Michael Tilson Thomas: 67, music director of the San Francisco Symphony

"The first time I heard James Brown's music, it knocked me out -- the attacks, the syncopation, the empty spaces, the amazing singing. I was driving to a rehearsal in Los Angeles as a young man, listening to XERB (the Mighty 1090), I don't remember what song it was -- 'I Got You,' or 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' -- I had to drive over to the side of the road and listen. When I work with young conductors, I'll sometimes say, "You're trying to get a lot of people to agree on where 'now' is," or ask them if they've ever listened to James Brown's 'Cold Sweat.' That song is my definition of 'together.' Lately, I've been listening to Brian Wilson's work -- I admire his music. I'm also a big fan of Bonnie Raitt -- her new album is outstanding. I've also been listening to Prince, Ray Charles, Laura Nyro and Bette Midler."
Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times | Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images
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