On This Day

Events in Music in 1981

  • Jan 4 Musical "Peter Pan", starring Sandy Duncan, closes at Lunt-Fontanne Theater NYC after 578 performances

Music History

Jan 8 Joseph Papp's revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "The Pirates of Penzance", starring Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, and Kevin Kline, opens at the Uris Theater, NYC; runs for 772 performances and wins a Tony Award

  • Jan 11 "Tintypes" closes at John Golden Theater NYC after 93 performances

Music Single

Jan 16 John Lennon's single "Woman" is posthumously released in the UK

  • 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 Revival of Brt Kalmar and Harry Ruby's musical "The Five5 O'Clock Girl" opens at Helen Hayes Theater, NYC; runs for 12 performances
  • Jan 31 "The Tide Is High" by Blondie hits #1

Music Premiere

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

  • Feb 5 "Piaf" opens at Plymouth Theater NYC for 165 performances

Hall of Fame

Feb 5 Joni Mitchell inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame

  • Feb 8 "5 O'Clock Girl" closes at Helen Hayes Theater NYC after 12 performances
  • Feb 8 Revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical "Brigadoon" closes at Majestic Theater, NYC, after 133 performances

Music History

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

  • Feb 23 People magazine features drug ordeal of Mackenzie & Papa John Phillips

Grammy Awards

Feb 25 23rd Grammy Awards: "Sailing" - Christopher Cross; and Billy Joel win

Album Release

Feb 28 Columbia Records releases "Seven Year Ache", the third studio album by Rosanne Cash; it is her commercial break-through and goes to #1 on the country music chart

  • Mar 1 Duke Ellington's musical "Sophisticated Ladies" opens at Lunt-Fontanne, NYC; runs 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 10 "Bette Davis Eyes" single released by Kim Carnes (Billboard Song of the Year 1981)

Music Premiere

Mar 12 Stephen Sondheim's musical revue "Marry Me a Little," premieres in NYC

Album Release

Mar 27 "Blizzard of Ozz", the debut solo album by English rock musician Ozzy Osbourne, is released in the United States

  • 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

Album Release

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

  • Apr 16 "Copperfield" opens at ANTA Theater NYC for 13 performances

Music History

Apr 17 Carl Gottlieb's movie "Caveman", starring Ringo Starr, Shelley Long, Barbara Bach, Dennis Quaid, Jack Gilford, and John Matuszak premieres

  • Apr 19 William Finn's musical "March of Falsettos" premieres in NYC
  • Apr 20 Rocker Papa John Phillips arrested for drug possession
  • Apr 20 "Fire and Smoke" single released by Earl Thomas Conley (Billboard Song of the Year 1981)
  • Apr 26 "Copperfield" closes at ANTA Theater, NYC, after 13 performances
  • Apr 27 Paul McCartney's solo rock band Wings breaks-up
  • Apr 30 "Can-Can" opens at Minskoff Theater NYC for 5 performances

Music Awards

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 Premiere

May 11 Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" (based on poetry by T. S. Eliot) directed by Trevor Nunn first premieres in the West End, London

  • May 12 "Lena Horne: Lady, Music" opens at Nederlander, NYC: runs for 333 performances
  • May 15 George Harrison releases single "All Those Years Ago" in UK: the song was a tribute to John Lennon, and featured Ringo Starr on drums, and Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals

#1 in the Charts

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

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

Music History

May 21 Reggae musician Bob Marley receives a Jamaican state funeral

  • Jun 5 George Harrison releases "Somewhere in England", his ninth studio album, includes John Lennon tribute "All Those Years Ago" (Featuring Paul and Ringo)
  • Jun 8 15th Music City News Country Awards: Mandrell Sisters win
  • Jun 14 No Nukes concert at Hollywood Bowl
  • Jun 19 Glastonbury Festival in Pilton, England opens: Hawkwind and Ginger Baker headline; other performers include New Order, Taj Mahal, Aswad, Gordon Giltrap, Judie Tzuke, Gong, Matumbi, Robert Hunter, Supercharge, and Talisman
  • Jun 20 Guitarist Gerry Cott quits Boomtown Rats
  • Jun 22 Mark David Chapman pleads guilty to killing former Beatle John Lennon
  • 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 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
  • Aug 24 Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 yrs to life for John Lennon's murder
  • Sep 6 Musical "They're Playing Our Song" closes at Imperial NYC after 1082 performances
  • Sep 19 Simon & Garfunkel reunite for a NYC Central Park concert for an audience estimated at 500,000 members
  • 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 Single

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

Music History

Oct 11 Then unknown musician Prince Rogers Nelson opens for The Rolling Stones at the Los Angeles Coliseum

  • Oct 12 "Marlowe" opens at Rialto Theater NYC for 48 performances
  • Oct 12 15th Country Music Association Award: Barbara Mandrell & George Jones wins
  • Oct 23 "Concerto for Orchestra" by American composer Roger Sessions premieres with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Album Release

Oct 27 Ringo Starr releases single "Wrack My Brain", written and produced by George Harrison, and album "Stop and Smell the Roses" in the US

  • Nov 10 Donald Driver and Michael Valenti's musical comedy "Oh, Brother!" opens at ANTA Theater, NYC; runs for 3 performances
  • Nov 11 Donald Driver and Michael Valenti's musical comedy "Oh, Brother!" closes at ANTA Theater, NYC, after 3 performances
  • Nov 13 Ringo Starr releases single "Wrack My Brain", written and produced by George Harrison, in the UK
  • Nov 14 "Raise!" 11th studio album by Earth, Wind & Fire is released (Billboard Album of the Year 1982)
  • Nov 15 Revival of "Camelot" opens at Winter Garden Theater, NYC; runs 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 20 Ringo Starr releases album "Stop and Smell the Roses" in the UK
  • 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 Revival of musical "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; runs for 1522 performances, wins 6 Tony, 5 Drama Desk, and 2 Grammy Awards

Music Single

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