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The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness–in which we determine the quintessential New York musician–launches this morning with a series of polls. Up for debate this time: Hip-hop pioneer Kool Herc and the brassy yet divine Bette Midler. Check out the arguments in favor of each contestant below, then cast your ballot at the bottom of the page.
For some, Kool Herc’s career begins and ends on August 11, 1973, the night the first-generation Jamaican with the baddest soundsystem in the area DJ’ed his sister’s back to school party and by all accounts gave birth to the genre we now call hip-hop. Dig a little deeper and maybe you’ll find documentary footage of him driving through the Bronx, soundsystem in tow, as the Jonzun Crew’s “Space Cowboy” comes through your speakers. But spend some time in his borough and you’ll finally begin to understand how deeply Herc has affected its residents: Nearly 30 years after the fact, he still moves crowds, still spins the “Apache” break, and still makes people stop and stare every time he’s out riding his bicycle.
The Divine Miss M is so important that she encompasses at least three branches of New York music, two not otherwise represented on this bracket: she’s downtown cabaret, she’s Broadway, and she’s pop. Midler is irreverent, brassy, and genuine, like a Marty Markowitz road sign come to life. I mean, come on, she builds parks for poor kids, for God’s sake. And on top of that, she’s got some of the best songs of the last half-century in her back pocket. To hell with this bracket—why haven’t we elected her mayor yet?