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What the Legends of Music Have to Say About Today's Stars

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What the Legends of Music Have to Say About Today's Stars
Image Credit: Tom Sheehan/Rough Trade

It's a common theme of music in all periods of history: Older musicians can't stand modern music. Even back in the '50s, Frank Sinatra was calling Elvis and his rock and roll friends "cretinous goons" who were making "rancid-smelling aphrodisiac" rather than music.

Pretty harsh.

But it seems it was always better way back when. With each new scene, there's also been a backlash from the older wave of innovators. Here's what some of music's classic stars have to say about the kids (OK, Prince isn't a kid, but still) these days. They remind us that no generation of music is sacred, and that old music isn't necessarily better than new, no matter what Rick James says.

1. Nick Cave on the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Nick Cave was never known for being a particularly fun dude, and he didn't help his case when he went after the lovable California rockers: "I'm forever near a stereo saying, 'What the fuck is this garbage?' And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers."

Thankfully the Peppers took the higher ground in that fight.

2. Elton John on Madonna

The two singers may carry on a similar tradition of overblown pop rock, but the elder John isn't so keen on the way Madonna performs her music: "Since when has lip-synching been live? Anyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay 75 pounds to see them should be shot."

The two have been exchanging barbs ever since.

3. Quincy Jones on P. Diddy

Two legendary producers: One produced Thriller, the other produced the Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die. But still Quincy Jones questioned Diddy's talent in 2012, saying, "He couldn't recognize a B-flat if it hit him."

Honestly, he's probably right, but who needs to know what a B-flat is if you can create this?

4. Rick James on Prince

Rick James was an established R&B star when he gave a 22-year-old Minnesotan singer a chance to open for him on tour.

However, James initially didn't take to his stranger tourmate so kindly, describing him later as "a little short ego-ed fucker who I had a feeling didn't like people of his own race and wanted to be white and taller."

We can only assume he'd feel the same way about "Breakfast Can Wait."

5. Christina Aguilera on Lady Gaga

Aguilera came from a generation of divas well before Gaga hit the scene. And when Gaga started blowing up in the late 2000s, X-Tina was one of the first to take her down a level: "I'm not quite sure who this person is, to be honest. I don't know if it is a man or a woman."

Definitely mean, definitely offensive.

6. Tom Petty on all modern country music

Tom Petty, king of Southern rock and pop, wasn't satisfied taking down just one artist, so he went for a whole genre instead: "It does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have ... I don't really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. I'm sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos. I don't want to rail on about country because I don't really know much about it, but that's what it seems like to me."

7. Harry Belafonte on Jay-Z and Beyoncé

Belafonte has been one of the classiest and most articulate musicians of the last 60 years. But even he fell victim to reactionary opinions when he went after the First Couple of Music: "They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are. They have turned their back on social responsibility."

8. Ray Price on Blake Shelton

Thanks to The Voice, Blake Shelton has brought his Nashville twang right to the homes across the rest of America.

But his efforts to modernize country and bring it to a new, wider audience have drawn plenty of heat down South. Country legend Ray Price was particularly vicious: "Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song, have a hit first time out with the kids only. Stupidity Reigns Supreme!!! CHECK BACK IN 63 YEARS AND LET US KNOW HOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR MUSIC WILL BE REMEMBERED."

9. Mark E. Smith on Mumford & Sons (and everyone, really)

The singer and founder of '70s post-punk band The Fall spares no one these days: "Pop, rock, it's all very miserable right now. The occasions I go to award shows, they're just a bunch of shits. You sit next to The Killers, and it's like, am I on the wrong fucking train here?" 

He saves his most vicious words, though, for Mumford & Sons, whom he saw rehearsing one day. He was disgusted. "I threw a bottle at them … I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers," he said.

There you have it. Music really was better back in the day.

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