These are the 27 best rock n roll speeches of the century so far.
I state it as categorially as that, because the internet search engines love ridiculously blanket statements of this type.
But really taste in music speeches is as subjective as taste in music itself.
These are merely ones that have been popular on the arts page of Speakola and beyond. Have a listen, a read, and share the list if you see fit.
We’d love your feedback /suggestions at email@example.com
The producer, composer, musician can do it all, including speak about what he does. And this speech does it all. What art is, why it is undervalued, why it is important , how we need to change. A knockout One of the great speeches of the 21st century Brian Eno has another great speech on the therapeutic qualities of group singing, that wonderful too.
It’s starts out very Madonna-ish, with her straddling the mike stand and saying ‘I always feel better with something hard between my legs’ but then it shifts into an emotional, whole of career, monologue about the sexism of the music industry, the perils to surviving in it as a woman, and her pride in having done so. Brilliantly executed.
One for the digital age. T-Bone draws us in with a story about Michelangelo and the Pope, and then fires some brilliant salvos about the role of art, the value of art and the artist, and the disaster that has been the digital music revolution. This could be the union battle cry for every musician.
“And, as we are being told that, our work is being commoditised- the price of music is being driven down to zero. “
Which Dylan speech to choose? His Nobel Prize speech is excellent, but a little bit hollow for the fact that he didn’t attend in Stockholm himself, and delivered his lecture requirement a year later, in absentia. This Musicsares speech is broad, career spanning, poetic, pugnacious, and musical in many ways, just like Dylan himself. Not all the audio is available online, but the text is an outstanding read.
This felt completely ad libbed, and yet was humble, funny, poetic, esoteric, and Tom Watisish. From the opening gag about the trophy, this is all quality.
“I just want to know if there’s a keychain version that I can keep with me just in case I hear someone say, “Pete, take the cuffs off. I think he’s a Hall of Famer.”
Tim Minchin’s famous graduation is a favourite of many and with good reason. he intertwines comedy and wisdom, and all with a deconstructionist eye to what the wisdom of a thirty something is worth. Speech has structure, great laughs, and a red graduation gown that is just so memorably red. A must if you’ve never heard it or read it.
The singer/performance poet’s harrowing spoken word dealing with rape and sexual assault, how it impacted her own life, and the job women have to speak up and support one another. One of the many powerful speeches of the #metoo era, delivered at the Women’s March, a year after Trump’s inauguration.
Everyone loves an origin story, especially when it comes to a great musician meeting his first instrument. This one is great for the fact that the connection is not immediate. Eventually a mentor helps Leonard Cohen find his voice, and his song. A man who makes words sing in every sense. A must for fans, and inspiring for everyone.
”I inhaled the fragrance of cedar as fresh as the first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me, "You are an old man and you have not said thank you; you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose.”
Funny and just great. The legendary rocker begins with dental advice and it just rolls from there. One of the most underrated commencements. She is a quality writer, in practically every format. And she nails the delivery.
“ Our dentists were the army dentists who came back from World War II and believed that the dental office was a battleground. You have a better chance at dental health.’
Fantastic speech aimed at shining a light on the history of bluegrass and recognising its African American roots.
“I want people to understand—that recognizing the African American presence within these traditions does not come at the expense of trying to erase all of the other tradition bearers who have already received so much of our attention.”
I’m so biased in favour of the Boss he could have been 1,2,3 and 4 on this list. This one is superb, but so is his Musicares speech, his eulogy to Clarence Clemens, his stage banter about Trump and the Women’s March, his Tony Awards snippet from Springsteen on Broadway,. There are no superlatives left, at least none as good as the ones Jon Stewart used.
“Television and Elvis gave us full access to a new language, “
From inviting the students to Dunkin Donuts, to invaluable advice on the breadth of musical possibilities, and the time it may take to settle into one’s art, this is a funny and wise speech, from one of the legends of our time.
“I guess any list of advice I have to offer to a musician always ends with "If it itches, go and see a doctor."
Last century, but I sneaked it in anyway.
Davie Grohl is naturally hilarious, and his autobiographical Nirvana origin story delivered at SXSW is a ripper too. But this is just so good. Not just a model music speech, but a model eulogy. Funny, packed with stories, and does the job of balancing comedy, loss and love. You don’t need to be a fan of Nirvana or Metallica to love this. A gem.
Not as well knows as most of the artists in this list, but a wonderful speech about the challenges of sustaining a musical career, including mid career struggles, the business side of the business, and the curse of judging yourself against other people’s successes.
“An Australian woman became famous around the world for her songwriting. Not her dance moves, or extensive wardrobe, but for writing great songs. She also happened to be the woman I was in love with. “
This brilliant speech is worth reading multiple times. it tracks the E-Street legend and Sopranos star’s ‘non decision’ to become a guitarist, singer and songwriter, and then his very conscious decision to try to learn more about the world and what is wrong with it. Takes in his anti apartheid campaign in the 1980s, as well as his incredible second career as an actor. Fantastic little moments about chasing greatness.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech is ripe material for Speakola, and the most popular one on the site is Mike Love’s possibly drug induced car wreck of a speech on the night the Beach Boys went in. But this is fantastic, all quality from a man who has always spoken passionately and intelligently.
A brilliant tribute that channels Tom Morello, young Kiss fan.
Timely speech about what the digital age is doing to the music industry, and to the livelihood of artists. Interwoven is the road to stardom fans what to hear and philosophical stuff on art, rock and roll and the love we have for rock stars and their music.
“Hi, I'm Iggy Pop. I've held a steady job at BBC 6 Music now for almost a year, which is a long time in my game.”
Okay so maybe this one is a bit cutesy, or a bit gimmicky, but it’s hard to give a funny and original acceptance speech in a forum like the Grammys, and this one rocked. Did the job of talking about a lifelong journey, a rags to riches journey, and did it in a funny, succinct and visual way. Tyler Joseph has also spoken well about what he regards as ‘The Point’ of music, and that is good too.
Pink took the stage at the VMA’s and talked about beauty, the pressures society imposes and a difficult conversation she’d had with her daughter. Not the standard acceptance speech fare, and an important topic for so many fans.
This is really entertaining and quite biographical, and has the political flourish you’d expect from the Irish rocker. He starts with ‘My name is Bono and I am a rock star’, which might be annoying if you don’t like Bono. Great speaker really.
“. I was 17 when I first saw The Clash, and it just sounded like revolution. The Clash were like, “This is a public service announcement - with guitars.”
This is the biggest pop star on the planet at the time standing up for LGBTI rights and feminism. She shares autobiographical stories from her Christian childhood, and her awakening to the human rights injustices facing her queer friends.
“When I was growing up, homosexuality was synonymous with the word abomination and hell, a place of gnashing of teeth, continuous burning of skin and probably Mike Pence’s ultimate guest list for a barbecue. “
Tom Petty knew he was dying when he delivered his Musicares speech. It has a poignancy when you realise it is the great rocker’s sign off to the musical world, with autobiographical glimpses and a lovely Johnny Cash birthday card.
”Twenty years ago I’d have been way too cynical to do this”
This commencement is just so so cool. Victor Wooten is cool, His decision to strum a base through the entire delivery is super cool, and totally magnetic, and the stories themselves are compelling. A secret gem of a speech, that not many people talk about.
Worth it just for the phrase ‘enjoy every sandwich’, which is right up there for life advice. Warren Zevon announced his incurable cancer diagnosis on the Letterman show , and found amazing words.
“ First of all let me say that I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for twenty years. “
The Aiustralian self made youtube sensation spoke at the GLAAD Media awards about the AIDS epidemic of the previous generation, and his respect for the activists of that previous generation who paved the way for artists like himself.
“Though times and our needs may have changed, this ethos and spirit still persist in our community today. “
David Bridie was front man for popular Australian groups My Friend the Chocolate Cake and Not Drowning Waving. He’s also been a regular visitor to PNG, as well as a champion of the West Papuan cause, and the music emanating from the region. Great speech about how he first came to visit PNG, and what the place and its music is so special to him.
One of the more courageous rock groups of our time, this speech was delivered in the aftermath of Peter Verzilov’s suspected poisoning, after the pitch invasion at World Cup 2018.
“Peter does not know the phrase ‘it’s impossible’. He knows that if you’re organised, motivated and smart enough, you can do everything and changed the world. “
K-pop speeches get flung around the internet by super passionate Korean fans. This is one that took place at the United Nations on an #endviolence platform.
“These faults and mistakes are what I am, making up the brightest stars in the constellation of my life. I have come to love myself for who I am, for who I was and for who I hope to become “
Okay so I cheated with the Bowie and Courtney Love speeches from last century. And if I was really honest with myself, I picked Brian Eno’s as my favourite music speech, and then let the order fall pretty randomly after that. It’s too hard! Why is the internet so partial to lists of things that profess to an order, where none is possible? But complain by all means.
Who did I miss?
Who should have been #1?
Should I have had more K-pop?
And is Kanye’s ‘I am a pop artist’ the worst music speech of all time?
Let me know in the comments, or send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org