1971 – The Greatest Year in Music?

If you are new to the site, I started this series with the year 1987 and then noticed that 1991 and 1983 were also a couple of the greatest years in music.  I got to thinking, was there a pattern that every 4 years we have another great year in music.  Well theory didn’t last long as I don’t think the next two years I researched were “great” years in music.  Those years were 1979 and 1995. If you want to explore all the years I have examined so far, click on the link below…

1979 – The Greatest Year in Music?

1983 – The Greatest Year in Music?

1987 – The Greatest Year in Music?

1991 – The Greatest Year in Music?

1995 – The Greatest Year in Music?

Now that my theory is busted, I am just going to start looking for the “Greatest” year in music.  I am going to start with 1971.  Will 1971 be another great year or will it be the greatest year.  Let us explore and see and then decide at the end.  But first we have to ask What were the top albums of the year?, What were the debut albums from some of the great rock bands? and What was going on in the world of music that year?


What were some of the biggest news events that happened in 1971?  I couldn’t find any one big thing that happened.  Nothing new was invented such as the walkman or the CD.  There were a couple things of note.


June 27th & July 4th – Music promoter, Billy Graham, closed two of the most famous music venues, The Fillmore East in New York City closed on June 27th and closed with The Allman Brothers (the band recorded their famous live album their 3 months earlier) and on July 4th the Fillmore West in San Francisco closed with Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival and the Grateful Dead (not a bad night).

download-23December 4th, the Montreux Casino in Montreux, Switzerland burns during the Frank Zappa show when someone on the crowd lit a flare…dumbass.  Why is this important, well across the street was a band called Deep Purple who was set to record there the next day was watching from their hotel room.  As a result of the fire, they wrote the song “Smoke on the Water” to memorialize the event.


1971 was classic rock at it’s height.  Well, I guess it wasn’t called Classic Rock then, but you know what I mean.  The music from this era holds up so well today and is revered as some of the greatest music of all time but a few people and when you see this list, you will know why.  Sit back and enjoy…

61KXX-rZ+CLLed Zeppelin  – IV (November 8th):  Led Zeppelin release their fourth album simply called IV which was produced by Jimmy Page.  The album contains one of the most classic of classic rock songs called “Stairway to Heaven” (don’t try and play this song if you go into a record store as they will kick you out).  The album has sold well over 25 million copies and contains other classic songs such as “Black Dog”, “Rock & Roll”, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Going to California” to name a few.

RSSF71The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (April 23rd): The Rolling Stones ‘Sticky Fingers’ released their eleventh studio album in the states. The cover is one of my favorites with the working zipper and it was created by iconic pop artist Andy Warhol.  Now the songs were just as amazing including “Brown Sugar”, “Wild Horses” and “Dead Flowers” to name a few that I love.  The album would reach #1 in quite a few countries and the Stones were really at their peak.

WhosnextThe Who – Who’s Next (August 14th): The Who were working on another rock opera called ‘Lifehouse’ and when that went south, they put together another masterpiece.  The album only hit #4 in the US, but man what a great album.  The album brought us the hits “Baba O’Riley”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Behind Blue Eyes” and it went on to sell millions of copies globally.  And if you watched CSI: Miami on TV, you know “Won’t Get Fooled Again” as it was their theme song.

Carole_King_-_TapestryCarole King – Tapestry (February 10th): One of the most critically acclaimed albums of the time, Tapestry would go on to become one of the best selling albums of all time and garner Carole a mere 4 Grammy’s in 1992.  The big songs were “It’s Too Late”, “I Feel the Earth Move”, “So Far Away” and “You’ve Got a Friend”.  The album was also remembered for her song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.  In a time dominated by male artists, Carole shined brightly.

The_Doors_-_L.A._WomanThe Doors – L.A. Woman (April 19th): The band’s sixth and last album to feature lead singer Jim Morrison as he died three months after the release of the album.  The album gave us such classic Door’s tracks as “Riders in the Storm”, “Love Her Madly” and the title track “L.A. Woman”.  The album only peaked at #9 in the US, but #1 in Denmark (The Dutch knew what was great).  The band would go on, but it was never the same.

BsmorBlack Sabbath – Master of Reality (July 21st): The band’s third studio album would go on to sell over 2 million copies and be the band’s highest charting album and the only one to make it into the Top 10 (for 42 years).  The album spawned the hits “Children of the Grave” and “After Forever” and despite it’s success, the critics hated it but what the hell to critics know. Now of course as time as gone by, the critics now praise the album as a classic.

EveryPictureTellsaStoryRod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story (May): Rod’s third album continued his success.  The album would go to #1, of course, and even in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of Top 500 albums and sell millions of copies.  The album gave us “Maggie May” which alone warrants this album being listed as well as “Every Picture Tells a Story”, “I know I Am Losing You” and “Reason to Believe”.  I didn’t get into Rod until years later (I was 2 at the time), this is one I have always loved.

T_Rex_Electric_Warrior_UK_album_coverT-Rex – Electric Warrior (September 24th):  Now this is one that most people might not include as an argument for greatest year, but I do.  I got into T-Rex maybe 5-6 years ago and damn, they were great.  The album only charted at #32 in the US, but it gave us songs such as “Get It On”, “Cosmic Dancer” and “Jeepster” all classics.  It is the band’s 2nd album as T-Rex and Marc Bolan is just amazing.  Glam rock done right.

MarvinGayeWhat'sGoingOnalbumcoverMarvin Gaye – What’s Going On (May 21st):  Marvin Gaye might have been on his 11th studio album, but how many people can put out such an amazing album that for along in his career…not many.  The album gave us such iconic Marvin Gaye songs such as “What’s Going On”, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Save the Children”.  The accolades for this album are immense (go to wiki and check them out).

ImagineCoverJohn Lennon – Imagine (September 9th): How could I have a list and not include John Lennon’s album ‘Imagine’.  That would be crazy.  The album has one of the most revered songs in history, “Imagine”.  It is probably the song he is most famous for as a solo artist. It is the one album and song that left an everlasting impression on so many people, there really isn’t anything else left to add.


I normally stop at ten albums for this section, but I can’t.

Elton_John_-_Madman_Across_the_WaterElton John – Madman Across the Water (November 5th): Elton’s fourth studio album and what an album.  It went to #8 in the US and spawned one of the most misquoted songs in history “Tiny Dancer” (Hold me close Tony Danza). The album also featured “Levon” and “Indian Sunset”.  Bernie Taupin and Elton together could do no wrong and they sold millions of copies for this one as well.


Janis_Joplin-Pearl_(album_cover)Janis Joplin – Pearl (January 11th):  Janis second solo and sadly, her last.  Rarely does anyone make such an impact and last impression as Janis did and with only two albums under her belt.  This release gave us such memorable songs such as “Cry Baby”, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz”.  She was such a force of nature and someone worth mentioning whenever you talk about the greats.

Don_McLean_-_American_Pie_(album)_CoverartDon McLean – American Pie (October 24th):  Is there a more quintessential album of the 70’s or a song. “American Pie” is probably one of the most famous songs from that era and how could you not include it in the argument that 1971 was the greatest year in music.  The album also featured “Vincent”, but “American Pie” will always be the most talked about, covered and used in a movie.


Live albums are always important in determining a great year in music and there are some big ones…

AllmanBrothersBandAtFillmoreEastThe Allman Brothers – At Fillmore East (July 6th):  Recorded 3 months prior to it’s close and released just around a week after it’s close, ‘At Fillmore East’ is one of those special, magical live albums that captures the true essence of a band.  The album is spread over 2 albums and only has 7 songs and that is why it is magical.  The band just plays and does what they do best.


The_Concert_For_Bangla_DeshGeorge Harrison & Friends – The Concert for Bangladesh (December 20th):  George Harrison put on two shows to raise money for Bangladesh held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  And the friends part was pretty special as the friends included Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton and many more.  That is enough to convince me to give this a listen.



I also find a year can be great by the debut albums of bands that would become rather big either off their first album or down the road.  And there were some big names that debuted in 1971.  Let’s get started…

ZZ_Top_-_ZZ_Top's_First_AlbumZZ Top – ZZ Top’s First Album (January 16th):  The album only had one single, “(Somebody Else Been) Shakin’ Your Tree”, and may not have made that huge of an impact at the time, but the band certainly would go on to rather huge success.


Cold_Spring_Harbor_by_Billy_Joel,_original_album_artBilly Joel – Cold Spring Harbor (November 1st):  Billy Joel’s debut didn’t make a lot of waves, but it was the beginning of a very long career and would see him fly higher than most.  The most notable song from the album was “She’s Got a Way” and then there was “Everybody Loves You Now”.  Everybody begins somewhere and it isn’t a bad way to start off.

Carly_Simon_-_Carly_SimonCarly Simon – Carly Simon (February 9th):  The “You’re So Vain” singer’s debut album came on strong producing the Grammy nominated song “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be”.  Carly saw much critical acclaim and even had big time producer Eddie Kramer man the reins.  Oh yeah, Carly won the Grammy for Best New Artist.

The_Doobie_Brothers_-_The_Doobie_BrothersThe Doobie Brothers – The Doobie Brothers (April 30th):  The debut album didn’t do much.  It gave us the one single “Nobody”, but not much else.  It was the band’s second album ‘Toulousse Street” that broke the band and started the train rolling to stardom.  They had to start somewhere.


And the list goes on…

Bonnie_Raitt_-_Bonnie_RaittBonnie Raitt – Bonnie Raitt (November):

NazarethNazareth  Nazareth – Nazareth (November)

KristoffersonAlbumCover  Kris Kristofferson – Kristofferson

K1-D-front  Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk (November)

Littlefeatalbum  Little Feat – Little Feat (January)

John_Prine_self-titled  John Prine – John Prine

Reospeedwagon  R.E.O. Speedwagon – R.E.O. Speedwagon (October)

Rory_Gallagher_-_Rory_Gallagher  Rory Gallagher – Rory Gallagher (May 23rd)

RitaCoolidge-RitaCoolidgealbum  Rita Coolidge – Rita Coolidge (February)

Ronnie_Milsap-Ronnie  Ronnie Milsap – Ronnie Milsap (August)

Thestylisticsalbum  The Stylistics – The Stylistics (November 6th)

Thin_Lizzy_-_Thin_Lizzy  Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (April 30th)

War_album  War – War (April)

April_Wine_-_April_Wine  April Wine – April Wine (September)

Other Notable Releases (at least to Me):

There are so many releases that I can’t list them all. So, I will capture the ones that impact me in some way.  These are the albums that I love that are from the time period.

JethroTullAqualungalbumcover  Jethro Tull – Aqualung (March 19th)

David_Bowie_-_Hunky_Dory  David Bowie – Hunky Dory (December 17th)

The_Yes_Album  Yes – The Yes Album (February 19th)

Deep_purple_–_fireball.jpg  Deep Purple – Fireball (July 9th)

Slyfam-riot1  Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On (November 20th)

download-24  Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate (March 19th)

Aclove  Alice Cooper – Love It To Death (March 9th)

download-25  Alice Cooper – Killers (November 27th)

Van_Morrison_-_Tupelo_Honey  Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (October 15th)

James_Taylor_-_Mud_Slide_Slim_and_the_Blue_Horizon  James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (March 16th)

Bluealbumcover  Joni Mitchell – Blue (June 22nd)

Harry_Nilsson_-_Nilsson_Schmilsson  Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson (November)

Shaft_cover  Isaac Hayes – Shaft (August)

CheralternativChetr71  Cher – Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves (or Cher) (September)

Bgs_trafalgar  The Bee Gees – Tralfalgar (September)

Other Important notable dates (well some aren’t too important):

  • January 11th – Mary J. Blige was born
  • January 17th – Kid Rock was born
  • January 18th – Jonathan Davis of Korn was born
  • January 19th – John Wozniak of Marcy Playground was born
  • January 20th – Questlove was born
  • January 27th – Lil’ John was born
  • February 3rd – Davy Jones exits the Monkees
  • February 5th – Sara Evans was born
  • February 15th – Daniel Powter was born
  • February 26th – Erika Badu and Max Martin were born
  • February 27th – Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas of TLC was born
  • March 1st, John Deacon joins Queen and the band is now the classic line-up is complete
  • March 10th – Timbaland was born
  • April 4th – Josh Todd of Buckcherry was born
  • May 12 – Mick Jagger marries Bianca de Macias
  • May 27th – Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez of TLC was born
  • June 16th – Tupac Shakur was born
  • July 1st – Missy Elliott was born
  • July 3rd – Jim Morrison dies
  • July 6th – Louis Armstrong died
  • July 16th – Ed Kowalczyk of Live was born
  • July 23rd – Allison Krauss was born
  • August 20th – Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit was born
  • September 6th – Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries was born
  • October 2nd – Tiffany was born
  • October 20th – Snoop Dogg was born
  • December 24th – Ricky Martin was born
  • December 25th – Dido and Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) was born
  • Ann Wilson joins Heart
  • Rick Springfield starts his solo career and leaves Zoot
  • Rick Wakeman joins Yes
  • Daryl Dragon meets Toni Tennille and the Captain & Tennellie is formed
  • The Charlie Daniels Band is formed
  • The Eagles formed
  • Loggins & Messina formed
  • The New York Dolls are formed
  • Vixen formed (yes the 80’s band)
  • Paul McCartney & Wings
  • Split Endz formed in New Zealand
  • Roxy Music formed
  • Sister Sledge formed

There you have all the contenders that will be used to make the argument that 1971 was the greatest year in music.  I have to say, this might be the best contender for the greatest year in music because all this music has held up so well over the years.  Let me know your thoughts.  Am I off base or is this really a contender?  What other year would you like for me to explore?

Thanks for staying around on such a long post.  I hope you enjoyed. Have a great day.


26 thoughts on “1971 – The Greatest Year in Music?

  1. Well, Jim, that’s a shitload of great music and no mistake. It would be very challenging indeed to argue that your list is anything other than dripping with fabulous albums, and you didn’t even include jazz!
    So let me add even more weight to the claim for ’71 with a Fave Five…

    Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame (debut)
    Miles Davis – Jack Johnson
    Weather Report – Weather Report
    Alice Coltrane – Universal Consciousness
    Keith Jarrett – Facing You

    Reckon I could live with the playlist of this post for a few months without getting bored!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know jazz very well so I wouldn’t know what to add so thanks for the list. Jazz is something I hope to explore in more depth some day down the road.

      And you are right, a playlist with all this could be played for some time and not get old. I am going to have a hard time finding a better year.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. There’s a book, 1971: Never a Dull Moment, that argues this is the finest year ever.
    Based on the list you included here (especially considering Hunky Dory only made it into the ‘other’ section, the year was that strong!) – it’s definitely a contender

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I might have to read that book.

      I had to put Hunky Dory as other as there were just so many to choose from that year. Definitely means it is a great year when my struggle was not finding albums but deciding which ones to highlight more than others.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, this one makes an impressive argument for being the greatest, doesn’t it? And that list doesn’t include some albums that are great in my eyes… the likes of Ike & Tina’s ‘Nuff Said, Jerry Reed’s Ko-Ko Joe, Kris Kristofferson’s The Silver Tongued Devil & I.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m blown away. Pearl, American Pie, and Madman should make any year’s top 10. The four debut artists you highlighted are beyond superb. Tapestry is my top-rated lyrical collection of all time. I’m not a Zepp fan, but Stones, Who, Doors, Rod, Marvin, Lennon, and Sabbath are all Rushmore entries, so we’re going to need a big, wide mountain to feature 1971. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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