JENNINGS: 1970 was a big year for rock music

Thom Jennings/contributorAmerica performs at Artpark in 2015. The band has been going strong for 50 years.

This year marks the beginning of a new decade, and some important music related golden anniversaries. The year 1970 was a watershed for popular music, and some might argue it was the beginning of the end for rock music’s chart dominance.

There were three significant events in 1970 that significantly changed the popular music landscape — the untimely deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and the official breakup of the Beatles. One can only imagine what impact any of those three artists would have had if they were still active in the 1970s. (The individual members of The Beatles were active in the '70s, but they did not record as a group after 1969).

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney still tour, and there is no shortage of Janis Joplin, Hendrix and Beatles tribute acts. The Jimi Hendrix Estate has also put on an all-star lineup of guitarists that perform Hendrix material. It’s aptly called the “Experience Hendrix” tour.

While those losses were significant, there were a few rock bands that formed in 1970 that are still active today, the most notable being Aerosmith. Not only has the band managed to continue touring they have done so with their original lineup mostly intact.

Fans of Aerosmith will note that Brad Whitford replaced original guitarist Ray Tabano, and that in the 1980s Whitford and the group’s other guitarist, Joe Perry, left the band and later returned. Nevertheless, even though they haven’t strung together 50 consecutive years, it’s impressive they are still around and not a single member, past or present, has passed away.

Other bands that are still active that formed in 1970 include Ambrosia, with three original members and America, with two of the three founding members. America still holds the record for most performances at Artpark.

Then there is Blackfoot, the southern rock band has not only been around for 50 years, they have cycled through more than 50 different members over their history. Founding member Rickey Medlocke performs with the group occasionally, but he spends most of his time as a part of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Like Blackfoot, Earth, Wind & Fire will celebrate 50 years in 2020, and they have had more than 50 different band members over the years. They do have one founding member, bass player Verdine White.

The Doobie Brothers have had their share of lineup changes and breakups, but they will be out on the road playing large venues this year, reuniting with former member Michael McDonald. They are also supposed to release some new music this year.

Even though they have been inactive more than active over the past 50 years, the Electric Light Orchestra released new music last year and will probably tour in 2020. The group goes under the moniker “Jeff Lynne’s ELO” to distinguish themselves from the classic 1970's lineup.

Fifty years is a long time, but there are many fans that remember the events of 1970. After the Beatles broke up fans hoped there would be a reunion, but those hopes ended 40 years ago with the murder of John Lennon. Music fans also looked for “the next Beatles,” which never materialized.

And as we enter a new decade we may have another band that will from this year and celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 2070.


Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day. Check out his weekly music video podcast at and

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