Music Through the Decades

More stories from Harry Embuido


“Music Wings” by Michelle Jung

With modern technology, we are lucky to live a life with so many things at our fingertips. We are able to see, watch, or listen to anything instantly unlike the generations before us.

Music has always had a huge impact on society from spreading propaganda, to allowing people to express their deepest emotions. Musical taste has also drastically changed throughout the years, leading a variety of sounds we listen to instantaneously today.

Throughout the 1920s jazz became part of American culture inspiring new fashion and intense dancing. However, this was also the start of The Great Depression, a dark era of change for America as it faced one of its largest challenges; music allowed listeners to escape their reality and find comfort in the rhythm. Some of the most popular songs were “Swanee” by Al Jolson, “Whispering” by Paul Whiteman, and “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith.

The 1930s was the start of the swing era deriving from Harlem, New York, carrying listeners through to the 1940s. This simple yet energetic tones of jazz inspired couples’ dancing at parties and clubs. Some of the most popular swing music included“In the Mood” by Glenn Miller, “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman, and “Begin the Beguine” by Artie Shaw.

America got involved in World War II in the 1940s, sparking new levels of patriotism. While the 1940s still had a heavy jazz influence, they began to become more creative with their sound as the world entered chaos. The most popular songs in the 1940s include: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Puppini Sisters, “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington, and “Paper Doll” by The Mills Brothers.

A high economic boom hit in the 1950s, once again sparking new fashion with happy, optimistic music. While society was still very corrupt, its stake in music began to thrive. Some of the most popular songs were, “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard, “In The Still of the Night” by The Five Satins, and “Do You Wanna Dance?” by Bobby Freeman.

The 1960s were heavily dominated by the Vietnam War, protests about equal rights, and the first man on the moon. The 1960s launched more than a man onto the moon, it also launched early rock and roll, eventually moving to pop and psychedelic rock. Some of the most popular songs are “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles, and “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds.

The hippie lifestyle is what most think of when they hear 1970s, but this decade is also considered the golden era of music, with the birth of many genres like funk, soul, R & B, pop, hard and soft rock, disco, and hip-hop. It was also a huge era of pop culture, releasing movies like “Grease” and” Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”. The rise of pop culture sparked even more music like, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John.

One of the most controversial eras of fashion with huge shoulder pads and bright colors, the 1980s didn’t disappoint in the music world either. Some of the most iconic songs in history came from this decade including, “Come on Eileen” by Kevin Rowland & Dexys Midnight Runners, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.

The 1990s were mostly known for its years of relative peace for the decade. It also set fashion trends that are making a comeback like Doc Martens, mom jeans, and barrettes. The 90s music scene offered a huge range of music, some including “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “1999” by Prince, “… Baby One More Time” by Brittney Spears, and “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.

The decade most of us can remember, the 2000s is one of the fastest moving decades musically with the invention of the iPod and Google. Along with music, it sparked some of the most interesting fashion, along with a rise in a new age of celebrity-focused style from rich fashionistas like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians into popularity. The 90s was made up of an eclectic variety of new distinctive beats like “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, “Yeah!” by Usher, “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC, and “Since U Been Gone” Kelly Clarkson.

The 2010s has been GenZ’s most prominent decade, from the rise of social media to the heavy attention given to the environment, it also made some of the most iconic songs that we are all likely to have on at least one playlist. Some examples are “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, and “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

It has only been a few months since the 2020s began, yet we are already getting filled with new sounds from popular artists. While it’s hard to tell what the new decade will bring, we’ve recently got some returns from popular artists, like Taylor Swift, with the rumors of even more artists like Rihanna and Justin Bieber coming back on the scene.

Stay tuned, and check out the Journalism Spotify Playlists for some inspiration for new music.