WALLY'S WORLD: Hits from Jolson to Pearl Jam

Occasionally, some of you ask about my tastes in popular music. This being the case, I’ve decided to list a few of my favorite pop albums, beginning with the 1920s

. The list will also included albums I’m not especially fond of, yet feel any serious connoisseur should have. Bear in mind that the importance of popular music is rapidly fading; that is, it doesn’t have nearly as much influence on America as it once did. In another 50 years it might well be no more than a historical footnote, of no consequence whatsoever.

So, don’t attach much significance to the pop music on my list nor, for that matter, the pop music on anyone else’s list either.

The 1920s

“King Oliver’s Dixieland Band” with Louis Armstrong on coronet.

“St. Louis Blues”: W. C. Handy

“Empress of the Blues”: Bessie Smith (Vol. 3)

“Al Jolson’s Greatest Hits”: Al Jolson (I recommend this album not because Jolson was an exceptionally great singer, but because he was probably America’s first authentic superstar in pop music.)

“Famous Country Music”: Jimmy Rodgers

“New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band” with Sweet Emma on vocals.

The 1930s

“Benny Goodman’s Hits”: Benny Goodman

“Woody Guthrie Library of Congress Recordings”: Woody Guthrie

“The Best of Bing Crosby”: Bing Crosby (Here again, I recommend this album not because Crosby was such a good singer, but because he was a phenomenon unparalleled in American pop music.)

“Sentimental Over You”: Tommy Dorsey

“Goodnight Irene”: Huddie (Leadbelly) Led-better

“Kate Smith Live at Carnegie Hall”: Kate Smith

The 1940s

“G. I. Jo”: Jo Stafford

“Harry James’ Greatest Hits”: Harry James

“Moonlight Serenade”: Glenn Miller

“Merry Christmas”: Bing Crosby” (I recommend this album simply because it was the largest selling recording in history, until Michael Jackson came along).

“Louis Armstrong in the ‘40s”: Louis Armstrong

“Waltz Across Texas With You”: Ernest Tubb

“Hank Williams’ Greatest Hits”: Hank Williams

The 1950s

“Only the Lonely”: Frank Sinatra

“Nina’s Choice”: Nina Simone

“Elvis Presley’s Greatest Hits”: Elvis Presley (Vol. 1)

“Something Cool”: June Christy

“Take Five”: Dave Brubeck

“Birth of Cool”: Miles Davis

“Blueberry Hill”: Fats Domino

The 1960s

“Live At the Hungry I”: Kingston Trio

“Judy Live At Carnegie Hall”: Judy Garland

“Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits” Bob Dylan (Vol. 1)

“Abby Road”: The Beatles

“The Doors”: The Doors

“Live In Europe”: Otis Redding

“Surrealistic Pillow”: Jefferson Airplane

The 1970s

“Sloppy Seconds”: Dr. Hook

“Hotel California”: The Eagles

“Dark Side of the Moon”: Pink Floyd

“52nd Street”: Billy Joel

“Horses”: Patti Smith

“The New York Dolls”: New York Dolls

The 1980s

“Queen’s Greatest Hits”: Queen with Freddie Mercury

“Rio”: Duran Duran

“Thriller”: Michael Jackson (Though Michael has some talent as a dancer, I’ve never cared much for his music. My tastes be damned, this is the top-selling album in history.)

“Sweet Dreams”: Eurythmics

“Born in the U.S.A.”: Bruce Springsteen

“Joshua Tree”: U2

The 1990s

“Reprise, The Very Good Years”: Frank Sinatra

“Willie Nelson’s Super Hits”: Willie Nelson

“Nevermind”: Nirvana

“Ten”: Pearl Jam

“MTV Unplugged”: Tony Bennett

The 2000s

I haven’t kept track of pop music for the last 10 years, though I can unequivocally declare I don’t like Lady Gaga and most rap. Based upon what friends tell me and what limited exposure I’ve had to their music, I suspect Green Day has some pretty good stuff.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates