YEARS ON AIR: 1975–present
While conceived as a sketch-comedy show, SNL has always given music in a prominent place in its 90-minute lineup. (Among the talents with the show at its 1975 premiere were longtime Letterman bandleader/foil Paul Shaffer and Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore. Also gone are the eclectic acts that were frequently booked in the show’s early years — viewers in those seasons were treated to the stylings of Sun Ra, Gil Scott-Heron, and the seminal disco-jazz ensemble Brick.) A few musical guests — from Sinead O’Connor (who infamously ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II) to Ashlee Simpson (caught lip-syncing) to Lana Del Rey (viciously panned on social media) — have generated unwanted publicity that overshadowed the show itself.
NOTABLE GUESTS: Paul Simon, Eminem, Randy Newman, Beck, Dave Grohl, Justin Bieber, Elvis Costello, Beastie Boys, U2, Frank Zappa, Kanye West, and Arcade Fire (below, performing “Intervention”)
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