Hit Parade

Spirit of ’71 Edition

Did the music 50 years ago really “change everything”? How a new generation of singer-songwriters rebooted the charts.


Episode Notes

At any given time, the music world is celebrating some anniversary, but 1971 has received more than its share of commemorations this year. And with good reason: Carole King. Marvin Gaye. Joni Mitchell. Sly Stone. Janis Joplin. The Who. All released their best work a half-century ago.

For our 50th episode of Hit Parade, we go back 50 years, celebrating the semicentennial of the year when, critics claim, “music changed everything.” The Quiet Beatle became the Favorite Beatle, when Mick Jagger sang lyrics even he regrets, when Carole King graduated from songwriter to singer-songwriter, and commercial juggernaut, when blaxploitation took over the charts and the Oscars, and when the radio was somehow awash in Osmonds. It wasn’t a perfect year—but Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy is fond of ’71 for personal reasons.

Podcast production by Asha Saluja with help from Rosemary Belson.


About the Show

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.

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  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.