What We Can Glean About Steve Jobs From His Music Preferences

What We Can Glean About Steve Jobs From His Music Preferences

With the death last week of Steve Jobs, the course of technology as it relates to music has been discussed quite a bit, specifically the impact of Apple under Jobs’ leadership.  I’m guessing there are very few people who don’t enjoy music today on either an iPod or an iPhone.  Embarrassingly enough, I know very little about Jobs himself, although I’ve read a bit about him since his death.  I was interested, therefore, to come across something on the WXRT website that listed Jobs’ ten favorite albums.  This information was obtained from his now disabled Ping profile, which after reading a bit about Ping I discovered can be generated by iTunes based on what’s in a library as opposed to being selected by the user.  Either way, it should be least be representative of the preferences.

Since I’m always anxious to provide a free analysis of a person based on their musical preferences, I took on the challenge of doing so for Steve Jobs without even being asked.  First, here are the albums in his profile:

  • “Some Girls” – Rolling Stones (1978)
  • “American Beauty” – Grateful Dead (1970)
  • “Tea for the Tillerman” – Cat Stevens (1970)
  • “Around the Campfire” – Peter, Paul & Mary (1998, compilation album)
  • “Late for the Sky” – Jackson Browne (1974)
  • “Imagine” – John Lennon (1971)
  • “Bach: The Goldberg Variations” – Glenn Gould (1955)
  • “Kind of Blue” – Miles Davis (1959)
  • “Highway 61 Revisited” – Bob Dylan (1965)
  • “Who’s Next” – The Who (1971)

I downloaded seven of the ten albums and will be the first to admit that I am not savvy enough about some of the artists to appreciate the different between, for instance, one Grateful Dead album versus another.  My thoughts are therefore related mostly to the artists, genres and time periods.  Here are my observations, some of which are probably obvious even knowing only a little bit about him.

  1. He liked classic rock.  This is the most obvious observation.  Excluding the Peter, Paul & Mary album, eight of the ten albums are from either the sixties or seventies.  By including Lennon, The Who and The Rolling Stones, he definitely had an appreciation for the biggest artists of that era. 
  2. He was a mellow dude.  The Grateful Dead, Cat Stevens and Peter, Paul & Mary all have a pretty relaxed vibe to them.  The Cat Stevens inclusion isn’t so surprising given that Jobs was a Buddhist (hence the minimalist approach to the Apple products), while Cat Stevens converted to Islam and a more spiritual lifestyle in the mid seventies. 
  3. He had diverse tastes.  Miles Davis is a jazz musician, while Glenn Gould was a classic pianist.  Jobs apparently dabbled beyond the boundaries of the various gradations of rock.
  4. He was not so hot on more contemporary music.  Not counting the Peter, Paul & Mary compilation album, the most recently released album on Jobs’ list was more than 30 years old.  This probably surprised me more than anything.  I would have expected that someone who led such a progressive company and had such an impact on how we listen to music would have enjoyed new music, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. 
  5. He had a bit of a mainstream streak.  In looking at the songs on these albums, they included some of the bigger hits by the respective artists.  It therefore doesn’t appear that he strayed too far off the beaten path.  On the other hand…
  6. He had some expertise.  Aside from the Peter, Paul & Mary album, Jobs selected individual albums rather than “Best of” type albums. 

Overall, I expected someone who led the revolution as to how we listen to music to be a bit more progressive and diverse in his musical taste, but props to him for staying true to his individual preferences and not just putting music out there that would be appealing to others. 

I always feel like whatever version of the iPhone or iPod is out is “it” and can’t be improved on, but I’m always proven wrong.  Hopefully Apple will continue to move forward even without Jobs at the helm.

Filed under: Music News

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