101 Artists To Listen To Before You Die (Hardcover)


101 Artists To Listen To Before You Die (Hardcover)

A graphic novel in the form of Ricardo Cavolo’s personal diary, which follows the story of music through 101 essential artists; from Bach to Radiohead, to Amy Winehouse, Nirvana and Daft Punk.

I was always excited to get my hands on a copy of the December Rolling Stones issue that features the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”  I still read Rolling Stone regularly, but I will have to admit that the older I get the less attention I have for new artists.  It takes a lot for me to get blown away by an artist these days, but it does happen!  The amazing thing is that this is no ordinary list by some flaky artist, Ricardo Cavolo constructed a thoughtful book that includes over one hundred illustrations with handwritten text, lists, and notes with personal antidotes.  It almost feels like you are reading someone’s musical diary – and I Love it!

Cavolo easily weaves in and out of musical generations and even centuries to bring this massive collection that feels like a labor of love.  Cavolo can talk about his love for Johnny Cash one minute while following it up by his respect for Public Enemy and Cypress Hill.  His portraits are all colorful and he spans all musical genres – from country and classical to electronic, rap and metal and enough obscure artists to get you to research.  As a music lover, I appreciate what Cavolo has done and it is easy to see why this book became a New York Time‘s Bestseller book!

A few items to note:  I am a music snob, I admit, so I actually knew all the bands and many of each of their songs on the list which was a little surprising.  That said, there were a few of the artists on the list that were a little puzzling to me:


  • Kriss Kross?  Sure they had a one hit wonder and wore their clothes backwards, but they seem odd on this list, as even the author notes.
  • Interpol but no Joy Division?  Interpol’s first album (my favorite of theirs) is like a tribute cover band to Joy Division.  And Joy Division does ‘Joy Division’ better!
  • Queens of the Stone Age.  Really?
  • More girl bands please.  Hello?  Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin etc.?


  • Daniel Johnston.  I was surprised to see Daniel on this list.  He was a fixture in Austin and wrote interesting and strange music as he underwent a very public mental breakdown.  He’s still playing music and his songs are definitely worth checking out.
  • Bjork.  The only talk I hear of Bjork nowadays is her infamous swan dress she wore ONCE.  Get over it people.  She’s a great artist, and I was a little sad her old group, The Sugarcubes, weren’t considered in the Top 101 bands.
  • Link Wray.  Link was one of the most amazing guitarist and you probably already know him!  His 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble” by Link Wray and his Ray Men is prominently featured in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Pulp Fiction, but as a fan I think all of his songs are extraordinary.

This book is a wonderful catalog of ‘must hear’ music and I actually do agree with 99.5% of Cavolo’s recommendations.  This is a great gift for any musician for music lovers and the illustrations are magnificent.  I’d like to see Cavolo tackle 101 Movies next!

About the Author/Illustrator:  Ricardo Cavolo is fast becoming recognized as one of the most exciting illustrators to come out of Spain. He was previously art director at several advertising agencies before he realized his colorful tattooed beings and iconography should be shown to the world. His illustrations offer a wide range of narratives that invite the viewer to relate and form a notion of the subject. He has done commercial illustrations for Y&R, Leo Burnett, Urban Outfitters, Converse, and Nike. He now lives in Brighton.

101 Artists To Listen To Before You Die (Hardcover)


List Price: $ 22.99

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