A lot of us grew up with the music of the 1980s. Here is a look back at the songs and music of the 1980s.
For many of us in our early fifties, the start of the 1980s meant the end of school and moving on with life. The 1980s was a new start and the music of the 1980s filled all of our lives.
The 1980s Begin
President Reagan was elected in November 1980 in a landslide and many thought this was a fresh start and an end to the terrible 1970s. Music was also changing as disco and rock operas were coming to an end.
The music of the 1980s started out on a very sad note when on the night of December 8, 1980, Americans who were watching “Monday Night Football” heard Howard Cosell say these terrible words, “An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC news, John Lennon, outside of his apartment building in New York City, the most famous perhaps of all of the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival.”
The depression that fell over an entire generation was so painful you could feel it for months and years, even as John Lennon’s new album, Double Fantasy was released.
Music Videos of the 1980s
With MTV starting in 1981 and VH-1 starting in 1985, these music channels allowed us to not only hear the music but also watch the rock stars and performers. Finally music of the 1980s lifted us out of that funk of the 1970s.
Music has and always will be a big part of our lives and memories, and for anyone who is in their early fifties can remember back then when music changed and came alive again in the 1980s with music videos playing a big part.
During a 1984 discussion between Madonna and John Oats of the group Hall and Oats, he said he was not a television performer; he is a musician while Madonna pointed out that MTV videos allowed more people access to the music and performers. I can understand both points, but this was certainly a big change in music. Not only did rock stars have to write and sing their music, they had to come up with creative videos for their songs.
We all have our different memories relating to the different music of the 1980s. Most of the 1980s were exciting and troubling since the cold war was still very much in our lives and the constant threat of nuclear war was always there. The big musical event of the 1980s happened on July 13, 1985 with the Live Aid Concert. Everyone who was in the 1980s music scene performed at two different venues during this concert. One group was in Philadelphia and the other performed in London.
The 1984 video Like A Virgin by Madonna YouTube
Top Songs of the 1980s
The top songs of the 1980s by year, ranked by how many weeks they were number one according to Billboard Magazine were:
- 1980 was a tie between Call Me by Blondie and Lady by Kenny Rogers.
- 1981 had Endless by Dianna Ross and Lionel Richie tied with Physical by Olivia Newton-John.
- 1982 produced another tie for the longest running number one hits at seven weeks was I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder performing Ebony and Ivory.
- 1983’s number one hit was by The Police with Every Breath You Take at number one for eight weeks.
- 1984 saw the first number one hit for who would become one of the hottest musical stars of the 1980s with Madonna and Like A Virgin.
- 1985 was again a tie with Say You, Say Me by Lionel Richtie and We Are The World by USA For Africa
- 1986 had Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles tied with What Friends Are For by Dionne.
- 1987 saw Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi and Faith by George Michaels tied at number one.
- 1988: Roll With It by Steve Winword had the top spot of 1988, being at number one for four weeks.
- 1989 had Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins and Miss You Much by Janet Jackson tied for the longest at number one.
Music of the 1980s
The above list of music doesn’t begin to show the explosion of videos and music of the 1980s.
Union of the Snake by Duran Duran at the Live Aid 1985 concert. YouTube
There were many songs and groups we all remember, too many to mention, like Hall and Oats, Stevie Wonder, The Eurhythmics, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, The Pretenders, Pat Benatar, Sade, The Bangles, The Cars, Billy Ocean, Men At Work, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and many others. Some of the best singer songwriters and groups of the 1980s include the following:
Madonna was named Artist of the Decade by Billboard and had six songs in the 1980s hit number one and the most in the category of single artist. Her many songs of the 1980s included Borderline, Lucky Star, Like A Virgin, Holiday, Vogue, Take a Pose, In the Groove, Papa Don’t Preach, Material Girl, La Isla Bonita, Dress You Up and many others.
George Michaels had seven number one songs including four with the group Wham with songs like Careless Whisper, Faith and Everything She Wants.
Michael Jackson was of course a huge success in the 1980s with songs like Beat It, Thriller, Billie Jean and Say, Say, Say with Paul McCartney.
Prince was considered by some to be a genius of the 1980s music scene with songs like 1999, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry and Purple Rain.
The 1984 video Jump by Van Halen YouTube
Van Halen, with David Lee Roth as lead singer along with brothers Alex and Eddie Van Halen had big hits like Panama, Jump and Hot For Teacher.
Stevie Ray Vaughan has been called one of the great blues guitarists, was also a big part of the music of the 1980s. Along with his group Double Trouble had songs including Couldn’t Stand The Weather, Cold Shot and Pride and Joy.
Men At Work, an Australian group had the hits Who Can It Be Now and Down Under.
Conclusion of the 1980s Music
There was so much music in the 1980s; it is hard to mention all of the songs. The music started to change again towards the late 1980s with rap and hip-hop. As many stars of the 1980s faded, Madonna continued as the most prolific performer long after the 1980s and today ranks number two behind the Beatles on Billboard’s All-Time Top Selling Artists list. The music of the 1980s ended on a sad note when Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990.
Copyright © September 2011 Sam Montana
Cover picture of Stevie Ray Vaughan - Ray Maclean/Flickr
Eighties Club - Top 100 songs for each year in the 1980s
1985 Live Aid lineup