A Timeline of Music

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A Brief History

This article presents a timeline of music history.

Digging Deeper

On January 1, 1773, the first use of the all familiar hymn, “Amazing Grace“, was performed at a church service in England.

On March 31, 1923, the first U.S. dance marathon ended in New York City but began a strange fad with sometimes fatal consequences!

On March 3, 1951, music history was made when the first song deemed to be “rock and roll” was recorded.

On March 21, 1952, disc jockey Alan Freed (inventor of the term “rock and roll”) and record store owner Leo Mintz staged the first rock concert in Cleveland, Ohio!

On June 5, 1956, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, introduced what would become his top selling hit, Hound Dog, on The Milton Berle Show, an early television favorite.

On October 12, 1957, Little Richard made a dramatic gesture to prove he was quitting rock music for a more religious life when he tossed 4 diamond rings into the Hunter River in Sydney, Australia. Well, that lasted 5 years and Little Richard was back on stage, still rocking today in his old age (currently 81). The dynamic Little Richard had a massive hit with the song, Tutti Frutti in 1955 at a time when many white parents were trying to keep their kids away from rock and roll. This slam bang in your face song was covered by crooner Pat Boone, and the result was far different from the Little Richard version. Boone’s slow down version reached #12 on the charts while Little Richard’s original reached #17. Sometimes even the same artist puts out 2 versions of the same song that are totally different (such as Elvis with I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You). Some covers are quite similar to the original, such as Heat Wave by Linda Ronstadt (original by Martha and the Vandellas), or even the Beatles version of Twist and Shout, which though distinct, is basically the same presentation as the Isley Brothers version (which is actually aa cover itself).

On February 3, 1959, a Beechcraft Bonanza airplane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa, a crash that would become one of the most famous plane crashes in aviation and music history.

On November 21, 1959, music DJ and rock and roll legend Alan Freed was fired by WABC in New York for refusing to sign a statement claiming he had never taken “payola,” bribes from record companies to play and promote certain records.

On October 27, 1960, American soul singer Ben E. King co-wrote and recorded “Stand by Me”.

On December 1, 1960, Paul McCartney and Pete Best of The Beatles were arrested in Hamburg, Germany for the arson of the grubby room they had been staying in located in a theater. For this, they were deported back to England.

On February 1, 1964, the British sensational band, The Beatles, hit the top of the American charts for the first time with their smash hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

On January 29, 1967, the “hippie” counter-culture scene melded with Hare Krishna at the Mantra-Rock Dance in San Francisco, later referred to as “the ultimate high.”

On November 28, 1967, the Number 1 song in the United States was “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees, a made for television rock band with their own zany television show. Certainly a Number 1 song is a big deal, and television gave us many iconic musical performances. Here we list 10 of our favorites. Share with us some of your favorites that you would add to the list.

On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono came up with a unique way to celebrate their honeymoon, by inviting friends and reporters to spend the day in their hotel bedroom each day for a week!

On January 2, 1979, the murder trial of punk rock legend Sid Vicious began.

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon, the former Beatle and one of the most famous musicians of the 1960’s and 1970’s was mercilessly gunned down, shot in the back on a New York sidewalk, thus joining the ranks of peace lovers who were not allowed to be left in peace, men such as Abraham Lincoln, “Mahatma” Gandhi, Martin L. King jr., and Robert F. Kennedy.

On January 23, 1986, the world of music finally saw the beginning of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with its first inductees!

On November 19, 1990, the pop “singing” duo called Milli Vanilli was stripped of the Grammy music award they had been given for “Best New Artist.” Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus fronted the duo and had met with success in Germany starting in 1988 and copied that success in the US and internationally with their debut album, Girl You Know It’s True in 1990.

On October 1, 1993, twelve-year old Polly Hannah Klaas (January 3, 1981 – October 1, 1993) was murdered under horrifying circumstances erroneously starting the rumor that Nirvana’s “Polly” was inspired by the event.

On March 11, 1995Chrono Trigger was released in Japan.  Chrono Trigger is regarded as one of the finest RPG videogames of all time.  If you have never played it, just YouTube the soundtrack, because part of it was composed in someone’s dream.

On February 1, 2004, at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas, history was made when a “wardrobe malfunction” caused Janet Jackson to briefly expose her breast on live national television!

On June 16, 2012, Forgotten Books published The English Madrigal Composers.  The book concerns a style of music popularized during The Renaissance Era in Europe, a new age for invention and discovery. It was an age of rebirth and re-education in the arts, and science.

On December 8, 2012, tens of thousands of Egyptians were protesting outside the presidential palace. Protesters have not always taken their complaints to the streets, but have often taken whatever cause they were currently wrapped up in to the airwaves in the form of protest songs. Some of these songs also became major hits, even if not because of their message, while others had great impact with the message delivered. Themes of anti-racism, anti-war, anti-sexism, and all sorts of political complaints are sung about. Often the format of protest songs is folk music, but rock and psychedelic versions have also hit it big.

Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite musical composition from history?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Miller, Michael.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music History.  ALPHA, 2008.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.