Chaka Khan/Rufus

My old roommate Larry (sorry … Lawrence) is a big Chaka Khan fan, so I guess that makes me a fan by association. I hated “I Feel for You” when it first came out, which goes to show that even music junkies make mistakes.

Chaka Khan AllMusic page

Rufus AllMusic page

Cesaria Evora

I didn’t know a note of Cesaria Evora’s music before I created this list. But, she is from Cape Verde, and my friend Lisa, who is the queen of awesome—as Richard says, “She puts the T in Trip”—is of Cape Verdean descent, so clearly Cesaria Evora is awesome by association. Plus: performing barefoot.

Cesaria Evora AllMusic page

Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz strikes me as the happiest person ever—kind of the Latina Louis Armstrong. She also strikes me as the real-life inspiration for the Carmen Miranda movie character, except 1) Carmen Miranda is a real person, and 2) her career started a good 20 years before Celia Cruz’s. Facts are no fun.

Celia Cruz AllMusic page

Cecil Taylor

Anyone who thinks that only white people make heady, intellectual music should listen to Cecil Taylor (and Anthony Braxton, who probably deserves his own list even though he gives me a headache). Plus: Notes. Lots and lots and lots of notes.

Cecil Taylor AllMusic page


My high school chemistry teacher was a dumpy little guy who had a smokin’ hot blonde wife. The Cars’s Ric Ocasek looks like something you would find on the discount rack of a Halloween superstore, and he’s been married to a supermodel for years. Further proof that I shouldn’t give up my dream of getting hitched one day to a professional athlete.

Cars AllMusic page

Carmen McRae

An ex of my friend Pete claimed that Carmen McRae was his favorite jazz singer. We’re pretty sure he just picked her because it made him feel cool to name someone a little off the beaten path. He was a weirdo.

Carmen McRae AllMusic page

Carla Bley

This might be the most obscure list of all—even a lot of jazzbos have never heard of Carla Bley. But she is awesome because 1) she is a female big band leader; 2) she is from Oakland; 3) she is the reason (indirectly, via Charlie Haden) I met my jazz buddy Marcia, who is her own category of awesome; and 4) she has had the same hair style since at least 1970 (cut bottom part off broom, stick on head). Carla Bley is one of my Top 3 all-time favorites! (Note: In addition to having ridiculously long titles, many of these songs are over 10 minutes long. You don’t rush the Carla.)

Carla Bley AllMusic page

Carl Perkins

Say the name “Carl Perkins,” and anyone (OK, anyone over a certain age) will say “Blue Suede Shoes.” Personally, if it were me, I’d rather be known for “Put Your Cat Clothes On.” I don’t even know what that means.

Carl Perkins AllMusic page


I guess the Byrds figured, “The Beatles became superstars using a misspelled animal as their name, why don’t we try it?” I guess they also figured, “We had a hit with a song called Mr. Tambourine Man, why don’t we write another one called Mr. … um … Spaceman!” Apparently, originality was not the Byrds’s strong suit.

Byrds AllMusic page

Buddy Holly

Don McLean’s ridiculously long, atrociously awful hit “American Pie” was inspired by the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (“the day the music died”). The good news for Buddy Holly: Being dead, he never had to listen to the song.

Buddy Holly AllMusic page