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Great American Music: Passing the Torch

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By Mark Brown Special to MSN MusicYou know it when you hear it. As roots rocker Dave Alvin wrote, "It can be sweet and lovely, it can be hard and mean ... it's American music." American music doesn't live in a vacuum; everything from Brit pop, punk rock and African beats (and instruments -- the banjo was invented there) form the basis of the music we hear today. But it's music that is distinctly American -- even if those meddling Canadians are the ones making it at times. For this roundup we'll give them a pass, or at least a temporary visa. No snub intended to Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Pete Seeger or Bessie Smith; those pioneers are simply untouchable. This is music you still widely hear today, from the old pros to the new upstarts, defining a nation and a spirit in sound. Our roundup salutes both original pop innovators as well as the artists that have picked up the torch.(AP/Retna Ltd.)
© AP/Retna Ltd.
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