• Josh Warriner

Events That Shaped Music - Historical Events That Changed The Course of Music

There have been moments in music, whether realized at the time or not, that have completely altered the course of music history. These events sent waves through the musical community, each sending a clear message: the times they are a-changin'. We wanted to discuss some of these events, four in particular that are perhaps the most famous of these events. For this post, we'll be focusing particularly on rock music, as it was the dominant genre for the latter half of the twentieth century. Perhaps later on we will dive deeper into different genres and their important events.

But without further ado, our picks for the four events that most shaped recent musical history!

Live Aid (1985)

A musical event like no other, viewed by 40% of the world's population in 1985. A dual concert which took the stage simultaneously in London and Philadelphia, Live Aid was a charity effort, organized by singer-songwriter and political activist Bob Geldof, in contribution towards solving Ethiopian famine.

The event was a staggering success. With over 1.5 billion viewers, and over 170,000 total attendees between the two venues, the event hosted one of the best lineups of all time. London hosted acts including Elvis Costello, Phil Collins, Queen (we'll be getting back to them), David Bowie, The Who, and Elton John. While Philadelphia hosted the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Run DMC, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Judas Priest, Madonna, and Mick Jagger.

Of course, despite its massive success, Live Aid is most famous for one performance: Queen. Performing at 6 PM, the group absolutely stole the show. The full performance is available on YouTube, and I highly recommend you check it out. There is something that is so incredibly electric about the set, despite only being 20 minutes in length. Despite not being remotely the headliner, Queen managed to own the stage like no other group present, and Freddie Mercury had the 75,000 at Wembley and the millions of television viewers in the palm of his hand.

Beatlemania (1964)

It may be impossible for another band to be absolutely deified like the Beatles were during their peak popularity. Beatlemania made the Fab Four absolutely indomitable to fans, young and old, male and female. Perhaps the peak of Beatlemania is when the four first arrived in the United States. It was then that they made their famous Ed Sullivan performance, which solidified them as the biggest band in the world. See the video below as an example.

The screams (particularly from the young female members of the audience) are relentless throughout the song. This was the case for all of their performances at the time, the audience would be unable to be tamed from the moment the band was introduced until the moment they walked off stage.

Never again would a band be idealized as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were in the early 1960s. From the moment they stepped off the plane at John F. Kennedy Airport, the Beatles made history.

Dylan Goes Electric (1965)

On July 25th, 1965, one of folk music’s giants altered the genre irrevocably. Bob Dylan stepped on stage in Newport, Rhode Island in preparation for a short set wielding a Fender Stratocaster, rather than his usual acoustic guitar. Dylan had played the Newport Folk Festival the two years prior as well, although these performances were what folk’s devout were accustomed to: Dylan, his guitar, and his harmonica.

When he flew into the first song of his set, the audience was divided. Purists booed as they were blasted with an electrifying rendition of Maggie’s Farm, and others cheered with delight. Some of his contemporaries were outraged. Pete Seeger, fellow folk artist performing at the festival professed to shouting to the festival’s audio technicians, “If I had an axe, I’d chop that microphone cable right now,” in reaction to the overblown, distorted sound that would come to change the direction of folk music.

After his first song, Dylan went straight into his most popular piece, though a controversial one at the time, its chorus taunting the angered audience members with demands of "How does it feel?". The night went on to become known simply as Dylan Going Electric, and signified a major turning point for popular music as Dylan, a figurehead for the folk scene, rejected his acoustic roots in favour of rebellious rock n’ roll.

Woodstock (1969)

One could make a strong argument that Woodstock was the most influential music festival of all time. The timing of Woodstock was pertinent. The event came at a time when civil unrest was incredibly high, surrounding racial issues and the controversial Vietnam War. The counterculture movement was at its peak at this time, and Woodstock became a symbol for all the movement had come to represent. Although the event mainly attracted negative media attention at the time, it soon became clear that the message of the event was essential.

The event attracted over 400,000 attendees

Although many famous acts declined performance at Woodstock, the event was still incredibly well lined with counterculture acts. Among the acts were Joan Baez, Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, The Band, and Jimi Hendrix (whose performance is perhaps the most famous.) The event was a marked success, and went to show the power of peace and love professed by the counterculture movement during a time of social tension.


Give us your thoughts! What do you think are some of the most important events in recent music history? Let us know on social media, and be sure to stay in the groove with Populus Music!

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