It was a year of ends and beginnings. The Beatles closed the book on the most storied career in classic rock with their final recording, “Abbey Road” (“Let it Be” was released in 1970, but much of it was recorded before the “Abbey Road” songs). Many acts were born that more than filled the void left in their wake: Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills Nash, the Allman Brothers and more greats released their debut collections in 1969.
Read on for 25 releases that made 1969 so special.
Fittingly, the debut album from one of rock’s all-time most influential groups kicked off one of the genre’s most influential years, with fans getting their first taste of the burgeoning genre of blues-influenced heavy metal that Zeppelin would pioneer.
Dusty Springfield, ‘Dusty in Memphis’
Neil Young, ‘Neil Young’
Young kicked off 1969 by introducing himself as a solo artist after his departure from Buffalo Springfield, remixing and releasing his debut album in January, followed shortly by May 1969’s even-better “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.”
The Flying Burrito Brothers, ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’
A foundational text of modern country rock, former Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman presented a blueprint pairing the two genres and inspired a generation of imitators.
The Velvet Underground, ‘The Velvet Underground’
The band’s self-titled third album was the first after the departure of the band’s co-founder John Cale and marked a sonic shift for the band to stripped-down compositions and ballads, resulting in one of their most emotionally touching releases.
Bob Dylan, ‘Nashville Skyline’
In the late ’60s, Dylan pivoted from lean rock ‘n’ roll and rambling acoustic folk to country on “Nashville Skyline,” a new direction for Dylan that matched his newly debuted baritone croon, which he attributed to quitting smoking.
Joni Mitchell, ‘Clouds’
Mitchell’s second album, an expressive collection of folk songs soundtracked solely by acoustic guitar, shows how quickly she was refining her considerable talents as a singer-songwriter and features the Mitchell classic “Both Sides Now.”
Sly the Family Stone, ‘Stand!’
Sly the Family Stone were an unstoppable force in the ’60s and ’70s’ funk/soul universe, and “Stand!” is considered the peak of their output, along with the album’s beloved single “Everyday People.”
The Who, ‘Tommy’
“Tommy” wasn’t just the Who’s most ambitious work to date when it was released in 1969. It endures as one of the band’s crowning achievements, a rock opera about a disabled child who becomes a religious messiah.
Crosby, Stills Nash, ‘Crosby, Stills Nash’
The debut album from one of folk’s most storied groups, “Crosby, Stills Nash” combined the talents of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash on an album that featured some of the band’s defining tracks, “Marrakesh Express,” “Helplessly Hoping” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”
Isaac Hayes, ‘Hot Buttered Soul’
A monumental achievement for the genre of soul, Hayes’ second album features just four songs, all of which are absolute epics of performance and composition.
Nick Drake, ‘Five Leaves Left’
The Stooges, ‘The Stooges’
The Stooges’ debut album introduced rock to the indelible personality of Iggy Pop and paved the way for the birth of punk rock as we know it.
Janis Joplin, ‘I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!’
The Band, ‘The Band’
A landmark achievement in Americana recordings, the Band’s self-titled second album – featuring the band’s classic “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – was released four days before “Abbey Road” and is arguably the more influential collection.
The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’
Of all the storied releases that came out in 1969, the Beatles’ album may top them all in signifying the end of a rock ‘n’ roll era.
‘Abbey Road’ turns 50: All the album’s songs, ranked
King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’
Released on the same day as the similarly influential “Hot Rats” from Frank Zappa, “In the Court of the Crimson King” helped birth the prog-rock movement that would shape rock over the next two decades.
In furiously prolific fashion, Led Zeppelin released their second album months after their debut, largely seen as the heaviest album the heavy metal greats would release over their short but wildly influential career.
Jefferson Airplane, ‘Volunteers’
Creedence Clearwater Revival, ‘Willy and the Poor Boys’
A standalone classic in its own right, featuring possibly the band’s defining track, “Fortunate Son,” “Willy and the Poor Boys” is notable for being the third of three blockbuster releases the Southern rock greats released in 1969, along with “Bayou Country” and “Green River.”
David Bowie, ‘David Bowie’
Bowie’s second album was released under several names – self-titled, as “Man of Words/Man of Music” in the USA and later as “Space Oddity” – and previewed the accomplished pop innovator that the British singer was turning into. It’s best remembered for the “Space Oddity” single.
The Allman Brothers, ‘The Allman Brothers’
The Allman Brothers’ debut studio album was another defining accomplishment in Southern rock, featuring the favorites “It’s Not My Cross To Bear,” “Dreams” and “Whipping Post.”
The Rolling Stones, ‘Let it Bleed’
Kicking off the tracklist with “Gimme Shelter” and ending with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Let it Bleed” encapsulates the qualities fans loved about the Stones: their demonic playfulness and their hard-rocking sensibilities alongside moments of introspection.
The Jackson 5, ‘Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5’