Happy Birthday Mr. Richards, Your Ngrams Look Good

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Rolling Stones ngram

Google Labs' "ngram viewer" instantly quantifies literary references in its massive digital library

Google Labs recently unveiled Ngrams, a chart that displays the number of times a term has appeared in literature digitized in the Google Books library.  Based on their massive collection, the project has produced informative results for Freud, Darwin and other major thinkers of the 20th century, supporting their cultural significance.  The word “culturomics” was recently coined for the science of measuring arts and humanities.  What about people whose job it is to influence the chart?!!!?

In honor of Keith Richards‘ birthday, I ran a test to see the stats measuring the Rolling Stones‘ effect on raising the popularity of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. This was their stated intention when they started the band, and it appears as though they were very successful.

Around 1965, Muddy, Chuck and the blues get a bump, just as the Stones became popular.  Their growth has been parallel even having a concordant dip in the mid-80s, when the band was on hiatus.  Again, Mr. Richards can take some credit — his movie with Berry, “Hail Hail Rock n’ Roll” as well as being part of the inaugural Rock Hall of Fame event helped codify Berry’s credentials and restore steady growth.

When the Rolling Stones reunited for their “megatours” in the late 80s, their profile takes a sharp turn upward a year or two later.  In my estimation, the documentation of the now historic band became a primary part of their aesthetic and commerce – the Stones even released several retrospective books of their own in this period.

So happy birthday to my hero Keith Richards. We all knew that he and the band improved the profile of those musicians!  Congratulations to Mr. Richards for completing another trip around the Sun (and best wishes for many more).  Kudos as well to Google and Erez Lieberman Aiden’s team at Harvard for creating such an effective and interesting tool.

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