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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 5-1

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 3:30 AM

See also:

* The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians: Honorable Mentions

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

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

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

Here it is: After a week-long countdown, we bring you the last installment of our list of the 20 greatest San Francisco musicians of all time. Let's find out who's in the final five:


5. Bob Weir

Bob Weir was one of the founding members of The Grateful Dead, probably the most influential American band of the 1960s, and the first jam band. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist was born in San Francisco and grew up playing folk music. When he was 16, he met guitarist Jerry Garcia and founded The Grateful Dead. Weir sang lead and pioneered the complex, melodic rhythm guitar style that became the hallmark of The Dead's arrangements, along with Garcia's free-form lead work. He added slide guitar techniques to his music in the late 70s, also incorporating elements of bop, ragtime and classical music into his expanding musical palette. Ace, his first solo album, was released in 1972. When The Dead took time off from their relentless touring, Weir played with the roots rock outfit Kingfish, the more pop inspired Bobby and the Midnights, the free flowing RatDog and as a jazzy acoustic duo with bassist Rob Wasserman as Weir/Wasserman. Since Garcia's death in 1995, Weir has played with other members of The Grateful Dead as The Other Ones and The Dead. In 2009, he started Furthur with bass guitarist Phil Lesh; the band's songbook draws heavily on the music of The Grateful Dead. -- J Poet


4. Jello Biafra

There's an argument to be made that the Dead Kennedys, which Jello Biafra founded in 1978, were San Francisco's best punk band. Certainly they were its most delightfully obnoxious, issuing sarcastic, speedy three-chord anthems that railed against a host of societal ills: corrupt auto mechanics, clueless college business majors, warmongering politicians in general, Gov. Jerry Brown in particular, and the hollowing effects of consumer culture. Though Biafra's lyrics often referred to issues specific to their time, Dead Kennedys records remain quite popular today. And even after the band broke up in 1985, Biafra remained a potent force in the local scene: His Alternative Tentacles label (now headquartered in Emeryville, alas) still puts out records by a very diverse and often very weird variety of acts, and Biafra himself has never lost the inclination to loudly and hilariously savage things he doesn't like. These days, things Jello Biafra doesn't like include high-tech yuppies, milquetoast indie-pop bands, and the availability of valet parking on Valencia Street. Agree with him or not, Biafra remains the punk conscience of San Francisco -- and that's still something this city needs very much. -- Ian S. Port


3. Sly Stone

Numerous places can lay claim to Sylvester "Sly Stone" Stewart: He was born in Texas, raised in Vallejo, and relocated to L.A. in 1969, at the height of his popularity. But since Stone was a DJ at San Francisco's KSOL -- and hell, he wrote a song called "Luv N' Haight," spelled like the city street -- we're including him on this list. His greatness is inarguable: Stone melded funk and psychedelia into a near-perfect output of rhythm and euphoria, and supercharged his songs with a political and racial awareness that was radical in its time. Decades later, Sly and the Family Stone songs like "Everyday People," "If You Want Me to Stay," and "Dance to the Music" still sound incredible -- and their influence on funk, rock, and disco remains palpable. Perhaps James Brown's main rival as the king of funk, Stone's freewheeling personality and vivid style were also an importance influence on Jimi Hendrix. Sadly, it was reported last year that Stone is now living, apparently by choice, in a van on the streets of L.A.. He claims to have hundreds of new songs written and recorded, but is wary of releasing them to a record company. -- Ian S. Port

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