Music of the 1980’s and 90’s

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The 80s were a digital revolution for music, where electronic instruments and guitar pedal distortion changed the sound of music during these decades. The eighties were an era of party music, creative exploration of the electronic sound, and smooth R&B ballads; while the nineties were a continuation of these trends along with a counter reaction to digital pop music. Many artists 1990s were beginning to focus on more serious themes, and more honest confessions of personal passions and inner conflicts.

80s and 90s music

Sadly, this post has coincidentally been written as two inspired artists from these decades have passed away. One cannot continue to talk about these decades without mentioning either of them.

Natalie Cole, daughter to the famous jazz master Nat King Cole, was an artist who first saw her greatest success in the 1970’s. During the 80’s, she would be unable to maintain her artistic or commercial success; however, she would regain her power as a vital artist by the beginning of the late 1980s. With the release of the album Everlasting in 1987, Cole was back on the top of game with songs like “Jump Start” and “I Live for Your Love.” The album was notable for two covers that both became hits—Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” and her father’s “When I Fall in Love.” In 1991, Cole would release a tribute album to her father, covering some of his most famous recordings, especially “Unforgettable” that would become a hit for Cole that year. This would mark a major change for Cole, who would incorporate jazz as a major influence in her music going forward. Cole in her lifetime received 9 Grammy Awards from 21 nominations by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister, or simply Lemmy, was Welsh musician who started his career with the 1970’s hard rock band called Hawkwind. Lemmy wasn’t keen on Hawkwind’s psychedelic sound and would eventually leave them to form his own group, Motorhead. This band, led always by Lemmy, created hard and fast rock, which became known as Heavy Metal, and inspired a generation of metal bands in the eighties and nineties—from Metallica to Guns N’ Roses. Despite everything written and said, Lemmy always considered the music they played as “Rock and Roll”. Featuring Lemmy’s gravel voice and the rapid fire guitar noise of Larry Wallis, Lemmy would rip through the next two decades with Motorhead, creating a prolific series of albums. Though the songs featured on these albums would never reach any success on pop charts, they would play like overtures to plethora of hard rock and metal bands that come after Motorhead. Some of the most memorable songs from Motorhead have now attained classic rock status—“Ace of Spades,” “Killed By Death,” “Motorhead,” “RAMONES,” “Born to Raise Hell,” and many more. Lemmy was involved with several side projects, including a band called The Head Cat, which was a rockabilly supergroup that also featured drummer Slim Jim Phantom from The Stray Cats. In tribute to their hero after the announcement of his death, Metallic posted to their website “Lemmy, you are one of the primary reasons this band exists. We are forever grateful for all of your inspiration. Rest In Peace.”

In addition to these inspired contributors, there are also other notable artist who made their mark during the 1980’s and 90’s.

the-policeThe Police were a band that emerged in the late 1970s; however, it was in the early eighties that they would have mainstream success. Their sound was part punk, part reggae, part jazz, and all rock. With the release of their third album Zenyatta Mondatta on October 1980, The Police were able to reach into the top of both the U.S. and U.K. pop charts with “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” would be an important look into the band’s darker themes as the song tells the story of an illicit relationship between a teacher and her student. This theme would be further explored in the band’s final album Synchronicity. With the song “Every Breath You Take,” the band explores the mind of a stalker as he secretly watches the woman he is obsessed with. The album would have other hits like “King of Pain,”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” and “Synchronicity II,” Synchronicity would be the bands biggest success, reaching number one on both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200.


In July 27 1983, one of the greatest popular icons of both decades premiered her debut album. Madonna Louise Ciccone, or Madonna for short, entered the world of music and music watchers (on MTV). She was one of the first artists to use music videos as an important component of her entertainment and artistic expression. She would eventually be known as the “Queen of Pop.” The album featured five single—”Everybody,” “Burning Up,” “Holiday,” “Lucky Star,” and “Borderline—that, along with their music videos, quickly made Madonna an important and inventive artist for those eras. Later in the 1990s, Madonna would release Erotica, a concept album focused on themes of sex and romance. This album features Madonna using the alter ego of Mistress Dita, inspired by actress Dita Parlo, and performing the songs through this persona. The album has been praised for Madonna’s comments on taboos and the AIDS epidemic.

These decades would also see multitude of other amazing acts including U2, Mariah Carey, REM, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Destiny’s Child, Celine Dion, and many more. The explosion of sounds and ideas of these decades would flood radios, stereos, and eventually digital music players.

Enjoy the songs from the digital revolution era!