It’s been 50 years since the summer of 1969, three months that remain one of the most memorable periods in modern music history. Of course, many associate the summer of ’69 with the Woodstock music festival, which featured now legendary performances by Santana, Grateful Dead , Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, to name just a few. But it was also an incredible time for album releases.
As the warm-weather months of 2019 comes to a close, here’s a look back at 10 of the many albums that rocked the world during the summer of ’69.
This album, Cash’s 31st, was the follow-up to his groundbreaking 1968 performance and album recorded at Folsom Prison. The show also marked the first live performances of “San Quentin” and “A Boy Named Sue.” At San Quentin was later nominated for Album of the Year.
First Take is still considered an extraordinary debut from an artist of any genre. It went on to top the charts in 1972 after Ewan MacColl’s cover of her song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was included in the 1971 Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me.
Suitable for Framing included hits like the instantly recognizable “Feeling Alright,” as well as “Lady Samantha,” written by then-unknown Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The band’s previous album from 1968 featured “One,” written by Harry Nilsson, which was still in the top 10 by the summer of ’69. (Nilsson’s song “Gotta Get Up” was rediscovered recently in the hit Netflix series Russian Doll.)
The tenth studio album by The King was considered one of his best ever, both at the time of its release and now. Recorded in a country-soul style in Memphis, the album came after a long dry spell in which Elvis mostly focused on soundtracks for the films in which he starred. The album’s single “In the Ghetto,” written by Mac Davis, hit number three on the charts.
The fourth studio album by the band, The Soft Parade marked The Doors’ transition to a more mainstream sound. It features one of their biggest hits, “Touch Me.”
This effort had two big hits from Elliot’s five-album solo career after her time in The Mamas & The Papas, including “It’s Getting Better” and “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” the latter of which was added to the album when it was re-released later in the year.
Although it was initially dismissed by critics, the debut album from Iggy Pop and his bandmates is now considered a classic—essentially punk before punk existed. The band broke up after a couple years, but was revived by Stooges fan David Bowie.
Wonder’s 11th studio album is just one in a long string of successful records, but this one stands out for its original songs “My Cherie Amour” and “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday,” as well as Wonder’s inventive cover of “Light My Fire” by The Doors.
If nothing else, Santana knows not to squander an opportunity. The band, featuring guitarist Carlos Santana, got its big break at Woodstock and delivered a memorable performance ahead of their debut album’s release.
Want to tap into the sentiment of ’69 even more? Stream Parcast’s new Summer of ’69 true-crime podcast series.