“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963
“He had a dream now it’s up to you to see it through, to make it come true” – “King Holiday”
Nineteen eighty eight was, on the US pop music chart, one of those in-between years. The “New Wave” British invasion had greatly subsided and England wasn’t as much of a presence on the charts as it was a few years earlier. Rap was increasing in popularity and hitting the top 40 more frequently, though it was still a far cry from the dominant position it holds today. Of the hip hop song’s on today’s playlist, only two made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 – LL Cool J’s “Goin’ Back to Cali,” which peaked at #31, despite selling a million copies, and Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two,” which peaked at #36, despite selling two million copies. Alternative music lived up to its genre name as an alternative to the music on the pop chart, so if you wanted to hear Sonic Youth or The Dead Milkmen or The Primitives, you had to tune into college radio or the stations on the left side of your FM dial. Those artists, alongside U2, R.E.M. and INXS, could be found on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart, which premiered in September of 1988. New Jack Swing tracks from artists such as Keith Sweat remained popular on Black radio and crossed over, while Black artists such as Tracy Chapman and Living Colour failed to make much of an impression on Black radio. So-called Hair Metal was a presence on the pop chart; grunge would help fix that in a few years. Configuration-wise, CDs outsold vinyl LPs for the first time in 1988, though cassettes outsold both.
Inspired by the season and the December 8 birthdays of Sinéad O’Connor, The Doors’ Jim Morrison, Nicki Minaj, Gregg Allman, Jerry Butler, Dan Hartman, Geto Boys’ Bushwick Bill, Sammy Davis Jr., Chrisette Michele, Alice Deejay’s Judith Pronk and Martin Circus’ Gerard Blanc.
Inspired by the November 8 birthdays of Bonnie Raitt, Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace, Eric B., Rickie Lee Jones, Sam Sparro, Wizzard’s Roy Wood, Minnie Riperton, The Manhattans’ Gerald Alston, Leif Garrett, Khia, J.J. Jackson, Diana King, Patti Page, Icona Pop’s Caroline Hjelt and Glass Tiger’s Alan Frew.
Inspired by Halloween, the passing of Sean Connery, and the October 31 birthdays of Beastie Boys‘ Ad-Rock, U2‘s Larry Mullen Jr., Chic’s Bernard Edwards, Tom Paxton, Vanilla Ice, The Del-Vikings’ Norman Wright, Bow Wow Wow’s Annabella Lwin, Guy Marks and Argent’s Russ Ballard.
Inspired by the October 25 birthday of The Simpsons’ Nancy Cartwright, Yes’ Jon Anderson, Helen Reddy, Arrested Development’s Speech, Ciara, Katy Perry, Chris Norman, Divinyls’ Christina Amphlett, Starland Vocal Band’s Taffy Danoff, Art Brut’s Eddie Argos, and Pablo Picasso.
Inspired by the September 10 birthdays of Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey, Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton, Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker’s David Lowery, Ashley Monroe, Big Daddy Kane, José Feliciano and Avenue Q co-composer/lyricist Jeff Marx.