Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Biggest Stage On Earth

Since the show aired in 1975, Saturday Night Live (SNL) has not only been THE place for budding comedic talent to become famous but it has also been THE place where musicians have the opportunity to perform for millions of viewers at home. If you are a musician and you get invited to play on SNL you know you’ve made it – or at least that you’re on your way.

Right out of the gate this show had some big names take their stage including Randy Newman, Art Garfunkel and ABBA – and that was just in 1975. Since then the names have become increasingly star-studded and some of the performances have become legendary. The fact that a television show, which is basically designed as a sequence of comedic sketches, could bring in such renowned talent definitely speaks to its credentials but here’s the question: How did it become such a popular (and at times necessary) venue for artists? Why have musical acts always been so drawn to performing there? Was it because they figured it was the best way to gain exposure? Since MTV didn’t exist until 1981 was it one of the only ways to get yourself on TV while playing music? Or maybe it was the idea of putting famous actors, comedians and musicians in the same place.

Either way, in the 35 years SNL has been on the air, an impressive list of artists have taken the stage, sometimes several years in a row, making it arguably the most sought after music venue of all time. Here is my list of the best of the best of the biggest names with no repeats:

1976 – Jimmy Cliff, Patti Smith, Carly Simon, James Taylor, John Prine, Joe Cocker
1977 – The Kinks, Chuck Berry, Santana, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles
1978 – Bonnie Raitt, Billy Joel, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones
1979 – Blondie, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, David Bowie
1980 – Sam & Dave, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, James Brown
1981 – Prince, Rod Stewart, Meat Loaf
1982 – John Cougar Mellencamp, The Allman Brothers Band, Elton John, Queen, The Clash
1983 – Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Stevie Nicks
1984 – Billy Idol, Billy Squire, Robert Plant & the Honeydrippers
1985 – Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, Sade
1986 – Stevie Ray Vaughan, Run-DMC, Lou Reed
1987 – Roy Orbison, LL Cool J, Sting, The Cars, Cher
1988 – Randy Travis, Keith Richards, Tracy Chapman
1989 – Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Neil Young
1990 – Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey
1991 – Whitney Houston, The Black Crowes, Public Enemy, Skid Row
1992 – Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, En Vogue, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam
1993 – Bon Jovi, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots
1994 – Counting Crowes, Salt-N-Pepa, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Janet Jackson, Green Day, Hole
1995 – The Cranberries, Dave Matthews Band, TLC, Alanis Morissette, Bush, Foo Fighters
1996 – Tori Amos, Coolio, Tupac Shakur, Everclear, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple
1997 – Live, Jewel, Oasis, Jane’s Addiction, Metallica, Sarah McLachlan
1998 – Garth Brooks, Natalie Imbruglia, Third Eye Blind, Puff Daddy, Beastie Boys, Lauryn Hill
1999 – Beck, Everlast, Barenaked Ladies, Lucinda Williams, Dr. Dre, Eminem
2000 – AC/DC, Christina Aguilera, Kid Rock, The Wallflowers, Jay-Z
2001 – Lenny Kravitz, Weezer, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, No Doubt
2002 – Faith Hill, The White Stripes, Beyonce, Eve, Norah Jones
2003 – Dixie Chicks, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Outkast, Pink
2004 – The Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, Toots & the Maytals, The Roots, Ben Harper
2005 – Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, Queens of the Stone Age
2006 – The Strokes, Mary J. Blige, Tenacious D, Ludacris
2007 – Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Kanye West
2008 – Gnarls Barkley, Lil Wayne, Kings of Leon, T.I.
2009 – Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Regina Spektor
2010 – Them Crooked Vultures, Jennifer Lopez, Kesha, Katy Perry, Florence + the Machine

Can you believe all those musicians have played on that same stage over the past 35 years? Neither can I.


  1. I <3 Florence. If it had not been for her performance on last weekend's SNL I never would have known who she was, and never would have become completely obsessed. It's a variety show. They give us a VARIETY of entertainment: acting, comedy, and music. So I guess if I <3 Florence + The Machine, then I have to say I <3 SNL for introducing us.

  2. That is a perfect example of how much SNL has influenced music over the years!