50 Years Ago: 1969 in Rock Music

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to the music of 1969? Perhaps it’s Woodstock, the rock festival that still defines the very concept of the rock festival. Or maybe it’s one of the year’s many great albums—if you’re like us, you still listen to TommyVolunteers, The Band, Blind Faith,  Led Zeppelin II and amazing debuts rom Santana and Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as many others that were born in 1969.

Rock was still very exciting as the ’60s came to a close, with bands and artists from both America and across the Atlantic turning out some of their most memorable work. Talk about prolific: Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band that had just made its name known the year before, landed no less than three albums in the top 10 in 1969: Bayou Country, the #1 Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys. The Stones were on a roll, following up the previous year’s brilliant Beggars Banquet with the equally superb Let it Bleed—while saying goodbye to one member and adding a new one. The Beatles were beginning to wind down, but we didn’t know that at the time—when they released Abbey Road, we just took it for granted that they were once again evolving.

Related: What about 1968?

Although there was a whole new rock sound, a more mature, progressive approach that found its home on FM radio and in the ballrooms sprouting up around the country, AM radio hitmakers were also still grabbing our ears (and our wallets)—a look at the hit singles of the year reveals numerous gems by artists that never quite made that leap to hipville but whose contributions still find their way to our playlists.

We went back in time 50 years and compiled a chronological timeline of the year’s top events (including album releases) in rock music. Then we listed the bands that formed during that year, and those that called it quits.

Finally, we compiled a list of the year’s top singles. Looking at it all now, we have to admit that we were all very lucky to have this music in our lives—and we still are!

1969 Music Timeline

Jan. 5—Creedence Clearwater Revival releases Bayou Country

Jan. 12—The self-titled debut album by Led Zeppelin is released

Jan. 13—The Beatles release the soundtrack for Yellow Submarine

Jan. 17—Dr. John releases Babylon, Iron Butterfly releases Ball, Aretha Franklin releases Soul ’69

Jan. 22—Neil Young releases his self-titled debut album

Jan. 30—The Beatles give their final public performance on the rooftop of the Apple building in London; on the same date, Moby Grape releases Moby Grape ’69

Jan. ?—Tommy James and the Shondells release Crimson & Clover, Donovan releases Greatest Hits, Fleetwood Mac releases English Rose, and Fairport Convention releases What We Did on Our Holidays

Watch Tommy James & the Shondell’s perform “Crimson & Clover”

Jan. ?—Three of the Beatles—John, George and Ringo—hire Allen Klein as their new manager; Paul does not sign on with the American

Feb. ?—Paul McCartney hires the law firm of the father of his girlfriend, Linda Eastman, to represent him

Feb. 5—Cream releases Goodbye

Listen to “Badge” from Cream’s Goodbye

Feb. 10—The Beach Boys release 20/20

Feb. 15—The Monkees release Instant Replay

Feb. 17—Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash record together in Nashville; the Temptations release Cloud Nine

Feb. 18—British singer Lulu and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees are married

Feb. 21—Mary Hopkin releases Postcard

Feb. 22—Ten Years After releases Stonedhenge

Feb. ?—Jefferson Airplane releases Bless its Pointed Little Head, the Flying Burrito Brothers release The Gilded Palace of Sin, MC5 releases Kick Out the Jams

March 1—Jim Morrison of the Doors is arrested for allegedly exposing himself onstage in Miami

March 5—The Byrds release Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde

March 7—Genesis releases From Genesis to Revelation

March 12—Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman are married in London; on the same day, George Harrison and his wife Pattie are arrested for possession of hashish

March 14—Free releases Tons of Sobs

March 17—The Rascals release Freedom Suite

March 20—John Lennon and Yoko Ono are married in Gibraltar; several days later, during their honeymoon in Amsterdam, they stage a multi-day “bed-in” for peace

March 24—The Mothers of Invention release Mothermania

March 29—Quicksilver Messenger Service releases Happy Trails, James Gang releases Yer’ Album

March 30—The Bee Gees release Odessa

March 31—Dusty Springfield releases Dusty in Memphis

Listen to “Son of a Preacher Man”

March ?—Steppenwolf releases At Your Birthday Party, 13th Floor Elevators release Bull of the Woods, Blue Cheer releases New! Improved!, James Brown releases Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud), Spooky Tooth releases Spooky Two, the Velvet Underground releases their self-titled album, the Guess Who releases Wheatfield Soul

April 1—The Beach Boys sue Capitol Records for unpaid royalties; on the same date, Nazz releases Nazz Nazz, and Leonard Cohen releases Songs From a Room

April 9—Bob Dylan releases Nashville Skyline

Watch Bob Dylan sing “I Threw It All Away” on The Johnny Cash Show

Related: Many of these legends are still touring

April 15—Al Green releases Green is Blues

April 20—At a free rock festival in Venice, Calif., audience members riot and more than 100 are arrested

April 21—The Mothers of Invention release Uncle Meat

April 22—The Who performs their rock opera Tommy in full for the first time, in the U.K.

Joe Cocker at Woodstock

April 23—Joe Cocker releases With a Little Help From My Friends

April 25—The Moody Blues release On the Threshold of a Dream

April 26—The Isley Brothers release It’s Our Thing

April 28—Chicago releases their debut album, The Chicago Transit Authority

April 30—Marvin Gaye releases M.P.G.

April ?—The London cast recording of Hair is released, Bob Seger System releases Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Savoy Brown releases Blue Matter, Townes Van Zandt releases Our Mother the Mountain

May 1—Joni Mitchell releases Clouds

May 3—Sly and the Family Stone release their album Stand!; also on this date, Jimi Hendrix is arrested for heroin possession in Toronto

May 9—George Harrison releases Electronic Sound, John Lennon and Yoko Ono release Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions

Members of the Turtles hang at the White House with Tricia Nixon

May 10—The Turtles perform at the White House at the request of President Nixon’s daughter, Tricia

May 12—Muddy Waters releases After the Rain

May 14—Neil Young and Crazy Horse release Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

May 16—Phil Ochs releases Rehearsals for Retirement, Tyrannosaurus Rex releases Unicorn

May 19—Poco releases Pickin’ Up the Pieces

May 23—The Who releases Tommy

May 26—Diana Ross and the Supremes release Let the Sunshine In

May 29—Crosby, Stills and Nash release their self-titled debut album

June 2—John and Yoko stage another bed-in, this time in Montreal; they record “Give Peace a Chance” live there

June 4—Johnny Cash releases At San Quentin

June 6—Elton John releases Empty Sky

June 7—Blind Faith—featuring Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker, with bassist Ric Grech—performs for free in Hyde Park

Related: More on Blind Faith’s concert in front of 100,000 fans

June 11—Three Dog Night releases Suitable for Framing

June 13—Guitarist Mick Taylor joins the Rolling Stones; Pink Floyd releases More

June 16—Steve Miller Band releases Brave New World, Captain Beefheart releases Trout Mask Replica

June 20—The Grateful Dead releases Aoxomoxoa

June 21—Deep Purple releases their self-titled album

June 29—Bassist Noel Redding leaves the Jimi Hendrix Experience

June ?—The Jeff Beck Group releases Beck-Ola, Elvis Presley releases From Elvis in Memphis, Johnny Winter and Lee Michaels release self-titled albums, Alice Cooper releases Pretties for You, Procol Harum releases A Salty Dog

July 3—Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones is found dead in the swimming pool at his home in Sussex, England; Fairport Convention releases Unhalfbricking

July 4—The two-day Atlanta International Pop Festival begins in Georgia

July 5—The Rolling Stones perform a free concert in Hyde Park in London, both to pay tribute to Jones and introduce Taylor; Cass Elliot releases Bubblegum, Lemonade, and…Something for Mama

July 10—Tim Buckley releases Happy Sad

July 14—The Film Easy Rider is released, featuring music by the Byrds, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Steppenwolf and others

July 19—The Doors release The Soft Parade

Columbia Records had quite the artist roster, as seen in this 1969 industry ad

July 25—Yes releases Yes

July 29—The Byrds’ Preflyte is released

July 31—Elvis Presley makes his first live concert appearance in years, in Las Vegas; the residency lasts through August

July ?—Moby Grape releases Truly Fine Citizen, Country Joe and the Fish release Here We Go Again, Leslie West releases Mountain, Delaney and Bonnie release The Original Delaney & Bonnie & Friends

Aug. 1—The Atlantic City Pop Festival begins in New Jersey, through the 3rd; also on this date, Jethro Tull releases Stand Up and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band releases Tadpoles

Related: Read about the little known Atlantic City Pop Festival

Aug. 3—Creedence Clearwater Revival releases Green River

Aug. 5—The Stooges release their self-titled debut

Aug. 11—Donovan releases Barabajagal

Listen to “Atlantis” from Barabajagal

Aug. 15—The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair begins in Bethel, N.Y., drawing an estimated 400,000; it ends on the morning of the 18th

Watch: Richie Havens opens Woodstock

Aug. 29—Stevie Wonder releases My Cherie Amour and Jack Bruce releases Songs for a Tailor

Aug. 30—The Isle of Wight Festival is held in the U.K., featuring Bob Dylan, the Band, the Who and many others

Aug. ?—Humble Pie releases As Safe As Yesterday Is, Blind Faith releases their self-titled (and only) album, Boz Scaggs releases his self-titled album, Love releases Four Sail, Muddy Waters releases Fathers and Sons, Harry Nilsson releases Harry, Grand Funk Railroad releases On Time, Santana releases their self-titled debut and Ten Years After releases Ssssh

Sept. 1—Nick Drake releases Five Leaves Left

Sept. 11—Janis Joplin releases her first solo album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

Sept. 13—John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band perform at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival, also featuring Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and others

Sept. 19—Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On is released

Sept. 22—The Band releases their self-titled second album. Read our Album Rewind review here.

Sept. 23—Isaac Hayes releases Hot Buttered Soul, the Temptations release Puzzle People, Diana Ross and the Supremes release Together

Sept. 24—Deep Purple performs at the Royal Albert Hall in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry is released

Sept. 26—The Beatles release Abbey Road

Sept. ?—The Guess Who releases Canned Wheat, the Nice releases The Nice, the Flamin’ Groovies release Supersnazz, the Bob Seger System releases Noah, Savoy Brown releases A Step Further

Oct. 1—The Monkees release The Monkees Present

Oct. 9—The Carpenters release Ticket to Ride

Oct. 10—The Kinks release Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Frank Zappa releases Hot Rats, King Crimson releases In the Court of the Crimson King

Oct. 14—Diana Ross and the Supremes release their final single, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” which becomes the last #1 hit of the ’60s; Elvis Presley releases Elvis in Person at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

Oct. 16—Three Dog Night releases Captured Live at the Forum

Related: Our feature on Three Dog Night – Under the Covers

Oct. 20—John Lennon and Yoko Ono release Wedding Album

Oct. 22—Led Zeppelin releases their second album, simply titled Led Zeppelin II

Related: The Inside Story of “Whole Lotta Love”

Oct. 25—Pink Floyd releases Ummagumma

Oct. 27—Johnny Winter releases Second Winter

Watch Johnny Winter at Woodstock

Oct. ?—Pentangle releases Basket of Light, Spirit releases Clear, Free releases their self-titled album, the Turtles release Turtle Soup, Tom Jones releases Live in Las Vegas

Nov. 1—Elvis Presley hits #1 for the first time in seven years, with “Suspicious Minds”

Watch the King perform the hit in 1970

Nov. 2—Creedence Clearwater Revival releases their third album of the year, Willy and the Poor Boys

Nov. 4—The Allman Brothers Band releases their self-titled album, David Bowie releases his self-titled album

Nov. 10—The Byrds release The Ballad of Easy Rider, the Grateful Dead release Live/Dead

Watch: In 1969 the Dead also appeared on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark

Nov. 21—The Moody Blues release To Our Children’s Children’s Children

Nov. 24—Tim Buckley releases Blue Afternoon

Nov. ?—The Hollies release Hollies Sing Hollies, the Bonzo Dog Band releases Keynsham,  Joe Cocker releases his self-titled album, Manfred Mann Chapter Three and Mott the Hoople also release self-titled albums, Steppenwolf releases Monster, Rod Stewart releases The Rod Stewart Album, Humble Pie releases Town and Country, Jefferson Airplane releases Volunteers, the Steve Miller Band releases Your Saving Grace

Dec. 5—The Rolling Stones release Let It Bleed. Read our Album Rewind review here.

Watch a 2003 live version of the title track from Let It Bleed

Dec. 6—The ill-fated free concert at California’s Altamont Speedway, starring the Rolling Stones and others, leads to a murder and other violent acts; on the same day, the Jackson 5 release their debut album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5

Dec. 12—The Plastic Ono Band (with John and Yoko) releases Live Peace in Toronto 1969

Dec. 29—Grand Funk Railroad releases Grand Funk

Dec. ?—Blue Cheer releases their self-titled album, Fairport Convention releases Liege & Lief, Love releases Out Here

Listen to a 1969 playlist on Spotify

More 1969 albums, release dates unknown:

Mike Bloomfield—It’s Not Killing Me

Paul Butterfield—Keep on Moving

Johnny Cash—Jackson

The Charlatans—The Charlatans

Jimmy Cliff—Jimmy Cliff

The Climax Blues Band—The Climax Blues Band

Neil Diamond—Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, Touching You, Touching Me

Dion DiMucci—Wonder Where I’m Bound

Earth Opera—The Great American Eagle Tragedy

The Fugs—The Belle of Avenue A

The Good Rats—The Good Rats

Norman Greenbaum—Spirit in the Sky

Roy Harper—Folkjokeopus

The Hollies—The Hollies Sing Dylan

Howlin’ Wolf—The Howlin’ Wolf Album

Isley Brothers—Live at Yankee Stadium

It’s a Beautiful Day—It’s a Beautiful Day

B.B. King—Completely Well, Live & Well

Jackie Lomax—Is This What You Want

John Mayall—The Turning Point

Watch John Mayall live in 1969

Pacific Gas & Electric—Pacific Gas & Electric

Peanut Butter Conspiracy—For Children of All Ages

Rare Earth—Get Ready

Terry Reid—Terry Reid

Tommy Roe—Dizzy

Silver Apples—Contact

Smith—A Group Called Smith

The Troggs—Trogglomania

Ike Turner—A Black Man’s Soul

Jerry Jeff Walker—Driftin’ Way of Life

The Youngbloods—Elephant Mountain

Warren Zevon—Wanted Dead or Alive

Bands that formed in 1969 (alphabetically)
The Allman Brothers Band, April Wine, Atomic Rooster,  Badfinger, Brinsley Schwarz, Brownsville Station, the Carpenters, Crazy Horse, Curved Air, Eggs Over Easy, Faces, Fanny, Focus, Hall and Oates, Hawkwind, Head East, Hot Chocolate, Humble Pie, Judas Priest, Juicy Lucy, Kraftwerk, Lighthouse, Little Feat, Mountain, Mungo Jerry, Nektar, New Riders of the Purple Sage, New Seekers, Osibisa, Pink Fairies, Plastic Ono Band, Popol Vuh, Redbone, Renaissance, the Residents, Seals and Crofts, Sha Na Na, Steel Mill, Steeleye Span, Stone the Crows, Supertramp, Thin Lizzy, Thunderclap Newman, Toe Fat, Tucky Buzard, War, Tony Williams Lifetime, Wishbone Ash, ZZ Top

Bands that broke up in 1969 (alphabetically)
The Action, Amen Corner, American Breed, Ars Nova, Beacon Street Union, Beau Brummels, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Dick and Dee Dee, Dillard and Clark, Dino, Desi and Billy, the Easybeats, Frumious Bandersnatch, H.P. Lovecraft, the Jeff Beck Group, the Left Banke, the Lemon Pipers, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Manfred Mann, the Merry-Go-Round, the Mojo Men, the Music Machine, the Paupers, Spanky and Our Gang, the Spencer Davis Group, Ultimate Spinach

And finally, a selection of the year’s hit singles (alphabetically by artist)…

The Archies—“Sugar Sugar”

The Beach Boys—“I Can Hear Music,” “Break Away”

The Beatles—“Get Back,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “Something”/“Come Together”

The Bee Gees—“I Started a Joke”

Blood, Sweat and Tears—“Spinning Wheel,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

Booker T. and the MG’s—“Time is Tight,” “Hang ’Em High”

David Bowie—“Space Oddity”

Watch the video for the rare early version of “Space Oddity”

The Box Tops—“Soul Deep”

The Brooklyn Bridge—“Worst That Could Happen”

James Brown—“Mother Popcorn, Pt. 1”

Jerry Butler—“Only the Strong Survive”

Glen Campbell—“Galveston”

Johnny Cash—“A Boy Named Sue”

Checkmates Ltd.—“Black Pearl”

Lou Christie—“I’m Gonna Make You Mine”

Classics IV—“Traces”

Related: Read our feature story about the Classics IV

The Cowsills—“Hair”

Crazy Elephant—“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’”

Cream—“Badge”

Creedence Clearwater Revival—“Bad Moon Rising,” “Proud Mary,” “Green River”

Crosby, Stills and Nash—“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”

The Cuff Links—“Tracy”

Sammy Davis Jr.—“I’ve Gotta Be Me”

Tyrone Davis—“Can I Change Your Mind”

Desmond Dekker and the Aces—“Israelites”

Jackie DeShannon—“Put a Little Love in Your Heart”

Neil Diamond—“Sweet Caroline”

Donovan in 1969

Donovan—“Atlantis”

The Doors—”Touch Me”

Bob Dylan—“Lay Lady Lay”

The 5th Dimension—“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing”

Fleetwood Mac—“Oh Well”

The Flying Machine—“Smile a Little Smile for Me”

The Foundations—“Build Me Up Buttercup”

Friends of Distinction—“Grazing in the Grass”

Marvin Gaye—“I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”

The Grass Roots—“I’d Wait a Million Years”

The Guess Who—“Laughing,” “These Eyes,” “Undun”

Edwin Hawkins Singers—“Oh Happy Day”

Jimi Hendrix Experience—“Stone Free”/“If Six Was Nine”

The Hollies—“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” “Sorry Suzanne”

Mary Hopkin—“Goodbye”

The Isley Brothers—“It’s Your Thing”

Jay and the Americans—“This Magic Moment”

Tommy James and the Shondells—“Crimson and Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Sweet Cherry Wine”

Tom Jones—“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”

Janis Joplin—“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”

Led Zeppelin—“Whole Lotta Love”

Mercy—“Love Can Make You Happy”

The Monkees—“Listen to the Band”

Nilsson—“Everybody’s Talkin’”

Oliver—“Good Morning Starshine,” “Jean”

Peter, Paul and Mary—“Leaving on a Jet Plane”

Related: What were the top radio hits of 1969?

Elvis Presley—“In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds”

Billy Preston—“That’s the Way God Planned It”

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap—“This Girl is a Woman Now”

Lou Rawls—“Your Good Thing (Is About to End)”

Tommy Roe—“Dizzy”

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition—“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”

The Rolling Stones—“Honky Tonk Women”

Diana Ross and the Supremes—“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “I’m Livin’ in Shame,” “Love Child,” “Someday We’ll Be Together”

David Ruffin—“My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)”

Bob Seger System—“Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Man”

Simon and Garfunkel—“The Boxer”

Frank Sinatra—“My Way”

Sly and the Family Stone—“Everyday People,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime”

Smith—“Baby It’s You”

Joe South—“Games People Play”

Spiral Starecase—“More Today Than Yesterday”

Dusty Springfield—“Son of a Preacher Man”

Edwin Starr—“Twenty-Five Miles”

Ray Stevens—“Gitarzan”

The Temptations—“Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Runaway Child, Running Wild”

B.J. Thomas—“Hooked on a Feeling,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”

Three Dog Night—“Easy to Be Hard,” “One”

Thunderclap Newman—“Something in the Air”

The Turtles—“You Showed Me”

The Ventures—“Hawaii Five-O”

Jr. Walker and the All Stars—“What Does it Take (To Win Your Love)”

Dionne Warwick—“This Girl’s In Love With You”

Tony Joe White—“Polk Salad Annie”

The Who—“Pinball Wizard”

The Winstons—“Color Him Father”

Stevie Wonder—“For Once in My Life,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday”

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band—“Do Your Thing”

The Youngbloods—“Get Together”

Zager & Evans—“In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)”

The Zombies—”Time of the Season”

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  1. TODD TAMANEND CLARK
    #1 TODD TAMANEND CLARK 4 January, 2019, 01:35

    Other great albums: AORTA (Aorta: March 1969), ILLUMINATIONS (Buffy Sainte-Marie: December 1969), MIND GARAGE (The Mind Garage: July 1969), MIGRATION (The Amboy Dukes: ? 1969), NEAR THE BEGINNING (Vanilla Fudge: February 1969), PRETTIES FOR YOU (Alice Cooper: May 19, 1969), REVELATION: REVOLUTION ’69 (The Lovin’ Spoonful: March 1969), SONGS (Rotary Connection: September 1969), SPACE HYMN (Lothar And The Hand People: ? 1969), THE AMERICAN METAPHYSICAL CIRCUS (Joe Byrd And The Field Hippies: ? 1969), THE BELLE OF AVENUE A (The Fugs: ? 1969), WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND REAPS SOULS (Coven: October 31, 1969)

    Reply this comment
  2. Jay
    #2 Jay 4 January, 2019, 19:34

    So he wasn’t a “rock band” how can anyone forget Cherry Hill Park by Billy Joe Royal? The risqué song wasn’t played by many but was a great song by an under appreciated but very talented pop music pioneer who later made a fabulous transition to Nashville and country music. What an incredible talent!

    Reply this comment
  3. Annie
    #3 Annie 4 January, 2019, 21:47

    Billy Joe Royal’s Cherry Hill Park! Great song!

    Reply this comment
  4. Efedoffiny
    #4 Efedoffiny 21 April, 2019, 18:49

    excellent work

    Reply this comment
  5. recordhound
    #5 recordhound 23 May, 2019, 09:22

    Lou Christie song’s title is I’m Gonna Make You Mine b/w I’m Gonna Get Married, it’s not I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, that’s Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations.

    Reply this comment

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