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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

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Etta James
  • Etta James

17. Etta James

As a fierce and uncompromising R&B superstar, Etta James changed the industry for female blues artists and musicians alike. James lived a rough-and-tumble life. As a child, she bounced between homes in Los Angeles before she was moved to San Francisco's Fillmore district. It was here that her singing career blossomed. James was a talented songwriter with a knack for tongue-in-cheek, which made her lyrical exploits, youthful arrogance, and sexual confidence ripe for rock and doo-wop. At 15, James and her band the Creolettes were discovered by renowned producer Johnny Otis and signed with Modern Records. She went onto a solo career with Chess Records in the 1960s. In the thick of civil rights-era politics, much of her work went undercompensated or unrecognized -- leading to long battles with personal, legal, and health issues. Despite this struggle, James toured extensively and produced a smattering of chart-topping hits. She was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and earned six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. James passed away earlier this year after a lengthy battle with leukemia and dementia. --Jessica Hilo.

Mike Patton
  • Mike Patton

16. Mike Patton

From humble beginnings in Eureka emerged one of the most limber larynxes of today. Mike Patton co-founded Mr. Bungle as a teen. By Bungle's fourth demo, 1988's OU8I8, Patton's profound vocal talents were evident. He veered from disemboweling growls to soulful falsettos, keeping pace with Bungle's schizophrenic sense of genre. His star turn came when he joined Faith No More in 1989. Although the FNM years represented Patton's singing at its most restrained, his experimental tendencies crept in, particularly on Angel Dust. Patton parted company with Faith No More and Mr. Bungle in the late '90s, abandoning the whole funk-metal shebang to a generation of nu-metallers. He has since loaned his lungs to metal supergroup Fantômas, covering everything from Slayer songs to horror-movie theme songs; crooned Christmas carols and other delights with jazz experimentalist John Zorn; and belted out the bottom end on Björk's "Where is the Line?" In between, he's released two solo albums, sung opera composed by Eyvind Kang, and reunited with FNM. His sometimes-prickly personality and rejection of celebrity have forced the spotlight to remain on his voice -- right where it belongs. --Beth Winegarner

Stay tuned as we roll out the rest of our Best S.F. musicians list all this week -- we continue Tuesday with Nos. 15 to 11.

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