This article needs very little explanation.  We’re highlighting recording artists who invented or popularized a brand new sound.  You have to remember back to how “Funky Fresh” they sounded when you first heard them, at a time when you didn’t know these artists from Adam.  Or, in the case of some, when they first switched gears and took control of the artistic aspect of their careers.  Somehow, their newness caught our attention and the risk they took paid off… for them and music lovers everywhere.  I’m saluting them because THEY DARED TO BE DIFFERENT.  Where would music be without them?  Enjoy these back-to-back Videos of some of music’s most important and most innovative break-through recording artists of the past 40 years.

A good friend hipped me to Tracy Chapman’s first self-titled album.  Man, I remember the elated feeling I got from being taken somewhere I’d never been before.  Sure, I had the rush of experiencing a brand spankin’ new sound before but each experience is uniquely different… kinda like human fingerprints.  I wanted to share this great discovery (for me) with all my other Black music lover friends but her sound fell on deaf ears mostly.  I didn’t get it… and I still don’t.  What were they not hearing?  “Fast Car” and “Mountains O’ Things,”… every single track on this incredible neophyte album for that matter was… I mean… Wow!  Was it her simplicity that turned them off?  Her simplicity, her rich, soulful and beautiful voice and amazing storytelling were what did it for me!  Then she was parodied on In Living Color, a very popular sketch TV show at the time.  I loved In Living Color but I was really disappointed in them with that sketch.  Kim Wayans, in a terribly unflattering voice, was looking out her window and singing about anything she saw, with no rhyme or reason.  I’m sure that sketch contributed to keeping Black listeners away from one of the most important artists to come along in a long time.  Of course, if you let a poorly crafted skit decide for you what you like, you probably wouldn’t get Tracy Chapman anyway.  Tracy DARED TO BE DIFFERENT and we should reward that kind of Innovation, not ridicule it.  Here’s a live performance of, “Fast Car.”

posted by orregolog 

There was just something infectious about this little baby-voiced singer with the cutest British accent and an impish smile that you could hear in her singing voice.  A lot of British singers mask their distinct accents but Corinne lets her shine through; it’s cute, it’s refreshing.  This new sound drew me in from the first listen and her superbly crafted songs made me and have kept me a huge fan of Corinne Bailey Rae.  Check out the first tune I ever heard by her, “Put Your Records On.”

posted by nightrocker

Sly & The Family Stone was revolutionary in their approach to modern music.  They burst onto the scene with a racially mixed band and could perform anything… from a hard hitting, horn driven Rock flavored piece to a smooth, lyrically potent R&B ballad to a wah-wah guitar-led Psychedelic song to straight up Funk.  Their sound was undeniably distinct, their message was aimed at the Flower Power Generation who represented peace and tolerance for differences.  I think everyone reading this article will agree that Sly & The Family Stone DARED TO BE DIFFERENT in their appearance, in their sound and in their message.

posted by SixtiesPopGold

You may say, “What’s so DIFFERENT about Stevie Wonder?”  Nothing now but you have to remember how radical his sound was when he broke away from the Motown Sound with his, Where I’m Coming From album in ’71 and stretched even further into freshness with his Music Of My Mind LP in ’72.  The Motown machine was cranking out incredible hits that we all still love today… they still sound refreshing and current but young Mr. Wonder presented a brand new sound that was uniquely, “Stevie”grown up “Stevie.”  What made it so daring was… he risked his whole career on his faithful fans accepting his departure from Little Stevie cuteness to the early stages of his politically charged new direction of longer playing songs.  “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer,” was one of my favorites from Where I’m Coming From.  Check out Stevie’s live performance from back then.

posted by Steviemagicwonder

I had heard of Lenny Kravitz but wasn’t listening to the radio stations that were playing his music so my ears hadn’t had the privilege to make his musical acquaintance.  Why?  Why weren’t his songs being played on R&B stations I was listening to?  Yeah, yeah, I know… his songs were Rock oriented but still… I mean… come on!  I got out of R&B radio just as they were narrowing their playlists to ridiculously bone-thin proportions.  Let’s check out a song that absolutely should have been played on R&B stations.  Even with their narrowed playlists, this song fit within the definition of Rhythm & BluesLenny Kravitz, son of Roxie Roker, Helen on The Jeffersons TV sitcom… Lenny Kravitz, guy who married Lisa Bonet from The Cosby Show TV sitcom…  Lenny Kravitz DARED TO BE DIFFERENT with his late 60’s tight-fitting Hippy look and his Rock laced Pop songs.  This is, “It Ain’t Over Til Its Over.”

posted by PetersPopShow

When they were a same-suit-wearing standup singing group, they still managed to stand out with their rollicking stage moves and Ron’s distinct lead singing voice.  But the Isley Brothers really DARED TO BE DIFFERENT when they left Motown and under their own record label, T-Neck, sported a highly theatrical Rock & Roll look while singing a cross between R&B, Funk, Rock and Pop songs.  The newly presented Isleys hit # 1 in ’69 with the song that said how they felt about expressing themselves as recording artists, “It’s Your Thing,”“do what you wanna do.”

posted by MOMOFUNKONE 

Long before Erykah Badu stripped while walking down a filled public street in her “Window Seat” video, she entered the music game on an altogether different tip.  Her Afro-Egyptian garb, her song lyrics that were no where near typically R&B and her style of singing all set her far apart from the rest of her field.  Most agreed she sounded a lot like Lady Day, Billie Holiday.  How do you sound like Billie Holiday, a Jazz, Blues and Big Band singer of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and get the youth of the late 90’s to buy into you?  Well, she did and her artistry won out over commercialism.  That’s why Erykah Badu is on this list… because she DARED TO BE DIFFERENT

posted by kososdaki

Of course, there are the other obvious choices of artists who DARED TO BE DIFFERENT like Prince, Earth Wind & Fire, Parliament & Funkadelic, Cyndi Lauper, Mothers Finest, Marvin Gaye, Maxwell, Living Colour, Family Stand, India Arie, Johnny Guitar Watson, The Time, Boy George & Culture Club, Raphael Saadiq, Roger & Zapp, Jimi Hendrix, Ohio Players and on and on.  There is not enough room in any one article for all the outstanding artists who expressed themselves their way at a time when it was risky to do so… and still succeeded in the process.  Maybe we’ll do a Part 2 of this article and include some of your favorite dare devils.  Any suggested artists and songs to feature?  Let us hear from you.  Tell us who you woulda’ chosen.  We love your feedback at NO SKIPS NO SCRATCHES.  Holla’ back!