Rock Me Amadeus

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, President Obama awarded San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas the National Medal of Arts for his efforts to win over a wider audience for classical music. In our current issue, MTT talks with MJ‘s Clara Jeffery about the philosophy behind his work, his love of nonclassical artists such as James Brown, and experiments such as organizing the first ever YouTube symphony. Check it out. Or take a moment to enjoy these greatest hits of classical music crossover:

1885 The Boston Pops is launched to bring classical music to the masses.

1940 Disney’s Fantasia. Money loser until 1969 re-release makes it a stoner classic.

1957 Elmer Fudd + Wagner = “Kill Da Wabbit.”

1958 Leonard Bernstein conducts his first televised Young People’s Concert.

1968 2001: A Space Odyssey immortalizes Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.

1976A Fifth of Beethoven” disco remix.

1984 Amadeus wins eight Oscars.

1990 The Three Tenors storm charts.

1998 Georgia aims for “Mozart effect” by giving new moms classical CDs.

2002 Nas samples Beethoven’s “Für Elise.”

2007 BBC launches a reality show to reclaim classical music from “posh old white people.”

2009 YouTube Symphony Orchestra and MTT play Carnegie Hall


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.