Bruce Springsteen, Freddie Mercury, Tina Turner and other legendary asses.
Everyone has a feature or two they pride themselves on: long legs, broad shoulders, or an ample chest. Often, these features are bestowed on us by a good and loving god. However, there's one part of the body that requires work — one part of the body that acts as the tentpole on which all other body parts are raised, "Yes, things don't just come this way," the ass seems to say. In other words, great asses aren't born. They are made. These are ten of the most legendary.
A little bit of guilt comes with pointing out how great Bruce Springsteen's butt was/continues to be. You would never point to some blue-collar Joe in your modest port community — a union man, let's say — and laugh, "Boy, that guy really fills out his Lee's." (That would be weird, and gross, and frankly, not of the times.) But if record executives didn't want Americans to fall in love with Bruce Springsteen's ass, they shouldn't have put it in front of the flag. It's practically your civic responsibility to care about The Boss's butt, or at the very least, to question what civic responsibility means. (Isn't that what 2002's The Rising was all about?) Bruce Springsteen: cool butt, true patriot.
In the past few decades, Rod Stewart has become a bit of a joke. But before he starting churning out performance after performance of "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" for any casino audience that would have him, he was a rock star. Really. Okay, well maybe not a star. But, he was a member of The Kinks before they were The Kinks, in the original Jeff Beck Group, and rumor has it that Jimmy Page originally wanted Stewart as lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Thankfully, history righted itself, and Robert Plant became the rock idol of ages while Rod Stewart continues to thrill strange, unknowable women while wearing pants too tight for his age. Out of respect, we'll remember the ass that was.
Everyone has their own natural gait; some people lead with their chest, some people lead with their chins. Freddie Mercury led with his ass. He once said, "I'm so powerful on stage that I seem to have created a monster." If by "monster," he meant, "preternatural sex god," then I'd have to agree. He's widely regarded as one of the best live performers in history, with that magical combination of voice, body, and a deep conviction in every word he sang. He also had the butt of a champion.
One needn't look further than 1960s suburban, working-class England to find the kind of ass-worship urbanites could only imagine. It was here that the future Depeche Mode frontman got his start. He was a rebellious teen who spent his time defacing public property, stealing cars, and later, piercing the flap of skin between his scrotum and ass (a piercing that’s called “the geisha." But you knew that). And then, he turned to music. Now, Gahan channels his insurgent spirit through one key physical mantra: shaking his butt parts. Yes, approximately eighty percent of his live performances are spent with his back turned to the audience, wiggling his ass. For fans of British new wave, that butt holds a totemic power.
If this were a list of "Butts With the Widest Musical Range" or "Butts We Would Pay to See in Concert," Shakira probably wouldn't top our list. However, this is a list of Most Iconic Butts, and Shakira has a most iconic butt. When she made her U.S. debut with "Wherever, Whenever" in 2001, American audiences couldn't believe that any woman was capable of moving quite like that. Today, she is still working her signature hip-roll/butt-jut with just as much enthusiasm, though much less novelty. She was the face of 2010's official World Cup tribute "Wakka Wakka" and she continues to record albums in both English and Spanish. Whether you regard her commercial success as some sinister form of ass globalization, or a roadsign signaling greater butt-acceptance ahead, one thing is for certain: that ass is a commodity.
If there was ever a woman who looked as good as Turner for as long as Turner, I have yet to see her. Bryan Adams, who once toured with Tina, said, "I never saw Tina walk through a performance. She always put on a great show, and was gracious and grateful to her audience." It's done wonders for her ass. Her legs and general below-the-belt region have been the stuff of legends for decades now. How does she do it? It's been fifty years and the woman still hasn't sat down. Most septuagenarians are enjoying a slower pace earned with old age; Tina Turner still wears thongs.
On the precipice of a glam-rock revolution, Americans and Brits stared at David Bowie with complete amazement. Was this a boy or a girl? Is this a boy's butt or a girl's butt? Please tell me who this butt belongs to. I need to know if I'm allowed to like this butt was the sentiment of early Bowie days. He challenged our notions of sex and identity for decades with some well-placed tape, a strategic haircut, and lots of body-hugging spandex. What has your ass done for gender equality lately?
Before this year, I rarely connected "Erykah Badu" with "butts." Earlier in her career, I would find myself thinking, "Pretty, bluesy, I don't get it" or "This is supposed to mean something — interesting." Just about the only thing I think when I see her now is "I have seen your butt. I have seen your butt." Perhaps you've seen her butt, too; Badu's video for "Window Seat" follows her with a single camera as she strips down to nothing in Dallas's famous Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was shot. As you can imagine, some thought it was in poor taste for a pop singer to disrobe at the site of a presidential assassination. The rest of us still can't believe we got to see all of her.
Peaches took a page or two from David Bowie's book — in fact, she's the nearest living thing we have to a female clone of the '70s glam rocker. David Bowie had Space Oddity and Ziggy Stardust, Peaches has ass, pubic hair, and lasers. She's ridden a pyrotechnic penis and composed entire songs on a laser theremin, but we really just prefer it when she's shaking her gender-ambiguous butt in our faces, daring us to say something.
No one has consistently done leather pants right like Iggy Pop. For four decades he's pissed off, turned on, and completely bewildered audiences with every inch of his body. And while his torso is still a wonder of modern medicine (and possibly fine Spanish leather), it's his butt we care about. Sure, he'll dangle his penis during live performances, and yes, we are appropriately outraged. But there's something about the way he moons fans: how far down he bends, the rigor that goes into it — as if he really wants you to understand what mooning means. I don't understand, but I’m still glad he does it.