Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff. Please enjoy.
How many years can boast the following treasures: the last recordings by Delta blues legend Charley Patton; the first studio recording of a song by the man who would become Sun Ra; initial sides by the likes of Billie Holiday and Django Reinhardt; plus a single serving of Igor Stravinsky playing his own version of "Piano Rag Music"? Only one year had all that stuff (and more) on its release calendar: 1934.
So click on the appended playlist, and check out "Revenue Man Blues" by Patton, "Chocolate Avenue" by Ra (then signing his scores with the name Herman "Sonny" Blount), and Lady Day's "Riffin' the Scotch." Less well-known treasures abound too, like the bluesy stomp on "Chillun' Get Up," and a smoking live recording of a Louis Armstrong standby, "St. Louis Blues." And then there's Bing Crosby's movie-soundtrack hit "Love in Bloom," Duke Ellington's "Rude Interlude" and a couple of country standouts: "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (in its original version) and Riley Puckett's "Ragged, But Right" (later recorded by a young George Jones). Pretty hot year -- and that's just a sample of what's on offer over in the playlist. Enjoy!