April 9, 2020

Musical Styles: Influences from Decades Past

Many people know Harry Styles as a “teenage heartthrob from that one boy band”. While he was in One Direction, he’s far from your average boy band member. After giving up writing and singing pop tunes, Styles took a step back in time, admitting to Rolling Stone that he drew his musical influences from legends such as Van Morrison, David Bowie, and Joni Mitchell on his latest album, Fine Line

Younger generations may not avidly listen to the musical magic of those artists of decades past, but many of the older generations vividly remember the first time they heard the songs that would eventually become classics.

Van Morrison

Hailing from Northern Ireland, Van Morrison’s mix of rock, jazz, folk, blues, soul, gospel, and Celtic influences has earned him the label of “one of the most unusual and influential vocalists in the history of rock and roll.” 

A member of the Northern Ireland R&B band Them during the 1960s, it wasn’t until after leaving the band that Morrison found fame and glory with the release of his first solo single, “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967. While Morrison may not believe that it’s one of his best songs, we dare to disagree. The song became a hit and has remained immensely popular throughout the years, earning a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame and title of one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. 

David Bowie

Born in South London, Bowie also began his musical career in the 1960s. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s introduction of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, that his career truly began to blossom. 

His 1983 album Let’s Dance’s title track was one of his best and fastest selling tracks. Topping the Billboard Top 100, the song was Bowie’s first and only song to reach the top in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Much like Morrison, Bowie wasn’t entirely happy with the song, claiming that the success of the Let’s Dance album wasn’t something he had anticipated and that in years following its release, he felt stuck.

Joni Mitchell

A Canadian musician with influences of folk, pop, rock, and jazz, Mitchell began her musical journey performing in coffee houses and nightclubs. She found success with her first three studio albums, Song to a Seagull, Clouds, and Ladies of the Canyon. But her fourth studio album Blue is widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time with critics and fans alike. With various accolades under its belt, the most recent was when the album was ranked as number one on NPR’s list of “The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women” in 2017. 

Just as Morrison and Bowie were not pleased with their hits, Mitchell, too, was unhappy. But not with the album; she was unhappy when she wrote the album and claims that she “had no defenses” and couldn’t pretend “to be strong”. Still, she must have done something right as the album was given a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 1999.

Music artists will come and go but their songs stay with people for quite some time, influencing hundreds of new artists, allowing music to constantly evolve. So, just as Harry Styles did, go listen to some classics and maybe you’ll be inspired too.