckley was more than a little overrated. He was a good, but all he really did was stretch out songs…

    Should I hang myself now or wait for you guys to do it? ;)

  • angryray

    That Jeff Buckley comment is not worthy of a response, but here I go. Stretch out songs? Alice and Chains does that, not Buckley. No other Male singer sense him can stand up vocally, or lyrically.

    There are a few Detroit Musicians that are worth mentioning such as Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Jeff Mills.

    If fact I should do a list about the most influential electronic musicians that nobody outside of Detroit has heard of.

  • indiefreak19

    Ian Curtis is one of my all time favourite people and one of my personal heroes, in terms of musical and artistic output/vision. He is amazingggg to me lol

    And Jeff Buckley is legendary in my opinion, just pure vocal and lyrical genius.

    I have heard of a few others on the list but know very little about them so might get buying/researching/listening lol

  • Sephiral

    Calling Jeff Buckley and Ian Curtis Little known is almost completely wrong. Anyone with any kin of interest in music will know who they are. I love them both but they certainly do not belong on a list of little known musicians.

  • JMurf

    Sun Ra, honorable mention?

  • DiscHuker

    this should have been a list of genius musicians with mental disorders. is being in the DSM4 a pre-requisite for musical greatness?

  • antlyon

    I guess little known is right. I have only heard of #10 and #7

  • madgett

    Now there’s some music for me to explore! I know many of these guys by name and only by name. Great list!

  • FifthSonata

    DiscHuker-the majority of the greatest musicians, actors/actresses, and artists we know of today suffer with some sort of mental disorder, some not as obvious as the others.

    I personally would really like to see a study on the correlation between mental illness and artistry. Maybe there is one that I just don’t know about?

  • JwJwBean

    I do not know any of these. I usually don’t know the artist or title of a song, but can recognize a song when I hear it. Are there any recordings online to listen to each of them? I will go a hunting.

    Nice job Satori. :)

  • Gravy

    Pretty much all of them are good.

  • Mom424

    FifthSonata; Great List! Unlike Kiwiboi, I’m old, so either have heard or heard of most of the folks on the list. I did not realize their significance…I learned something, excellent list! If you like Van Zandt, try Hank Williams III.
    4 and 8 are brand new to me…

  • Gravy

    I have no problem calling Daniel Johnston a genius. His lyrics are so incredibly deep, but the complexity of what he is saying is so simple, its truly amazing. His songs bring tears to my eyes.

  • tristan

    Bud Powell, Jack Teagarden, Marcel Duchamp, Arthur Schoenberg and other composers of the Second Viennese School such as Anton Webern, and Alban Berg. Syd Barrett, Neil Innes, as well as Jad and David Fair have not received the credit they deserve for being truly original as well as influential.

  • Obbop

    Not a single female within that list.

    Evidence of the anti-female attitudes of American males, who slaver at HUGE breasts but refuse to perceive the brilliance of female minds.

    All females and males with more than two brain cells to rub together (should be a couple dozen or so out there) should boycott this list and create their own list that includes the INCREDIBLE amount of female contributions to music.

    You vile evil lustful males should be ashamed of yourselves. But, what with your enslavement to the hormones coursing through your hairy fat bodies what is to be expected?

  • vesselman

    Obbop obviously can’t get a date

  • Lawrence

    ROY AYERS???

    n\No Roy Ayers. One of THE most sampled musician alive. Dont know him?? if not then he should probably be on this list. look him up and listen to his music.

    “Everybody loves the Sunshine” – Roy Ayers

  • crimsonchrissi

    Jeff Buckley continues to be one of my favorite singers. I put in ‘Grace’ and I’m taken away by its heartaching and haunting feel. It is still innovative today.

    If you don’t have it.. buy it and give it a try, you will hear Buckley in every Radiohead song.

  • Csimmons

    I too would add Donie Hathoway.

  • kiwiboi

    vesselman – LOL !!

    Funny thing is…I think the list was written by a female :)

  • kiwiboi

    Csimmons – you’ve got great taste ;)

  • a few more to think about…I’m pretty much throwing out my playlist because I’m a “rare groove” junky:

    CURTIS MAYFIELD (kinda not unknown)
    DONNY HATHAWAY (agree with kiwiboi)

  • Obbop: the list was sent in by a female reader of the site. Also, could you perhaps name 5 females that should be on this list? Presumably you know at least a few better than the men here – or are you suggesting that we should try to write our lists so that we have equal amounts of women and men? That isn’t going to happen – the lists here are based on merit, not sex, skin color, religion, or any other politically correct motivation :)

  • AnotherEngine

    As far as influential women musicians I’d suggest the Raincoats. They were a pretty big influence for Kurt Cobain and saw that their records were reissued when Nirvana signed with Geffen. You could also throw in The Slits, X Ray Spex, and Patty Donahue of the Waitresses.

    Townes Van Zandt and Daniel Johnston have had some good documentaries put out about them with in the past few years and Control, a movie about Ian Curtis & Joy Division was released last year. All are worth viewing.

    Fun fact: Gram Parsons wrote “Love Hurts” which went on to become a terrible Monsters Of Rock power ballad by Nazareth. the original is far better as you can imagine.

  • kiwiboi

    AnotherEngine – much as I, too, like Gram’s rendition of Love Hurts…he didn’t write it. Dude named Boudleaux Bryant wrote it – along with other hits for the Everly Brothers (who, I think, recorded it first).

    Personally…I prefer the Nazareth version over the others.

  • JwJwBean

    Okay I went and listened to them all. I can’t say I recognized any of the songs except Jeff Buckley’s Halleluah. I remember hearing that on Shrek. I would bet that I have heard many of these at friends houses. After listening to all of them and knowing what I do about Satori I am not surprised by any of her picks. ;)

  • bad news

    obbop, whenever a man hears a woman speak about the hormones that course through our fat, hairy bodies, it gets those hormones even more worked up. So unless you want us to go totally caveman on your ass, you’ll quit mentioning them…

    This is kinda funny — last week, my wife and I were trying to come up with a list of the top 10 mentally disabled pop musicians. Here’s what we got:
    Roky Erickson
    Daniel Johnston
    Syd Barrett
    Hasil Adkins
    Wesley Willis
    Brian Wilson

  • bad news

    JwJwBean: “Halleluah” is a cover of a Leonard Cohen song (also covered beautifully by John Cale). He maybe deserves a place on this list, too.

  • bad news

    Lawrence: Good call on Gil Scott Heron. And maybe the Last Poets — they invented rap, as far as I’m concerned.
    “A rat done bit my sister Nell,
    With whitey on the moon…”

  • kiwiboi

    bad news – agreed about Brian Wilson; he is a true musical genius. You’ve probably read bios about him. Real sad – his father’s treatment of him as a kid sure helped him along the way to his mental illnesses.

  • “…her face and arms began to swell,
    With whitey on the moon…”

    Gil, last poets…definitely the originators of many things

  • Rodeograndma

    should have had videos

  • Um… that is not a photo of Ian Curtis. It’s an actor playing Ian Curtis…

  • jbjr

    Alex Chilton who influenced Replacements/Paul Westerberg (who probably could be on this list) who influenced a bunch.

    how about Marshall Crenshaw?

  • gabrielAmerican

    Where is Nick Drake? Talk about an influential unknown!
    As far as unknown women in music:
    Rickie Lee Jones and Ani Defranco leep to mind

  • jbjr

    Patti Smith for obbop

  • goof_ball

    I guess they’re little known for a reason. I’ve never heard of any of these! lol (:

  • I think Rory Gallagher deserves a mention here. But a very good list nonetheless.

  • lando

    how can you have this list without including Nick Drake? honestly

  • Didn’t Gram die of a heart attack?

  • Mom424

    Obpop; I for one am glad of hairy males with their hormones coursing through their veins; perhaps you swing the other way?

  • kiwiboi

    clumsyk – Gram OD’d

  • Rob

    I think someone mentioned Fela Kuti. He was amazing live. His energy was otherworldly…but he too stretched out songs.

  • ElleMNOP

    Thank you for including Anton Newcombe. Brilliant!

  • Nelia

    haha, at her discretion is right… that is Sam Reilly, who played Ian Curtis in the movie they made about his life, Control.

  • Becca

    I would agree on Patti Smith. She is cited by U2, REM, and others as a massive influence.

    Ian Curtis is unknown? Yowzah!

    And it’s Alice IN Chains, a brilliant, brilliant band whom I would choose any day over Jeff Buckley. I don’t know about influence, but just as something I want to listen to.

  • Einstein217

    I agree with the 13th Floor Elevators (Roky Erickson) and Big Star (Alex Chilton). Heavily influenced most of the alt-scene in the USA during the 80’s

  • halcyon52

    Yeah, I’m old also and recognize these guys and appreciate some of the other suggestions. But I nominate CAROL KAYE, probably the most prolific bass player/studio musician ever. Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Leon Russell, Frank Zappa, The Doors and a gazillion TV show credits.

  • Sad to say I’ve only heard of 2 of these people.

  • nicci

    I’m pretty sure thats a photo of the actor who played Ian Curtis in Control.

  • satori this is why there are no females on the list-there’s already been a recent list with a similar theme DEDICATED SOLELY TO FEMALE MUSICIANS-and yes, I AM A WOMAN, so the list had nothing to do with “male hormones”, but I think Ohbop you definitely illustrated to us the affects of female hormones at their peak in the spirit of your post. Would you complain about a list of strictly females? And if any of them were well endowed, would you also have a bone of contention?

    OTHERWISE-Ian Curtis and Jeff Buckley while they are better known now, at the time of their deaths they were virtually unheard of-Ian Curtis was almost unknown save for in the U.K.-Worldwide, his work hadn’t crossed the ocean yet. The same is true with Jeff Buckley-and now, both are on the lips of many musicians as influential artists-as well as music geeks and lovers abroad. The write ups do go into these details. I’m glad you guys enjoyed the list (thanks for the props bean)!

  • EvanJ

    I’d second gabrielAmerican, Nick Drake is brilliant and despite being relatively unknown, his three albums are pretty influential. I’d also suggest Moby Grape (a big influence on Robert Plant in particular) and Arthur Brown (the first shock rocker. Art Tatum is known in jazz circles but otherwise unknown.
    bad news – Skip Spence is another completely mental rocker. He once tried to hack through a hotel room door with an axe to attack his bandmates. Nice.

  • roger

    Bad Brains should be on this list.

  • riledupone

    How about Phil Ochs? Unusual voice and some beautiful songwrithing. And his song, “Outside A Small Circle of Friends” is wickedly funny and still relevant today. I believe he hung himself in the 60’s.

  • riledupone

    Ooops! That would be songwriting, not songwrithing. And he died in 1976.
    Is songwrithing making music for porno films?LOL

  • NoPunyNerd

    Townes VanZandt often played small clubs in Houston during the 70s — the Old Quarter comes to mind. He was well known and loved in this small corner of the universe. Interesting list … I’ll definitely check out some of the other musicians.

  • Devon

    How about little known Judy Sills? Sadly overdosed in the late 70’s but you can find some of her tunes on youtube…

    Rather haunting stuff…

  • Becca

    So how come this list isn’t called “male?” It’s like male is the norm, female is the “other.” I understand you’re female, it’s just always like this.

  • Blixa

    Nick Cave

  • JMurf

    Yep Nick Cave for sure

  • Josh

    I’d put Terry Reid on the list. His songwriting ability and his melodic vocals interweave to create a tapestry of emotions. He’s so underrated!

    I did agree with Buckley. Very good choice. His songs send shivers up my spine!

    Great list!

  • satori

    Becca- I totally get you! But I think it’s important to choose battles-and to me, it’s just a word missing in a list-it’s clear that all the musicians on here are male-I agree, the word male could be in there and would be a reasonable addition. That’s why above, I’ve linked to the list of females, so that readers can browse that list of amazing musicians. Think about it this way; distinguishing females vs. males (as these two lists do) I think shows that these are pioneers of music whereas men have long been given recognition in this area-I praise the women who paved the way for other greats like Ani DiFranco, Alanis Morrisette, etc. and I don’t think that female artists generally truly appreciate the work female rockers, songstresses had to do to get themselves out there. Therefore, it is more justifiable to see that the list of females is distinguished to honor and recognize such strides. I hope that made sense. It made sense in my head, lol! I just hope that people don’t miss the point of the list and possibly miss out on some really great music. (BTW, Nick Cave just about made it on here, as did Tom Waits, narrowly).

  • Jake

    To quote The Commitments, “There’s no E in heroin.”

    (Anton Newcomb)

  • swampsnake

    Tom Waits is a serious contender for this list

  • Diogenes

    to bad news: i like your list too. ever listen to captain beefheart and /or terry allen?

  • Diogenes

    i’m not sayin they are mentally challanged, no no ? but between your list and Satori’s.

  • Diogenes

    pps. i meant..”mentally disabled”

  • JwJwBean

    Did you mean just “mental”?

  • satori

    Mentally disabled still means mentally challenged-do you mean MENTALLY ILL?

  • Diogenes

    no no… I was attempting to quote from what “bad news ” had said in his comment#33.
    I first said one thing when it was supposed to be another.
    but all around this can be something entirely else if it carries onward.

    Concerning you JwJwBean: my comments seem to be more mental each time I post them on this site”

    mentally challanged, mentally ill, or just mental?

  • stugy

    Thank you so much for this list. I hadn’t really heard of anyone on here. I decided to look at Richie Havens on youtube; at first I was pretty underwhelmed by his version of Strawberry Fields Forever. Luckily I decided to give him another chance tonight and I was blown away.

    I watched every video and listen to every song I can and I retuned my guitar to match his open D and to try to play somewhat like him. I also found out that he is going to be playing about an hour away from where I live in April. I can’t wait.

    Thanks for the great list again

  • stugy

    Also; happy birthday to me, haha

  • Kudos to the poster who mentioned Carol Kaye!

    I want to bring to everyone’s attention the most technically innovative, musically important guitarist who ever lived, and who most people have never heard of. That’s right, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH!! A big reason Eddie Van Halen played the way he did was from hearing Allan. The same goes for a lot of the technical badass players of the 80s, though nobody really got what Allan was musically trying to do. His speed was ripped off, but never his style & soul. Jimmy Herring is a modern player who’s a big fan of Allan, and it shows up in his soloing in a very tasteful way.

  • ab

    I am from India least exposure to western music and I love jeff buck…. how can he be underrated

  • Randall


    This is a fantastic list, one of the best ever done on List Universe, at least music-related. Excellent job, well done.

  • Mom424

    satori; tom waits is uber cool,,,,great ya mentioned him!

  • MzFly

    Richie Havens, awesome! I saw him in concert last summer at Bethel Woods (the site of the original Woodstock) and he still has it! He just totally owned the stage and rocked out with such passion it was amazing. And to top it all off, he stayed over 2 hours signing autographs after his performance.

  • AndyB123

    That’s not Ian Curtis. Sorry. I remember when he died in 1980 – Unknown Pleasures took on a whole new dimension. Very sad, and very stupid. Or maybe not. He got his place in rock history, alright. About crazy people in rock: 13th Floor Elevator – that is, the whole band – went nuts. Hard act to follow.

  • satori

    Randall that is a huge compliment-and I’ll take it! TY very much. I’m glad people liked it. STUGY-I’m so glad I was able to introduce you to Richie-he is pretty amazing. AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’d suggest trying to find recordings of his Woodstock performance-it’ll blow your mind.

  • SlickWilly

    The person here I’ve heard of is Dock Boggs, and only because my dad is a wicked banjo player. Whoever said the banjo was dead? :)

  • SocialButterfly

    kiwiboi: What is defenestration??

  • JwJwBean

    Defenestration, from the Latin de (from; out of) and fenestra (window or opening), is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window.

    from wikipedia

  • Maggot

    Elmore James (perhaps he’s not considered “little known”?)

  • PlasticSpiderThing

    Hmm… I’m not sure about the whole little known thing… I agree with the “influential” tag though. But there are so many hugely influential artists who are genuinly little known… where’s Genesis P Orrige? Lydia Lunch? Michael Gira? Jarboe? i agree whole heartedly with JMurf re Sun Ra, his work is incredible, and Obbop on the gender bias. There are so many Fantastic female musicians who deserve the same if not more credit than people on this list; the aforementioned Lydia Lunch and Jarboe, Kim Gordon, Billy Holiday, Nina Simone, Cosey Fanni Tutti… I am very happy to see Moon Dog on the list though.

  • travis

    For those who don’t know Jeff Buckley also invented the wheel.

  • bad news

    Diogenes: I wore out “Trout Mask Replica”, but didn’t get much beyond that. It’s difficult for me to listen to post-Island Records Tom Waits and not hear Captain Beefheart.

    PlasticSpiderThing: Genesis P Orridge? I dig TG, but I can only pray that they were one of a kind. Who knows, maybe James Blunt can cover “Hamburger Lady”?

    travis:…and Jeff Buckley’s tears cured cancer, but he never cried — not ONCE.

  • Thelonious

    Gil Scott-Heron was mentioned somewhere above. I agree with that one.

  • zeppelingod

    What a great list. I have heard of 7 of the 10 listed, but only through watching numerous documentaries and being a life long fan of music.

    The performance Richie Havens gave at Woodstock stands out for me when I think of that festival. I remember hearing that there was a problem with the opening act, so the organizers asked Havens to go on stage early. He went out and gave an improvisational performance of “Motherless Child” that came straight from his soul.

    Some have questioned whether or not Ian Curtis is a ‘little known’ artist. His band Joy Division released their debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in 1979 and Curtis died in May of 1980. While they found success in the UK in 1979, were they really well known in the rest of the music world at that time? Either way, they were influential to many, most notably U2.

    I watched a documentary called ‘Dig!’ about the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. While the actions of Jonestown’s founder Anton Newcombe were disturbing, there is no denying his immense talent. Once the band split due to Newcombe’s ego and his volatile nature, his band members went on to find the success which eluded him. Former members include Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Bobby Hecksher of the Warlocks, and Miranda Lee Richards. It was hard to watch a musician with such potential fall in the downward spiral of his untreated mental illness.

    I was fortunate enough to see the documentary ‘Be Here to Love Me’ which is the story of folk/country musician Townes Van Zandt. After watching that movie and listening to as much of his music as I could find, I feel that he is one of the best singer/songwriters of our time. I have no idea how he didn’t become a house hold name in the music world.

    I heard of Moondog while watching The Henry Rollins Show. Rollins was interviewing actor Jeff Bridges, and Bridges brought up how he was fascinated with Moondog. Bridges said he has always wanted to do a movie based on the life of the eccentric musician.

    When I saw the documentary ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’ I became obsessed with finding and listening to his music. His extremely basic guitar chords and his voice are definately not for everyone. His vocals reminded me a little of the Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano, where as they can be described as whiney/screechy.

    While everyone can think of musicians that should be on this list, I think that’s to be expected with all the different musical genres and tastes. In my opinion, this was a great compilation of ‘little known influential musicians’. Nice job Satori :)

  • Joss

    Mmm, I love my some Jeff Buckley.

  • Joss



  • boomshine87

    kiwiboi: Do you think Donny Hathaway could be the guy that Amy Winehouse mentions in her song Rehab? “There’s nothing you can’t teach me / That I can’t learn from Mr. Hathaway”? …

  • kiwiboi

    boomshine – yes, indeed it is. Amy has excellent taste in music (if not in men…)

  • fydeaux

    If this were a list of musicians deserving wider recognition, I believe THAT is the list that should include Tom Waits, Jeff Buckley, Alanis Morissette, Ani DeFranco, Patti Smith, and others such as Taj Mahal, Ben Sidran, Pete Seeger, Irma Thomas, Arthur Alexander, Dan Hicks, Professor Longhair, and every blues musician who ever recorded, regardless of their relative level of fame. But these players are not little known.

    So if obscurity is really a qualifying criteria, please consider the following:
    Little Miss Cornshucks
    Carlos Guitarlos
    Ronnie Gilbert
    David Lindley
    Paul Burlison
    Hank Garland
    Phoebe Snow (Probably straddles the line between DWR and little known, but I’m including her anyway)
    Tim Buckley (Ditto, but Jeff’s father is little remembered and
    it’s a shame. Coincidentally, I’m pretty sure he also dies by drowning.)

  • Jorgegrl

    I was surprised to see Jeff Buckley on there, I’d say he is more well known than my boyfriend’s other favorite artist Elliot Smith. Elliot had quite a lot going for him so when I saw Buckley on there i was just blown away to not see Smith there too.

    Oh well. Buckley still rocks

  • Ma$e

    Shannon Hoon. Probably the best vocalist to some out of the 90s. Short lived career greatky missed.

  • KKing

    I know he was mainstream for a bit, but his influence if greatly underrated: Elliott Smith. I’d easily call him the best songwriter of the last ten years.

  • Saint Splattergut

    Man, your choice of picture for Jeff Buckley… lol. It made me chuckle. Possibly the worse picture of Buckley I’ve seen, but also the funniest!

    And yeah, wouldn’t really say he is “little known”. Ian Curtis isn’t really “little known” as well.

  • Sam

    Michael Hedges.

  • Bluesbabe

    yes, yes, yes to the person who mentioned Carol Kaye. I remember the first time I found out about her and all the great songs she played on.

    My additions would have to be:

    Memphis Minnie
    Charley Patton
    Skip James
    (okay…pretty much all of the old blues artists who died poor & obscure)

  • Obbop

    Hanging my bulbous head in shame, I, the Mighty Obbop, star of neither stage mor screen….must proclaim my original post lambasting the lack of females in the list was done tongue-in-cheek.

    I assumed a persona that insists that everything include females even if females are not worthy of inclusion or the topic has nothing to do with gender.

    Actually, I have altered my lifestyle so as to shun females. I have tired of female illogic and the ever-growing so-called “female rights” movement.

    Basically, my original post was a jab at “feminism.”

    Females have their place but there are many “places” where they do not fit in well…. just as there are places that females excel and males don’t do as well.

    It is my belief that the USA society is increasingly becoming hostile to males as evidenced by the mass media, laws and statutes enacted, etc and a few more etceteras.

    It’s Friday eve. Have a wondrous weekend, folks!!!

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  • Ghostie

    I think Ian Curtis/ Joy Division (the band) would only be well known to the people who have the interest to look. More often than not, I get a “huh” and confused look when I bring them up, or they come up in conversation. They just have a vocal, cult-like following, in California, at least, has been my experience.

    So thank you for including him on this list.

  • rushfan

    Leonard Cohen

  • Bernie

    Daniel is the best. I’ve been very lucky to have seen him play live nearly 10 times; he really puts on one of the best shows today, if only because of his brilliant lyrics, not his stage presence.

  • Steph

    oh jeff. such a waste. one of my faourite musicians.

  • kking

    I’d add elliott smith.

  • hilly

    I’m SO glad to see Daniel as #1 on here. I just saw him again a few months ago. “Devil Town” is easily the most insightful and poetic ode to alienation ever written.

    Also, a great female addition to the list would be the wonderful British band The Raincoats. Cobain was also a fan of them.

  • redser

    the picture you have up of ian curtis isnt him its the actor who played him in control, do some research

  • Mark

    Apparently Jeff Buckley drowned whilst singing along to Whole Lotta Love (that’s a Zeppelin song for all the uneducated among us – you know, the Stairway to Heaven band?). What a way to go.

  • K-Dub

    Mark- i heard it was Since i’ve been loving you?? either way…singing Zep is a good way to bite it

  • cripkilla

    man how bout country joe mcdonald

  • oscar22

    No NIck Drake?????….
    man…#…fuck you!!!

  • trfan

    At least Richie Havens I’m familiar with, from his appearance on “Married with Children” (Axle Bundy!).

  • e.w.

    I am so glad to see that Jeff Buckley is on the list. His music has changed my life.

    But he did not have bi-polar disorder( oficially diagnosed anyway) and he didn’t take drugs the day/night previous to his fateful swim in the Wolf River.

    Jeff Buckley DID NOT KILL HIMSELF!!!

    He did go into the water fully clothed including his boots which he always wore.

    As he swam out into the river on his back a boat came along and created a current( The Mississippi River has very strong currents anyway). His friend/road Keith Foti was on the shore w/ his back turned at the time, he was movie Jeff’s stereo away from the water.

    Jeff tried to swim back and yelled for help. Keith unfortunately didn’t go into the water (possibly due to panic) and the current created by the boat along w/ his heavy wet clothing dragged him down to the depths of The Mississippi River ( The Wolf River is the proper name, it is a tributary off the Missippi).

    On May 29th,1997 the world lost a great artist as well as a great person. But GOD gained an angel!:O)

  • tpicco

    Richie Havens???
    Gram Parsons???
    Ian Curtis???
    Jeff Buckley???

    Little known?
    To who?
    Britney & Hannah Montana fans?

    And BTW, Tim Buckley was the influential one. Jeff just continued & expanded on his father’s style, IMHO…

  • hinkle von dinkle

    everyone knows who jeff buckley is, anyone with any knowledge of anything knows who ian curtis and gram parsons are. the rest i’ll give you, though townes van zandt and daniel johnston are also pretty famous

  • yourbirdcansing88

    I love Richie Havens and Gram Parsons! I have heard of Ian Curtis, Jeff Buckley, and Townes Van Zandt, even though I’m not too familiar with their stuff (I am a tad bit more familiar with Jeff Buckley’s father, Tim Buckley, who I think deserves a spot on this list). And I agree with all the Drake-o-philes who posted previously. Where oh where was Nick Drake?

  • rory

    the picture of ian curtis there isn’t ian curtis, it’s actor sam riley who played curtis in the biopic ‘control’

  • Grace

    underrated afro-folk genius:

  • wah wah

    where are the influential women in this list?

    what about Kate Bush?
    she was pretty influential!

  • cascading spirit

    Ian Curtis is hot

  • Rach

    Anton is amazing <3

  • rebekah

    Id put danzig,nick cave, and tom waits up there

  • fendabenda

    Leo Kottke

  • Will Trame

    I think Tim Buckley…Jeff’s father…should be on this list, as he was not too well known. Joy Division really didn’t have that much impact in the states which is why perhaps Ian Curtis is on this list. He reminds me of a British Jim Morrison.

    Other notable omissions:

    Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators)
    Sky Saxon (The Seeds…..punk rock pioneers)
    Fred Neil
    Tim Hardin
    The Soft Machine (Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge…psychedelic jazz-rock)
    Nick Drake
    Wanda Jackson (rockabilly pioneer)
    David Lindley (talented multi-instrumentalist..member of Kaleidoscope)
    Solomon Feldthouse (Kaleidoscope; multi-instrumentalist, pioneer of world music being proficient on exotic instruments such as saz and oud)

  • Yeah…just about everyone knows who Jeff Buckley is and he isn't old enough (historically to be much of an influence on anyone)…his father on the other hand was one of the most unique voices in musical history and so strangely unknown in the USA. I don't think he had any influence (except maybe on his son) becuase nobody could possibly copy his vocal ability.

    His folk music was TERRIBLE…but take a listen to "Look at the Fool" and "Greetings from LA", just unbelievably good!

  • rallymcwilliams

    Nick Drake

  • kreetik

    Daniel Johnston over Roky Erickson? Sorry, no way.

  • Ynes

    This list sucks. Daniel Johnston? What a joke.

  • zak

    fuck yeah rallymcwilliams, exactly who I was gonna say. Love Nick Drake, though if that car commercial has its way he might become better known.

    I also wanna add the guitarists Roy Buchanan and King Sunny Ade. Two monumental talents almost unknown in modern guitar circles

  • "A blind homeless by choice"

    I don't think Moondog was blind by choice, whatever about being homeless.

  • zak

    Every hush voiced male folkie from Elliot Smith to Bright Eyes to Iron and Wine etc. owes a debt to Nick Drake.

  • audharper

    Anton Newcombe deserves more credit than he gets. He might be insane but his music is amazing. Really if you haven’t heard of him you should check him out.

  • Eleanor Maw

    I think Alan Merrill one time lead singer with the Arrows should be on this list, great voice and he co wrote the classic rock song “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” He has just turned 60 on feb 19th 2011 and is still gigging a lot in New York & Japan.

  • BreK


  • victimofcircumstance

    Ah, excuse me, no Scott Walker in the list?!?!?!?

  • Laura Nyro is more influential than anyone on this list….she certainly had more of her songs hit #1 than anyone on this list.

  • forsure

    Roky Erickson should def be on htis list

  • james blames

    Skip Spence should definitley be on this list…………….
    also….not to sound like a musik nerd…but ian curtis’ photo is actually sam riley…..the guy who played him in the biopic Control …….

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  • Elliot

    Bad ass list. Thank you.

  • JBW

    Alex Chilton & Chris Bell influenced some of these “influential” unknowns. Where are they???

  • Ross

    You’ve got it wrong mate. That’s Brit actor Sam Riley. He played Ian Curtis in a film biopic, Control.

  • Daniil
  • John

    The list means nothing without the inclusion of Nick Drake. Elliott Smith too.

  • de

    Anton Newcombe was addicted to courageous women?

  • Joan

    Only one problem: the picture that you put of Ian Curtis isn’t actually Ian Curtis. That’s a picture of Sam Riley playing Ian Curtis in a movie about his life called “Control”

  • Dan

    Ritchie Havens? Unknown?

    And although he isn’t unknown, especially to people who love the ol’ Acoustic Blues- Reverend Gary Davis , is not nearly as famous as he should be, His students include Bob Dylan, Jorma Koukanen, and basically every rock star who took an interest in finger picking blues who past through NYC in the 1960s or anyone who learned anything from Stefan Grossman’s Mail order Books/Cassettes/VHS/DVD guitar lessons in the past half century.

    Or again not unknown ( But neither are some of the people you mentioned) But Charley Patton invented Delta Blues and his student Robert Johnson gets all the credit after a historical rewrite that began in the 1960’s. Delta Blues is part of American Musics DNA. Blues itself is the sound of the American 20th century. It was not “the Jazz Age” as it is so frequently called by sterile academics. It belonged to Blues and Blues’ and Country’s bastard step child Rock and Roll. Which makes Charley Patton possibly the singular most important figure of 20th century American music. I’d probably place him second behind Bob Dylan. Yes he gets some of the praise that is due him, but not nearly 1/10th of the credit he deserves.
    And speaking of Dylan – Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is virtually unknown to anyone under 50 who isn’t a big Bob Dylan fan. That is an unsung influential artist if there ever was one.

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