Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Immortals #91 - Ricky Nelson

You might hear the name "Ricky Nelson" and think of the spoiled, talentless offspring whose terrible music was only popularized for his ability to be a televised proxy of famous parents. But you're actually thinking of his kids.

Ricky Nelson's career was notably discredited his lineage through much of his adult life, but the posthumous recognition he's seen for his place as not only the original teen idol but one of the first great rock stars is deserved. His wasn't a music career born of contrivance, like, say, David Cassidy's, but the result of an actual talent that just happened to grow up on TV.

That doesn't change the fact that in the beginning (for white people anyway) there was Elvis, and there was Ricky Nelson. Where Elvis' aping of rockabilly leaned more heavily on rhythm and blues of the delta, Nelson mixed similar influences with an overt and unabashed pop sensibility. And he wrote a couple of plain amazing songs for it.

Go listen to "Travelin' Man" right now. Go ahead.

But all the modern praise for Nelson is probably a bit overstated. In truth, he wouldn't have made my top 100, and his legacy benefited from an age-old biopic plot device: he died suddenly and tragically, and in a plane crash to boot. There aren't many better bonafides for to admittance to rock and roll Heaven than that.

And hey, he died. So let's just let him have it, yeah?


Anonymous said...

Ricky Nelson was a good kid and people liked him and his singing. He left behind four precious children who are talented in their own right. I'm 63. I grew up with Ricky and his family. They loved each other and they appreciated their fans. Rick Nelson would have shown you more respect than you show him and his family but then he was a class act.

Brendan K said...

I'd encourage you to go back and re-read my words. I don't think I said anything particularly insulting about Rick Nelson. I insulted Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. After praising Nelson as a songwriter, the only fault I find in his legacy is not through his own works, but a posthumous response to them that I characterize as being "overrated." But he DID matter and he DID write some great songs, so let's celebrate him. That's my take anyway. Thanks for reading.