Top 10 Thursday: The Real Top 10 American Entertainers
1. Elvis Presley
Michael Jackson may have dubbed himself the King of Pop but Presley -- who has sold more records than anyone on this list -- has always worn the crown. An unstoppable sex symbol, he brought ass-shaking rock and roll to the masses and forever altered the cultural landscape of the '50s, paving the way for The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and so on. Check out Elvis the Pelvis doing "Blue Suede Shoes" in '56.
Presley remained on top -- or close to it -- with a horde of hits and starring roles in a bunch of fun, albeit fluffy, high-grossing feature films during the '60s. Presley then infused pop with operatic grandeur with underrated recordings, and especially under-appreciated concert performances, throughout the '70s. He's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and has a star of Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Here's a clip of a bloated, unhealthy Presley delivering an utterly chilling rendition of "Unchained Melody" a few months before his death in August of '77.
2. Frank Sinatra
An equally excellent jazz and pop vocalist, Sinatra ranks as the greatest singer to ever record. The 11-time Grammy winner also established himself as an ace actor, earning an Oscar nomination for his haunting portrayal of a junkie in the controversial 1955 film Man with the Golden Arm. He won an Academy Award for playing Private Angelo Maggio in the 1953 blockbuster From Here to Eternity. Last year, U.S. Congress designated May 13 as Frank Sinatra Day. Here's Ol' Blue Eyes at his acting/singing finest, performing the ultimate saloon song "One for My Baby (And One for the Road)" in the 1954 film Young at Heart, which featured him on screen opposite Doris Day.
3. Bing Crosby
Although he didn't have Sinatra's jazz chops, Crosby possessed a stunningly sonorous voice that enlivened and warmed everything from cowboy songs to pop standards to Irish lullabies. In 1962, he became the inaugural recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The first person to truly dominate all facets of media, Crosby was also an enormously successful actor who won an Oscar for his role in the 1944 film Going My Way and is perhaps most beloved for starring alongside Danny Kaye in the timeless 1954 holiday favorite White Christmas. Here's the famed clip of Crosby collaborating with David Bowie on "Little Drummer Boy," from a 1977 Christmas special taped about a month before Crosby's death in October of 1977.
4. Barbra Streisand
An amazingly popular singer, Streisand went on to not only become a screen star but also an acclaimed filmmaker. She has won two Academy Awards, nine Grammys, four Emmys and a special Tony Award. Streisand has sold more records than any other female artist, according to the RIAA.
Here's the scene with Kris Kristofferson from 1976's A Star is Born in which he and Streisand sing "Evergreen." Streisand composed the song, and for this film she won an Oscar for Best Original Score.
5. Michael Jackson
The self-proclaimed King of Pop had a fascinating tenor, sizable songwriting chops, and amazing dance moves -- but his A-game only lasted a decade. His acting skills, as evidenced by countless music videos, were adequate at best. A child star in the '60s with the Jackson 5 and then the Jacksons, he didn't emerge as a serious solo act until the release of his 1979 disco delight Off The Wall.
Of course, it was 1982's Thriller and, to a lesser extent, 1987's Bad that made Michael Jackson the undisputed supreme pop star of the '80s -- and one of the biggest record sellers of all time. By the '90s, though, his career had largely sunk into a succession of over-hyped, disappointing recordings and those highly disturbing accusations of child molestation. But in his prime, MJ ruled, like he did this night in 1983 when he performed "Billie Jean" on the TV special Motown:Yesterday, Today, Forever.