In the end, we all will leave a lasting legacy of some sort.
For many of us, this simply means a legacy tied to our families and maybe careers if we’re smart enough to invent a product on idea that makes the world a little better.
For musicians, the coveted “legacy” begins early on, with practicing and club gigs. Fans start to form an "opinionated legacy" after a first studio recording and it often takes decades for scholars to firmly place an individual musician or band in their proper place in history.
For some bands, like Van Halen, a once clearly defined legacy is now in question. Will the cultural anthropologists of tomorrow look back to the end of the seventies and understand the new breed of music that Van Halen was about to create? Will Eddie Van Halen go down as one of the best guitarists of his generation, or will his talents become a footnote edged out by erratic behavior, mood swings and drug dependency?
Some bands like KISS and Alice Cooper have influenced tons of musicians, have rabid followings, and enjoy constant commercial success yet are annually ignored by the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and are typically panned in the press. Today, KISS is still able to hock logo merchandise and host annual conventions. For all their fans, there are just as many detractors that create questions about legacy. Will Gene Simmons be remembered as the bass playing demon, or the middle aged TV dad thanks to his hit reality show? Will Alice Cooper be remembered for making shock rock acceptable, or for playing 18 holes of golf every tour stop?
It seems like the critics really love to hate Motley Crue. Again, I ask, what will be their legacy? Will it consist of women, drugs and arrests, or of music that changed a generation and turned the Sunset Strip scene upside down? To date, the Motley men have sold more than 40 million records worldwide. They’ve toured the world over, and created some of the best party anthems of all time. Still, to most people, Motley Crue is nothing more than “that band whose drummer was married to Pam Anderson.”
Let’s get controversial.
What is the legacy of the Beatles? Are they the greatest rock band of all time? Yes. Are the Beatles the most overrated rock band of all time? Again, the answer is yes. The Beatles were an eccentric band of chaps who shared more talent that is even humanly conceivable. Still, a painful break-up, odd marriage, and drug use all started to taint the image of the loveable Brits. Then, Lennon was murdered and his legacy forever established as the best songwriter of all time. What impact will Sir Paul McCartney’s current nasty divorce have on his legacy? When Linda McCartney died, fans revered Paul as a loveable and grieving widower. Now, Heather Mills McCartney says Paul abused her and Linda. I wonder how this is going over in the Beatlemania camp?
What about Guns n' Roses? Appetite for Destruction is regarded as the most successful debut album in rock history. After Appetite for Destruction, Axl Rose and the rest of his sleazy boys released Lies, Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 and the Spaghetti Incident. Of course, Axl went nuts, fired the rest of the band and became a recluse working on the mystic Chinese Democracy. Will more than a decade of silence hurt the legacy that is Guns n' Roses, or will people still be talking about the amazing tracks on Appetite for Destruction 20 years from now?
Less famous bands like Twisted Sister, Hanoi Rocks, W.A.S.P., and even Cinderella all made their mark on the 80s metal scene. Some of those bands like Cinderella and Hanoi Rocks never really earned the credit they so richly deserved. Will history right this wrong, or will Cinderella stay lumped in a category of less talented musicians?
I guess only time will tell.