Cultural linguist and writer, William Safire, writes a weekly column for The New York Times Magazine each week that examines how the modern-day lexicon is ever-changing. In a recent article, he examined the term "rock star" – now being used quite commonly to describe people in various fields who have emerged as true icons and movers and shakers in their field.
The article cites everyone from Alan Greenspan (the financial "rock star" who just left The Fed) to Hillary Clinton to Stephen King. But when you think about it, many fields have "rock stars" – people who rise above the rest because of their talent, longevity, impact, and yes, celebrity.
In radio ownership, it was Mel Karmazin. In programming, it has been Kevin Weatherly. On the air, it's Rush Limbaugh, and of course, one of the original "rock stars," Howard Stern.
But in every organization, company, cluster, and perhaps even radio station, we need "rock stars." Leaders, managers, and even mid-level employees who get it done, step it up, and leave their marks. I've met "rock stars" on station staffs who are interns, but they understand how to make the system work for them, while making a significant impact at station events and behind the scenes. It's easy to spot these people, and obvious to predict they will go far in business, and even life.
Finding and nurturing the "rock stars" in our midst is also part of what makes a great manager. We cannot all be "rock stars," but if we can identify them and enable them to impact our stations, we've done the station, company, and yes, industry a real service.
Meanwhile, isn't it interesting that at the same time the term "rock star" is becoming a cultural term that goes well outside the music industry, there's never been a time in the last 50 years when there have been fewer real "rock stars?"
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Greg Gillispie says
Fred…your last comment in this piece hits the nail on the head why the term “rock star” has gone beyond the music biz…but sorry, none of those people mentioned fit the true meaning of the term “rock stars” and expanding its meaning turns into brand extension. Perhaps they should be branded to their profession…like what are you…consultant star?
Dick Hungate says
Well, it’s more fun being a “Highway Star”, anyway!
(Ask Deep Purple’s overlooked frontman Ian Gillan)
“Nobody gonna take my car
I’m gonna race it to the ground.
Nobody gonna beat my car
I’m gonna break the speed of sound.
Oooh, it’s a killing machine!
It’s got everything.
Like a driving power, big fat tires
I want it and I need it.
I bleed it, yeah it’s a wild hurricane.
I’m a highway star!”
(It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon last weekend
and I played this at 5 pm. Funny how all suddenly
was “right” with the world…even as Iran works as
fast as it can to complete its first nuclear weapon
later in ’06 and force a showdown with Israel/America.
Boy do I love this classic rock genre. One of life’s
pure, simple pleasures.)