American Music Timeline - 1970-Present

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
American Music Timeline

Part VII: 1970-present

by David Johnson
Previous: The 1960s1970 1979 1982 1990 1995 2000s

Early 1970s

The Moody Blues, Electric Light Orchestra, and Pink Floyd create "art rock", combining classical styles with rock; synthesizer becomes important instrument

Circa 1975

CBGB (Country Bluegrass & Blues) club in New York showcases "punk rock" which blends various psychedelic and mainstream rock influences


Philip Glass completes Einstein on the Beach, first widely performed minimalist piece


Movie Saturday Night Fever popularizes "disco" music


Sony introduces the Walkman


Hip hop, a blend of rock, jazz, soul with African drumming, born in the South Bronx


Sugarhill Gang releases "Rapper's Delight", popularizes rap, combines elements of disco and rock with urban street music


MTV, music television, debuts with nonstop music videos, presentation becomes as important as the sound


Michael Jackson releases album "Thriller", ties with Eagles' "Their Greatest Hits," as best selling album in history; "Thriller" music video becomes a classic


Compact discs begin to replace vinyl records


Madonna's album "Like a Virgin" makes her a major star

Early 1990s

Grunge rock, a combination of various rock styles, rises in Seattle; features such bands as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opens in Cleveland


The Internet transforms music scene as companies offer free music over the Internet without paying copyright fees. Music industry executives take the issue to court. A ruling prompts Napster to stop distributing copyrighted music free and team up with industry giant Bertelsmann to provide material for a fee.


Apple Computer introduces Apple iTunes Music Store, which allows people to download songs for 99 cents each.


Michael Jackson, the pop icon, dies suddenly in Los Angeles, California, on June 25, 2009, of cardiac arrest. His death stunned fans around the world. He had been set to embark on a comeback tour at the time of his death.

Sources:, Kingwood College online library, Folk Music and Carolan Resource Center, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, A&E Entertainment Almanac from Information Please, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition; The Harvard Dictionary of Music, The Young Reader's Companion to American History

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