Adult Contemporary 79-82 (60 min. of music)

Music for the lovelorn that took a stranglehold on the charts.

“I think that if I can leave the legacy of love and passion in the world, then I think I've done my job in a world that's getting colder and colder by the day.” – Lionel Richie

The 1970’s were a tumultuous decade for a lot of people, and the music of the time reflected it. Punk, Disco, Heavy Metal, Funk and Glam were just some of the genres that made an indelible mark upon the decade. However, one very significant one is always left out, and it is one with an even greater reach than all of the others mentioned here combined: The rise of Adult Contemporary, or AC. The demographic for most of these stations were white, middle class and 30-something adults with young children.

Even though AC had been around since the 1960’s and gained prominence during the late 1970’s, music, just like nature, abhors a vacuum. Punk had fizzled out in almost all places but a few major cities in the U.S. and Metal was an undesirable genre to advertisers that received very little airplay. Funk and Disco were the victims of a less-than-subtle racist backlash by White listeners to remove these artists from the airwaves in favor of Rock. Most artists in these latter two genres were primarily Black. AC stepped in and was the best selling format for Black artists in the pre-Thriller era.

Lionel Richie and Diana Ross at the 1982 Grammy Awards performing “Endless Love”, which was nominated for Song and Record of the Year, but lost in both categories. Photo courtesy of NARAS.

Adding to the turmoil was that the music industry almost completely crashed and burned by the 1979, building their futures on big name artists who simply could not deliver. Enter the only true stable genre by the end of the decade, one that would enjoy its initial bright time in the spotlight from the years 1979 to 1982. It wasn’t hip, cool or something teenagers would play for their friends at parties. This was adult music for adults, and this program seeks to illustrate what listening to this format was like after 8 p.m., where these stations would often play long, uninterrupted sets of music for the lovelorn.

It wasn’t loud, threatening or obscene, which meant you could play it just about anywhere without causing a whole lot of drama. However, the one thing that everyone misses about AC during this period was its diversity. Black, White, Hispanic, veteran artist, your country of origin, no high concept videos for MTV, not fashion conscious, male, female, whatever: AC during this period was truly the melting pot of radio. As long as you fit the formula, which almost always had to be mid-tempo to slow love songs, you were welcomed with open arms. Country artists enjoyed a surge in popularity during this time, as did R&B bands that were adept at slow jams.

Our tracks this week: Title, Year, Artist

First Part
1. Magic, 1980, Olivia Newton-John
2. Endless Love, 1981, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
3. Always On My Mind, 1982, Willie Nelson
4. Baby, Come to Me, original release 1981/re-release 1982, Patti Austin and James Ingram
5. I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), 1981, Hall and Oats
6. How ‘Bout Us, 1981, Champaign

Part Two
7. Guilty, 1980, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
8. Special Lady, 1979, Ray, Goodman and Brown
9. Elvira, 1981, The Oak Ridge Boys
10. All Out Of Love, 1980, Air Supply
11. You Can’t Change That, 1979, Raydio
12. The Winner Takes It All, 1980, ABBA

13. Together, 1981, Tierra

To download this program, click on this link.

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner

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