My great-grandmother turned 100 last week, and the family threw a big huge party for her, because 100 is a big round number and also an amazing age to live to see. My contribution to the party was the music. They assigned me the task of picking one song for every year she’s been alive, 1913-2013, to be played as background music at the party.
When I was putting the songs together, I wanted to make it sound good, but I also wanted to get a good variety. I hit up Wikipedia to see what songs were popular each year, then trawled Archive.org to find the out of copyright stuff. The worked up to about the 70s, surprisingly, then I had to start buying mp3s. I made an effort not to repeat artists a lot (I’m looking at you Beatles), even if that meant picking slightly less-popular songs sometimes. Michael Jackson got a repeat, though. Dude freaking earned it.
Some years, I made my decision based on my own personal preferences. Wikipedia gave me the top 5-10 songs, and one of them leapt out at me as something I had to include. Other times, there were songs that I just flat out refused to put on my iPod just on principle.
In addition to picking music of different styles, I also tried to make it so it wasn’t all white dudes. I probably could have done more, but keeping all of my other constraints in mind, I’m not unhappy with the result.
When I finally got everything in iTunes and in order, I listened to it, start to finish. And dang. It’s pretty cool, if I may say so myself. Listening to music evolve from a wax cylinder recording of a tenor singing a popular 1913 song, to swing, to jazz, to rock, to disco, to more rock, to modern pop, and through a zillion other iterations in between, is fascinating. You can hear the progression as you listen.
Unfortunately, no one at the party even paid attention. Seriously. I am pretty sure no one would have noticed if we’d just left the random music the venue provided as the default. Sooooooo I want to share it with the internet.
You can download a zip file of the whole thing here. It’s a big file, at 455MB, but it’s a cross-section of the last century of music. 101 songs. I included an Excel list of the 101 songs, but I recommend you just plop the songs into your favorite player and hit Play. Let yourself be surprised. I was surprised by some of the songs, for sure, and even more surprised by how much I really liked some of the older ones.
Feel free to share this post, too. I put a lot of effort into this, and I want to see a lot of people enjoy it. :)