Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Artists of the 50s

Who were the greatest artists of the 1950s? Artists whose careers blossomed in the 50s, either reached their zenith or (in the case of artists with long careers) their first flowering? Peter Jones and I put this list together off the tops of our heads -- certainly we've forgotten people.

Allen Ginsberg
Bill Evans
Chuck Berry
Edward Albee
Elvis Presley
Fats Domino
Hank Williams
J. D. Salinger
Jackson Pollock
James Baldwin
Jerry Lee Lewis
John Updike
John Coltrane
Johnny Cash
Miles Davis
Robert Lowell
Sonny Rollins
Walt Kelly
Willem deKooning
Willie Dixon

All men, which probably says something negative about the way our minds work, but it also says something about the 50s. So who did we miss?


Mylo Grove said...

Here are some women:
Adrienne Rich, Mae Sarton, Sylvia Plath, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horn just off the top of my head.

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Anonymous said...

ermm I think it only says something negative about the way your mind works.

Tad Richards said...

Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne certainly predate the 50s. Sarah Vaughan is a more interesting case. She made her reputation in the 40s, then cemented it later on, in the 70s and 80s, as the greatest of jazz singers. In the 50s, she was trying to be a pop singer, with middling success. Adrienne Rich, yeah -- she did good work in the 50s, but her really important work came later, when she threw off the restrictions either self- or other-imposed that she worked under in the 50s. Sylvia Plath didn't start publishing until the 60s. Other important woman poets like Bishop, Bogan, Deutsch, Millay, are also mostly associated with earlier decades. I tend to think of the important work of the feminist writers and gay writers, Sarton included, coming later than the 50s.
I would, however, put LaVern Baker and Ruth Brown into the 50s list.

Raksha said...


I can't recall offhand, but didn't Millay die sometime in the 1950s? She was my favorite poet before I discovered Yeats, meaning when I was a teenager. I believe I received her Collected Works as a gift in 1961, and she had already passed away several years before that.

(Yeah, it's me...the same Raksha you know and love from Facebook and elsewhere.)

Kit Cat said...

MC Richards
Karen Karnes
Denise Lebertov

These spring to mind from Black Mountain College days....