Group formed in: 1970, Dusseldorf, Germany
Very few groups can claim to be more seminal than Kraftwerk, which was formed in the early 1970s but continued to have an enormous impact in the late 1990s. To say that the German group was way ahead of its time is no exaggeration - Kraftwerk built its sound around electronic instruments at a time when many rock and soul artists had never even touched synthesizers or electronic drums.
But as the 1970s progressed, more and more artists were getting hip to Kraftwerk's innovations - and its impact could be heard in recordings by Giorgio Moroder, David Bowie and Tangerine Dream. The list of artists Kraftwerk influenced is amazingly long, but suffice to say that everyone from Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Zapp/Roger Troutman, The Egyptian Lover, Whodini and The System to Throbbing Gristle, Bauhaus, The Human League, Depeche Mode, The Shaman, Skinny Puppy and New Order was directly or indirectly influenced by Kraftwerk. From hip-hop, disco, Latin freestyle and house to new wave, industrial noise, alternative rock, techno and gothic, Kraftwerk's influence seems unending.
All of Kraftwerk's seminal 1970s albums fall under the heading of "essential." Trans-Europe Express (1977) and The Man Machine (1978) are gems, as are such groundbreaking efforts as Kraftwerk 2 (1972), Autobahn (1974) and Radioactivity (1975). The impact of these classics was still being felt in the late 1990s. Unless electronic music goes away (which is most unlikely), Kraftwerk's direct or indirect influence probably won't be decreasing any time soon.
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