Music through the decades

Music is a means to; reduce stress, release emotions through lyrics, give a voice to causes we care about, a means by which individuals can find common ground. Throughout my Lifetime, I have used Music to get me through trying times. Music has been a Friend when I felt friendless, has been a Therapist when I didn’t have access to one, and has been a means to help me express what I myself couldn’t put into words of expression. Without Music, the World, in my opinion, would fall apart.

Music genres and styles have evolved over the decades, and many famous artists and bands have impacted it in so many ways. Without these talented musicians, music would not be what it is today. Join me in exploring the Creativity and sound advances that shaped the world of Music.

1940’s: Brought us; Swing, Jazz, Blues and Big Band

The music of the 1940’s consisted mainly of jazz, big band, and swing. It reflected the pain of World War II while also trying to remain upbeat and looking towards a positive future full of possibilities. Because much of the world was involved in the war during the decade, many artists and groups put their efforts into entertaining troops, especially in the US with the USO (United States Service Organizations) (The People History).

1940’s style Radio

In the US, by the late 1930s and early 1940s, swing music had become the most popular musical style and remained so for several years, until it was supplanted in the late 1940s by the pop standards sung by the crooners (“Crooners” was a term used to describe male vocalists that often had powerful, professionally trained voices and maintained a specific posture or stage presence that could be described as intimate. ) (Wikedot) who grew out of the big band Swing Era tradition.

Bandleaders such as the Dorsey Brothers often helped launch the careers of vocalists who went on to popularity as solo artists, such as Frank Sinatra, who rose to fame as a singer during this time. In the 1940s, pure jazz began to become more popular, along with the blues, with artists like Ella Fitzgerald (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”) and Billie Holiday (“Strange Fruit”) becoming nationally successful. Big artists of the time include Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, Dorsey Brothers, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald. (Rifftime)

Popular Songs from the Top Artists of the 1940’s

1950’s Brought us: Rock ’N Roll, B-bop, Big Band, Country

1950’s style Radio

Music of the 1950’s reflected the beginnings of major social changes in the world and in the US, especially. Rock ‘n’ Roll (“Rock and Roll” was a term first used by Alan Freed, a disc jockey from Cleveland, Ohio, to describe the new form of music that was taking shape. It was influenced by rhythm and blues, gospel, and country music. The artists were often showmen, and the music usually included guitar solos.) (Wikedot) R&B, and traditional pop ruled the charts while radio and television connected the country in our musical tastes and exposed the nation to a greater variety of artists and styles. Some of the first major superstars of music emerged from this decade with people like Elvis Presley dominating the airwaves and the minds of young girls. (The People History)

Doo-wop is a style of music that was most popular throughout the 50s. The style is characterized by harmonizing vocals that use syllables (real or not) to form the musical backdrop for the lead vocalist. Musical instruments were sometimes used, while other songs were entirely a cappella. Popular artists include The Moonglows, The Penguins, and The Del-Vikings. (Wikidot)

Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Patti Page, Doris Day, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Pat Boone, Gene Autry, Patsy Cline, Same Cooke, Hank Williams, Teresa Brewer, Ritchie Valens, Harry Belafonte, and Ray Charles. (Rifftime)

Now to hear from the Artists themselves

Here are their Greatest hits for your Enjoyment

Rock n’ Roll the Early Days (Documentary)

1957 CBS TV Special the Edsel Show with Guest Stars; Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and Louis Armstrong. (Rifftime)

1960’s style Radio

1960’s bought us: Motown, Rock ‘N Roll, and The British Invasion

The sounds of the 1960’s straddled a large dichotomy between the ultimate commercialism with completely manufactured bands (like The Archies and The Monkees) and revolutionary artistry (Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix) with some of the greatest singer-songwriters and instrumentalists emerging on the scene. There were also many bands and artists that walked the line between commercialism and musical innovation like The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Rolling Stones. The Beatles dominated the charts and spurred on the British Invasion that characterized much of the decade. (The People History)

One of the first things that come to mind when thinking of the music scene in the 1960s is the “British Invasion”, where music groups in England experienced breakthrough success in the U.S. The Beatles were responsible for creating the breakthrough and would go on to become the best-selling rock group of all time. Other British groups that followed include: The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, and Herman’s Hermits. (wikidot)

The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, Neil Seddaka, Chubby Checker, The Mamas & The Papas, Cream, The Temptations, and James Brown. (Rifftime)

Greatest Hits of the 60’s – Best Of 60’s Songs

1970’s brought us: Disco, Motown, and R&B

1970’s style Radio

The 1970’s served as a bridge between the seriousness of the music that came out of the late sixties and the excessiveness of music from the 1980’s. Disco became one of the biggest and most despised trends in music during the decade. It was so pervasive that many established singers and bands came out with disco songs to keep up with the trends, including rockers like Blondie and Rod Stewart. Heavier rock music and punk rock also emerged during the decade, some of it as a retaliation to disco. (The People History)

Only a handful of music genres were of the most successful and most popular during the 1970s. The first was soft rock (which was the “pop music” of that generation) and was led by artists such as Elton John, Chicago, The Eagles, Paul McCartney and Wings, The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen.

Another style that had much influence, especially in the latter half of the decade, was Disco, which was a dance style that was characterized by an electric sound and a strong beat. KC and the Sunshine Band, ABBA (the most successful group of the 70s),

Village People, Donna Summer and The Bee Gees were the leading talents in this genre. The popularity of the genre was propelled by successful films featuring the music and lifestyle, such as Saturday Night Fever.

The last of the most successful styles of music was rock. In general, rock music became edgier during this time as a response to the lighter, peppier offerings of the disco genre. Led Zepplin was the most successful of this group (falling second overall to ABBA); others included The Who, Pink Floyd, AD/DC, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, and Blue Oyster Cult.

The decade saw the passing of many great musicians, some of which include: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, 3 members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (plane crash), Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby. (Wikidot)

The Doors, The Who, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Gloria Gaynor, The Bee Gees, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Electric Light Orchestra, Patti Smith, The Cars, Kool & The Gang, Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire, Kansas, ABBA, Donna Summer, Queen, Grand Funk Railroad, Blondie, The Carpenters, Elton John, Billy Joel. (Rifftime)

Best Oldie 70’s Music Hits – Greatest Hits Of 70’s Oldies but Goodies 70’s Classic Hits Nonstop Songs

American Top 40 April 9, 1977 Casey Kasem

1980’s style Radio

1980’s brought us: Glam rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, Country

In the 1980s music was dramatically changed by the introduction of MTV (Music Television). This meant that music videos became more and more of a necessity in order for artists to gain popularity (especially with the youth) and sell records.

Great importance was placed on the appearance of musicians and gimmicks became commonplace. Michael Jackson emerged as one of the most dominant artists of the decade and was helped by his creative music videos and pure talent, with his Thriller album and video setting pop music standards.

New Wave and Synth-Pop were popular genres and their electronic sounds fit perfectly with the beginnings of the computer age.

Hair Metal bands also became popular during the decade with their theatrical and outrageous music videos and performances.

Hip-Hop also came into the mainstream during the decade. (The people History)

80’s Music Influencers

There are two artists that epitomize 80s music. The first is Michael Jackson. The songs “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, were of his tops hits throughout the decade. The album Thriller has yet to be unseated as the best-selling album of all time.

The other artist is Madonna. It was her second album, Like a Virgin, that catapulted her to the top of the charts. Her controversial lyrics and behavior quickly made her a household name, while her look influenced fashion throughout the decade.

Metal and hard rock were influential styles during the 80s. Artist such as Def Leppard, Poison, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi and Megadeth dominated the genre and helped perpetuate the popularity of rock artist from the 1970s such as KISS and AC/DC.

This genre included “Hair Bands” (named for their heavily teased tresses), which some of the afore mentioned artists were a part of. Other noteworthy hair bands were Van Halen, Scorpions, and Quiet Riot.

Although it was in the 70s that the genre began, it was during the 80s that hip-hop really gained momentum. Artists such as Run-DMC, The Beastie Boyz (who opened for Madonna on her first North American Tour), LL Cool J, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince were of the most influential. (Wikidot)

Other Popular 80’s Singers/Bands

Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Olivia Newton-John, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Duran Duran, The Police, U2, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Poison, Twisted Sister, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Phil Collins, Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Motley Crue, Prince, Paula Abdul, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Go-Gos, The Bangles, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Public Enemy, Run-DMC, MC Hammer, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Bobby Brown, New Kids on the Block, Janet Jackson, Tom Petty, Journey, Tina Turner.(Rifftime)

1990’s brought us: Grunge, Alternative, Rap, and Country

Like the sixties, the 1990s was a decade of extremes with under-produced, anti-establishment grunge bands and gangster rappers (Eminem, Tupac Shakur, Ice cube, Snoop Dogg, and The Notorious B.I.G.) to name a few were enjoying just as much success as the overly produced and studio manufactured pop groups.

Eminem Greatest Hits

Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle

The decade was ruled by powerful singers with Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston topping the charts.

Best of Mariah Carey

Best of Celine Dion

Many artists’ personal problems including drug abuse and rap feuds overshadowed a lot of the talent during the decade as well, with the death of many popular musicians due to drug overdose and the murders of rappers like Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. (The People History)

Best of Notorious BIG

Tupac Shakur Greatest Hit Full Album

There were many popular styles of music in the 90s. One style having a powerful influence was alternative rock, an umbrella term that encompasses several different sub-genres such as indie rock and grunge. Some of the most notable alternative rock groups of the decade include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Goo Goo Dolls, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Stone Temple Pilots.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers Greatest Hits

Goo Goo Dolls

Goo Goo Dolls Greatest Hits Volume One The Singles Full 

Grunge music, which combines rock, punk and metal sounds, was popularized in the 90s by groups such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

Pearl Jam

The 10 Best of Pearl Jam

The 90’s also brought us: Pop Punk.

Pop punk is a legitimate (though admittedly very messy) subgenre that has birthed hundreds of bands since it first came into existence. It’s also an undeniable product of its time and place. Arriving 15 years or so after punk’s initial heyday, pop punk owes its existence to the changes that swept across America in the 1980s and necessitated a different kind of rebellion (or pseudo-rebellion, as it were). Malls sprouted across suburbia, skateboard culture gave jocks and weirdos a common reference point, and that capitalist sentiment that ran roughshod over everything in the Reagan era taught corporations the same lesson that McLaren had learned years earlier: Punk sells.(COS)

And boy, did it ever sell. Vans Warped Tour, Hot Topic, Mountain Dew, Famous Stars & Straps — all of these names eventually became as tied up in pop punk as names like Green Day and Blink-182.

Green Day Dookie  Full Album

Blink 182 first album “Buddha” Full Album 1994

Not every pop punk band participated in corporate culture, with some as adamant about maintaining their DIY ethics as Fugazi and the Dischord crew were in the ‘80s. Still, it’s impossible to divorce the genre entirely from its commodification. (COS)

Pop music was driven by many European artists through the decade. All Saints, the Spice Girls, George Michael, Ace of Base, Robert Palmer and Oasis were some of the top groups/artists. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera had their first chart-topping hits in the late 90s, and their careers boomed in the 2000s. Paula Abdul, Hanson, and R. Kelly are just a few of the others’ enjoying success in the 1990s.

Country music enjoyed major growth as a genre during the decade as newcomers such as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. These ones paved the way for others’ success later in the decade, including Shania Twain, Lonestar, The Dixie Chicks, and Martina McBride. Reba McEntire was one of the most successful female solo artists of the decade, selling over 20 million albums throughout the decade. In 1992 Time magazine detailed country music’s rising popularity with a cover story featuring Garth Brooks.

The 90s also saw an uptick in R&B

Contemporary R&B (also known as simply R&B) is a music genre that combines elements of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, funk, hip hop and electronic music. The genre features a distinctive record production style, drum machine-backed rhythms, pitch corrected vocals, and a smooth, lush style of vocal arrangement. Electronic influences are becoming an increasing trend and the use of hip hop or dance-inspired beats are typical, although the roughness and grit inherent in hip hop may be reduced and smoothed out.

The popularity of the ballad and R&B leads to the development of a genre called Urban adult contemporary. Popular American contemporary R&B artists included Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, Sade, En Vogue, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Dru Hill, Vanessa L. Williams, Groove Theory, Bell Biv Devoe, Jodeci, Diana King, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Tara Kemp, Brownstone, Shanice, Usher, SWV, Silk, 702, Aaliyah, Keith Sweat, R. Kelly, TLC, Xscape, Blaque, Brandy, Monica, Mýa, Total and Tevin Campbell. In contrast to the works of Boyz II Men, Babyface and similar artists, other R&B artists from this same period began adding even more of a hip hop sound to their work. The synthesizer-heavy rhythm tracks of new jack swing was replaced by grittier East Coast hip hop-inspired backing tracks, resulting in a genre labelled hip hop soul by producer Sean Combs. The style became less popular by the end of the 1990s, but later experienced a resurgence.

Vanessa  Williams Greatest hits playlist

Baby face greatest hits

Boyz ii Men Greatest Hits

Back To The 90s – 90s Greatest Hits Album

Citations used for this Post:

Pearson, Steve. “History of Modern Music Including Styles, Groups And Artists Including Most Popular Artists and Songs.” The People History,

Rifftime. “Music Trends Through The Decades.” Medium, Medium, 30 Jan. 2015,

“Casey Kasem.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2019,

“Defining Decades.” Music – Defining Decades,

“The 100 Best Pop Punk Bands.” Consequence of Sound, 19 Jan. 2018,

“1990s In Music.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Apr. 2019,

Thanks for cruising through 50 years of Music with me. I hope that this Post gave you all the feels of Yesteryears. For the ones who don’t know these Era’s of Music, I am glad to be the one to Introduce you to them. If you found this Post to be insightful or Entertaining in the slightest, please feel free to; Comment, Subscribe and Share. I look forward to Cruising with you again real soon.

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