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Fairfield/Westport’s Top Ten Musicians of the Last Hundred Years

rockin eve

Last week we launched the Fairfield Ten — an exhibit at the Fairfield Museum celebrating the great musicians and songwriters that have lived here the past hundred years.

I was on the committee to choose the list. It wasn’t easy because so many great artists have lived in this area. My work on the Fitzgerald film has provided a keen insight to the breadth and depth of talent here dating back to the early 20th century so I knew selecting ten musicians was not going to be easy.

Quite frankly, you could find ten interesting nominees every decade or at least in each category of music, from classical to rock, Broadway to jazz, punk, funk, even disco — our task was to choose the best of the best, while at the same time including various eras and genres.

First thing we did was invoke the 25-year rule — nominees had to have started their professional careers prior to 1989. Nominees also had to have a permanent residence here for more than a few years.  That alleviated the pressure of addressing the abundant crop of current players worthy of consideration or those that were here for just a short visit. Here’s our list:

Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, The Remains, Leonard Bernstein, David Brubeck, Jose Feliciano, Chris Frantz & Tina Weymouth, Richard Rodgers, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Keith Richards and Donna Summer.

Upon reflecting over this list, I realized that it doesn’t matter what sort of music floats your boat, each of these artists has touched you in some way.  These songs were part of growing up, celebrating graduations, birthdays and weddings, they’ve been in the movies we love and these songs have gotten us threw tough times too. These artists made music that mattered. And as I’ve been listening to their tracks over the past few months, its clear that these artists made music that endures.

Because it was too damn hard to whittle our list to just ten, we also identified another 11 great names and profiled them on the museums’ website.

Opening night we had a panel discussion and I was fortunate to be asked to moderate. In the photo above from that night, I felt like Forest Gump because I had no right to be in a photo with such an esteemed list of musical talent, even if I was a player behind the scenes. Still, it was a wonderful experience to have the honor of introducing each of these incredibly talented musicians.

The exhibit runs through April, so if you’re in the area, check it out.

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