This Was the Highest Selling Album the Year You Were Born


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We all have a great fondness for the music we heard as toddlers. Indeed, it’s hard to hate “C Is for Cookie” if it was a big hit when you were four. But sadly, anything happening in popular culture in the years prior will pre-date your memory, so you can’t be very nostalgic for it.

You can, however, look at what albums were on the charts in those years to get a taste of what was happening in popular culture when your parents brought you home from the maternity ward. For those born between 1956 and 1980, these were the highest-selling albums on the Billboard chart in the year you were born, months before you started eating solid food.

Image Credit: Colgems Records / Wikimedia Commons.

‘Calypso’ by Harry Belafonte (1956)

Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, and actor Harry Belafonte was known for popularizing Caribbean music in the United States, and he was the first artist to top Billboard’s flagship list of biggest album sellers of the year. “Calypso” featured such songs as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” which appeared in the 1988 movie “Beetlejuice.”

Image Credit: Lawren/ Flickr.

‘My Fair Lady’ by Various Artists (1957)

The soundtrack album t to the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” featured performances from Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. While it may be hard to imagine anyone but Audrey Hepburn portraying Eliza Doolittle, Julie Andrews is the one who appears on this very popular album, which became the best-selling of 1957.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

‘My Fair Lady’ by Various Artists (1958)

Yes, the same album that was the number one seller of 1957 achieved the same lofty heights the following year. It may be hard to imagine today when the popularity of a piece of music is measured in Spotify streams, but the fact that this one soundtrack album dominated the album charts for two consecutive years shows just how different popular culture was at the time.

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons.

‘Music from ‘Peter Gunn’’ by Henry Mancini (1959)

“Peter Gunn” was a television series starring Craig Stevens as the titular private eye, and it aired on the NBC network from 1958 to 1960. The show’s details might be a little hazy, but everyone remembers its theme song based on a simple chromatic motif that’s impossible to forget. The B-52s adapted that main riff for their song “Planet Claire.”

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons.

‘The Sound of Music’ by the Original Broadway Cast (1960)


Before “The Sound of Music” became everyone’s favorite movie musical about resisting fascism, it was a Broadway show, and the original cast recording was the highest-selling album of 1960. While Julie Andrews would make the role of Maria von Trapp her own in the 1965 movie adaptation, Mary Martin does the honors for the original Broadway cast recording of this beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

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‘Camelot’ by the Original Broadway Cast (1961)

Here’s a word of friendly advice – if you accidentally travel through time and find yourself in the late 1950s or early 1960s, you can pay your bills by writing the soundtracks to very popular Broadway musicals. Lerner and Loewe performed this service for “Camelot,” which starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, the latter of whom helped record companies shift many units in the early years of this Billboard chart.

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons.

‘West Side Story’ by the Original Broadway Cast (1962)

The original Broadway cast of the musical “West Side Story” featured Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert as star-crossed lovers in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” set against New York City gang wars. Leonard Bernstein wrote the music, and Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics, and at the time of its debut, it was a groundbreaking way of retelling a 300-year-old story.

Image Credit: Public Domain / Wikipedia.

‘West Side Story” (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1963)

The preferred recorded version of the musical “West Side Story” is hotly debated depending on who you talk to. But if we let the almighty dollar determine a winner, it would have to be the movie soundtrack, which spent an unprecedented 54 weeks at the top of the charts. The movie was remade in 2021 by no less a director than Steven Spielberg, but while it was well-received by critics, its barely post-COVID release date was an obstacle to it doing big business with the older audiences it was meant to court, according to Variety.

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons.

‘Hello, Dolly!’ by the Original Broadway Cast (1964)

The original Broadway cast of the musical “Hello, Dolly!” featured Carol Channing and David Burns. The story of Dolly Levi (Channing), a matchmaker and widow who tires of arranging other people’s hookups and decides to find one for herself, it was based on the Thornton Wilder play “The Matchmaker” and to this day, Channing remains the person most associated with the title role.

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons.

‘Mary Poppins” (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1965)

Julie Andrews’ chart dominance continued in 1965 with the release of the motion picture soundtrack to “Mary Poppins.” If, somehow, you have never heard of this movie, it’s about a magical nanny with the thankless task of trying to corral early-20th-century spoiled brats into doing household chores. The movie marked Julie Andrews’ first film role after years as a stage performer.

Image Credit: IMDb.

‘Whipped Cream & Other Delights’ by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1966)

It took until 1966, but Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’ album “Whipped Cream & Other Delights” was the first album since Harry Belafonte’s “Calypso” to top the Billboard chart without being the soundtrack to anything or featuring an original cast recording. Trumpeter Herb Alpert leads this all-instrumental album, which highlights his group’s very popular blend of Latin jazz and American pop. The racy cover may have helped sell a few copies, too.

Image Credit: Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons.

‘More of the Monkees’ by the Monkees (1967)

The Monkees may have been a fictional band assembled by the suits for the sake of a television show, but the American record-buying public didn’t mind. “More of the Monkees,” the fictional band’s second album, featured such bangers as  I’m a Believer” and “Steppin’ Stone,” both of which are so good that it doesn’t matter if the band was technically “fake.” Why, there are some “real” bands who have been together since the Monkees were formed who never had even one good song to their name, so let’s hear it for the fake stuff.

Image Credit: Colgems Records / Wikimedia Commons.

‘Are You Experienced’ by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)

Jimi Hendrix, a man who used to play the guitar very well before he joined the 27 Club, saw the debut album with his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, soar to the top of the Billboard chart and stay there for a very long time, longer than anyone else managed that year. It’s packed with such ear-melting and consciousness-expanding psychedelic classics as “Purple Haze” and “Hey Joe,” both immortal classics, just like every other song on this album.

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‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ by Iron Butterfly (1969)

In 1969, record buyers made “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ by Iron Butterfly the top-selling album of that year, according to Billboard. Literally one of the most relentlessly uninteresting albums of the 1960s, fully half of it is taken up by the 17-minute title track, which is composed of a decent riff that’s entertaining for about 30 seconds and then sixteen and a half minutes of endlessly meandering solos. One wonders if FM radio DJs didn’t like the song mainly because its epic length afforded them a plum opportunity to use the bathroom, even for number two.

Image Credit: Wikipedia.

‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon & Garfunkel (1970)

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the fifth and final studio album by Simon & Garfunkel. In addition to the title track, it featured such favorites as “The Boxer” and “Cecilia.” Despite the very mellow folkie vibe of the music, things were acrimonious behind the scenes, and the breakup that followed the release of this album was ugly with a capital “U.” None of that ugliness ever turned up in the music, though.

Image Credit: Rob Bogaerts / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ by Various Artists (1971)

For decades, a question has raged that has threatened to engulf music fans alike in its tumult – namely, which version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is better, the original cast recording or the movie soundtrack? If sales figures are anything to go by, the original cast recording of this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical is the winner, as it sat atop the Billboard chart long enough to be that year’s highest-selling album, whereas the movie soundtrack did not. Also, on the original cast recording, Jesus’s role is played by Deep Purple lead shrieker Ian Gillan. Sorry, Ted Neely.

Image Credit: Willem Alink/ Flickr.

‘Harvest’ by Neil Young (1972)


Singer and songwriter Neil Young hit the big time with his fourth album, “Harvest,” the top-selling album of the year on the Billboard chart. It remains one of his most beloved releases thanks to hits like the title track, “Heart of Gold,” and “Old Man,” as well as songs that were not hits but are no less compelling, such as “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “A Man Needs a Maid.” Young followed it with several very depressing albums in a row, including “On the Beach,” which may have lost him casual fans but turned a lot of other listeners into Neil stans for life.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

‘The World Is a Ghetto’ by War (1973)

War’s 1973 album, “The World Is a Ghetto,” is an excellent example of how different the musical landscape was in the early 1970s compared to today. Containing just six songs, two of which stretched past the 10-minute mark, the album was compared favorably to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as an example of an album whose music had roots in R&B and funk but was growing beyond those labels to chart a bold new course, both musically and topically.

Image Credit: War/ YouTube.

‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ by Elton John (1974)

Elton John was famous for his ostentatious clothes and personal style, but the stardom would have faded quickly if that had been all he had going for him. What kept him famous was his songwriting, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’” featured such prime examples as “Candle in the Wind,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and the magnificent title track. And as far as that title track goes, if it doesn’t do anything for you while it’s playing, check your pulse to make sure you’re alive.

Image Credit: Heinrich Klaffs / Wikimedia Commons.

‘Elton John’s Greatest Hits’ by Elton John (1975)

While Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was an artistically successful album that stood as a single piece of work, his true talent was always his ability to write hit singles, which makes it unsurprising that “Elton John’s Greatest Hits,” his first compilation, sold as well as it did. Containing such hits as “Your Song,” “Daniel,” and “Rocket Man,” in addition to select cuts from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” it’s easy to imagine record buyers in 1975 reading the track listing and immediately going to the cash register to buy it. Even people who are not crazy about all of Elton John’s work may have this album in their collections on the basis of at least two or three songs that they can’t live without.

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‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ by Peter Frampton (1976)

In the 1970s, if you were any kind of self-respecting rock artist, you were expected to have a live double album to your credit, and Peter Frampton’s two-LP set “Frampton Comes Alive!” is part of the reason why. Artists such as KISS, Rush, and Lynyrd Skynyrd all put out their own double live albums around this time, but “Frampton Comes Alive!” was the one to beat, as it featured such hits as “Show Me the Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do,” which showed the nimble-fingered Mr. Frampton going talkbox-crazy.

Image Credit: Piano Piano!/ Flickr.

‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” features such hits as “Go Your Own Way” “and “Don’t Stop,” which are still as popular as ever. Much has been written about the internal strife going on within the band at the time of its recording, as guitarist Linsday Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks were in the middle of a breakup during the album sessions, as were bassist John McVie and keyboard player Christine McVie. It was messy, terribly messy! The group channeled all that strife into the album, so when a door closes, a window opens, or something like that.

Image Credit: Weatherman90 / Wiki Commons.

‘Saturday Night Fever’ by Various Artists (1978)

The front cover of the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack features John Travolta and the Bee Gees, and rightfully so. Travolta was the movie’s star, and the Bee Gees either sang or wrote many of the songs on the album. But it’s a group effort that also features classic songs by KC and the Sunshine Band, the Trammps, Tavares, and Yvonne Elliman, making it one-stop shopping for anyone who wanted to have a disco party at their home, which in 1978 was pretty much everybody. Featuring such classics as “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” and “How Deep Is Your Love,” the album remains beloved and is likely to stay that way.

Image Credit: IMDb.

‘52nd Street’ by Billy Joel (1979)

Billy Joel was six albums into his career when “52nd Street” was released, and while his previous albums were popular, none of them topped the best-selling album of the year Billboard chart as “52nd Street” did. It’s full of hits like “My Life,” “Big Shot,” and “Honesty,” all of which remain in regular rotation on the radio and most likely on your kid’s iPhone too. Whatever you think of Billy Joel’s music, there’s no arguing with his success, and if you were around in 1979 when this was a new album, then you remember hearing it every day from dawn until dusk.

Image Credit: Rob Mieremet / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons.

‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd (1980)

Pink Floyd was known for such classic albums as “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here,” but unfortunately, bassist Roger Waters took creative control of the band after that, and “The Wall” was his magnum opus as the band’s autocrat. A double album that’s completely bloated with filler, it contains enough classic songs, like “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” “Mother,” and “Comfortably Numb” to justify its existence, but just barely. The most interesting detail about it is probably that “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” brought the group to a massive new audience, all of whom thought it was a new disco band fronted by a guy named Pink.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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