By Mickey Dunaway

Over the next three sessions I will be describing a baker’s dozen of musicians and musical groups that I consider the greatest of my lifetime

Today’s session— Music My Way-Track 1—will explain the methods I used to arrive at my final 13 and my top five. I start with research into Billboard’s top twenty artists of the 1970s and a bit of how my taste and my wife’s evolved during the ’70s to where it is today. 

The second session—Music My Way-Track 2—gives you what I call the Big Pile and the Little Piles of artists and the logic behind these groupings and—the artists in the Big Pile (lots of folks I like) and the Little Piles (categories of artists). 

The third session— Music My Way-Track 3—will reveal the 13 artists I consider the best of my lifetime, and the top five ranked from 5 to 1 and the 8 honorable mentions.


I promise these will not be your list of 13 best musicians and musical groups. That’s more than OK. It is perfect because my intent is to create an ongoing discussion with you. Quality discussion includes what we agree with and what pisses us off. 

Always agreeing is not discussion. It is useless chin-wagging, and with the substantive discussion occurring in the parking lot after the meeting.

Always dissenting is not discussion either. It is the eternal acrimonious teenager arguing with the fencepost.  Just as our mamas used to tell us we were.

So, I have created a prioritized list of music that we like at our house, and I trust it will help you consider what is the best music of your lifetime.  If you would like to discuss it through my website ( or my Facebook page, let’s do it! Want to talk stereos and turntables and the virtues of vinyl? I will pour you a Scotch, a beer, a bourbon or a cup of coffee, and we can engage in some serious conversation. And we can do that virtually or in my den.

I re-categorized and re-prioritized several times as I compiled my final 13 and then selected the top five of my baker’s dozen. You can see the entire list and a list of what I call the honorable mentions, and the final categories I put folks in as I compiled and considered.


My wife and I have talked often about our musical tastes over the years and that our tastes are specific and hard to put into typical boxes like classical, jazz, blues, rock, or country. We like people in each of these groups. 

There are only two groups that definitely do not appeal to us at all: pop (think Taylor Swift and Katie Perry) and hip-hop/rap (think Beyonce or Snoop Dogg).  

Predictably (at least for most of us Southerners) when we hit our 30s, our tastes turned toward country. Before then, and still, we listened to The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Gladys Knight, Aretha, Ray Charles, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel, and Gordon Lightfoot.  We were definitely not Woodstock-people. 


A Little Research to Begin

I found Billboard’s top 20 performers of the 1970s, interesting. ( )

Of that list I found only a few that we listened to purposefully (as opposed to having them come up on the car stereo):  Roberta Flack, Rod Stewart, and Marvin Gaye. No real surprises. Easy to see the dominance of disco in the decade, but disco did not dominate in Alabama.


Our Journey Toward #1 Begins

When Sandy and I made a turn away from our rock background, it started with one specific artist who turned us toward country music—Willie Nelson and his album, Redheaded Stranger released in 1975. And I still have that 46-yearold-LP.  I should insert here that when we grew up, Hank Williams was a standard in each of our houses. In fact Sandy had an uncle who played at one time in Hank Williams’ band as they both came up in very rural Butler County, Alabama south of Montgomery where Sandy’s mother’s people were from. 

When I started to write this, I was listening to a four LP collection of the best of Eric Clapton from 1966-2006 on a ProJect Debut Carbon Evo Turntable, Polk T50 floor speakers, and a Denon AVR 650H receiver.  Oh my, he sounds so good.  Great guitarist and singer without a doubt. But, what about Clapton’s contemporary, Mark Knopfler? Does either make my list? Currently as I write, I am listening to Black jazz violinist, Regina Carter’s album: Paganini, After a Dream. See how hard we are to pin down? So where did I first hear Regina Carter play? Probably on an NPR segment or maybe on Austin City Limits on PBS, and then we bought that CD and then another. 

Do you get the idea that this project is going to be hard? Really hard. With the next post I expect you will begin to experience a little of what I went through trying to tie myself down to specific artists who are my favorites, and the hardest part of that—I had to answer to why I chose this one over that one.

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