We're observing how music changes decade by decade. We started in 1941 - ten years later, the big bands were largely gone, sweet singers were big, rhythm and blues was everywhere.
And we were on the cusp of rock and roll. A young Elvis Presley was listening to Big Boy Crudup songs on the radio. Bill Haley was singing with a western swing band - in 1951, he covered a record that some say was the first rock and roll song.
Listen to the sounds of 1951 here
Tom Jones is 81. An Elvis-like sex symbol in 60s Britain, and thus, easily lampooned. But Tom has one of the greatest singing voices ever. It's a force of nature. And he is a great interpreter of song. People who write songs dream of such a performer, someone who has the wisdom and talent to find and convey the very heart of their creations.
Listen to my thoughts on Tom Jones, and hear some of the great & lesser known songs in his extensive repertoire.
.My favourite thing about music is the way it's constantly changing. I find a style, a performer, I like and then it's a journey. I go with them wherever they might take me.
If you want to track the way music changes, pick a date, see what's playing, and then go forward, or back, about ten years. A decade is long enough to pick changes in styles, fads, and technology - all are big drivers of musical evolution.
So that's what I'm doing. I'm starting 80 years ago, in 1941. Big bands were playing war-time swing - singers were mostly one part of the act, rather than the stars.
The world was at war in 1941. Music was an important morale boost. Glen Miller, Memphis Minnie, The Inkspots,
Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller - were the big stars of 1941.
Listen to the music of 1941 here
1971 was a great year for music. The rise of the singer-songwriter, the shift from singles to albums. There was so much good music released that year, and one of the best of 1971, of any year, was Blue - by Joni Mitchell.
A poet, visual artist, musical prodigy. Joni came from Saskatoon, the Paris of the Canadian prairies, to be at the epicentre of late 60s culture, in California's Laurel Canyon. Joni rose on the folk music boom that, by 1971, contained, perhaps stifled her prodigious talents.
Joni left domestic bliss for a fabled world journey and a late night flight. She hung out with James Taylor, writing songs as if her life depended on it Then, in a Hollywood recording studio, Joni brought them to life, in what remains one of the greatest ever musical acts of creation.
Blue is a miraculous record, full of the joyful sounds of a young woman accepting the challenges and burdens of her talents, honouring them, and going wherever they would take her.
Listen to my radio story on Joni Mitchell's Blue.
The story is well known of popular music in 1969. The utopian Woodstock festival, the murderous unravelling at Altamont. There was a third major festival that year which disappeared from collective memory. Until now.
US music producer Questlove has just released his film Summer of Soul - documenting the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. It ran over six weekends that summer. A joyful celebration of black pride, black music.
All up, 300,000 people saw the biggest stars of black music,
Nina Simone, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Fifth Dimension, Gladys Knight and The Pips, and many more.
The event was filmed, but the tapes sat in a basement for 50 years. It was a huge and successful event, but has been completely left out of our histories and memories of that memorable year.
Questlove hopes to change that,
AUDIO: Listen to some of the music from Summer of Soul.
Carole King co-wrote the soundtrack of the early 1960s, but none of us knew her name. With then husband, Gerry Goffin, Carole wrote dozens of hit records for The Shirelles, The Crystals, Beatles, Monkees, Aretha Franklin and many more.
Carole was a gifted musician too shy to perform her own songs. Other acts turned them into hits. But around 1970, in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, James Taylor persuaded and cajoled her into performing. She was a hit on the LA live scene, and her second album, Tapestry, took off like a rocket.
It sold 10 million copies on first release, and many millions more since. Four Grammy awards, a long list of achievements and honours. It was the first big album success of the then new singer-songwriter era. Tapestry, and its creator, deserved all these honours, and more.
Writing pop and rock tunes is a strange craft, marrying urgent love haikus to riffs and melodies, surfing teenage emotions as they grow into adult ambitions and deep, yearning dreams. The best songsmiths make it look easy. Carole King is one of the greats - and Tapestry is a deep well of love, joy, and musical adventure.
Listen to my tribute to Tapestry
Great guitar riffs are in rock music's DNA. They're right at the heart of what makes a song memorable, and what makes it a hit.
Young guitar players spend weeks and months figuring out some of rock's great riffs. They are meant to be memorable - but sometimes, it seems certain you've heard those riffs before. In some cases, you have. Have a listen.
Two giants of music left us this year. Malcolm Cecil invented TONTO - the analogue synthesiser that drove Stevie Wonder's early 70s string of hit albums. Malcolm's creation brought all the early synths together, creating incredible new sounds and possibilities.
And we remember Rupert Neve - the father of the modern recording studio. Rupert brought the best of new and emerging technologies to solve the challenges that emerged in the early rock and pop era. The Neve mixing console at Sound City studios in Los Angeles is responsible for more than 100 gold or platinum albums, including Fleetwood Mac's self-titled 1975 breakthrough.
Listen to the story of Malcolm and Rupert.
I was playing Blowing In The Wind on the recorder in primary school. My pimpled teenage self ranted for Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. I slammed out "Things Have Changed" in the jungles of Papua New Guinea after an ill-judged romance. I always knew about A Simple Twist of Fate. I danced with the Jokerman, and now It's Not Dark Yet (but it's getting there).
More than any other artist, Bob Dylan has inhabited my soundtrack, haunted my soul, demanded my attention, disappointed and inspired me. This omnipresent, unknowable, wise-cracking minstrel is my muse, the sprite who showed me the words they don't teach you in English literature class. Dylan is a musical giant, a creature of the American spirit, his Chaplinesque whimsy leavening the excesses of his flag-waving countrymen. He has the turn of phrase, the imagination, the chutzpah for which I'd happily trade several vital organs.
And now, here he is, 80 years old. Visibly frail when last I saw him live, in Sydney a couple of years back, delivering his new and venerable songs in a voice older, and younger, than the man in whom it lives. Rolling thunder, and something more.
The man who put poetry into pop has lived to be 80. Of this, I am happy. Listen to my Bob Dylan birthday tribute.
The recorded music era began in the late 1800s, making it possible for musicians to become widely known. Radio spread their fame further, and the modern media notion of celebrity was born. These men and women lived large, but so many of them died young. A strangely significant number of them died at the age of 27.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and more. It can't be anything more than a coincidence, but a curious mythology has developed around the so-called 27 club.
Listen to my ABC Radio story on the 27 club.
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.