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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 10-6

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 9:43 AM

See also:

* The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 20-16

* The Top 20 Greatest San Francisco Musicians, Nos. 15-11

Throughout this week, we're counting down the greatest San Francisco musicians of all time. Having already honored the likes of Etta James, Mike Patton, and Michael Tilson Thomas, today we break the top 10. All of these artists have ties to the city of San Francisco itself, and have made significant contributions to the local musical culture. Here go with entries 10 through six:

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10. Dan the Automator

The beat designer born Dan Nakamura has been involved in so many off-kilter hip-hop-oriented outfits that it's difficult to keep them all straight. Dan the Automator has been part of Deltron 3030 (with Del the Funky Homosapien and Kid Koala), Crudo (with Mike Patton), Lovage (with Mike Patton, Kid Koala, and others), and Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Prince Paul), the last of which had a tongue-in-cheek performance art angle that led to Nakamura assuming the alias of Nathaniel Merriweather. Nakamura was also part of one of the earliest incarnations of Gorillaz, playing a key role in shaping the 2001 record the world remembers best for "Clint Eastwood."

In the more traditional role of producer, he's worked with a remarkably diverse lot: Kool Keith's Dr. Octagon project, Galactic, Kasabian, Ben Lee, Cornershop, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Primal Scream, Jamie Cullum, and Redman. It's not hard to figure out why all these folks have wanted a piece of his time, since his alluring beats demonstrate great care and restraint. Grab a cigar, throw on Handsome Boy's "I've Been Thinking," stare into space, and let the moment lift you. - Reyan Ali

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9. Marty Balin

Marty Balin is the founder, lead singer, and songwriter for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. Balin studied art at San Francisco State University, but his love of folk music led him to start performing. He had his own folk band, The Town Criers, in 1963 and was briefly a member of The Gateway Singers, a group that included Lou Gottlieb (The Limelighters) and Travis Edmonson (Bud & Travis). When his idea of playing folk music using electric instruments met resistance from folk clubs, he opened his own nightclub, The Matrix, and started a house band he called Jefferson Airplane with guitarist Paul Kantner. The band was soon playing as much rock and jazz-inspired improvisation as folk, and helped spawn the San Francisco psychedelic sound. The Airplane and The Grateful Dead became touchstones for the hippie generation and helped make San Francisco a center of the musical universe in the '60s. Balin's soaring tenor was a perfect counterpoint for Grace Slick's gritty, blues-infused style. After leaving the Starship in 1979, Balin produced the rock opera Rock Justice; released two solo albums, Balin and Lucky; performed with Paul Kanter and Jack Casady in the KBC Band, and continues to perform with his own band and at sporadic Airplane/Starship reunions. -- J Poet

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8. Patrick Cowley

The story of dance music is long and convoluted, and San Francisco isn't often given its full due. Without the city by the bay, there's a good chance that things might have turned out quite differently. More so than any other figure, Patrick Cowley represents the city's contribution to the broader lineage of dance music. His experiments in the late-'70s and early-'80s would result in a streamlined sound that fused the hedonism of disco with the steady rhythm of machines. Most famous for his work with Sylvester, Cowley is responsible for some of hi-nrg's most enduring anthems: Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Do You Wanna Funk," Paul Parker's "Right on Target," and "Menergy" -- a Cowley original. These works, plus the rest of his prolific run, would define an era in gay dance music history. Though he tragically died a young man in 1982, the spirit of his vision lives on in the many forms of electronic dance music rocking the world's clubs today. -- Derek Opperman

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