All-Time Best Band: R.E.M. All-Time Best Solo Artist: Ray Charles Best New Band: The Black Lips
College, as an aesthetic experience, was still defined by 1960s radicalism until a fumbling garage band from Athens refashioned shy, scared-shitless, half-coherent intellectualism into a hallmark of “serious” pop music. Rock didn’t recover for nearly a decade, but R.E.M. trailblazed a path for mumbling, punk-ass white guys to the cover of Rolling Stone. | Without Ray Charles, there is no soul. No soul music, no soul food, no All Souls’ Day, no Dr. Scholl (which, on an up note, would have meant no “gellin’ ”). Echoed — but never matched — over the course of a half-century by everyone from Elvis and Sinatra to Kanye and Luda, Brother Ray also overcame near-lifelong blindness (and a vicious junk habit) to perform the finest song ever written about his home state, not to mention the most amber-waving “God Bless America” to ever rock a ball game. | One of the last truly dangerous bands in rock and roll, the Black Lips suffered the death of their drummer (killed by a drunk driver before their first album came out), then promptly came, saw, and conquered with a vengeance, delivering a stage show that would make Iggy Pop wince: bloody guitars, vomit, cocks on parade, and even firecrackers in mouths. Black lips, indeed.