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    9. R.E.M.

    Years active: 1980 - 2011 Influenced: Drawl/monotone vocal stylings; musicians taking part in politics Hometown: Athens, Georgia Jam: "Losing My Religion." Michael Stipe's reedy voices traces a path through spiritual transitions and universal wonderings.

    One of the first of many excellent bands to emerge from Athens, Georgia, R.E.M. sauntered onto the charts propelled by their ever-growing cult following. Even in present day, there are still some people who swear by Michael Stipe and his droning, guitar-pop sound—their distinctive sound is mostly due to Stipe's insistent, mumbled vocal presence. Seen largely as a forerunner for groups like Nirvana and Pavement, they didn't achieve quite as much critical acclaim, but probably received more lauding from critics for, in essence, paving the way for other indie bands to hit it big. Seen as a group who managed to make it "big" themselves while maintaining authenticity, R.E.M. were also vocally outspoken on behalf of causes like feminism, human rights, and gun control.