Top Lists and the Fallacy of Ranking Musicians

A Response to Numbered Rolling Stone Magazine Guitar Lists
Well, they did it again. Someone earning a salary to voice their opinions about something they clearly think they know something about wrote the list to end all lists ordering the great guitar players from 1 to 250. And they proved themselves wrong again. The problem with a numbered list, particularly one that goes all the way to 250 is that someone has to be listed dead last at 250 and someone has to be listed at number 1. 
Ok, so maybe they even fixed past errors. For example, now Eddie Van Halen is ranked 4th… way better than past years when he was ranked in the high 70’s. Good for them. While I do appreciate them fixing a previous wrong, no way Eddie Van Halen is not a top 5 for all time. But there - I just did it. I assigned a number. I guess that make me guilty too.
So, to be clear - my objection to the list is not the placement of someone on a list.
It’s numbering.
Why? It’s a false premise. 
So, let’s change the mentality with a little truth. EVERYONE has their own #1 guitarist. Usually, guitarists have a list of top 10 favorites that they can share with you pretty readily, but I, for one, would have great difficulty numbering them. I would just do what I am about to do, which is pick 10 that are not numbered but that I feel are tremendous performers and writers. Then, maybe a non-musician, or maybe a beginning level musician can have their ears opened to the sublime skill and passion that these amazing guitar players have given me. And while my opinion may not matter to many, sharing my experience might count for something amongst friends, family, fans, and listeners of mine. In that spirit, I openly welcome any critique of my non-numbered batch o’ guitar players.
To me, the important thing is NOT to discuss why someone is ranked somewhere, but TO discuss - for the benefit of people who are looking for new inspirations – how someone inspired others. Maybe even be bold enough to identify how some players changed the game, while others just played it. By listening to clear developments in technique, we can study and appreciate the unique qualities that got these guitarists on any list. And while there is always value in studying those who play for the love of playing, there is a lot to be said for those players who keep re-inventing the sounds and showing their versatility and skill in the use of this six stringed device. 
I don’t need Rolling Stone’s opinion as to where and why Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck etc. are ranked where they are. It’s beyond subjective and into fantasy with that annoying touch of idiocy where there are winners (“I made the list!”) to losers (“I made the list but now I am number 247… I can see where this is headed”). 
Remove the numbers. List your favorites, not with numbers but reasons why you love what they did, what they do, or even what they are going to do. Maybe remove the subjectivity of it - George Harrison was a great guitarist and songwriter, and the Beatles STILL own some of the biggest ear worm songs of all time - but why would he be listed above Eric Clapton? Sales on SoundScan in 1997? (Spoiler alert - sales don’t necessarily indicate skill).  If you remove the numbering, and just talk about the WHY - what was played in this circumstance and how it affected you (or others) – now we are talking about having to LISTEN. 
And that should be the goal of any list of guitar players. Listen to what they are playing, listen to the sound, learn the elements of their tone, and incorporate their genius into yours. I'll be explaining my list:

Andy Summers
Alex Lifeson
Randy Rhoads
George Lynch
Eddie Van Halen
Jeff Beck
Steve Vai
Joe Satriani
Eric Johnson
Andy Timmons
Charlie Byrd
Jimmy Oblon

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