Looking back at the life and music of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs died one year ago today—appropriately he chose the same day to pass out of this world as the anniversary date for The Beatles’ first record coming into the world. Jobs loved The Beatles and Dylan and throughout his life embodied the spirit of ’60s cultural upheaval, creative invention and innovation. He was in a class of his own as a corporate iconoclast willing to tear down all the rules and brazenly disrupt other industries. And in “Almost Famous” parlance, he dug music.

Two years ago at an Apple event demonstrating the new iTunes feature Ping (which never really took off, incidentally) Death and Taxes editor Stephen Blackwell noticed a quick glimpse, projected on the screen behind him, of Jobs’ most played records, in the form of album covers. His commentary on Jobs’ 10 favorite records and what they say about him is worth a read, but to recap, they were:

  • Bob Dylan | “Highway 61 Revisited”
  • Cat Stevens | “Tea for the Tillerman”
  • The Grateful Dead | “American Beauty”
  • Glenn Gould | Bach: The Goldberg Variations
  • Jackson Browne | “Late for the Sky”
  • John Lennon | “Imagine”
  • Miles Davis | “Kind of Blue”
  • Peter, Paul and Mary | “Around the Campfire”
  • The Rolling Stones | “Some Girls”
  • The Who | “Who’s Next”
  • Taken together, they paint a portrait of a guy who was sensitive, classy, and valued sticking it to The Man.

    Part of what the world loved about Apple was that it was helmed by a corporate iconoclast, which was compelling because it’s a paradox. But Jobs was able to pull it off in part because he was a child of another era with a vital counterculture. The world has changed. Conformity has replaced rebellion as a value structure—Facebook became popular in part because it was the great equalizer, uniting everyone in a universally uniform environment.

    This part of Jobs’ legacy will be lost no matter how effectively Apple continues to innovate or how cool their products are. Tim Cook may be a great business mind and effective leader, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s ever once flipped the middle finger to The Man.