1972 in Music — 50 Years Later

Happy New Year! It’s now 2022. That means — assuming my math is correct — it’s been 50 years since it was 1972. And so, as I do ever year, I’ve made a playlist of music from that year — not just my favorite eight tracks or anything like that — a playlist of ALL of the music I could find on Spotify from 1972.

Have a listen if you’d like. There’s a lot to enjoy — especially if you’re a rock fan. There were all kinds of rock hybrids and regional sub-genres represented in 1972, including blues rock, boogie rock, country rock, folk-rock, fusion, hard rock, jazz-rock, krautrock, neo-medieval rock, soft rock, southern rock, space rock, symphonic rock. There was, too, of course, prog rock… a lot of prog, really, including chart-topping albums from Yes and Jethro Tull. At the other end of the rock spectrum, there was also power pop, with Big Star and The Raspberries releasing their debuts. Across the Atlantic, Pub Rock really got underway. Both power pop and pub rock looked backward for inspiration to rock’s pre-psychedelic past. 1972 was a big year for nostalgia. American Graffiti and the pilot of Happy Days were filmed that year. It was also in 1972 that Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard played together at Wembley and sparked a full-scale Teddy Boy revival. 1972 was also the peak year for glam rock, with David Bowie, Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, Roxy Music, and T. Rex all releasing classic albums.

1972 seems to have been a seminal year in black music. On 20 August 1972, Wattstax took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Intruders, O’Jays, and Tramps released what came to be widely regarded as the first three disco singles. The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron released albums of jazz poetry that forecast the arrival of hip-hop in 1973, when DJ Kool Herc would host the first hip-hop party in the Bronx. There was also lots of fusion jazz and spiritual jazz. There was funk and soul — including lots of southern soul — and R&B started to emerge as something distinct. 1972 wasn’t the first year with blaxploitation films, but it was the year that some of the best blaxploitation scores were released, like Curtis Mayfield‘s Superfly, Marvin Gaye‘s Trouble Man, and Bobby Womack‘s Across 110th Street.

There was little in the way of country music but 1972 marked the beginning of outlaw country with Waylon Jennings‘s Ladies Love Outlaws. There were key electronic albums by Cluster, Hot Butter, Terry Riley, Wendy Carlos, and others. Elsewhere in the world, psychedelia continued to extend its mycorrhizae into places like Brazil, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, Paraguay, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, and Zambia and there were numerous notable examples of candombe, MPB, reggae, and zamborock. Also in 1972, musicians from Cameroon, Jamaica, South Africa and elsewhere recorded albums at studios in London, Los Angeles, or New York City and releasing them through major labels.

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson Collegeand the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubithe StoryGraphand Twitter.

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