THE HISTORY OF MUSIC THROUGH 40 MASTERPIECES

 

A journey through the history of music and its evolution along centuries. This list of 40 songs is subjective, questionable and obviously incomplete. It does not pretend to cover all aspects of music history but rather give a brief chronological overview of some of the main styles of music through 40 milestones.


1. Hurrian Hymn To Nikkal 

1400 BCE - Syria

The Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal is more than 3,400 years old .These ancient clay tablets are the oldest surviving work of notated music in the world. Discovered in Ugarit, Syria, in the early 1950's, specialists took decades to decipher the melody from the tablets. The cuneiform music notation shows heptatonic diatonic scales and the melody was played on a nine-stringed lyre, using a tuning method described on other Akkadian tablets and inherited from the old Babylonian period.


2. Prelude in C Major

1722 - Johann Sebastian Bach

The Prelude in C Major (or BWV 846) is the first composition in the Well-Tempered Clavier. It is a 35 bars long piece with harmonic variations on broken chords, a simple but beautiful piece that prefigures modern music.


3. Summer (part 3), from The Four Seasons

1725 - Vivaldi 

The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a group of four violin concerti by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. They were published in 1725 in Amsterdam and where a revolution in musical conception in the way the orchestra was expressing the sounds of nature.


4. Fantasia in D minor

1782 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Fantasia No. 3 in D minor, K. 397/385g is a piece of music for solo piano composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1782. Despite being unfinished at Mozart's death, the piece is nonetheless one of his more popular compositions for the piano.


5. Fifth Symphony 

1808 - Ludwig Van Beethoven

The Symphony No. 5 in C minor is one of the most iconic compositions in classical music. Beethoven was in his mid-thirties when he composed the symphony during several years before he premiered in Vienna in 1808. The Fifth symphony is widely considered one of the cornerstones of western music, between the classic and the romantic era.


6. Gymnopedie #1 

1888 - Erik Satie

The Gymnopedies are a series of 3 piano solo compositions by French pianist Erik Satie, from the avant garde movement. Gymnopedie #1 (Lent et douloureux) is a slow and melancholic piece written in 3/4 time that became a success yet at the end of the 19th century and has been interpreted since them by numerous pianists and musicians around the world.


7. The Entertainer 

1902 - Scott Joplin

The Entertainer is a famous Ragtime, a musical genre created by afro descendants during the 19th century, that introduced syncopated rhythms to the playing of popular music in America. The ragtime had a tremendous influence on the creation of jazz and was the first afro American music to have such an impact on the evolution of music.


8. El Manisero

1930 - Moisés Simons

El Manisero or Peanut Vendor is one of the first cuban tunes to become widely popular in New York city and has been since them covered thousands of times by many bands and orchestras.


9. Cambalache

1934 - Enrique Santos Discépolo

Cambalache is an argentine tango song from 1934 explicitly critical of 20th-century corruption. The song was banned by a succession of dictatorial governments before censorship was relaxed under General Juan Perón.


10. Cross Road Blues

1937 - Robert Johnson

Cross Road Blues is a song from 1936 composed and performed on acoustic guitar and vocals by Robert Johnson. This song is a great exponent of the Delta Blues and was later popularized by Eric Clapton and Cream during the 1960’s. During these recording sessions from November 1936 in Texas, San Antonio, Johnson recorded 32 songs over 3 days, including the now legendaries Sweet Home Chicago and I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom.


11. Night in Tunisia 

1942 - Dizzy Gillespie

A Night in Tunisia is one of the most famous jazz standards, composed during the be-bop era by trumpetist and composer Dizzie Gillespie. The tune features an unusual bass line, without the standard walking bass pattern of straight quarter notes, using a complex and syncopated ostinato that definitely has some African flavour.


12.  Tutti Frutti

1955 - Little Richard 

Written by Little Richard and Dorothy LaBostrie, Tutti Frutti is one of the most influential Rock and Roll songs of all time. "A Wop bop a loo mop a lop bamboom!"


13. My Baby Just Cares For Me

1958 - Nina Simone

Written by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by Gus Kahn, Nina Simone recorded the song in late 1957 for her debut album, Little Girl Blue, released the following year. The track remained relatively obscure until 1987, when it was used in a UK television commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume.

14.  Take Five

1959 - Paul Desmond - Dave Brubeck Quartet 

Take Five is a jazz standard composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond and originally recorded in 1959 by the Dave Brubeck Quartet for their album Time Out.The tune became a surprise hit and the biggest-selling jazz single ever. The song features a very peculiar 4/5 rhythm pattern and a legendary drum solo by Joe Morello.


15. Qongqothwane (The Click Song)

1960 - Miriam Makeba

Qongqothwane is a traditional song of the Xhosa people of South Africa. Usually sung at weddings to bring good fortune, it became a universal hit in the early sixties through the interpretation of Miriam Makeeba. The Click Song, a nickname given to the song by European colonials who could not pronounce its Xhosa title, which has many click consonants in it.


16. Stand By Me

1961 - Ben E. King

Stand by Me was originally performed in 1961 by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King and written by King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller. It has become one of the most selling song of all times and has been cover by hundreds of artists. Among them John Lennon, Cassius Clay and Tracy Chapman.


17. Mr.Tambourine Man

1964 - Bob Dylan

One Dylan’s most iconic songs, originally published in the album Bringing it all Back Home (1965). This song has been covered by many bands, including a very popular version by The Byrds. The video presented here was recorded live a year before the album release, at the Newport Folk Festival.


18. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

1965 - James Brown

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag was released in 1965 and is considered one of the founding tracks of funk music. the song gave Brown his first Grammy Award, for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording. The taped recording of Papa's Got a Brand New Bag was edited and sped up for its single release, increasing the tempo and raising the pitch by a half step.


19. Chega de Saudade

1965 - Antonio Carlos Jobim - João Gilberto

Chega de Saudade (also known as No More Blues in English) is one of the most iconic Brazilian bossa nova songs. Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim by 1957, the lyrics were written by poet Vinicius de Moraes and the version featured here was performed by genius guitarist and singer João Gilberto on his first album, named after the song.


20. Paint It Black

1966 - The Rolling Stones

Co-written by  Mick Jagger and Keith Richards,  the song reached #1 in both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart after its release in 1966. The song features a sitar and became the first song featuring this instrument to be at the top of the charts in the USA and UK.


21. Castles Made of Sand

1967 - Jimi Hendrix

Castles Made of Sand is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience for their 1967 second album, Axis: Bold as Love. Recorded at the Olympic studios in London, UK, the song features Mitch Mitchell on drums, Noel Redding on bass Jimi Hendrix on guitars and vocals.


22. A Day in a Life

1967 - The Beatles

A Day in A life is the final track on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, written by John Lennon and Paul Mc Cartney. This song is  widely regarded as one of the finest and most important works in popular music history. The song features a 40-piece orchestra and is also well known for its majestic final chord.


23. Think

1968 - Aretha Franklin

Think was written and performed by American singer Aretha Franklin. It was released as a single in 1968, from her Aretha Now album. The song reached No. 7 on Billboard Hot 100, becoming Franklin's seventh top 10 hit in the United States. Franklin re-recorded the song for the soundtrack of the 1980 film The Blues Brothers and in 1989 for the album Through the Storm.


24. Piece of My Heart

1968 - Janis Joplin

Originally recorded by Erma Franklin in 1967, Janis Joplin and her band Big Brother and the Holding Company covered the song a year later and made a huge success.


25. Pressure Drop

1970 - Toots & The Maytals

Pressure Drop is a song recorded in 1969 by Toots and the Maytals on the album Monkey Man. The song helped launch the band's career outside Jamaica as the song was featured on the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come, which introduced reggae music to much of the world.


26. Life on Mars

1973 - David Bowie

Life on Mars? is a song by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was first released on his 1971 album Hunky Dory and later released in 1973 as a single. The song reached no. 3 in the UK and stayed on the chart for thirteen weeks.


27. Bohemian Rhapsody

1975 - Queen

A song by the British rock band Queen,  written by Freddie Mercury for the band's 1975 album A Night at the Opera. It is a six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a coda. The song the UK Singles Chart for nine weeks and eventually became the UK's third best-selling single of all time.


28. Roots, Rock, Reggae

1976 - Bob Marley

Roots, Rock, Reggae was released in 1976 on the album Rastaman Vibration (Island Records). If the song was written by Bob Marley there has been controversy with songwriter Vincent Ford, who had claimed he wrote the song. Roots, Rock, Reggae is the only Bob Marley single to rank on the top 100 songs in the USA but the album Rastaman Vibration reached #8 on the Billboard after its release.


29. Another Brick in the Wall (part.2)

1979 - Pink Floyd

Another Brick in the Wall is a three-part composition on Pink Floyd's 1979 rock opera album The Wall, written by English bassist Roger Waters. Part 2 is a protest song against rigid and abusive schooling, featuring a children's choir and a legendEnglishary guitar solo.


30. Message in a Bottle

1979 - The Police

Message in a Bottle is a song by English rock band The Police written by the band's lead singer and bassist Sting. The song was released as the lead single from their second studio album, Reggatta de Blanc (1979). Message in a Bottle was the first of their five UK number one singles. Rolling Stone ranked it number 65 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time".


31. Rapper’s Delight

1979 - Sugar Hill Gang 

The song that took Hip Hop from an underground NYC movement to the top of the charts...


32. Thriller

1982 - Michael Jackson

Thriller is a single by American singer Michael Jackson, released as a single by Epic Records on January 23, 1984 as the seventh and final single from Jackson's sixth studio album of the same name. The song was produced by Quincy Jones and was written by Rod Temperton.  It is one of the best-selling singles of all time, and the album Thriller is the number once best selling-album of all times.


33. Ederlezi

1988 - Goran Bregovic 

Ederlezi is a folk song of the Romani minority in the Balkans that became well known by the movie The Time of the Gypsies by Emir Kusturiça. The song was performed by Macedonian singer Vaska Jankovska and arranged by Goran Bregovic.


34. Smells Like Teen Spirit

1991 - Nirvana

Smells Like Teen Spirit is the opening track and lead single from the band's second album, Nevermind. The album reached the top of several albums charts in the USA, Europe and Latin America. The grunge was starting to enter the mainstream.


35. Take The Power Back

1992 - Rage Against The Machine

Take the Power Back is the track #3 on Rage Against the Machine’s debut album, from 1992. Playing mainly a fusion of metal and rap, the band was formed in Los Angeles, California by vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk.  As of 2010, they have sold over 16 million records worldwide.


36. Creep

1993 - Radiohead

Creep is the debut single by English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 21 September 1992. It appeared on their debut studio album, Pablo Honey (1993).


37. Nas Is Like

1999 - Nas

Nas Is Like is the first single from Nas' third album I Am.... The song is the sixth collaboration between Nas and producer DJ Premier.


38. Back to Black

2006 - Amy Winehouse

Back to Black is a song by English singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse from her second and final studio album of the same name . It was released by Island Records on 30 April 2007 as the album's third single. The song was written by Winehouse and Mark Ronson. Back to Black was inspired by Winehouse's relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, who had left her for an ex-girlfriend.


39. Rubi

2010 - Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté

First track on the album Ali and Toumani by Malian musicians Ali Farka Touré on the guitar and vocals and Toumani Diabaté on the kora. Rubi also features upright bass player from Buena Vista Social Club, Orlando "Cachaito" López.


40. Despacito

2017 - Luis Fonsi

Despacito is a song by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi featuring Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee from Fonsi's 2019 studio album Vida. Despacito is a mix of reggaeton and latin pop and the song has toped charts of over 43  countries and its video is currently the most viewed Youtube video of all times, with over 7 Billion views!