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100 iconic moments from music history

Michael Zagaris // Getty Images

100 iconic moments from music history

Michael Jackson performs in concert circa 1986.

Think back to the first concert you attended. You can probably remember the energy of the crowd yearning for the band to finally take the stage, the reverberation of the first strum of the guitar, the beats of the drum that seemed to thump inside your body. The lights, the charisma of the performers, finally hearing your favorite songs live—as they were meant to be listened to—the experience remains vivid for the rest of your life. You might still have the overpriced T-shirt you bought as a souvenir of the show buried in your closet.

There’s something about music that embeds itself deeply inside memories. But this phenomenon doesn’t just happen at the individual level—music can also form a collective cultural memory. If you think back over the past few generations, certain moments in music stand out as markers of time and reflections of them. Anyone alive in 1980 can tell you where they were when John Lennon was killed, while younger music fans have had a similar experience with the death of Michael Jackson. There are also those hopeful, unforgettable shows—like Queen’s renowned performance at Live Aid, Elvis’ hip thrusts on “The Milton Berle Show,” and Kurt Cobain’s moody acoustic concert on “MTV Unplugged.” No matter how you feel about these artists, there’s no doubt that they made an impact on culture and changed music for future generations.

To compile a list of the most iconic and memorable moments in music history, Stacker looked at an assortment of news sources, music publications, and Norman Abjorensen’s “Historical Dictionary of Popular Music.” A wide range of significant moments, like record-breaking albums, major music festivals, tragic accidents, and headline-making stunts by musicians from a variety of decades and genres are showcased.

Explore this list to reminisce about the history of music—and see if your favorite music memory made the cut.

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Unknown // Wikimedia Commons

American ballad becomes internationally famous for the first time

American-born songwriter John Hill Hewitt wrote “The Minstrel’s Return’d From the War” in 1827. It became the first ballad from a U.S. songwriter to gain international fame, according to Norman Abjorensen, author of “Historical Dictionary of Popular Music.” The original song sheet is housed in the Library of Congress.

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The ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ is published

The Atlantic published abolitionist Julia Ward Howe’s poem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1861. The now-iconic song became associated with the Civil War and influenced future generations of activists, according to Dominic Tierney of The Atlantic.

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Thomas Edison invents the phonograph

Thomas Edison revealed his latest creation, the phonograph, in 1877. While there had been other devices that could record and play audio, the phonograph was far more reliable, making music accessible to the masses. “It forever transformed the face of music,” wrote Clive Thompson of Smithsonian Magazine.

Billboard Magazine // Wikimedia Commons

Billboard magazine hits newsstands

Billboard magazine published its first issue in November 1894. While it was initially focused on the advertising and poster printing industry, it eventually shifted gears into the music industry. In July 1940, it developed its first Music Popularity Chart, which went on to become the guide that listed the most popular songs and albums every week.

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‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ establishes the Black spiritual in music history

An African American a cappella group, The Fisk Jubilee, recorded “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in 1909. The song was instrumental in preserving African American spiritual folk songs in American history, according to Norman Abjorensen, author of “Historical Dictionary of Popular Music.” The original song sheet is housed in the Library of Congress.

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Bessie Smith records ‘Down Hearted Blues’

Jazz and blues singer Bessie Smith saw immediate success after her first recorded song, “Down Hearted Blues,” was released in 1923. She is now considered one of the greatest vocalists of her time and has been an influence on generations of blues and jazz singers.

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Duke Ellington gives the swing era its name

The jazz composer, musician, and orchestra leader wrote the song that would become the namesake to the swing era, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” in 1932. Big band swing music became the most popular genre of music in the United States for the next 15 years.

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Frank Sinatra performs to crazed teen fans in Times Square

America got its first glimpse of teen music fandom when Frank Sinatra performed at New York City’s Paramount Theater on Dec. 30, 1942. Frenzied “bobby-soxers” flooded Times Square for the occasion and a riot broke out. The event drove the music industry to shift its marketing efforts to adolescent fans, rather than 30-to-50-year-olds, according to Samantha Sokol of Untapped New York.

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Ike Turner records first rock ‘n’ roll song

The first rock ‘n’ roll song, “Rocket 88,” was recorded by Ike Turner in 1951 in Memphis, Tennessee. Saxophone player Jackie Brenston sang lead vocals on the track, which was released under his name, according to Christopher John Farley of Time magazine.

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First rock ‘n’ roll riot occurs at Moondog Coronation Ball

Riots broke out at Ohio’s Cleveland Arena when around 15,000 people were turned away from the Moondog Coronation Ball in 1952. Widely considered the first notable rock ‘n’ roll concert, the event was thrown by rock disc jockey Alan J. Freed.

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Leo Fender introduces the Stratocaster electric guitar

The Stratocaster was unveiled by Leo Fender as a sleeker update to the Fender electric guitar in 1954. The guitar revolutionized the sound of rock, according to Norman Abjorensen, author of “Historical Dictionary of Popular Music.” It would be the instrument of choice for a number of famous musicians, including Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Holly.

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Frank Sinatra gives birth to concept albums

“Songs for Young Lovers” was Frank Sinatra’s seventh studio album, released in 1954. It is considered one of the first concept albums based on a central theme, according to Alva Yaffe of Musicoholics.

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Chuck Berry releases ‘Maybellene’

“Maybellene,” a rock version of a Western fiddle tune, was Chuck Berry’s first big hit. The song, released in 1955, is widely considered to be one of the world’s earliest rock ‘n’ roll tracks.

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Elvis Presley thrusts his hips on TV

His racy hip thrusts sparked controversy during Elvis Presley’s performance of “Hound Dog” on “The Milton Berle Show” in June 1956. Fans loved it, but critics blasted the pelvis-shaking dance moves as vulgar, according to PBS.

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Harry Belafonte’s ‘Calypso’ sells more than 1 million copies

The LP album “Calypso,” featuring Harry Belafonte’s version of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” was released in 1956. It became the first record album to sell more than 1 million copies in a single year.

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First Grammy Awards ceremony is held

The ceremony for the first Grammy Awards took place at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on May 14, 1959, to recognize the biggest names in music that year. Award winners included Ella Fitzgerald for “Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Songbook,” Perry Como for “Catch a Falling Star,” and Domenico Modugno for “Nel Blu DiPinto Di Blu (Volare).”

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The day the music died

Rock ‘n’ roller Buddy Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson, died in a plane crash in Iowa on Feb. 3, 1959. The tragedy would later be called “the day the music died” in singer Don McLean’s song, “American Pie,” released in 1971.

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Phil Spector formulates the ‘Wall of Sound’

Record producer Phil Spector invented the “Wall of Sound” music production formula in 1962. The radical recording technique, which created a soundscape with many layers and more reverb, would add immense dynamism to rock and pop music.

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James Brown performs live at the Apollo

James Brown performed in front of 1,500 fans at the Apollo in New York City’s Harlem on Oct. 24, 1962. The show was recorded and released on record, later becoming “one of the greatest albums of all time,” according to James Maycock of The Guardian.

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Philips introduces compact cassette tapes

Philips introduced the compact cassette in September 1963. The new recording medium offered more portability than records, and would eventually allow countless teenagers to record mix tapes.

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The Beatles perform live on American TV

Beatlemania hit the United States on Feb. 9, 1964, when the Fab Four—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—performed live on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Around 700 lucky spectators got to watch the now-legendary show in person, according to Richard Harrington of The Washington Post. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” climbed to the #1 spot on U.S. music charts the following month.

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Bob Dylan introduces the Beatles to pot

Bob Dylan met with the Beatles at The Delmonico Hotel in New York on Aug. 28, 1964, and offered them a joint. Some members of the band say it was the first time they got high, according to Rick Cusick of High Times. The experience went on to influence the Beatles’ writing and recording of music while they were together.

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Pete Townshend smashes his guitar on stage

Pete Townshend of The Who smashed his guitar during a performance at the Railway Tavern in 1964. Rolling Stone called it one of the “50 moments that changed rock ՚n’ roll.” The North London hotel that once housed the venue has since hung up a plaque commemorating the event, according to the Mirror.

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Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ births modern rock

Bob Dylan’s stream-of-consciousness song “Like a Rolling Stone” was released in 1965. The six-minute song was a change from formulaic pop songs that typically clocked in at under three minutes and is credited as giving birth to the modern rock song, according to Sean O’Hagan of The Guardian.

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‘I Got You, Babe’ becomes top hit

“I Got You, Babe,” the duet by Sonny and Cher, took the top spot on the U.S. charts in 1965. The musical couple launched “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” on CBS television six years later.

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Bob Dylan plays electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival

Fans were divided on Bob Dylan’s choice to play an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The event may have ended the American folk revival movement that he helped lead, and influenced other artists’ preferences for electric over acoustic, according to Alva Yaffe of Musicoholics.

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The Rolling Stones release ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’

The Rolling Stones released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as a single in 1965, and it became an instant rock ‘n’ roll classic. The Stones performed a censored version of it on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 13, 1966. The lyric “trying to make some girl” was bleeped out of the family show.

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The Beach Boys release ‘Pet Sounds’

After years in the making, the Beach Boys’ psychedelic album “Pet Sounds” was finally released in 1966. It marked a major shift in studio technique and style for the band, and inspired the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Charles Waring of wrote that “Pet Sounds” is ” … a universally recognized masterpiece that defined a new era while simultaneously redefining the art form it represented.

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The Velvet Underground teams up with Andy Warhol

The Andy Warhol-produced LP, “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” was released in a famous banana sleeve in 1967. The album became one of the most influential rock records in history, according to Sean O’Hagan of The Guardian.

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The Beatles release ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

The Beatles continued their journey into psychedelic music with the release of the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967. It held the #1 spot on the Billboard Top LPs chart for 15 weeks in the United States.

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Woodstock music festival draws nearly 500,000 music fans

More than 400,000 rock fans flooded an upstate New York farm for the multiday Woodstock music festival in mid-August 1969. The hippie gathering featured countless memorable performances by the most famous musicians of the time, including Jimi Hendrix, who played a rock ‘n’ roll version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Johnny Cash records live album at a prison

Johnny Cash, who was an early criminal justice reform advocate, recorded an album at the San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California in 1969. After it hit record stores on Independence Day of that year, the album was certified gold in just over a month, and eventually achieved triple platinum in 2003.

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The Beatles perform one last time

The Beatles set up instruments at the top of their Apple Corps Limited London headquarters for an impromptu 42-minute rooftop performance on Jan. 30, 1969. It would ultimately become the band’s last public performance and ended with the song “Get Back.”

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Black Sabbath sets metal in motion

With its first studio album of the same name released in 1970, Black Sabbath is credited with giving birth to the genre of heavy metal. In the United States, it peaked at #23 on the Billboard charts.

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Elton John releases 7 consecutive albums

The release of “Honky Chateau” in May 1972 marked the start of a run of seven #1 albums in a row for Elton John. “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Caribou,” “Elton John’s Greatest Hits,” “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy,” and “Rock of the Westies” went on to become extremely popular over the next three years, according to

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David Bowie kills off Ziggy Stardust

During a Ziggy and the Spiders concert on July 3, 1973, David Bowie announced that it was their last performance. It soon became apparent that it wouldn’t be Bowie’s last show, but the final appearance of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust, save for a brief resurrection in 1980. He soon emerged with a darker glam persona, complete with lightning bolt face paint.

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Willie Nelson hosts his first Fourth of July Picnic

Country musician Willie Nelson hosted his first Fourth of July Picnic at Hurlbut Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, in 1973 with a crowd of 40,000 fans. The music festival continued to be a popular annual event for decades.

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Dolly Parton releases ‘Jolene’

“Jolene” became one of Dolly Parton’s first hit singles after its release in 1973. More than 30 singers have since covered the song, according to Tom Vitale of NPR Music. The country music star revived the song as a duet with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus at the Grammy Awards in 2019.

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Bob Marley and The Wailers release ‘No Woman, No Cry’

The release of “No Woman, No Cry” in 1975 propelled Bob Marley into the role of international reggae star. He’s the only reggae musician “to achieve iconic status,” according to Sean O’Hagan of The Guardian.

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‘Saturday Night Fever’ becomes one of the bestselling soundtracks

John Travolta and the Bee Gees pushed disco into the mainstream with the general release of the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” in 1977. It became one of the bestselling movie soundtracks of all time, according to Austin Thompson of Mental Floss.

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John Lennon is murdered

Mark David Chapman fired five shots at former Beatle John Lennon outside his residence at the Dakota apartment building in New York City on Dec. 8, 1980, killing him and shocking the world. Less than five years later, Central Park opened Strawberry Fields as a memorial to the late musician and peace activist.

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‘Rapper’s Delight’ becomes first hip-hop song to make Top 40

The first hip-hop song to make it on the Billboard Top 40 chart was “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, in January 1980. The success of the single helped push hip-hop music into the mainstream.

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MTV airs its first music video

Just after midnight on Aug. 1, 1981, MTV aired the first music video on the fledgling network, Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Buggles. The new 24-hour music channel helped make TV a major driver of music sales in the coming decades, according to Michelle Starr of CNet.

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Grandmaster Flash creates single with samples from at least 9 artists

The influential single “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” released in 1981, was the first to use samples from other songs, according to Sean O’Hagan of The Guardian. It had snippets of music from at least nine other artists, including Blondie, Queen, and the Sugarhill Gang.

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Simon & Garfunkel perform in Central Park

Half a million people attended Simon & Garfunkel’s iconic concert in New York City’s Central Park in 1981. The show was recorded and released in 1982 as an album, reaching #6 on the Billboard 200 chart.

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Michael Jackson releases ‘Thriller’

Mega sensation “Thriller” was released in 1982. Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album became a bestseller, with more than 47 million copies purchased around the world, according to Rhian Daly of NME.

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Compact discs enter music market

Philips Records and Sony Music introduced compact discs to the world in 1982. The medium offered significantly more storage than other recording mediums. CDs eventually became an extremely popular medium for music in the 1990s and 2000s.

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Michael Jackson does the moonwalk

The King of Pop performed the moonwalk for the first time in public in late March 1983, during a live recording of a TV concert special celebrating Motown. The legendary move became Jackson’s signature showstopper, according to Lauren Effron and Susan Walsh of ABC News.

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Cyndi Lauper releases ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was Cyndi Lauper’s breakthrough hit in 1983. The girl power anthem has been covered by at least 30 other artists in the past few decades.


Madonna performs ‘Like a Virgin’ at the 1984 Video Music Awards

Madonna gave one of her most memorable performances, wearing a wedding dress and a belt with a “Boy Toy” buckle, when she sang “Like a Virgin” at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards. The song became the artist’s first #1 hit single.

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Ronald Reagan references Bruce Springsteen in 1984 campaign

After Bruce Springsteen turned down a request to use “Born in the U.S.A” in former President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, the conservative politician mentioned the musician in a speech, saying helping men like him make dreams come true is the purpose of the president’s job, according to Steven Inskeep of NPR Music. The Boss began criticizing Reagan for not really listening to his music shortly after, and he soon became known as an outspoken liberal.

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Live Aid is watched around the world

In an effort to raise money and increase awareness for the famine in Ethiopia, musicians Bob Geldof and Midge Ure organized the Live Aid superconcert at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium and London’s Wembley Stadium, and broadcast it via satellite around the world. The concert had performances from more than 75 stars, including Paul McCartney, Queen, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, and Elton John, and it was watched by more than 1.9 billion people in 130 countries. It’s estimated that the telethons during the event raised $150 million for famine relief.

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46 famous singers collaborate on ‘We Are the World’

Dozens of the most famous singers in the United States teamed up in 1985 to record USA for Africa’s “We Are the World,” a charity single co-written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. It sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Participants included Paul Simon, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Cyndi Lauper, Ray Charles, and more.

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Prince tops the Filthy 15 list

In 1985, after Tipper Gore heard her adolescent daughter listening to “Darling Nikki,” a provocative song by Prince, she created the Parents Music Resource Center to lobby for censorship in the record industry. The PMRC developed its “Filthy 15” list of what it deemed were the most offensive songs of the time, featuring two of Prince’s tracks.

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Aerosmith collaborates with Run-DMC

In 1986, Aerosmith teamed up with Run-DMC to create a new version of its 1970s hit, “Walk This Way.” While the two musical groups were initially reluctant to collaborate, the hip-hop/rock hybrid creation became an international success, according to James Parker of The Atlantic.

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Madonna kicks off her first world tour

Madonna began the “Who’s That Girl World Tour”—her first global concert series—in July 1987. Despite requests from Pope John Paul II to boycott her concert in Italy, the tour was considered a massive success, according to Joe Lynch of Billboard.

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Aretha Franklin becomes first female Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee

In 1987, a year after the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first group of honorees, Aretha Franklin became the first woman to join the prestigious ranks. The “Queen of Soul” was just 25 when she released her legendary cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect.”

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N.W.A. releases protest song against racial injustice

California hip-hop group N.W.A. released its controversial song slamming racial injustice and police brutality, “F*** tha Police,” in 1988. Its title became a pop culture slogan, while the track itself lived on as a protest anthem. It saw a nearly 300% increase in streams 32 years later during the Black Lives Matter protests, according to Kory Grow of Rolling Stone.

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Roseanne Barr butchers the national anthem

Singing the national anthem was a career-defining moment for musicians like Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson. But when Roseanne Barr belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a televised baseball game on July 25, 1990, it went down as one of the worst renditions in music history. She ended the performance by grabbing her crotch.

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Whitney Houston gives iconic performance of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’

Wearing a memorable white jogging suit, Whitney Houston gave an iconic performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl. Her rendition of the national anthem garnered unanimous acclaim.

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Freddie Mercury reveals he has AIDS

After hiding his HIV diagnosis, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury went public about his health on Nov. 23, 1991. A day later, he died of complications related to AIDS.

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‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ marks the success of grunge

Once an underground genre, grunge became mainstream when Nirvana released its second album, “Nevermind,” in 1991. The lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” was an unexpected success and helped the album reach the top of the charts.

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‘Ropin’ the Wind’ tops Billboard 200 and country chart

Country musician Garth Brooks released his third studio album, “Ropin’ the Wind,” on Sept. 2, 1991. It was the first album to debut at the top spot on both the Top Country Albums chart and the Billboard 200 chart.

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Whitney Houston sings ‘I Will Always Love You’

Whitney Houston covered the Dolly Parton tune “I Will Always Love You” in 1992 for the movie “The Bodyguard.” The standout song became one of the best love songs in history.

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Snoop Dogg makes West Coast hip-hop mainstream

The rapper Snoop Dog released “Do**ystyle” in 1993. The album, which debuted in the top spot on the Billboard 200, propelled West Coast-style hip-hop into a mainstream genre.

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Puff Daddy launches Bad Boy Entertainment

Sean Combs, performing then as Puffy or Puff Daddy, started his own record label—Bad Boy Entertainment—in 1993, a few years after getting fired from his role as vice president of Uptown Records. The label kickstarted the careers of huge names in hip hop and R&B, including the Notorious B.I.G., 112, and Craig Mack, according to Billboard.

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Nirvana performs on MTV Unplugged

Nirvana, the grunge heroes, gave a memorable performance of the acoustic versions of their songs on “MTV Unplugged” in 1993. It was one of frontman Kurt Cobain’s last televised shows before he died in April 1994.

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Mariah Carey changes Christmas music forever

Mariah Carey released her Christmas song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” in 1994. The critically acclaimed song has been a long-standing international success and is one of the few modern holiday songs to become a Christmas standard.

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Selena is killed by her fan club president

Award-winning Tejano music star Selena was shot dead by her fan club president outside a Days Inn motel in Texas on March 31, 1995. Her death was mourned by fans around the world. Two years later, her life story played out on the big screen in the 1997 film “Selena,” starring Jennifer Lopez.

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Spice Girls debut ‘Wannabe’

“Wannabe” was released in 1996. By the end of that year, the Spice Girls debut single topped the charts in 20 countries. After being released in the United States the following January, it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four straight weeks.

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Tupac Shakur is killed in drive-by shooting

Hip-hop sensation Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting on Sept. 7, 1996, in Las Vegas, at 25. After years of investigation, the gunman is still unknown.

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Notorious B.I.G. is murdered in a drive-by shooting

Like his rival Tupac Shakur, rapper Christopher Wallace, the Notorious B.I.G., was murdered in Los Angeles in a drive-by shooting on March 9, 1997. Wallace’s family alleged that corrupt Los Angeles police officers were to blame for his death, and filed a $400 million lawsuit against the Los Angeles police department.

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Elton John performs at Princess Diana’s funeral

Elton John captured the mourning of the masses when he performed a reworked version of “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s funeral on Sept. 6, 1997. The performance was broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers around the world, and as reported by Jon O’Brien of Mental Floss, the recording of “Candle in the Wind ’97” sold more than 650,000 copies in the United Kingdom on its first day, and in one week, it sold 3.5 million copies in the United States.

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Britney Spears wears controversial schoolgirl outfit in video

In the music video for her “… Baby One More Time” single that debuted in 1998, 16-year-old pop artist Britney Spears wore a midriff-revealing Catholic schoolgirl uniform, complete with a miniskirt. The ensemble proved controversial among parents, but made pigtails and pompom hair ties trendy among teens.

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Woodstock ’99 fails miserably

Meant to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original music festival, Woodstock ’99 turned out to be a massive failure. The notorious multiday event had exorbitant ticket prices, $4 bottles of water, overcrowding, poor performances, multiple sexual assaults, and a number of other serious problems that left the crowds enraged, according to Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone.

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Metallica sues Napster for copyright infringement

The metal band Metallica took peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster to court in April 2000 over copyright violations. Napster lost and went bankrupt soon after. The internet’s disruption of music distribution and record label profits continued for decades, though.

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Mariah Carey shows up unannounced on TRL

Wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “loverboy,” Mariah Carey showed up on MTV’s “Total Request Live” in 2001 with no advance notice. Host Carson Daly was surprised and told the camera that the singer had “lost her mind,” according to Anjelica Oswald and Angélica Acevedo of Insider.

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Apple launches the first iPod

Apple launched its first iPod on Oct. 23, 2001. It gave music fans the ability to store thousands of songs on a pocket-sized device.

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‘American Idol’ debuts on TV

Singing competition “American Idol” debuted on Fox in June 2002, giving American viewers the chance to vote for the musician most deserving of a record deal. Some of the show’s contestants went on to achieve major success, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson.

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Dixie Chicks slam President George W. Bush

Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines publicly bashed former President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq at a concert in March 2003. The band received death threats and country music radio stations across the country refused to play their music.

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The Eagles release first new material in 28 years

The Eagles dropped “Long Road Out of Eden” in 2007, and it contained their first new material in almost three decades. More than 1 million copies of the album sold within two weeks of its release.

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Radiohead experiment sparks debate in the music industry

Without major label representation, Radiohead released its 2007 album “In Rainbows” as a pay-what-you-wish digital download. Believers in the experiment thought of it as a new model for the industry, while critics accused it of undermining the value of music, according to Eric Garland of NPR Music. Despite the album being available for free, it experienced high rates of piracy.

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Lady Gaga releases ‘The Fame’

Lady Gaga released her debut studio album “The Fame ” on Aug. 19, 2008. It topped the charts in multiple countries and became one of the bestselling albums the following year.

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Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards

Just after Taylor Swift accepted an award for Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye West rushed on stage to proclaim that Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. West was met with severe backlash from the public, including President Barack Obama, who called him “a jacka**.”

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Taylor Swift becomes youngest winner of top CMA Award

Taylor Swift took home the Country Music Association Award for Entertainer of the Year in 2009, as well as three other awards. Just 19, Swift was the youngest person in history to take the top honor at the CMA Awards.

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Beyoncé wins six Grammy Awards

Beyoncé became the first woman in history to take home six Grammy Awards in one night in 2010. Adele tied with her two years later after her album “21” surged in popularity.

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Michael Jackson gets biggest record deal ever—after his death

The estate of Michael Jackson signed a $250 million deal with Sony Music for the rights to his catalog and posthumous new releases in 2010. At the time, it was tagged the biggest record deal in history, according to Paul Schrodt of Business Insider.

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5 songs from Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ hit the top spot

Katy Perry made history when five songs from her 2010 album “Teenage Dream” hit the top of the Hot 100 list in August 2011. She was the second artist in history to do so, after Michael Jackson had five chart-toppers from “Bad’ in the late 1980s, as well as the first female artist to achieve that success, according to Billboard.

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Nicki Minaj takes 7 spots on Billboard Hot 100

In 2010, Nicki Minaj shattered records when she became the first female soloist to appear on seven singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time, according to MTV News. The songs included Lil Wayne’s “Knockout,” Usher’s “Lil Freak,” and Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” among others.

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Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ goes viral

At 13, Rebecca Black demonstrated the power of the internet on the music industry when she released the song “Friday” in 2011. The YouTube video received millions of views, despite the track regularly being referred to as “the worst song ever.”

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Amy Winehouse dies of alcohol poisoning

Soul musician Amy Winehouse, who often sang about substance abuse issues, died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, at 27. Four years later, British filmmakers would chronicle her life and career in the documentary, “Amy.”

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Tupac Shakur is revived in hologram form

In 2012, Coachella hosted a performance from the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur in hologram form. It cost between $100,000 and $400,000 to create the special effect, which became a model for other hologram tours, according to Amy X. Wang of Rolling Stone.

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Jimi Hendrix gets commemorative stamp

The U.S. Postal Service paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix with a postage stamp in 2014. The stamp featured a portrait of the late rocker by artist Rudy Gutierrez.

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U2 gets blowback after sending its album to iTunes customers

The Irish band U2 partnered with Apple to send its 2014 album “Songs of Innocence” to 500,000 iTunes users for free as part of its release. The unsolicited download was widely viewed as spam and Apple quickly published instructions to help customers delete the songs.

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Mariah Carey helps James Corden launch Carpool Karaoke

Mariah Carey agreed to be the first guest on a new segment of “The Late Late Show With James Corden” called “Carpool Karaoke” in March 2015. It was a smash hit and Apple Music immediately got an “exclusive first-window licensing agreement” for the music-themed series, according to Amy X. Wang of Rolling Stone.

You may also like: Famous songs about every state

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Taylor Swift gets Apple to pay artists

Taylor Swift wrote a letter to Apple Music in 2015 encouraging it to change its policy of not paying musicians whose songs were streamed during a customer’s three-month free trial. The company announced the next day that it would pay artists after all.


Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ debuts at #1

Beyoncé dropped “Lemonade” with no advance notice—as both an HBO film and an album—in April 2016. The record sold 485,000 copies in its first week and it debuted at the top of the charts. It made her the first artist to have “six consecutive studio albums debut at #1,” according to Jon Bream of the Star Tribune.

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Kendrick Lamar wins Pulitzer Prize in music

Rapper Kendrick Lamar became the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music who wasn’t a classical or jazz musician in 2018. The award was in recognition of his album “Damn.”

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Bob Dylan sells his songwriting and recorded music catalogs

Bob Dylan performs as part of a double bill with Neil Young at Hyde Park.

Nobel Prize-winner and iconic folk singer-songwriter Bob Dylan sold his songwriting catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group in December 2020, which includes the rights to his lyrics and compositions. The deal was historic for its hefty price tag that was estimated to be between $250 million and $300 million. In July 2021, Sony Music Entertainment acquired Dylan’s entire catalog of recorded music from 1962 to the 2020s, as well as rights to future releases, for between $150 million and $200 million.

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Travis Scott’s third annual Astroworld Festival ends early in tragedy

A street sign showing the cancellation of the AstroWorld Festival at NRG Park.

In 2021, 10 people died and hundreds more were injured in a packed crowd attending rapper Travis Scott’s performance at the Houston-based Astroworld music festival. Thought to be a result of a crowd surge in a particularly densely packed area, the concert went on for long after several people collapsed. Among the dead were a 9-year-old boy and several high school- and college-aged concertgoers.

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