Elvis Presley’s power, Tina Turner’s legs: musicians pick their biggest influences

Baxter Dury

My greatest influence probably isn’t very evident in my music. Sly and the Family Stone, or more Sly, captured my imagination from the moment it was forced out of a giant pair of Tannoy speakers placed in our front living room. He was a handsome opportunist hippy who manipulated the times, but definitely changed the course of them. The music is soulful, subversive and sleazy, but beautifully arranged and played. It’s a theme park of unrelated ideas made logical by Sly’s magnificence. I learned so much about making the unlikely into something rational.

Sly and the Family Stone. Photograph: GAB Archive/Redferns

Nadia Rose

I always appreciated how vulnerable Amy Winehouse was, her unparalleled songwriting and of course her soothing, sultry voice. As unique as she was, she was incredibly relatable, and I love that about her.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse. Photograph: Allstar/Altitude Film Distribution

Paloma Faith

Vocally, I would say Etta James. There is something subtle about being so vulnerable and yet powerful at the same time; I feel most women can relate. She was a powerhouse with the ability to turn herself inside out for all the public to hear. That takes a special kind of someone.

Etta James

Etta James. Photograph: House Of Fame LLC/Getty Images

Zola Jesus

Maria Callas has been an enormous inspiration to me since I was very young. The passion and devotion that she gave to her music was almost spiritual. Watching her sing you could sense how much she lived and breathed her art. It was impossible to separate the woman from her conviction of character on stage – for better or for worse. She did not act or perform, she conjured. Throughout tough times as an artist I look to her as a reminder of persistence, and to focus on the purity and discipline of my craft.

Maria Callas

Maria Callas. Photograph: Emilio Lari/Rex

Carl Craig

Francisco Mora Catlett
Francisco Mora Catlett.

The jazz drummer Francisco Mora Catlett, whom I met around the time I was working on my album Landcruising. He was really interested in electronic music even though his experience was with jazz, I think it was because of his days playing in Sun Ra Arkestra. He saw the parallels between electronic music and elements of what Herbie Hancock was doing in synthesis and jazz. He gave me a tape of late-60s and 70s Miles Davis music and really turned me on to what he was doing, too. Miles’s musical ideas were more techno-minded than jazz-minded; at least that’s what I was hearing. Francisco became part of my Innerzone Orchestra and was always the wise man of the tour, keeping me enlightened and entertained.

Justin Young, the Vaccines

I know he didn’t write most of his biggest and best-loved songs but, to me, Elvis Presley was the complete artist. His voice, his song choice, his energy and attitude, his perfect hair and clothes: it felt like he’d been sent from another planet. It was incomprehensible to me that this was a man who made mistakes, or who felt sadness or loneliness. I recently visited his childhood home in Tupelo, Mississippi and it was in stark contrast to the life I’d imagined. To a child, he seemed invincible – and he made me feel it too. To watch Elvis and to listen to his songs was pure escapism and aspiration. Blue Suede Shoes was my first love. From as early as I can remember, I knew that if I could channel some of that raw power I saw in him, life would be better for it. I guess, like all of us, he was flawed as a man, but he was the perfect entertainer.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley. Photograph: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Ghetts

My biggest musical influence is James Brown: the hardest working man in showbusiness, with supreme confidence and style – a stage show legend.

James Brown

James Brown. Photograph: Sony Pics/Everett/Rex

Jessie Ware

Sade is the epitome of effortless cool and beauty. My ultimate goddess, she oozes soul and sensuality, and hits you with just the right amount of heartache. Every word she says commands my attention and I feel as if we are drawn into her world rather than her trying to fit in with ours. She taught me about the art of “less is more” when it comes to singing; she is the queen of bittersweetness. Her music is timeless: you hear people playing Paradise in clubs now and it still sounds incredible. I have learned a lot from the quiet confidence in her music and there is still a mystique around her which nowadays seems impossible for an artist to have.

Sade

Sade.

Mabel

Lauryn Hill is definitely my biggest influence. I really related to her, growing up, because as an artist she always wears her heart on her sleeve. Putting yourself out there the way she has is terrifying, but so important, and I want to do the same. I love how on her MTV Unplugged record she embraced the imperfections … on one track she cries and on another she forgets some of the lyrics but she handles everything beautifully and they’re actually my favourite bits of the record. She taught me that showing your vulnerability is sometimes your greatest strength.

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill. Photograph: Vallery Jean/FilmMagic

Nina Kraviz

There was never a single idol in my life. I grew up with the penetrating voice of Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix’s virtuoso guitar, the heart-rending love songs of Billie Holiday and the absolute simplicity of Tarkovsky. Plus the proto-electronic psychedelia of Pink Floyd, and the painfully strained narration of Vladimir Vysotsky. But nothing is embedded in my childhood memory as strongly as the unstoppable effervescence of Tina Turner, which she carried out on a pair of the strongest and most amazing legs in pop music. At times, it seems as if they are performing on their own.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner. Photograph: Rob Verhorst/Redferns

Corey Taylor, Slipknot

I know he will shrug this off, but my biggest influence to this day is still Mike Patton [of Faith no More]. He is my hero: the best singer in the game, and most creative man on the planet. Absolutely fearless in his approach to art and music, he isn’t afraid to say exactly what he thinks. Plus he’s cool as shit.

Mike Patton

Mike Patton. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Liam Fray, the Courteeners

When Julian Casablancas came along in the summer of 2001, he and the Strokes just blew my mind. Oasis had opened my eyes and ears in the late 90s and then, just a few years later, the coolest-looking fucker ever arrived from New York with possibly the greatest album ever. That was it. Smart, sharp and infectious. I was hooked. He was, and still is, “the man”. He’s a genius who just doesn’t give a fuck, or damn, about what anyone thinks of him. He just keeps on creating. If there was ever a man who’s never typed his own name into a search engine, Julian is he.

Julian Casablancas.

Julian Casablancas. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

Moondog, the avant-garde jazz composer, has taught me to follow whatever my natural rhythm is, and not be bound by 4/4 time. He has also taught me to love the saxophone! I love the way he composes for it: there are no rules, you create your own language.

Moondog

Moondog. Photograph: CBS via Getty

Ellie Rowsell, Wolf Alice

A great musical influence on me growing up was Patrick Wolf. He sounded as if he’d been spat out of a forest on the edge of the world and straight into a bedroom in the depths of south London. I felt cool as I listened to the heavy, industrial, electronic beats of Tristan and I felt liberated as I sang along to the sugary melodies of Bluebells. As much an enchanted creature as he was a lonely teenage boy, Patrick taught me that magic wasn’t just found in fairytales, and that fairytales weren’t just for children. Most importantly, though, he taught me that I didn’t need to conform, both in music and in life.

Patrick Wolf

Patrick Wolf. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *