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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 20-16

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 10:01 AM

See also:

* The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 15-11

* The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 10-6

Choosing the best S.F. musicians is kinda like forcing yourself to choose your favorite Bay Area bridge: Whatever you pick, there's always a good reason to go with another answer. San Francisco has a well-earned reputation as one of the world's rock 'n' roll meccas, but its contributions to music have come from all kinds of artists -- composers, DJs, and some musicians who simply elude classification. After much deliberation then, let present this list of the 20 all-time greatest S.F. musicians, which we will be rolling out this week. Note to qualify for this list, an artist needs to have a strong association with San Francisco itself -- not other Bay Area cities. Now, let's get down to business, with the 20 greatest S.F. musicians ever, nos. 20 to 16:

click to enlarge Cameron Paul
  • Cameron Paul

20. Cameron Paul

Lists of pioneering American DJs often mention the usual suspects in New York and Chicago, but go back to the '70s and '80s and you'll find a small but innovative group of S.F. spinners that laid the foundations for what would later become turntablism. In his day, Cameron Paul was a local legend, a powermixer par excellence, who held storied residencies at Studio West and City Nights, as well as influential radio shows on KMEL and the now-defunct KSOL. Cutting with godlike ease through electro, new wave, hip-hop, hi-nrg, and disco, his sets were met with reverential awe, inspiring an entire generation of DJs to hit the decks and start scratching. Yet, far from just being a local legend, Paul took the nation by storm with his Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling remix of Salt-N-Pepa's "Push-It" (aka, the version you know), and a highly sampled back-catalog of essential DJ tools on his Mixx-It label. While others might have gone on to more fame, it simply wouldn't have happened without the man who started it all. -- Derek Opperman

click to enlarge Steve Miller
  • Steve Miller

19. Steve Miller

There are few things that scream "nerd" harder than T-shirts, posters, and school folder doodles of mythological creatures. So give Steve Miller credit that he managed to make Pegasus cool in the late '70s, after making the winged horse a symbol for his bright brand of chart-topping prog-pop-rock. And that's the thing about Miller: He's never been cool, but he's always been awesome.

Miller has been a lot of things to the commercial music canon since launching his eponymous band in the psychedelic scene of 1967 San Francisco. Since arriving like so many others in an era-defining Volkswagen Bus, the Wisconsin-born, Texas-bred, Chicago-honed guitarist/singer has presented his personae as the Space Cowboy, the Gangster of Love, and a guy named Maurice in his breezy 1973 party vibe-summation frathouse sing-along "The Joker." But through it all he's been very serious about crafting a fluid, melodic style. Miller was already seven albums into a career of winding psychedelic jams when he reoriented his approach toward pop. And though he indulged echoing interludes and 16-minute space disco explorations, he'll always be best remembered for encapsulating San Francisco's atmosphere of trippy blues into easily palatable songs that are great for a toke and a grin. --Tony Ware

click to enlarge Michael Tilson Thomas
  • Michael Tilson Thomas

18. Michael Tilson Thomas

Symphonies across the nation have been scrambling for funds and bleeding ticket buyers for years now -- leading some pop music enthusiasts to pronounce the classical genre a goner. But Michael Tilson Thomas, esteemed music director of the San Francisco Symphony, offers a glimmer of hope. His wide-ranging repertoire and innovative programming has opened San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall to audiences across the globe and has placed the organization at the forefront of the classical music world. A fierce advocate for music education and accessibility, Tilson Thomas created a popular multimedia series called, "Keeping Score" in partnership with PBS. He has led the orchestra on 13 national tours and through a landmark 12-concert festival celebrating the work of American composers of the 20th century. His work has garnered a long list of accolades, including 10 Grammy awards -- eight of which recognize his recordings with the San Francisco Symphony. Friendly and charismatic, Tilson Thomas helms the symphony through its centennial year and, certainly, for more to come. --Jessica Hilo

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