Rock 'n' Roll Timeline 1980 - 1989

The 1980s gave the rock world New Wave, Synth Pop, Glam/Hair Metal, and Rap/Hip-Hop grew. Plus MTV and VH1 debuted which made the music video essential for a song to be a hit.

Last Updated: 2005-09-22
Rock 'n' Roll Timeline 1980 - 1989

  • January 16 - Paul McCartney is arrested and jailed for 9 days after a half pound of marijuana is found in his luggage at the Tokyo airport.

  • January 30 - New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd) (62), dies of a heart attack.

  • February 19 - Bon Scott (33), of AC/DC dies while passed out in a car in London of alcohol poisoning.

  • April 17 - Bob Marley plays at Rhodesia Independence Day celebrations in Africa. Six months later on October 8, he collapses on stage in Pittsburgh, PA, his last performance.

  • May 18 - Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, commits suicide by hanging himself in his home in Manchester. The remaining members of Joy Division change the name of the band to 'New Order'.

  • August 16 - Castle Donington, in the UK is the site for the 1st "Monsters Of Rock" festival featuring Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Saxon, April Wine, Riot, and Touch. Attendance was 35,000.

  • September 5 - A statue of hometown hero Buddy Holly is erected in Lubbock, Texas.

  • September 24 - John Bonham (32), drummer for Led Zeppelin, passed out and choked to death on his own vomit following an all-day vodka drinking binge at Jimmy Page's home in Windsor.

  • December 8 - John Lennon (40), was murdered at 10:50PM in front of his New York appartment building by Mark David Chapman.

  • December - Led Zeppelin announced they were disbanding.

    Related Link:  Top 100 Songs of 1980

  • February 9 - Bill Haley (56) dies from a heart attack at his home Harlingen, Texas while suffering with a brain tumor. (The cause of death is still uncertain)
    'Bill Haley & The Comets' recorded the first 'Rock' record to top the Pop charts in 1955 with the smash hit "Rock Around The Clock".

  • March 9 - Robert Plant debuts his new band, 'The Honeydrippers' in an unanounced performance at Keele University.

  • April 5 - Bob "The Bear" Hite (36), blues-rock vocalist for Canned Heat, died of a heart attack in Mar Vista, California after colapsing on stage at the Palomino in LA. He weighed nearly 300 pounds at the time of his death.

  • April 27 - Ringo Starr marries actress Barbara Bach.

  • May 11 - Reggae Artist Bob Marley (36), dies of cancer in a Miami, Florida hospital as his condition worsened on his flight back to Jamaca. His health problems began when he refused treatment for malignant melanoma (skin cancer) on a toe that was first noticed in 1977. The cancer finally spread to his stomach, lungs and brain.

  • July 16 - Harry Chapin (38), who recorded "Cats in the Cradle" dies on his way to a concert in Eisenhower Park when his car is srtuck by a truck on the Long Island expressway. The actual cause of death was a heart attack. But before or after the accident, no one knows.

  • August 1 - MTV: Music Television, premiered with the format based on top 40 radio, with a "VJ" (Video Jocky) introducing music videos like a Disk Jocky would. The first video played was "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles. The second was "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar. The first team of VJ's were- Nina Blackwood, J.J. Jackson, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, and Alan Hunter.

  • August 22 - Castle Donington, in the UK hosts the 2nd "Monsters Of Rock" festival featuring AC/DC, Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult, Slade, Blackfoot, More, and Tommy Vance.

  • September 19 - Simon & Garfunkel reunite for the first time in 9 years to perform an outdoor concert in Central Park, NYC, to an audience of over 400,000.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1981

  • February 21 - Murray "The K" Kaufman, pioneer rock 'n' roll disc jockey, died of cancer at the age of 60.

  • March 18 - Teddy Pendergrass injures his spinal chord in an auto accident in Philadelphia and is paralyzed from the waist down.

  • March 19 - Randy Rhoads, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourn, dies in a small plane crash while buzzing the tour bus. The pilot and another passenger were also killed. He was 25 years old.

  • August 21 - Castle Donington, in the UK hosts the 3rd "Monsters Of Rock" festival featuring Status Quo, Gillan, Saxon, Hawkwind, Uriah Heep, Anvil, and Tommy Vance.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1982

  • 'Glam Metal' (or 'Hair Metal') become the most popular of the 'Metal' styles with the release of albums by Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, and Twisted Sister.

  • February - The album "Thriller" by Michael Jackson reaches #1 and stays there for 37 weeks

  • March 2 - The 'Compact Disk' or CD is introduced by Sony, Philips, and Polygram. The 5" acrylic coated aluminum disk is 'burned' and 'read' by a laser and can hold up to 1 hour of music.

  • August 20 - Castle Donington, in the UK hosts the 4th "Monsters Of Rock" festival featuring Whitesnake, Meat Loaf, ZZ Top, Twisted Sister, Dio, Diamond Head, and Tommy Vance.

  • September 18 - The bandmembers of KISS make their first appearance without face makeup on MTV.

  • September 20 - A fundraising concert at Londons Royal Albert Hall for MS victim Ronnie Lane (Faces bassist) drew an allstar ensemble including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Steve Winwood, Kenny Jones and others.

  • December 16 - The Who officially split up. But they will reassemble to play 'Live Aid', and more reunion tours in the coming years.

  • December 28 - Dennis Wilson (39) drummer for The Beach Boys, jumped over board from his yacht at Marina Del Ray Harbour in Los Angeles and drowned.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1983

  • March 21 - 'Strawberry Fields', a memorial to John Lennon is opened in Central Park, New York City.

  • April 1 - Marvin Gaye (44) was shot and killed by his preacher father during an argument.

  • April 6 - he Movie "This Is Spinal Tap" premiers in NY City. The satirical rocumentary features 3 American comedy actors portraying a British Heavy Metal band.

  • August 18 - Castle Donington, in the UK hosts the 5th "Monsters Of Rock" festival featuring AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Gary Moore, Accept, Y&T and Tommy Vance.

  • November 25 - The charity single, "Do They Know It's Christmas" is recorded at SARM studios, London, by a group of nearly 40 Rock/Pop artists assembled by Bob Geldof. The aim is to relieve famine in Ethiopia brought on by civil war.

  • December 31 - Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen (20), severly injures his left arm in an auto accident. Though the arm has to be amputated a few days later, he continues to perform with the band.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1984

  • January 1 - VH1: (Video Hits 1) premiered, focasing on softer, more adult oriented music than its sister chanel MTV.

  • January 28-29 - The charity single "We Are The World" is recorded at A&M Studios in Los Angeles by a large group of American music artists (45) calling the effort "USA For Africa". The artists included Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Lionel Ritchie, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Steve Perry, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Harry Belafonte, Hall & Oates, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers, and more.

  • March 25 - Prince wins an Oscar for 'Best Original Score' for 'Purple Rain'.

  • April 7 - Wham! becomes the first western pop music group to perform live in China.

  • July 13 - The enormously successful "Live Aid" concert for famine relief in Ethiopia, organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, had artists performing in Wembley Stadium, London, JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, plus Sydney, Belgrade, Cologne and Moscow. Satellite link-ups made it a real-time global event with an estimated 1.5 billion TV viewers.
    Performers included, Paul McCartney, Elton John, David Bowie, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Queen, Madonna, U2, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Black Sabbath, Sting, Elvis Costello, Four Tops, BB King, Phil Collins(Wembley & JFK), Neil Young, Crosby Stills & Nash, Judas Priest, Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger/Tina Turner, INXS, Duran Duran, Tom Petty, The Pretenders, Bo Diddley/Albert Collins/George Thorogood, Kool and the Gang, Kenny Loggins, Cliff Richard, REO Speedwagon, Patti LaBelle, Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet, Joan Baez, Paul Young, Run DMC, Howard Jones and more.

  • September 22 - Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp organize "Farm Aid", another charity concert event to help support family farmers in the US facing foreclosure. Held in Champaign, Illinois, the performers included Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Neil Young, B.B. King, Arlo Guthrie, Jon Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp, Glen Campbell, Charlie Daniels Band, John Denver, John Fogerty, Foreigner, Vince Gill, Sammy Hagar, Merle Haggard, Daryl Hall, Emmylou Harris, Don Henley, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, George Jones, Rickie Lee Jones, Carole King, Kris Kristofferson, Alabama, Huey Lewis, Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Charley Pride, Lou Reed, Kenny Rogers, Brian Setzer, Tanya Tucker, Eddie Van Halen, and more.

  • December 31 - Rick Nelson (45) was killed when his private plane, a DC-3, crashed in De Kalb, Texas after a fire broke out, probably from the planes heater. Others on board who perished were 5 bandmembers and his fiancee.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1985

  • January 4 - Phil Lynott, bassist for 'Thin Lizzy', lost his battle with drugs and died of heart failure and pneumonia at the age of 34

  • March 28 - Over 6,000 radio stations played "We Are The World" at 10:15am EST.

  • May 5 - Cleveland, Ohio is chosen to be the site of the "Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame".

  • July 4 - "Farm Aid II" is the second of continuing yearly fundraising concert events started in 1985. Held in Austin, Texas, the performers included Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Waylon Jennings, Neil Young, The Beach Boys, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Steppenwolf, Taj Mahal, Alabama, Los Lobos, Judy Collins, Emmylou Harris, Rita Coolidge, Steve Earle, Nicolette Larson, plus Bob Dylan and Tom Petty via satellite.

  • September 27 - Metallica bassist Cliff Burton is killed while on tour in Sweden when the tour bus crashes on an icy road near Ljungby and Cliff is thrown through a window.

  • September 31 - Pink Floyd founding member Roger Waters sues to keep David Gilmour and Nick Mason from continuing to use the name "Pink Floyd".

  • December 3 - Heavy Metal band Judas Priest are being sued by the families of two fans who commited suicide, supposedly brought on by listening to the album 'Stained Glass'.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1986

  • March 23 - The first 'Soul Train Music Awards' was held to honor black artists in the music industry.

  • May 29 - Michael Jackson's manager, Frank Dileo, issues a press release stating that Michael tried to purchase the bones of the 'Elephant Man' (Joseph Carey Merrick) for $1 million from the London Hospital Medical College, but the offer was turned down. Michael denies this, yet dances with a claymation skelaton of the Elephant Man in his video "Leave Me Alone".

  • July 21 - 'Sleaze Rock' (or 'Sleaze Metal') is born as an offshoot of 'Hair Metal' with the release of 'Appetite for Destruction' by Guns N' Roses, who add traits of blues and punk into the mix. Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Dangerous Toys, and Roxx Gang also fall under the category of 'Sleaze Rock'.

  • September 19 - "Farm Aid III" is the third of continuing yearly fundraising concert events started in 1985. Held in Lincoln, Nebraska, the performers included John Denver, Grateful Dead, Emmylou Harris, Steppenwolf, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Alex Harvey, and more.

  • November 16 - Lenny Kravitz marries Lisa Bonet of the 'Cosby Show'.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1987

  • March 13 - Michael Jackson buys a ranch near Santa Ynez, California. He names it "Neverland".

  • June 26 - Hillel Slovak (26), guitarist for 'Red Hot Chili Peppers' dies from a heroin overdose.

  • July 6 - 'MCA' buys 'Motown Records'.

  • Aug. 14 - Guitarist Roy Buchanan hangs himself in a jail cell at the 'Fairfax County Adult Detention Center', Virginia after a drunk driving offense.

  • Sept. 15 - Dire Straits anounces their breakup.

  • November - Compact discs (CDs) outsell vinyl records for the first time.

  • December 6 - Roy Orbison dies of a heart attack two days after his final concert in Akron, Ohio.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1988

  • February - Jethro Tull win in the "Best Hard Rock/Metal Group" at the Grammy's. The response is very negative for this first-time category.

  • May - Ron Wilson (49), drummer for The Surfaris, who recorded the surf rock drum solo/instrumental, "Wipe Out", dies from a brain aneurysm.

  • May 29 - John Cipollina (45), guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service, dies after a long battle with emphysema.

  • July 21 - Pop duo Milli Vanilli become unnerved when during a live performance in Bristol, Connecticut, their vocal track gets stuck and repeats "Girl you know it's..." 15 times, showing the audience that their vocals were being lip-synched.

  • August 13 - The "Moscow Music Peace Festival" is held featuring Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Jovi, The Scorpions, Skid Row, and Cinderella.

  • August 31 - The Rolling Stones kick off their "Steel Wheels" tour in Philadelphia, PA.

  • September 26 - Paul McCartney begins a 10-month, 13-country world tour in Drammenshallen, Norway. His first in 9 years.

  • October 21 - A&M Records is bought by Polygram.

    Related Links:  Top 100 Songs of 1989

rock pianist Professor Longhair
Monsters Of Rock 1980 poster
Buddy Holly statue
reggae musician and singer Bob Marley
MTV logo
Monsters Of Rock 1981 poster
KISS Lick It Up
British musician Ronnie Lane
Strawberry Fields circle in New York
This Is Spinal Tap movie poster
VH1 logo
We Are The World record single cover
Live Aid concert poster
Farm Aid CD cover
Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame building
Metallica bassist Cliff Burton
Soul Train Music Awards
Appetite for Destruction CD cover
Michael Jackson's Neverland property driveway gate
guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service John Cipollina
Moscow Music Peace Festival poster

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