Certain music impacts our lives over the years. This article dives into all-time favorite albums from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s. There are just two ground rules I’m going to follow: (1) no greatest hits, best of, or compilations of any sort on the list, just albums that were done from scratch, so to speak; and (2) no judgment. I’m a critic, not arguing that these are better than other albums; they’re simply the ones I liked best. Finally, these are albums or CDs or downloads that I listen to regularly-they’re still very much on the equivalent of my turntable.
So, to quote Jackie Gleason, “Aawwaaayyy we go…”
The ’50s: The ’50s were the last decade in rock n roll/pop music history that singles ruled. First 78 RPMs and then the ubiquitous 45’s, shaped like flat donuts. ‘50s pop and rock albums weren’t concept albums, i.e., the artists didn’t record an album’s worth of songs and then release the album and maybe a couple of singles. Instead, the singles defined the album. If an artist didn’t have any hit records, they wouldn’t be putting out an album. Therefore, albums were collections of singles, and the better the singles, the better the album. I asked my favorite aunt for “Here’s Little Richard” for, I think it was my 12th birthday It had six of his hits (“Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Jenny Jenny,” “Ready Teddy,” “Rip It Up” and the lesser of the 6, “She’s Got It”). The other six songs were what we called “B” sides, the non-hit sides of the singles. Unlike a lot of artists, Little Richard’s B sides were not throwaways, they were great. My favorite B side is “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” which The Band and John Lennon, among others, later recorded. I loved Little Richard, and I hardly had any albums in the ’50s, so this is my no-brainer choice for the ’50s.
The ‘60s: Although especially in the early ’60s, singles were abundant, it was during the ’60s that albums became a significant format for popular music. There was so much music that I love from that period so, I’m cheating-I have three absolute favorites, and I can’t, won’t, pick just one. I could have had a lot more, but I’m exercising a modicum of discipline. First off, “Surrealistic Pillow” by the Jefferson Airplane. In the early ’60s, before the Beatles, I listened to a lot of folk music and the Airplane, although clearly, a rock band incorporated some folk sensibilities into their early albums.
“Surrealistic Pillow” was their second album. “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit,” “My Best Friend” and “3/5 of a Mile in 30 Seconds” are songs that have run through my brain for more than 40 years.
Being a giant fan of Bob Dylan, I loved pretty much everything he did in the ’60s, and “Highway 61 Revisited” is maybe my all-time favorite album, period. My favorite song on the album is “Highway 61 Revisited”, not only because it rocks but because of the first verse, which has given me a chuckle for more than 50 years:
Oh, God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son.”
Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on.”
God said, “No,” Abe says, “What?”
God said, “You can do what you want, Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’, you better run.”
Well, Abe said, “Where d’you want this killin’ done?”
God said, “Out on Highway 61
And last but not least, “Rubber Soul.” There are 60’s groups and artists I love more than the Beatles, i.e., Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Mamas and Papas, the Band, but “Rubber Soul” is
one album I always come back to. Each song, from beginning to end, is special for me, and “If I Needed Someone” is hands down my favorite Beatles song.
The 70’s: Broooce, that’s the 70’s for me. Four of my favorite albums of the ’70s are Bruce Springsteen’s first four. And of those 4, my favorite is the one where I first “heard” his Bossness. I knew of him, but it all didn’t click for me until the album, “Darkness At The Edge of Town.” I listened, I was captured and over the next few months worked my way back to and through “Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey,” the “Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle” and “Born to Run.”
Despite the arrival of punk, new wave, and some great country music (and, for the record, disco), Bruce owned the 70’s-the only person ever to be on the cover of “Time” and “Newsweek” the same week. So, “Darkness” is my very favorite 70’s album. Favorite songs from the album: “Promised Land,” “Factory,” and “Badlands”; however, I love all of it.
The ‘80s: This was about my least favorite decade for music. I know a lot of folks dig the music from this decade, but very little grabbed me. I mean, I like Michael Jackson; I like Los Lobos, and their music in the ’80s was terrific, but one album stands out for me: Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual.” This is unusual for me-I generally gravitate to basic rock n’ roll, “She’s So Unusual” is more poppy. “Money Changes Everything,” “She Bop,” “She’s So Unusual,” and the rest of the album is still fresh. I’ve become a fan of hers, and within the past few years, she recorded a blues album and a country album, and they’re both lovely. A close second, by the way, is Broooce again, “Nebraska.”
The ‘90s: One of my favorite rock bands is the Sir Douglas Quintet, and one of my favorite rockers is/was (he died a while back) Sir Douglas, Doug Sahm. There was a lot of great music in the ’90s, but my favorite album of the decade is “SDQ ’98”. I can’t explain why, it just is. There’s nothing famous about this album, no hits or songs that were popular at all. However, I love it. One of my favorite songs when I was young, and one of the first records I ever bought with my own money was “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.” Yup, they do a version on SDQ’ 98.
The 2000’s: Another great decade that produced music I like. I’m a big fan of harmony; I love good duets. And my very favorite album of the ’90s is an album of duets, “You Win Again” by Van Morrison and Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee’s little sister). The harmonies were exciting; their choice of songs was an amalgam of country, rhythm and blues, and rock. It’s an excellent set for car trips, exercising, cooking, or doing housework.
And last but not least, The 2010’s: I’ve never shared a taste in music with my older stepdaughter, the mother of my granddaughters. The girls are 9 and 7, and although we all love the Beatles, and they have listened to the Rolling Stones without making faces, I can tell it’s not exactly their preference. However, there is one artist whom all three generations (including my wife) love.
And therefore, my favorite album of the past decade is hands down Billie Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”. This is not the kind of music I usually enjoy, but there’s something about the way it all comes together- it’s seamless. And there’s the great big bonus that my family loves it too.
– Edward from McMinnville, Oregon, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
Edward writes for FAR and is also a customer. He is 73-year-old, born and raised in and around New York City. After college and a little graduate school, he took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west. Edward lived in several cities throughout California and currently resides in Oregon. He practiced law for a few years as part of a law collective doing what they called “people’s law,” but spent most of his career working as an internal organizer for the unions.
When Edward’s career ended with the unions, he was determined to become an advocate for older adults. He enrolled at Portland Community College studying Gerontology. He learned a lot about aging and how it applied to his own life experiences and my own aging process. Much of Edward’s writing is related to what he learned in his Gerontology studies.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC).