Warning: This article will sound like a freshman college term paper – it’s a topic that lends itself to research in the library or better yet, Wikipedia. (The foregoing is an opinion)
In September 2013 an article appeared in Scientific America “Why Do You Want to Be Famous?” (By Scott Barry Kaufman). Based on a 2012 study, it asserted that a desire for the sake of being famous was the most popular future goal among a group of 10 – 12 year olds - The study found and I quote here the six major reasons why people seek fame:
- Vulnerability (e.g., "I want to be famous because it would help me overcome issues I have about myself")
-Celebrity Life-Style (e.g., "I want to be rich")
-Drive (e.g., "I work hard every day to be famous")
-Perceived Suitability (e.g., "I have got what it takes to be famous")
-Altruistic (e.g., "I want to be famous so I can make a contribution to society")
Now imagine these 10 to 12 year old girls and boys playing their instruments, composing their songs in their parents basement or garage, motivated to achieve fame for a celebrity life-style – sex drugs and rock and roll. So why does any boy or girl want to be a star? The researchers found three main reasons why people seek fame:
- The desire to be seen/valued (e.g., "Being on the cover of a magazine", "Being recognized in public")
- The desire for an elite, high status lifestyle (e.g., "Having the ability to travel in first class and stay at exclusive resorts", "Living in a mansion or penthouse apartment")
- The desire to use fame to help others or make them proud (e.g., "Being able to financially support family and friends", "Being a role model to others")
I bet you thought the motivations of a Bob Dylan, Van Morrison or an Ozzy Osbourne was altruistic creating beautiful music and lyrics...nope. Peer acceptance, narcissism and the intense desire for fame among preadolescents and teenagers satisfies a fundamental human need – after all how many 40 year olds start a rock band?
My conclusion as to why some rock bands get critical and fan recognition and others don’t – well it comes to the musician’s intensity for his or her desire for fame – some artists care about that and others not so much. This all starts individually with the artists at an earlier age.
Joe Bonamassa started at age 4 playing guitar he was drawn to the blues and open no less than 18 times at age 18 for BB King. He has been keeping the Blues alive since he was 4 years old – Is he widely known like The Eagles? No.
Joe was listening to Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush and not Van Halen (as he is quoted as saying) – now I know who Van Halen is but had to look up Frank and Mahogany Rush – Bertolt Brecht’s Mahogany I know, the Rush not so much. So my musical education continues.
I invite you to look at the bands in anyone’s top 10 list – you will see the Beatles for example they are hugely recognized, achieved mega sales in records and tickets and have endured over 60 years. Then you ask them who their favorite artists are and they will often name artists like Harry Nilsson who arguably aren’t as recognized. Often times this is the case, an example of “your favorite artist’s favorite artist". Maybe their names appear on the lists of best songwriters, drummers etc. But their album sales and ticket sales are mediocre.
Consider that not every mega star band or songwriting artist is influenced by another mega star – they could be more likely influenced by more obscure artists – the solitary songwriter or sideman or session player. Elitism, snobbery, I assert no, it’s just that some preadolescents dream big and others dare to dream even bigger downstairs in their parents basement.