Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Stevie Wonder GRAMMY Special To Air Feb. 16, 2015
"Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" to celebrate the iconic songbook and legacy of the 25-time GRAMMY winner
The Recording Academy, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS will present "Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute," a primetime entertainment special that will celebrate the iconic songbook and remarkable legacy of the 25-time GRAMMY winner. The two-hour show will tape at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, two days after the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards, and will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, from 9–11 p.m. ET/PT. Performers and presenters will be announced shortly.
"Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" will feature some of today's top artists covering songs by the legendary GRAMMY winner, as well as other archival material. In addition, various presenters will help highlight the historical impact of Wonder's songs on music and our culture.
In the 56-year history of the GRAMMY Awards, Wonder is the only artist to have received Album Of The Year honors in three out of four consecutive years with Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, and the seminal Songs In The Key Of Life. With a catalog that is one of the richest treasure troves in American music, his songs are still revered and influential today and his longevity as one of America's — and the world's — most respected and beloved artists is well earned.
"Stevie Wonder is a beloved icon whose golden songbook remains one of America's and music's greatest treasures," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "A 25-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, it's only fitting that Music's Biggest Night celebrates this legendary musical genius and pays tribute to his enduring music and legacy."
"Some of my most memorable television experiences have been with my friend Stevie, both on the GRAMMYs and off, and to be able to celebrate him in a way that only the GRAMMY stage allows is a treat that I've looked forward to for a long time," said executive producer Ken Ehrlich of AEG Ehrlich Ventures. "He is truly deserving of the term that is often used about him — an American treasure — and the night of Feb. 10 when we tape this show is going to be an amazing time."
"Stevie Wonder epitomizes the very spirit of the GRAMMYs," said Jack Sussman, executive vice president, specials, music and live events, CBS Entertainment. "His music is as poignant as it is appealing and his songs have the ability to illustrate our world in every note. We are thrilled to pay tribute to this legendary man and musician. His influence is present in so much of today's greatest music. This salute will give everyone he's inspired a chance to show our esteem."
"Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" continues the tradition begun this past year with "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A GRAMMY Salute," a two-and-a-half-hour special that celebrated the remarkable legacy of the seven-time GRAMMY-winning group. Hailed by media and fans alike as a unique and memorable music television event, the Beatles special ultimately garnered 20 million viewers and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction (for music director Don Was).
Tickets to the taping of this very special evening will go on sale Thursday, Dec. 18, via AXS.com. Call 877.234.8425 or email email@example.com for more information on ticket availability including VIP ticket packages and group sales.
"Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" is produced by AEG Ehrlich Ventures, LLC. Ken Ehrlich is the executive producer.
The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held Feb. 8, 2015, at Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). For updates and breaking news, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.
'Innervisions' At 50: Revisiting Stevie Wonder's Trailblazing, GRAMMY-Winning Album
Released on Aug. 3, 1973, the genious of 'Innervisons' was immediately apparent, and remains a lightning rod decades later. Lionel Richie and the album's producer, Robert Margouleff, share their thoughts on Stevie Wonder's GRAMMY-winning masterpiece.
The producer Robert Margouleff can't quite believe that one of his finest accomplishments is about to mark a milestone. "What anniversary is it, 50?"he marvels. "Wow, I must be really old."
Released exactly a half century ago on Aug. 3, 1973, Stevie Wonder's trailblazing Innervisons has more than stood the test of time. The nine-track Tamla Records release pushed boundaries — lyrically, musically and technologically — subsequently becoming an influential lightning rod for both Wonder's career as well as R&B and pop at large.
Innervisons' genius was apparent from its release, staying high on the charts throughout the year. The album took home multiple golden gramophones at the 16th GRAMMY Awards annual ceremony, among them Album Of The Year and Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording. Wonder also won the GRAMMY Award for Best R&B Song for "Living for the City," a call to action that still resonates to this day.
At the 1974 GRAMMYs, Wonder became the first Black artist to take home the award for Album Of The Year. On the GRAMMY stage with his younger sister, Renee, and older brother, Milton, Wonder called his siblings "the future for tomorrow, for all people." He continued, "I hope that through my music, I have given the message of my people and of the world."
Innervisions was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1999. At the 2023 GRAMMYs, Wonder offered a rousing performance of "Higher Ground" with Chris Stapelton.
"It's one of the greatest albums of our time," Motown contemporary Lionel Richie, Wonder's friend and one of the album's many admirers, tells GRAMMY.com. "Every song on the album is incredible, and it will hold the test of time with people saying the same thing 100 years from now about it."
Margouleff, who produced the album alongside the late jazz musician Malcolm Cecil, is still basking with pride about what they and Stevie accomplished. "It makes me feel like I fulfilled my destiny and have done something that's positive for our culture."
As a result, he can vividly recount the first day he and Cecil encountered Wonder. "Malcolm and I had just released our first record, and Stevie heard it and decided he wanted to meet us,"says Margouleff. "So on Memorial Day weekend in 1971, we heard him banging on our studio door."
At that time, a 21-year-old Wonder was attempting to navigate life as an adult artist after a successful Motown career during which the world fell in love with him as Little Stevie Wonder. When he began ideating Innervisions, Wonder was freshly released from his contract with Motown. The year prior, Wonder released his first self-produced song, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," and was looking to expand his sonic understanding.
Meanwhile, Margouleff and Cecil were experimenting with synthesizers and released experimental electronic music under the moniker Tonto's Expanding Head Band. According to Margouleff, "We are making all kinds of strange sounds with Tonto, and [Wonder] wanted to know about it."
It turned out to be a powerful combination: a genius artist who was looking to further define himself and two fearless electronic wizards exploring an exciting new technology. "It was just the three of us in a room, and the sounds we were creating gave him a whole new palate and put him in control of what he was doing," says Margouleff. "He'd start talking to us and we'd start cooking the soup. He'd show us a song he wrote with chords and a vocal demo; once we'd heard it, we'd say, 'What about this sound? Or that sound?'"
While Wonder played every instrument himself, Margouleff notes writing and recording with a synthesizer allowed limitless possibilities."Electronic music happens in space, so there is no architecture. Tonto had no real instruments, and Stevie was fascinated by that," he explains. "We could go to any place musically and never know where reality ended and the fantasy began. To him, that was a wonderful mystery."
In a rare interview, Wonder spoke about the importance of sonic experimentation. "The new things that are available now give me a greater ability to hear and voice sounds," he said in 1985. "And they make it a whole lot easier for a blind person to express his ideas."
The result is a collection of songs that proved monumentally influential to fellow artists. "All of the songs on Innervisions are classic Stevie," Richie says of the album. "The music and lyrics are works of art that nobody can do or come close to doing. 'Higher Ground,' 'Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing' and 'Living for the City' are my favorites from this album."
Richie points out three stand-out tracks in an album full of them: "Higher Ground" kicks off with those aforementioned synths, which are complemented by buoyant lyrics that tow a spiritual line. "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" is a Latin-influenced piano-driven ditty which harkens back to Wonders' earlier pop confections. But it was the bold, GRAMMY-winning "Living for the City" that garnered the most praise; it also marked a turning point in Wonder's career and in the depiction of American culture in pop music.
"It's just a major recording for civil rights," muses Margouleff of the chronicle of a young Black boy who hopefully ventures to New York and is eventually arrested. "At the time, only Marvin Gaye and Stevie were singing about this. Anybody can write about love, but when he writes about the political condition it's immeasurably powerful."
Wonder himself called "Living for the City" one of the three songs in his career he's most proud of. In a 1985 interview with the New York Times, he explained: "I wanted to speak out, and do it in a way where people will feel the rhythm of it, but also get the message across, in a peaceful way that's also strong."
The song also employed the use of sound effects to depict a bustling metropolis, with the team depicting the realism of having actual cops shout racial epithets at the song's protagonist. In an interview for the book Stevie Wonder, Signed, Sealed and Delivered, engineer Cecil recalled: "[Wonder] wanted genuineness, so we had to get real cops, which only happened because [Margouleff's] father was the mayor of Great Neck and he got some cops to meet us in a parking lot. We told them, 'Just say what you'd say if you were arresting a guy for drugs,' and they did the rest."
"We got where Stevie was coming from and what he was trying to say" explains Margouleff. "And we did everything in our power to encourage him."
Innervisions also features the track, "He's Misstra Know-It-All," and its pejorative view of then-President Nixon. The song showcased Wonder as a fearless critic of modern American politics as well as his relationship to the plight the country faced at the time, burdened with an unpopular President a few years before his resignation. "Take my word, please beware,"Wonder croons. "Of a man that just don't give a care, no."
While Innervisions is a lasting triumph, a shocking turn of events nearly ended Wonder's life and career only days after its release. "Stevie was listening to our mastered album in the car and got into a car accident," recalls Margouleff of the Aug. 6, 1973 incident when a log smashed through Wonder's windshield while driving in South Carolina. "He was in a coma for five days, and came out of it with a higher consciousness that comes with a near death experience. He came back a different guy in a lot of ways."
Wonder eventually fully recovered and, in the following years, would cement himself as an artist for all-time. His hot streak continued, with his follow-up album Fulfillingness' First Finale, turning more introspective and earning Wonder a second consecutive GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.
While Cecil passed away in 2021, Margouleff would go on to collaborate with the likes of future electronic stars Devo and Oingo Bongo, and is putting the finishing touches on a book dubbed Technology Drives the Art. But it was with Innervisions he experienced one of his greatest successes.
"The synth was a new paintbrush, just like AI is a new paintbrush for artists now," says Margouleff of its trailblazing technology, which has influenced an untold number of artists and helped extrapolate the modern American sound. "When it came on the scene, Stevie got it."
Most important for Margouleff was being a part of such a fruitful creative process. "It was a beautiful journey."
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
10 Must-See Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs: Beyoncé Makes History, Hip-Hop Receives An Epic Tribute, Bad Bunny Brings The Puerto Rican Heat
The 2023 GRAMMYs marked a triumphant — and historic — return to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena, where modern superstars and living legends came together for a memorable celebration of music in all its forms.
A wide, uplifting tapestry of sounds was saluted and rewarded during the 2023 GRAMMYs. The telecast's pluralistic approach delivered a view of the present as a time of musical splendor while also celebrating its past — from hip-hop's legacy, to Latin's cultural influence, to pop's boundary-pushing stars.
Between history-making wins from Beyoncé and Kim Petras, a major victory by a young jazz sensation, and celebratory performances honoring greats, there was plenty to be reveled both on and off the GRAMMY stage. Below, take a look at the highlights of another memorable edition of Music's Biggest Night.
Bad Bunny Sticks Close To His Caribbean Roots
After global star Bad Bunny celebrated a year of extraordinary achievements — both artistic and commercial — the Puerto Rican tastemaker used his GRAMMYs performance to celebrate his Caribbean roots.
Benito could have picked an obvious selection, like the crowd-pleasing single "Tití Me Preguntó." Instead, he focused on the soulful roots of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic by performing electrifying renditions of "El Apagón" and "Después de la Playa."
Bad Bunny has demonstrated time and again a gift for reinventing Latin genres. And yet, "Después de la Playa" kept its insanely syncopated beats and feverish brass section faithful to traditional merengue. The late Dominican icon Johnny Ventura would have been proud.
The Fans Receive A Much-Deserved Spotlight
The awards, record deals and critical raves are indispensable elements of stardom. But in the end, it is the contributions of average fans that sustain a career. With that in mind, the GRAMMYs organized a roundtable with 10 studious fans, each making a case for their favorite performer to win the Album Of The Year award.
To their delight — and genuine surprise — host Trevor Noah invited them on stage for the coveted award, asking one of the most devoted fans in Harry Styles' pack to announce his win. The two shared a joyous embrace before she handed him his golden gramophone, serving as a touching closing reminder that the fans mean everything.
The Magic Of Motown Becomes Transformational
A brisk tribute to Motown co-founder Berry Gordy and musical genius Smokey Robinson — three songs, augmented by an inspired Stevie Wonder — proved that words will never be enough to capture the label's contribution to pop culture. A factory of beautiful dreams, Motown gave us a string of timeless hits that combine aural poetry with propulsive rhythms, honeyed hooks and virtuoso arrangements. Seeing the 82 year-old Robinson perform the 1967 classic "The Tears of a Clown" was one of the evening's most dazzling moments. (The performance also featured Wonder's rendition of the Temptations' "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and a duet with country singer Chris Stapleton on Wonder's own "Higher Ground.")
Honoring The Past Shows The Future Is Bright
2022 was a year of artistic triumph, but also of tremendous loss. The In Memoriam segment of the telecast was sobering, also honoring performers who are lesser known in the United States but definitely worthy of a mention — such as Brazil's Erasmo Carlos and Argentina's Marciano Cantero.
It began with a stately rendition of "Coal Miner's Daughter" by Kacey Musgraves in tribute to country legend Loretta Lynn, then continued with Quavo and Maverick City Music honoring Migos' Takeoff, ending with an homage to Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie from Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Mick Fleetwood. Many artists were lost during the past 12 months, but their music lives on.
A Queen Breaks Records — To A Disco Beat
Beyoncé was allegedly stuck in traffic when she won her third GRAMMY of the evening — Best R&B Song for the joyful single "CUFF IT" — which, as Trevor Noah noted, put her one win away from making GRAMMY history. Luckily, by the time her name was announced for that record-setting feat, she was in attendance — and very much in shock.
Her seventh studio LP, RENAISSANCE, won Best Dance/Electronic Album. The win put her GRAMMY total at 32, marking the most wins of all time. Visibly emotional, Beyoncé first took a deep breath and said "I'm trying to just receive this night"; before heading off stage, she made sure to honor the queer dance pioneers who inspired the album, an exuberant tribute to classic dance format.
Hip-Hop Shines As A National Treasure
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop — so, naturally, the GRAMMYs put together perhaps the most legendary celebration possible. Featuring the Roots, Run-DMC, Queen Latifah, and many, many more, the nearly 15-minute performance highlighted the genre's influence from past to present.
The parade of legends tracing the history of the genre was breathtaking. From Grandmaster Flash ("The Message") and De La Soul ("Buddy") to Missy Elliott ("Lose Control") and Lil Uzi Vert ("Just Wanna Rock"), the extensive medley gave hip-hop its rightful place of honor as the most compelling musical movement of the past 50 years.
The Art Of Songwriting Stands The Test Of Time
One of the show's most endearing images was the utter shock on Bonnie Raitt's face when she was announced as the winner of the Song Of The Year GRAMMY — perhaps because her competition featured the likes of Beyoncé, Adele and Harry Styles. "This is an unreal moment," she said. "The Academy has given me so much support, and appreciates the art of songwriting as much as I do."
In retrospect, Raitt's win shouldn't surprise anyone who is aware of her superb musicianship — and her 15 GRAMMYs to show for it. A rootsy, vulnerable song, "Just Like That" is the title track of her eighteenth studio album; the song also took home the GRAMMY for Best American Roots Song earlier in the evening.
Lizzo Dedicates Her Grammy Win to Prince (And Beyoncé)
By the time Record Of The Year was announced, the prodigiously gifted Lizzo had already brought the GRAMMY house down with rousing performances of the funky "About Damn Time" and the anthemic "Special." But clearly the best was yet to come, as the former track took home one of the night's biggest honors.
As Lizzo began her speech, she paid homage to Prince, who both served as an idol and a mentor to the star. "When we lost Prince, I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music," she said, going on to explain that while she first felt misunderstood for her relentless positivity, mainstream music has begun to accept it — as evidenced by her win for "About Damn Time."
Before leaving the stage, she made sure to give one more idol a shout-out: Beyoncé. "You changed my life," Lizzo said, reflecting on seeing the "BREAK MY SOUL" singer when she was in 5th grade. "You sang that gospel medley, and the way you made me feel, I was like, 'I wanna make people feel this way with my music.' So thank you so much."
Contrary To Popular Belief, Jazz Proves It's Far From Dead
It only takes one listen to the wondrous voice of young Bronx singer Samara Joy to understand that she follows the same path once walked by Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Joy's second album, Linger Awhile, includes atmospheric versions of such classic nuggets as "Misty," "'Round Midnight" and "Someone To Watch Over Me."
The rising star was already a winner going into the telecast, as Joy took home the golden gramophone for Best Jazz Vocal Album in the Premiere Ceremony. But when she beat out mainstream hitmakers like Latto, Anitta and Måneskin for the coveted Best New Artist GRAMMY, Joy not only set her place in the jazz firmament — it hinted that the genre may be ripe for a revival.
The Pop Concept Album Lives On
It's not only the stunning beauty of its melodies, and the pristine warmth of the production. Harry's House is a special album partly because of its vaguely conceptual sheen — the pervasive feeling that the 13 songs within are interconnected, an intimate journey into the singer's creative soul.
At the telecast, Styles performed an ethereal reading of his luminous mega-hit "As It Was." His well-deserved win for Album Of The Year confirmed that it's perfectly valid to mix accessible pop with a sophisticated unifying theme — and if you do it really right, you may just win a GRAMMY.
Photos courtesy of the Recording Academy
Stevie Wonder Is Bringing A Special Performance With Smokey Robinson & Chris Stapleton To The 2023 GRAMMYs
The 2023 GRAMMYs will feature a special performance by Stevie Wonder, where he will perform three classic tunes, including two duets with fellow Motown legend Smokey Robinson and country star Chris Stapleton.
Stevie Wonder isn't just a 25-time GRAMMY winner; he's one of the most beloved talents in American music. And on Music's Biggest Night, it's the Recording Academy's honor to broadcast a special performance by the titanic singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
Wonder will finish off this special performance — drawn from the 2023 MusiCares Persons Of The Year Gala — with his hit "Higher Ground," from his classic 1973 album Innervisions.
Joining him will be country singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton — an eight-time GRAMMY winner in his own right, who's nominated this year for Best Country Song for co-writing Willie Nelson's "I'll Love You Till The Day I Die," from 2022's A Beautiful Time.
The 2023 GRAMMYs air Sunday, Feb. 5, from Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena, and it will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET / 5-8:30 p.m. PT. Be sure to log into live.GRAMMY.com for the full experience.
Don't miss what's sure to be a transfixing performance by an American musical giant and two of his fellow greats!
20 Albums Turning 50 In 2023: 'Innervisions,' 'Dark Side Of The Moon' 'Catch A Fire' & More
1973 saw a slew of influential records released across genres — many of which broke barriers and set standards for music to come. GRAMMY.com reflects on 20 albums that, despite being released 50 years ago, continue to resonate with listeners today.
Fifty years ago, a record-breaking 600,000 people gathered to see the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band and the Band play Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. This is just one of many significant historical events that happened in 1973 — a year that changed the way music was seen, heard and experienced.
Ongoing advancements in music-making tech expanded the sound of popular and underground music. New multi-track technology was now standard in recording studios from Los Angeles to London. Artists from a variety of genres experimented with new synthesizers, gadgets like the Mu-Tron III pedal and the Heil Talk Box, and techniques like the use of found sounds.
1973 was also a year of new notables, where now-household names made their debuts. Among these auspicious entries: a blue-collar songwriter from the Jersey Shore, hard-working southern rockers from Jacksonville, Fla. and a sister group from California oozing soul.
Along a well-established format, '73 saw the release of several revolutionary concept records. The Eagles’ Desperado, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin and the Who’s Quadrophenia are just a few examples that illustrate how artists used narrative techniques to explore broader themes and make bigger statements on social, political and economic issues — of which there were many.
On the domestic front, 1973 began with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Internationally, the Paris Peace Accords were signed — starting the long process to end the Vietnam War. An Oil crisis caused fuel prices to skyrocket in North America. Richard Nixon started his short-lived second term as president, which was marked by the Watergate scandal.
Politics aside, the third year of the '70s had it all: from classic- and southern-rock to reggae; punk to jazz; soul and R&B to country. Read on for 20 masterful albums with something to say that celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023.
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Laid down at EMI’s studio in Lagos, Nigeria and released in December 1973, the third studio record by Paul Mcartney & Wings is McCartney’s most successful post-Beatles album. Its hit singles "Jet" and the title cut "Band on the Run" helped make the record the biggest-selling in 1974 in both Australia and Canada.
Band on the Run won a pair of GRAMMYS the following year: Best Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical. McCartney added a third golden gramophone for this record at the 54th awards celebration when it won Best Historical Album for the 2010 reissue. In 2013, Band on the Run was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
Released Oct. 13, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was recorded in just one week; its
four songs clock in at just over 40 minutes. That the album was not nominated in the jazz category, but instead Best Pop Instrumental Performance, demonstrates how Hancock was shifting gears.
Head Hunters showed Hancock moving away from traditional instrumentation and playing around with new synthesizer technology — especially the clavinet — and putting together a new band: the Headhunters. Improvisation marks this as a jazz record, but the phrasing, rhythms and dynamics of Hancock’s new quintet makes it equal parts soul and R&B with sprinkles of rock 'n' roll.
The album represented a commercial and artistic breakthrough for Hancock, going gold within months of its release. "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon," which was nominated for a Best Instrumental GRAMMY Award in 1974, were later both frequently sampled by hip-hop artists in the 1990s.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen, 22, was the new kid in town in 1973. This debut was met with tepid reviews. Still, Greetings introduced Springsteen’s talent to craft stories in song and includes many characters The Boss would return to repeatedly in his career. The album kicks off with the singalong "Blinded by the Light," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 four years later via a cover done by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. This was the first of two records Springsteen released in 1973; The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle arrived before the end of the year — officially introducing the E Street Band.
Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
This Stevie Wonder masterpiece shows an artist, in his early 20s, experimenting with new instrumentation such as TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) — the world’s largest synth — and playing all instruments on the now-anthemic "Higher Ground."
The song reached No.1 on the U.S. Hot R&B Singles Chart, and Innervisions peaked at No. 4. The album won three GRAMMYS the following year, including Album Of The Year. Wonder was the first Black artist to win this coveted golden gramophone. In 1989, Red Hot Chili Peppers kept the original funk, but injected the song with a lot of rock on their cover — the lead single from Mother’s Milk.
The Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
Critics perennially place this Pink Floyd album, the band's eighth studio record, as one of the greatest of all-time. The Dark Side of the Moon hit No.1 and stayed on the Billboard charts for 63 weeks.
A sonic masterpiece marked by loops, synths, found sounds, and David Gilmour’s guitar bends, Dark Side of the Moon is also a concept record that explores themes of excessive greed on tracks like "Money." Ironically, an album lambasting consumerism was the top-selling record of the year and has eclipsed 45 million sales worldwide since its release. The album’s cover has also become one of the most recognized in the history of popular music.
Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd - Lynyrd Skynyrd
This debut release features several of the northern Florida rockers' most beloved songs: "Gimme Three Steps," "Tuesday’s Gone" and "Simple Man." The record, which has since reached two-times platinum status with sales of more than two million, also includes the anthemic "Free Bird," which catapulted them to stardom. The song with its slow-build and definitive guitar solo and jam in the middle became Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature song that ended all their shows; it also became a piece of pop culture with people screaming for this song during concerts by other artists.
Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin
The first Led Zeppelin record of all originals — and the first without a Roman numeral for a title — Houses of the Holy shows a new side of these British hardrockers. Straying from the blues and hard rock of previous records, Houses of the Holy features funk (“The Ocean” and “The Crunge”) and even hints of reggae (“D’Yer Mak’er”). This fifth studio offering from Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham also includes one of this writer’s personal Zeppelin favorites — "Over the Hills and Far Away.” The song was released as the album’s first U.S. single and reached No. 51 on the Billboard charts. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Houses of the Holy eventually achieved Diamond status for sales of more than 10 million. Interesting fact: the song “Houses of the Holy” actually appears on the band’s next record (Physical Graffiti).
Quadrophenia - The Who
The double-album rock opera followed the critical success of Tommy and Who’s Next. Pete Townshend composed all songs on this opus, which was later adapted into a movie. And, in 2015, classically-scored by Townshend’s partner Rachel Fuller for a new generation via a symphonic version (“Classic Quadrophenia”). The story chronicles the life of a young mod named Jimmy who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Jimmy searches for meaning in a life devoid of significance — taking uppers, downers and guzzling gin only to discover nothing fixes his malaise. With sharp-witted songs, Townshend also tackles classicism. His band of musical brothers: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon provide some of their finest recorded performances. The album reached second spot on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Berlin - Lou Reed
Produced by Bob Ezrin, Berlin is a metaphor. The divided walled city represents the divisive relationships and the two sides of Reed — on stage and off. The 10 track concept record chronicles a couple’s struggles with drug addiction, meditating on themes of domestic abuse and neglect. As a parent, try to listen to "The Kids" without shedding a tear. While the couple on the record are named Caroline and Jim, those who knew Reed’s volatile nature and drug dependency saw the parallels between this fictionalized narrative and the songwriter’s life.
Catch A Fire - Bob Marley & the Wailers
The original cover was enclosed in a sleeve resembling a Zippo lighter. Only 20,000 of this version were pressed. Even though it was creative and cool, cost-effective it was not — each individual cover had to be hand-riveted. The replacement, which most people know today, introduces reggae poet and prophet Robert Nesta Marley to the world. With a pensive stare and a large spliff in hand, Marley tells you to mellow out and listen to the tough sounds of his island home.
While Bob and his Wailers had been making music for nearly a decade and released several records in Jamaica, Catch a Fire was their coming out party outside the Caribbean. Released in April on Island Records, the feel-good reggae rhythms and Marley’s messages of emancipation resonated with a global audience. A mix of songs of protest ("Slave Driver," "400 years") and love ("Kinky Reggae"), Catch A Fire is also notable for "Stir it Up," a song American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash had made a Top 15 hit the previous year.
The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls burst on the club scene in the Big Apple, building a cult following with their frenetic and unpredictable live shows. The Dolls' hard rock sound and f-you attitude waved the punk banner before the genre was coined, and influenced the sound of punk rock for generations. (Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and KISS, cite the New York Dolls as mentors.) Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren — who found time to release A Wizard, A True Star this same year — produced this tour de force. From the opening "Personality Crisis," this five-piece beckons you to join this out-of-control train.
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
This David Bowie record followed the commercial success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars. Many critics unfairly compare the two. A career chameleon, with Aladdin Sane, Bowie shed the Ziggy persona and adopted another alter-ego. The title is a pun that means: "A Lad Insane." For the songwriter, this record represented an attempt to break free from the crazed fandom Ziggy Stardust had created.
A majority of the songs were written the previous year while Bowie toured the United States in support of Ziggy. Journal in hand, the artist traveled from city to city in America and the songs materialized. Most paid homage to what this “insane lad” observed and heard: from debauchery and societal decay ("Cracked Actor") to politics ("Panic in Detroit") to punk music ("Watch That Man"). Top singles on Aladdin Sane were: "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday." Both topped the U.K. charts.
Faust IV -Faust
This fourth studio album — and the final release in this incarnation by this experimental avant-garde German ambient band — remains a cult classic. Recorded at the Manor House in Oxfordshire, England (Richard Branson’s new Virgin Records studio and the locale where Mike Oldfield crafted his famous debut Tubular Bells, also released in 1973), Faust IV opens with the epic 11-minute instrumental "Krautrock" — a song that features drones, clusters of tones and sustained notes to create a trance-like vibe. Drums do not appear in the song until after the seven minute mark.
The song is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the genre British journalists coined to describe bands like Faust, which musicians largely did not embrace. The rest of Faust IV is a sonic exploration worthy of repeated listens and a great place to start if you’ve ever wondered what the heck Krautrock is.
Brothers & Sisters - the Allman Brothers Band
Great art is often born from grief, and Brothers & Sisters is exemplary in this way. Founding member Duanne Allman died in 1971 and bassist Berry Oakley followed his bandmate to the grave a year later; he was killed in a motorcycle accident in November 1972. Following this pair of tragedies, the band carried on the only way they knew how: by making music.
With new members hired, Brothers & Sisters was recorded with guitarist Dicky Betts as the new de facto band leader. The Allman Brothers Band’s most commercially successful record leans into country territory from the southern rock of previous releases and features two of the band’s most popular songs: "Ramblin’ Man" and "Jessica." The album went gold within 48 hours of shipping and since has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
Call Me - Al Green
Call Me is considered one of the greatest soul records of the 20th century and Green’s pièce de résistance. The fact this Al Green album features three Top 10 Billboard singles — "You Ought to Be With Me," "Here I Am" and the title track — helps explain why it remains a masterpiece. Beyond the trio of hits, the soul king shows his versatility by reworking a pair of country songs: Hank Williams’ "I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry," and Willie Nelson’s "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack
This Roberta Flack album was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards and won two: Record Of The Year and Best Female Vocal Pop Performance at the 1974 GRAMMYs (it lost in the Album of the Year category to Innervisions). With equal parts soul and passion, Flack interprets beloved ballads that showcase her talent of taking others’ songs and reinventing them. Producer Joel Dorn assembled the right mix of players to back up Flack — adding to the album’s polished sound. Killing Me Softly has sold more than two million copies and, in 2020, Roberta Flack received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
The album's title cut became a No.1 hit in three countries and, in 1996, the Fugees prominently featured Lauryn Hill on a version that surpassed the original: landing the No.1 spot in 21 countries. The album also includes a pair of well-loved covers: Leonard Cohen’s "Suzanne" and Janis Ian’s wistful "Jesse," which reached No. 30.
Bette Midler - Bette Middler
Co-produced by Arif Mardin and Barry Manilow, the self-titled second studio album by Bette Midler was an easy- listening experience featuring interpretations of both standards and popular songs. Whispers of gospel are mixed with R&B and some boogie-woogie piano, though Midler’s voice is always the star. The record opens with a nod to the Great American Songbook with a reworking of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s "Skylark." The 10-song collection also features a take on Glenn Miller’s "In the Mood," and a divine cover of Bob Dylan’s "I Shall be Released." The record peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. charts.
Imagination - Gladys Knight & the Pips
Released in October, Imagination was Gladys Knight & the Pips' first album with Buddha Records after leaving Motown, and features the group’s only No. 1 Billboard hit: "Midnight Train to Georgia." The oft-covered tune, which won a GRAMMY the following year, and became the band’s signature, helped the record eclipse a million in sales, but it was not the only single to resonate. Other timeless, chart-topping songs from Imagination include "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," and "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination."
The Pointer Sisters - The Pointer Sisters
The three-time GRAMMY-winning Pointer Sisters arrived on the scene in 1973 with this critically-acclaimed self-titled debut. Then a quartet, the group of sisters from Oakland, California made listeners want to shake a tail feather with 10 songs that ranged from boogie-woogie to bebop. Their sisterly harmonies are backed up by the San Francisco blues-funk band the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The record opens with "Yes We Can," a hypnotic groove of a song written by Allen Toussaint which was a Top 15 hit alongside another cover, Willie Dixon’s "Wang Dang Doodle."
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
This pop-leaning country record of orchestral ballads, produced by Billy Sherrill, made Rich rich. The album has surpassed four million in sales and remains one of the genre’s best-loved classics. The album won Charlie Rich a GRAMMY the following year for Best Country Vocal Performance Male and added four Country Music Awards. Behind Closed Doors had several hits, but the title track made the most impact. The song written by Kenny O’Dell, and whose title was inspired by the Watergate scandal, was the first No.1 hit for Rich. It topped the country charts where it spent 20 weeks in 1973. It was also a Billboard crossover hit — reaching No. 15 on the Top 100 and No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary charts.