1981 in Music

Events in Music

  • Jan 4 "Peter Pan" closes at Lunt-Fontanne Theater NYC after 578 performances
  • Jan 8 "Pirates of Penzance" opens at Uris Theater NYC for 772 performances
  • Jan 11 "Tintypes" closes at John Golden Theater NYC after 93 performances
  • Jan 18 Punk singer Wendy O. Williams arrested in Milwaukee for on-stage obscenity (later cleared)
  • Jan 21 "Shakespeare's Cabaret" opens at Bijou Theater New York City for 54 performances
  • Jan 28 "5 O'Clock Girl" opens at Helen Hayes Theater NYC for 12 performances

Music awardsMusic Awards

Jan 30 8th American Music Awards: Barbra Streisand & Kenny Rogers win

Singer-songwriter & Actress Barbra Streisand
Singer-songwriter & Actress
Barbra Streisand
Country Singer Kenny Rogers
Country Singer
Kenny Rogers
  • Jan 31 "The Tide Is High" by Blondie hits #1

Music releaseMusic Premiere

Feb 1 Duke Ellington's musical "Sophisticated Ladies," premieres in NYC

Jazz Musician and Composer Duke Ellington
Jazz Musician and Composer
Duke Ellington
  • Feb 5 "Piaf" opens at Plymouth Theater NYC for 165 performances

Hall of fameHall of Fame

Feb 5 Joni Mitchell inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Feb 6 Beatles Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr & George Harrison record a tribute to John Lennon

Musician and Beatle Paul McCartney
Musician and Beatle
Paul McCartney
Beatles Drummer Ringo Starr
Beatles Drummer
Ringo Starr
Singer-Songwriter George Harrison
Singer-Songwriter
George Harrison
  • Feb 8 "5 O'Clock Girl" closes at Helen Hayes Theater NYC after 12 performances
  • Feb 8 "Brigadoon" closes at Majestic Theater NYC after 133 performances

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Feb 19 George Harrison is ordered to pay ABKCO Music $587,000 for "subconscious plagiarism" of his song "My Sweet Lord" with Ronnie Mack's song "He's So Fine"

Singer-Songwriter George Harrison
Singer-Songwriter
George Harrison

Music awardsMusic Awards

Feb 25 23rd Grammy Awards: Sailing, Christopher Cross, Billy Joel wins

Pianist, songwriter, and composer Billy Joel
Pianist, songwriter, and composer
Billy Joel
  • Feb 27 Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder record "Ebony & Ivory"
  • Mar 1 Duke Ellington's musical "Sophisticated Ladies" opens at Lunt-Fontanne, NYC for 767 performances
  • Mar 5 Michael Stewart's musical "Bring Back Birdie" opens at Martin Beck Theater, NYC for 4 performances
  • Mar 7 Michael Stewart's musical "Bring Back Birdie" closes at Martin Beck Theater, NYC, after 4 performances
  • Mar 8 "Shakespeare's Cabaret" closes at Bijou Theater NYC after 54 performances
  • Mar 12 Stephen Sondheim's musical "Marry Me a Little," premieres in NYC
  • Mar 29 Peter Stone's musical "Woman of the Year" opens at Palace Theater NYC for 770 performances
  • Apr 4 26th Eurovision Song Contest: Bucks Fizz for United Kingdom wins singing "Making Your Mind Up" in Dublin

Music releaseAlbum Release

Apr 7 "Street Songs" 5th studio album by Rick James is released (Billboard Album of the Year 1981)

Musician Rick James
Musician
Rick James
  • Apr 16 "Copperfield" opens at ANTA Theater NYC for 13 performances
  • Apr 19 William Finn's musical "March of Falsettos" premieres in NYC
  • Apr 20 Rocker Papa John Phillips arrested for drug possession
  • Apr 26 "Copperfield" closes at ANTA Theater NYC after 13 performances
  • Apr 27 Paul McCartney's solo rock band Wings disbands
  • Apr 30 "Can-Can" opens at Minskoff Theater NYC for 5 performances
  • Apr 30 16th Academy of Country Music Awards: Barbara Mandrell and George Jones win
  • May 3 "Can-Can" closes at Minskoff Theater NYC after 5 performances
  • May 6 "Inacent Black" opens at Biltmore Theater NYC for 14 performances

Music releaseMusic Premiere

May 11 Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" (based on T. S. Eliot) premieres in London

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber
Composer
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Poet, Author and Nobel Laureate T. S. Eliot
Poet, Author and Nobel Laureate
T. S. Eliot
  • May 12 "Lena Horne: Lady, Music" opens at Nederlander NYC for 333 performances
  • May 15 George Harrison releases "All Those Years Ago" in UK

Music release#1 in the Charts

May 16 "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes hits #1 for next 9 weeks

Actress Bette Davis
Actress
Bette Davis
  • May 17 "Inacent Black" closes at Biltmore Theater NYC after 14 performances

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 21 Reggae musician Bob Marley receives a Jamaican state funeral

Reggae Musician Bob Marley
Reggae Musician
Bob Marley
  • Jun 5 George Harrison releases "Somewhere in England"
  • Jun 8 15th Music City News Country Awards: Mandrell Sisters
  • Jun 20 Guitarist Gerry Cott quits Boomtown Rats

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Jun 21 Don Fagan and Walter Becker quit rock group Steely Dan

Musician and Producer Walter Becker
Musician and Producer
Walter Becker
Singer Donald Fagen
Singer
Donald Fagen
  • Jun 23 "This Was Burlesque" opens at Princess Theater NYC for 28 performances
  • Jun 28 "Piaf" closes at Plymouth Theater NYC after 165 performances
  • Jul 17 "This is Burlesque" closes at Princess Theater NYC after 28 performances

Music releaseMusic Single

Aug 1 "Endless Love" single released by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (Billboard Song of the Year 1981, Billboard Greatest Song Duet of All-Time)

  • Aug 18 "My Fair Lady" opens at Uris Theater NYC for 119 performances

MurderMurder of Interest

Aug 24 Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 yrs to life for John Lennon's murder

Musician and Beatle John Lennon
Musician and Beatle
John Lennon
  • Sep 6 Musical "They're Playing Our Song" closes at Imperial NYC after 1082 performances
  • Sep 25 Rolling Stones begin their 6th US tour (JFK Stadium, Philadelphia)
  • Sep 27 "Day in Hollywood, A Night.." closes at John Golden NY after 588 performances

Music releaseMusic Single

Sep 28 “Physical” single released by Olivia Newton-John (Billboard Song of the Year 1982)

Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John
Singer and actress
Olivia Newton-John
  • Oct 11 Unknown rocker Prince opens for Rolling Stones at LA Coliseum
  • Oct 12 "Marlowe" opens at Rialto Theater NYC for 48 performances
  • Oct 12 15th Country Music Association Award: Barbara Mandrell & George Jones wins
  • Nov 10 "Oh, Brother!" opens at ANTA Theater NYC for 3 performances
  • Nov 11 "Oh, Brother!" closes at ANTA Theater NYC after 3 performances
  • Nov 15 "Camelot" opens at Winter Garden Theater NYC for 48 performances
  • Nov 16 "Merrily We Roll Along" opens at Alvin Theater NYC for 16 performances
  • Nov 17 "1st" opens at Martin Beck Theater NYC for 37 performances
  • Nov 21 Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" single goes #1 & stays for 10 weeks
  • Nov 22 "Marlowe" closes at Rialto Theater NYC after 48 performances
  • Nov 28 "Merrily We Roll Along" closes at Alvin Theater NYC after 16 performances
  • Nov 29 "My Fair Lady" closes at Uris Theater NYC after 119 performances
  • Dec 12 "1st" closes at Martin Beck Theater NYC after 37 performances
  • Dec 20 Harry Krieger and Tom Eyen's musical "Dreamgirls" opens at Imperial Theater NYC for 1522 performances

Music releaseMusic Single

Dec 30 "That Girl" single released by Stevie Wonder (Billboard Song of the Year 1982)

Singer-Songwriter Stevie Wonder
Singer-Songwriter
Stevie Wonder

Birthdays in Music

Birthdays 1 - 100 of 150

  • Jan 6 Mike Jones, American rapper
  • Jan 10 Brian Joo, Korean-American singer
  • Jan 11 Jamelia Niela Davis, English singer, born in Birmingham, England
  • Jan 11 Tom Meighan, British singer (Kasabian), born in Leicester, United Kingdom
  • Jan 13 Jason James, Welsh musician (Bullet for My Valentine)
  • Jan 14 Rosa López, Spanish singer
  • Jan 15 Pitbull [Armando Christian Perez], American rapper, born in Miami, Florida
  • Jan 15 Howie Day, American singer
  • Jan 16 Nick Valensi, American guitarist (The Strokes)
  • Jan 17 Ray J [William Ray Norwood Jr.], McComb, Mississippi, American singer and actor (Everything You Want, Sex tape)
  • Jan 21 Gillian Chung Yan-tung, Hong Kong singer (Twins)
  • Jan 21 Andy Lee, Korean singer (Shinhwa)
  • Jan 21 Alex Ubago, Spanish-Basque singer-songwriter
  • Jan 22 Willa Ford, American singer
  • Jan 25 Tose Proeski, Macedonian Singer, born in Prilep, Macedonia (d. 2007)

Person of interestAlicia Keys

Jan 25 Alicia Keys [Cook], US singer-songwriter (Fallin, Where Do We Go From Here), born in NYC, New York

Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys
Singer-songwriter
Alicia Keys
  • Jan 27 Jonny Lang, blues musician
  • Jan 29 Álex Ubago, Spanish musician
  • Jan 30 Josh Kelley, American musician

Person of interestJustin Timberlake

Jan 31 Justin Timberlake, American singer-songwriter and actor (Sexyback, My Love), born in Memphis, Tennessee

Singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake
Singer-songwriter
Justin Timberlake
  • Feb 3 Alisa Reyes, American actress and singer
  • Feb 6 Jens Lekman, Swedish musician
  • Feb 8 Myriam Montemayor Cruz, Mexican singer
  • Feb 9 James Owen Sullivan [The Rev], Huntington Beach California, drummer and songwriter (Avenged Sevenfold) (d.2009)
  • Feb 10 The Rev [James Owen Sullivan], American musician (Avenged Sevenfold), born in Huntington Beach, California
  • Feb 10 Natasha St-Pier, Canadian singer, born in Bathurst, Canada
  • Feb 11 Kelly Rowland, US singer, born in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Feb 15 Matt Hoopes, US musician (Relient K), born in Canton, Ohio
  • Feb 15 Olivia Longott, US singer, born in Brooklyn, New York
  • Feb 19 Beth Ditto, American singer (The Gossip)
  • Feb 19 Vitas, Russian singer
  • Feb 19 Daniel Letterle, American Actor and Singer
  • Feb 20 Chris Thile, American mandolinist and radio host (Nickel Creek, "live From Here"), born in Oceanside, California

Person of interestJosh Groban

Feb 27 Josh Groban, American singer (You Raise Me Up), born in Los Angeles, California

Singer Josh Groban
Singer
Josh Groban
  • Mar 3 Kim Yoo-Jin (Eugene), South Korean singer and actress
  • Mar 3 Sung Yu Ri, South Korean singer and actress
  • Mar 4 Carol Banawa, Filipino singer and celebrity
  • Mar 4 Donny Tourette, English punk rock singer (Towers of London)
  • Mar 11 Russell Lissack, English musician (Bloc Party)
  • Mar 11 LeToya Luckett, American singer (ex-Destiny's Child)
  • Mar 11 Paul Wall, American rapper
  • Mar 14 Mei-Ting Sun, Chinese-born pianist
  • Mar 15 Young Buck, American rapper
  • Mar 18 Jang Nara, Korean singer and actress
  • Mar 22 Mims [Shawn Mims], American rapper (This Is Why I'm Hot), born in Manhattan, New York
  • Mar 26 Jay Sean, British Asian R&B singer
  • Mar 27 JJ Lin, Chinese singer (Music Voyager), born in Singapore
  • Apr 1 Hannah Spearritt, British singer
  • Apr 3 Aaron Bertram, American musician (Suburban Legends), born in Lubbock, Texas
  • Apr 10 Liz McClarnon, British singer (Atomic Kitten), born in Liverpool
  • Apr 17 Hanna Pakarinen, Finnish singer
  • Apr 26 Ms. Dynamite [Niomi Arleen McLean-Daley] English musician, born in Archway, North London
  • Apr 27 Fabrizio Faniello, Maltese singer, born in Floriana, Malta
  • May 3 Farrah Franklin, American singer (former member of Destiny's Child), born in Los Angeles, California

Person of interestCraig David

May 5 Craig David, English singer (7 Days, Insomnia), born in Southampton, Hampshire

Singer-songwriter Craig David
Singer-songwriter
Craig David
  • May 6 Matthew Leone, bassist of Madina Lake
  • May 6 Nathan Leone, lead singer of Madina Lake
  • May 6 Mark O'Connell, American drummer (Taking Back Sunday)
  • May 8 Björn Dixgård, Swedish guitarist
  • May 12 Kentaro Sato, Japanese composer
  • May 14 Sarbel, Greek-born singer
  • May 17 Shiri Maimon, Israeli singer
  • May 19 Nate Cole, American singer
  • May 21 Maximilian [Max] Mutzke, German singer
  • May 23 Gwenno Saunders, Former Welsh dancer, now singer with The Pipettes
  • May 26 Eda-Ines Etti, Estonian singer
  • May 26 Irini Merkouri, Greek singer
  • May 27 Özgür Çevik, Turkish singer and actor
  • May 28 Adam Green, American singer and songwriter
  • May 30 Devendra Banhart, American singer and songwriter
  • Jun 1 Brandi Carlile, American singer and songwriter
  • Jun 2 Tucker Rountree, American guitarist and composer.
  • Jun 5 Sebastien Lefebvre, Canadian musician (Simple Plan)
  • Jun 8 Alex Band, American singer (The Calling)
  • Jun 9 Vic Zhou, JVKV band member, Taiwanese actor, singer and model.
  • Jun 10 Hoku, American singer and actress
  • Jun 12 John Gourley, American musician, singer, and songwriter (Portugal. The Man), born in Wasilla, Alaska
  • Jun 15 William Dean Martin, American musician (Good Charlotte)
  • Jun 16 Ben Kweller, American singer/songwriter
  • Jun 21 Brandon Flowers, American singer and keyboardist (The Killers)
  • Jun 22 Chris Urbanowicz, guitarist of British rock band Editors
  • Jun 28 Michael Crafter, Australian musician
  • Jul 7 Synyster Gates, American guitarist (Avenged Sevenfold)
  • Jul 12 Adrienne Camp, South African singer/songwriter
  • Jul 14 Yomi, Japanese vocalist (Nightmare)
  • Jul 19 Didz Hammond, bassist/backing vocalist (Dirty Pretty Things and The Cooper Temple Clause)
  • Jul 21 Blake Lewis, American musician
  • Jul 21 Paloma Faith, English singer, songwriter and actress, born in Hackney, London, England
  • Jul 23 Steve Jocz, Canadian drummer (Sum 41)
  • Jul 31 Ira Losco, Maltese singer (Walk on Water), born in Sliema, Malta
  • Jul 31 Matthew Sanders, American singer (Avenged Sevenfold), born in Huntington Beach, California
  • Aug 1 Ashley Parker Angel, American singer and actor, born in Redding, California
  • Aug 4 Marques Houston, American singer and actor (IMx)
  • Aug 5 Kō Shibasaki, Japanese singer
  • Aug 8 Vanessa Amorosi, Australian singer and songwriter
  • Aug 8 Kaori Iida, Japanese singer and actress
  • Aug 8 Bradley McIntosh, British pop singer
  • Aug 10 Natsumi Abe, Japanese singer
  • Aug 11 Fiona Sit, Hong Kong singer and actress
  • Aug 11 Sandi Thom, Scottish born singer

Weddings in Music


HeartWedding of Interest

Jan 24 Singer Davy Jones (35) weds Anita Pollinger

Singer Davy Jones
Singer
Davy Jones

HeartWedding of Interest

Apr 11 Valerie Bertinelli marries Eddie Van Halen

Hall of Fame rocker Eddie Van Halen
Hall of Fame rocker
Eddie Van Halen

HeartWedding of Interest

Apr 27 Beatle Ringo Starr marries actress Barbara Bach [Goldbach]

Beatles Drummer Ringo Starr
Beatles Drummer
Ringo Starr
Actress Barbara Bach
Actress
Barbara Bach

HeartWedding of Interest

Nov 26 Legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis (55) weds "Sounder" actress Cicely Tyson (47) at the home of actor Bill Cosby

Jazz Musician Miles Davis
Jazz Musician
Miles Davis

Divorces in Music


Broken heartDivorce of Interest

Jan 10 Singer James Brown (47) divorces Deidre Jenkins after 10 years of marriage

Singer James Brown
Singer
James Brown

Deaths in Music

  • Jan 1 Hephzibah Menuhin, American-Jewish concert pianist (b. 1920)
  • Jan 2 David Lynch, singer (Platters-My Prayer), dies at 51
  • Jan 7 Jose Ardevol, Cuban composer, dies at 69
  • Jan 9 Kazimierz Serocki, composer, dies at 58
  • Jan 23 Bobby Sherwood, orchestra leader (Milton Berle Show), dies at 66

Person of interestSamuel Barber

Jan 23 Samuel Barber, American composer (School for Scandal), dies of cancer at 70

Composer Samuel Barber
Composer
Samuel Barber
  • Jan 29 Cozy Cole, rocker (Topsy Part II), dies
  • Feb 1 Ernst Pepping, German composer, dies at 79
  • Feb 1 Nils Geirr Tveitt, composer, dies at 72
  • Feb 6 Hugo Montenegro, American film music composer (b. 1925)

Person of interestBill Haley

Feb 9 Bill Haley, American rock vocalist known as the father of Rock 'n' Roll (Rock Around the Clock), dies of a heart attack probably caused by alcoholism at 55

Father of Rock 'n' Roll Bill Haley
Father of Rock 'n' Roll
Bill Haley
  • Feb 15 Mike Bloomfield, American musician (Electric Flag), dies of a drug overdose at 37
  • Feb 15 Thomas Beversdorf, composer, dies at 56
  • Feb 15 Karl Richter, German conductor (b. 1926)
  • Feb 19 Frank Merrik, composer, dies at 94

Person of interestHoward Hanson

Feb 26 Howard Hanson, American classical music composer and conductor (Nordic), dies at 84

Composer and Conductor Howard Hanson
Composer and Conductor
Howard Hanson
  • Mar 4 Yip Harburg [Isidore Hochberg], American lyricist (Somewhere Over The Rainbow), dies in a car crash at 84
  • Mar 7 Kirill Petrovich Kondrashin, Russian conductor/composer, dies at 67
  • Apr 1 Eua Sunthornsanan, Thai composer and bandleader (b. 1910)
  • Apr 5 Bob "Bear" Hite, rocker (Canned Heat), dies of a heart attack at 36
  • Apr 7 Kit Lambert, British record producer and manager (The Who) (b. 1935)
  • Apr 7 Christopher "Kit" Lamber, British record producer and manager of The Who, dies of a cerebral haemorrhage at 45
  • Apr 12 Hans Chemin-Petit, composer, dies at 78
  • Apr 12 Hendrik F Andriessen, Dutch organist/composer (Te Deum), dies at 88
  • Apr 19 Ernst Levy, Swiss composer, dies at 85
  • May 7 Mieczyslaw Kolinski, composer, dies at 79

Person of interestBob Marley

May 11 Bob Marley, reggae singer, dies of brain & lung cancer at 36

Reggae Musician Bob Marley
Reggae Musician
Bob Marley
  • May 13 Carl Weinrich, composer, dies at 76
  • May 16 Ernie Freeman, American pianist and arranger (b. 1922)
  • May 17 Hugo Freidhofer, composer, dies at 80
  • May 17 Hugo Friedhofer, American composer, dies at 80
  • May 25 Rosa Ponselle, US singer (Metropolitan Opera), dies at 84
  • May 25 Roy Brown, American boxer/rocker, dies of a heart attack at 55
  • May 28 Mary Lou Williams, African American musician, dies at 71 in Durham NC
  • Jun 21 Gunnar Ek, Swedish composer, dies on his 81st birthday
  • Jun 23 Zarah Leander, Swedish/German singer/actress (Gabriela), dies at 79
  • Jun 26 Peter Kreuder, German composer, dies
  • Jun 28 Peter Paul Kreuder, German composer, dies at 75
  • Jul 5 Jorge Urrutia Blondel, composer, dies at 75
  • Jul 9 Oscar van Hemel, composer, dies at 88
  • Jul 16 Harry Chapin, folk vocalist (Taxi), dies in car crash at 38
  • Jul 19 Louis Cheslock, composer, dies at 81
  • Jul 19 Roger Doucet, French Canadian tenor (b. 1919)
  • Jul 26 Donald Lybbert, composer, dies at 58
  • Jul 27 Ray Harrison, dancer (American Song), dies at 64
  • Aug 1 Seppo Antero Yrjonpoika Nummi, composer, dies at 49
  • Aug 14 Karl Böhm, Austrian conductor, dies at 87
  • Aug 17 Robert Russell Bennett, US composer/arranger (Oklahoma!), dies at 87
  • Aug 21 Hermann Schey, German Netherlands singer, dies at 85
  • Aug 26 Lee Hays, American singer-songwriter (The Weavers), dies of a heart attack at 67
  • Aug 27 Joan Edwards, american singer (Joan Edwards Show), dies at 62

Person of interestVera-Ellen

Aug 30 Vera-Ellen [Westmeier Rohe], American actress and dancer (Big Leaguer, On the Town), dies of cancer at 60

Actress Vera-Ellen
Actress
Vera-Ellen
  • Sep 6 Joseph Yasser, Russian-American composer, dies at 88
  • Sep 14 Yasuji Kiyose, composer, dies at 81
  • Sep 14 [Walter] Furry Lewis, father of blues, dies at 88 of a heart attack
  • Sep 21 Tony Aubin, French composer, dies at 73
  • Sep 22 Harry Warren, American composer and lyricist (b. 1893)
  • Oct 2 Hazel Scott, Trinidadian singer and pianist, dies at 63
  • Oct 5 Jud Strunk, American singer and comedian (Laugh-In), dies in a plane crash at 48
  • Oct 7 Wouter Paap, Dutch composer, dies at 73
  • Oct 14 Ingemar Liljefors, composer, dies at 74
  • Oct 17 David Guion, composer, dies at 88
  • Oct 21 Karel Srom, Czech composer, dies at 77
  • Nov 17 Bob Eberly, singer (Jimmy Dorsey Band), dies at 65
  • Nov 27 Lotte Lenya, Austrian singer/actress (From Russia With Love), dies of cancer at 83
  • Nov 29 Natalie Wood [Natasha Gurdin], American actress (Gypsy, Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story), drowns at 43
  • Dec 2 Hershy Kay, composer, dies at 62
  • Dec 9 Sonny Til [Earlington Carl Tilghman], American doo-wop singer (The Orioles), dies from heart failure at 56
  • Dec 13 Cornelius Cardew, British composer (Scratch Orchestra), dies in a hit and run accident at 45
  • Dec 27 Hoagland "Hoagy" Carmichael, American composer, singer and actor (In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening), dies at 82
  • Dec 31 Frantisek Chaun, composer, dies at 60