Popular Music101

There are some things a kid should know before leaving home.

How to cook a few good meals, do laundry, read a map...

But parents, don't overlook your kids' musical education, and I'm not talking about Beethoven or Mozart. There is a rich history of popular music that reflects the social conditions and politics of the times.

Without some background, kids might think that The Beatles' "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution," The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" or "Let the Sunshine In" from the musical "Hair" are little more than jingles to sell computer software and laundry detergent.

The Tidings used the expert advice of Music Coop Owner John Brenes, multiple on-line sources such as the "Rolling Stone Magazine" Web site and, admittedly, this reporter's personal taste to create this list of essential albums.

Criteria included how influential the individual or group has been, whether the music reflects the era, the staying power of the music and its popularity.

"You can actually put your finger on the pulse of time when you hear these songs," Brenes said. The Carter Family's "Can the Circle Be Unbroken?: Country Music's First Family" - Songs include "Can the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Keep on the Sunny Side."

Often called the First Family of country music, the Carter Family influenced not only country music, but bluegrass, gospel and rock. Alvin Pleasant "A.P" Delaney Carter, Sara Dougherty Carter and Maybelle Addington Carter began recording in 1927 for the relatively young recording industry. A.P. Carter helped preserve America's musical heritage by traveling the countryside and collecting folk songs.

Each new generation that rediscovers early American music looks back to the Carters, who influenced Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and others.

Woody Guthrie's "Dust Bowl Ballads" &

Includes "Tom Joad," "Pretty Boy Floyd," and "Dusty Old Dust." An "Oakie" during the Great Depression, Guthrie witnessed the economic hardship suffered by towns during the boom and bust cycles of the oil industry, as well as the difficulties faced by people who migrated to California to work in the fields. His leftist political views were reflected in many of his songs, providing an example of how to meld music withactivism.

Bing Crosby's "Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings" &

Includes "White Christmas," "June in January," "Don't Fence Me In." With his unmistakable voice, Crosby was one of America's most popular singers from the 1920s into the 1950s. The song "White Christmas" was released during World War II, capturing people's desire to be reunited with their loved ones. It held the title of bestselling song ever for decades.

Robert Johnson's "The Complete Recordings" &

Includes "Sweet Home Chicago," "Love in Vain." Known as "The King of the Delta Blues Singers," Johnson has influenced nearly everyone who has picked up a guitar after him, including Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Chuck Berry's "The Definitive Collection" &

Includes "Johnny B. Goode," "Roll Over Beethoven." Chuck Berry began recording in 1955 and influenced later groups like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

Johnny Cash's "The Essential Johnny Cash" &

Includes "I Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire," "Orange Blossom Special," "Jackson (with June Carter Cash)," Folsom Prison Blues (Live)," "Daddy Sang Bass," "If I Were A Carpenter (with June Carter Cash)." Cash began recording in the 1950s and had posthumously released hits after his death in 2003. The beloved "Man In Black" influenced rock, pop, gospel and country singers for decades.

Beach Boys' "The Very Best of the Beach Boys" &

Includes "California Girls," "Surfin' USA." Based on lyrics alone, Beach Boys songs might seem like vacuous teenage fluff, but musicians have long-admired the melodic and harmonic elements of Brian Wilson's songs. Another album, "Pet Sounds," greatly influenced The Beatles.

Bob Dylan's "Freewheelin'" &

Includes "Blowin' in the Wind," "It's All Right," "Don't Think Twice." Dylan has explored many musical styles during his long career, but he started off as a singer of folk-based protest songs, like 1962s "Blowin' In the Wind," that recall Woody Guthrie. Other album options are "Bringing It All Back Home" and "Highway 61 Revisited." Elvis Presley's "The Essential Elvis Presley" &

This collection of 40 songs is arranged in chronological order and includes "Heartbreak Hotel," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Love Me Tender," "Viva Las Vegas" and "Suspicious Minds." Presley is both honored as the King of Rock Roll and vilified as a thief of black American musical styles. But there's no arguing with the fact that Presley is an icon.

The Beatles' "1" &

This collection of number one hits includes "Can't Buy Me Love," "Ticket to Ride," "Yesterday," "All You Need is Love," "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be." Beatlemania hit the United States in 1964. The Beatles are ranked by "Rolling Stone Magazine" as the most influential band in history. There most influential single album is "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Soundtrack for the musical "Hair" &

Includes "Let the Sunshine In," "Age of Aquarius," "Hair." The musical "Hair" debuted on stage in 1967 and was a reflection of the hippie counter-culture, sexual revolution and opposition to the Vietnam War. It was also part of a new genre, the rock opera, which includes classics like The Who's "Tommy" and "Jesus Christ, Superstar" by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The Rolling Stones' self-titled debut album "The Rolling Stones" &

Includes "Little Little." Like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones were part of the British Invasion of the 1960s. Another album option is "Forty Licks," which includes "Satisfaction," "Angie," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Beast of Burden" and "Start Me Up." Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's "The Best of Simon and Garfunkel" &

Includes "The Sound of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," "Bridge Over Troubled Water." This album mixes haunting songs with the religious classic.

Jimi Hendrix's "Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix" &

Includes "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary," "All Along the Watchtower," "Castles Made of Sand" and "Star Spangled Banner." Hendrix revolutionized the way the guitar is played and stretched electric guitars to their limits. "Rolling Stone Magazine" named him the greatest guitarist of all time.

Led Zeppelin's "Zoso" &

Includes 1971's "Stairway to Heaven," the most requested and most played song on radio stations in America. "Rhino Records Disco Box" &

This four-CD collection of disco classics includes "We Are Family," "Celebration," "The Hustle," "That's the Way (I Like It)," "Shake Your Booty," "Play that Funkie Music," "I Love the Nightlife," "Y.M.C.A." and "I Will Survive." A single album from the height of the disco craze is the Bee Gees' soundtrack for the film "Saturday Night Fever," which includes "Stayin' Alive" and "More than a Woman."

Guns 'N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction" &

Includes "Welcome to the Jungle." The heavy metal era in the 1980s is considered by some to be one of the Dark Ages of popular music, while others praise the genre's drive and energy. Guns 'N' Roses rose to prominence after the 1987 release of this album.

Nirvana's "Nevermind" or "MTV Unplugged" &

"Nevermind" includes "Smells Like Teen Spirit." "MTV Unplugged" includes "Come As You Are," "On A Plain," "Something in the Way" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." Nirvana's album "Nevermind" was the death knell for heavy metal's popularity and marked a new era of alternative music. Their acoustic performance before a live MTV audience is intimate, intense and emotionally raw.

Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" &

This 1988 album includes "Prophets of Rage," "Rebel Without a Pause," "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Show 'Em What You Got." Rap hasn't always been about crass materialism. Carlton "Chuck D" Ridenhour and William "Flavor Flav" Drayton were controversial for their explicit lyrics and their graphic of a cop in gun crosshairs, but their sociopolitical rapping exposed the problems of urban America to a wide audience. Rap paved the way for hip-hop's dominance on popular radio stations today.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@dailytidings. To post a comment, visit .

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