Top 40 Before 40 Rock Artists - #21 - Jack Johnson

I have to admit that I was not 100% certain if Jack Johnson was going to make my top 40, and if so, where he would land, but then I started to think about how many times I have listened to his albums, how many songs I know and love, and how cool this dude is.

I vividly remember the first time I heard of Jack Johnson. It was one of the very first episodes of Last Call with Carson Daly, and Johnson was on the show talking about his first album, his previous career as a professional surfer, and he played a song or two from the Brushfire Fairytales. I was pretty impressed. I was also shocked I hadn’t heard of him before.

Of course, this was in 2002. I am not sure too many people knew of Jack Johnson back then. The crazy thing is the main reason I watched that episode was because it featured Jason Schwartzman (who is awesome and a musician as well). Man, I am glad I watched the whole show.

For those of you who are just joining this list at this point, let me give a quick summary below:

  • In my almost 40 years on this planet, I have had the great pleasure of listening to a lot of music that doesn't make it to the airwaves, and a lot of these bands are some of my absolute favorites.
  • You WILL see some Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame bands on the list too, but for the most part, you are likely going to disagree with this list almost entirely.
  • I am sharing this ranking so that you get some insight into some great bands you may have never heard before AND for a little bit of a personal challenge to myself to rank these bands.

With that said, let's get to #21 on my Top 40 List Before 40:

By Caitlyn Ridenour - Flickr: Bonnaroo 2013, CC BY-SA 2.0

#21 - Jack Johnson

If you ask me, Jack Johnson is all around one of the coolest and most humble successful rock musicians of all time. Some of you may say, “Well, he’s not that famous, is he?”

Well, the dude did the ENTIRE soundtrack for the Curious George movie. There are very few rockers who get to do soundtracks for an entire kids movie. Elton John and Phil Collins are the only other two that I can even think of that have done it. Of course, I am referring to the Lion King and Tarzan soundtracks respectively.

Johnson writes about his home of Hawaii a lot, and I think that’s one of the reasons why his songs are so appealing. He doesn’t write about the dread and hate in the world. He’s a pretty chill guy with some really chill music. 

His guitar style is damn near akin to old Johnny Cash style of guitar but in a much slower tempo with some added fills. Match that guitar style with a John Mayer like singing style, and you have one very cool customer out there.

He’s been deeply involved in the surf community for years, and he also have a few documentaries that he was in. He was a surfer in The Endless Summer 2 as well. The first installment of the films is regularly cited as one of the best (if not THE best) and most influential surf movies of all time. I never even saw the original, but I have definitely seen the sequel with Pat and Wingnut quite a few times. It made me wish I grew up near an ocean.

Over the last 20 years, I have probably listened to at least one of Johnson’s songs every week. That’s a lot of listens, especially considering I am not even counting when I listened to his album straight through multiple times a week as they are released.

So, though I can definitely say Johnson seems like a bit out of left field on this list, he absolutely belongs on it, and I think there are a lot of people who either forget how much they like Johnson, or they just take his music for granted because he makes it seem so easy and laid back.

If you have never heard any of his music before, then you probably haven’t listened to the radio or been grocery shopping or in any other public place that plays music over a PA in the last 20 years.

Here’s what you do if that is you:

Step 1 - Go listen to Brushfire Fairytales

Step 2 - Go listen to On and On

Step 3 - Go listen to In Between Dreams

Step 4 - Go listen to Sleep Through the Static

Step 5 - Go listen to To the Sea

Step 6 - Go listen to From Here to Now to You

Step 7 - Go listen to All the Light Above It Too

You’re welcome!

Similar Artists That I Recommend That Didn't Make The Top 40:

Bob Seger, The Beach Boys, Coconut Records

<-- Check out #22 on this list or Check out #20 on this list → (Available Apr. 6, 2021)