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  • Writer's pictureEmerging Media

Music Through the Ages

By Hanlon Rhodes '23

Music, without a doubt, has changed drastically through the years. No matter what genres of music you enjoy, there have always been a few artists that have made an exceptional mark on the music industry and the world as a whole. To help you get a visual of how music has progressed through time, here is an in-depth timeline of some of the most popular artists and songs starting all the way at the 1940s.


Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was undoubtedly one of the most popular jazz singers of his time. In fact, he is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time! He has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. His most popular songs include ‘My Way’ and ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer from Philadelphia. Her work in jazz and pop was very original and influential on artists that followed her. She mastered the art of manipulating phrasing and tempo in her voice. Her most popular songs include ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ and ‘Blue Moon.’


Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley is often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll.” He made a name for himself in Memphis, Tennessee and started recording songs when he was fairly young. His most popular songs include ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock.’

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly was an American musician who was most famous for his mid-50s rock and roll influence. He was very inspired by gospel music and learned to play music with his siblings growing up. Unfortunately, Holly was involved in a deadly plane crash in 1959, cutting his music career short when he was just 22 years old. His most popular songs include ‘Everyday’ and ‘That’ll Be the Day.’

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry was an American guitarist and singer-songwriter who was born in our very own St. Louis, Missouri. He is known to be one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. He had a wide variety of fans, even receiving endorsements from people who would later go on to make names for themselves like John Lennon. His most popular songs include ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘You Never Can Tell.’

Doris Day

Doris Day was an American singer, actress, and animal welfare activist. She started out in a band but later left and began to gain popularity as a solo artist. She died just recently in May of 2019. Her most popular songs include ‘Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)’ and ‘Sentimental Journey.’


The Beatles

Chances are you’ve heard at least 3 Beatles songs in your lifetime. The Beatles were an English pop/rock band from Liverpool, England. The band was made up of four members: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They helped contribute to the consideration of pop music as an art form due to their heavy influence on music. They were so influential that they were the leading men in the “British Invasion” which was the takeover of the United States pop market by British artists. Their most popular songs include ‘Here Comes The Sun,’ ‘Hey Jude,’ ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Help,’ and ‘Let It Be.’

The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band based in Los Angeles. Like The Beatles, The Doors also consisted of four members: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore. They even had two of their singles read #1 on the charts in the US. Their most popular songs include ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘Riders on the Storm.’

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones were a British rock band from London. Their first official lineup consisted of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Ian Stewart (who was later removed from the official lineup). They too were included in the British Invasion and were popular amongst the youthful, rebellious crowd of the 1960s. Their most popular songs include ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and ‘Sympathy For The Devil.’

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys were an American rock band. They are recognized as one of the most commercially successful groups in all of pop music because of their vocal harmonies, experiments in the studio, and unique ways of approaching songwriting. The group changed a lot throughout the years, but main members included Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston, all of which were in the band at different times. Their most popular songs include ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ ‘Good Vibrations,’ and ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was an American singer and songwriter. She pursued her solo career after leaving Big Brother & The Holding Company. She was one, if not the most influential female artist of the decade. Her most popular songs include ‘Piece of My Heart’ and ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was an American rock guitarist and singer. He was only in the mainstream for about four years but is recognized as one of the most influential electric guitarists in pop history. His most popular songs include ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and ‘Angel.’


Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin was an English rock band that consisted of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. They were very influential in the heavy metal and hard rock areas. They adopted a concept called “album-oriented rock” where they didn’t release any songs as singles, instead releasing them all at the same time on an album. Their most popular songs include ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ‘Immigrant Song,’ and ‘Black Dog.’


ABBA is a pop group from Sweden made up of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. They won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. ABBA’s music was adapted into the musical Mamma Mia! in 1999. Their most popular songs include ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),’ and ‘Lay All Your Love On Me.’

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was an English rock band that consisted of Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and, at one point, David Gilmour. They were most famous their lengthy compositions, philosophical lyrics and elaborate concerts. They quickly became a leading band of the progressive rock genre. Their most popular songs include ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Comfortably Numb.’

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac is a rock band composed of both British and American members. While the band had many members of the years, the current members include Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks. They were majorly popular in the 70s and their first self-titled album reached No. 1 in the United States. Their most popular songs include ‘Dreams,’ ‘The Chain,’ ‘Rhiannon,’ ‘Landslide,’ ‘Go Your Own Way,’ and ‘Don’t Stop.’

David Bowie

David Bowie was an English singer and songwriter from London. His music was very innovative for its time and is still influential today. Along with his music, he created various visual presentations and alter egos for himself to further immerse his listeners into the world of his songs. His most popular songs include ‘Under Pressure’ (a song he did with Queen), ‘Starman,’ and ‘Space Oddity.’


Queen is an English rock band that formerly consisted of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor. Queen’s first few albums received little attention from the public eye, but as they kept making music, their popularity grew. Queen is still a band today but consists of only Brian May and Roger Taylor as Mercury passed away 1991 and Deacon decided to retire. To fill in for Mercury, May and Taylor chose Adam Lambert to tour with them. In 2018, a biopic about the formation and life of the band called “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in theaters. Their most popular songs include ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Don’t Stop Me Now,’ ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’ ‘We Will Rock You,’ ‘We Are the Champions,’ ‘Somebody to Love,’ and ‘Killer Queen.’

Elton John

Elton John is an English singer and pianist from London. He worked alongside lyricist Bernie Taupin for most of his career and the two produced many of John’s most popular hits. He has sold more than 300 million records and is one of the best-selling artists in the world. In 2018, a movie musical detailing the ups and downs of John’s life entitled “Rocketman” was released in theaters. His most popular songs include ‘Tiny Dancer,’ ‘Bennie and the Jets,’ ‘Your Song,’ ‘Rocket Man,’ and ‘I’m Still Standing.’


Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses is a hard rock band from Los Angeles, California. Members include Axl Rose Izzy Stradlin, Rob Gardner, Duff McKagan, and Slash. Their music included taboo topics such as misogyny, violence, city life, liquor, and drugs. They were heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones and Queen. Their most popular songs include ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘Welcome to the Jungle.’

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was a singer, songwriter, and dancer from Los Angeles, California. He was named the “King of Pop” and is considered one of the greatest entertainers of all time. When he was younger, he was in a band with his siblings called the Jackson 5. His most popular songs include ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Beat It,’ and ‘Thriller.’


Madonna is a singer from Bay County, Michigan. She is called the “Queen of Pop” and is often considered the most influential and successful female recording artists of all time. She is the fourth best-selling recording artist of all time. Her most popular songs include ‘Like a Virgin,’ ‘Like a Prayer,’ and ‘Material Girl.’

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi is a rock band from New Jersey. The band is led by singer Jon Bon Jovi. They are known as one of the most successful groups of all time having sold over 120 million albums worldwide. Their most popular songs include ‘Livin’ On a Prayer,’ ‘You Give Love a Bad Name,’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’

Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe is a heavy metal band that was formed in Los Angeles, California. The group consists of Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars. They have sold more that 100 million records worldwide and are one of the best-selling bands of all time. Their most popular songs include ‘Kickstart My Heart,’ ‘Home Sweet Home,’ ‘Girls, Girls, Girls,’ and ‘Dr. Feelgood.’



Nirvana was an American grunge band from Aberdeen, Washington. The group was made up of Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic. They influenced many other grunge bands to follow. Their most popular songs include ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ ‘Come As You Are,’ and ‘Lithium.’

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers is a funk rock band from Hollywood, California. Currently, it consists of Anthony Kiedis, Michael “Flea” Balzary, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante. The band has had huge success and is still adored by many today. Their most popular songs include ‘Under the Bridge,’ ‘Californication,’ ‘Dani California,’ and ‘Dark Necessities.’

Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys were a boy band that sold more the 180 million albums worldwide. They are the highest-selling boy band on record. Originally, the group consisted of Nick Carter, Howard Dorough, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson, and AJ McLean. Their most popular songs include ‘I Want It That Way’ and ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).’

Spice Girls

The Spice Girls are an English girl group consisting of Geraldine Halliwell, Melanie Chisholm, Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, and Emma Bunton. They were more commonly known as Ginger Spice, Sporty Spice, Posh Spice, Scary Spice, and Baby Spice. They are the most successful girl group of all time. Their most popular songs include ‘Wannabe’ and ‘Spice Up Your Life.’

Green Day

Green Day is an American punk rock band from Berkeley, California. The band consists of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool. They are credited with the popularization of interest in punk rock in the United States. Their most popular songs include ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and ‘Basket Case.’



Coldplay is a British alt rock group made up of Chris Martin, Johnny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion. In 2005, their album ‘X&Y’ was the best-selling album worldwide. Their most popular songs include ‘Yellow’ and ‘Viva la Vida.’

Britney Spears

Britney Spears is an American pop singer that has won multiple Grammys and gone multi-platinum. Her most popular songs include ‘Toxic,’ and ‘Oops!... I Did It Again.’

This brings us to modern day, where music continues to change and evolve. Popular artists from the 2010s like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift changed the pop industry while bands like Twenty One Pilots, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! At the Disco made significant impacts on the rock and alternative scene. Even more recently, up and coming artists like Billie Eilish and Lizzo are paving the way for even more musical innovation to come!



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