The Playlist: High School Senior Year (1983-1984)

Because I obviously have way too much time on my hands—and I saw a Facebook post that asked the question: “what was your all time favorite song around the time you graduated” (paraphrased), I decided to do a music project. The project was to find what songs were released during my senior year of high school-from the first day to graduation. I actually began this project before I saw the post on Facebook; the post gave me the impetus to return to it and finish it.

At any rate, I needed some help-and thankfully, I knew where I had to go: Joel Whitburn’s Record Research books; specifically Top Pop Singles 1955-2012, and Hot R&B Singles 1942-2010. Between the two, I found 554 songs that hit the Billboard Top Pop Singles and Hot R&B Singles charts from September 10, 1983 (the first Saturday after Labor Day 1983) and May 26, 1984 (the last Saturday before graduation on Friday, June 1, 1984). Why Saturdays? Because in those years (and maybe even now), Billboard magazine’s publication dates were always on Saturdays. I also used the date of the first Saturday after Labor Day because I believe back in that ancient time, school started after Labor Day, as opposed to now when school generally starts before the holiday.

The next step was to put these songs in a playlist, while deleting duplicates—many songs charted on both the Pop and R&B charts back then. I used the “earliest date” rule: whichever chart the song placed on first is where it was slotted in the playlist. Once the songs were listed, I put them in Spotify to find how many of them were able to be streamed. Of the original 554, 438 of those were found on the streaming service. There are a few that may be questionable; the Shannon version of “Let The Music Play” that I found sounds close to the original, but it isn’t quite it, and there are two songs by Tyrone Davis that may not be the 1983-84 originals, but I can’t confirm that. So I left them in.

Enough exposition and backstory! Here’s the playlist:

You couldn’t possibly listen to the whole thing in one sitting: the timing on the full playlist is 34 hours and 27 minutes. I have been listening to it-but in sections. I’ve somehow listened to over 150 songs in three separate sittings and have only gotten to mid-November! It has been fun cruising down memory lane with some of these songs; others I had never heard until I played them. I also plan to make a smaller playlist from this one with my favorites-and even then it would probably be over 200 songs.

Some of the great names included in here are: Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Prince, Madonna, Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, Rick James, New Edition, Huey Lewis & The News, Billy Joel, Kiss, Journey, Stephanie Mills, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and so many more. Some of them were just starting to become famous, some in their hitmaking prime, and some heading out of the upper reaches of the charts. It all makes for a great listening experience, especially if you remember many of the songs from those days. The second English invasion, helped in large part by MTV and videos. Early rap records, when rap was beginning to find some solid ground on the radio. You still had your rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues, though they both sounded a bit different than they did a generation before. New wave and lots lots lots of synthesizers. It’s all there, even some classic pop.

Some of the memories I have of that time is that I watched both Soul Train and American Bandstand back then, so I probably had a very good chance of hearing a lot of these songs. MTV was in its early years, and its programming was mostly videos, as opposed to what it has become now. I also was a big fan of Casey Kasem and American Top 40 so a lot of the pop songs of the day would be heard on that show as well.

Take a stroll down memory lane and remember some of these 80s songs. If you know all of them, consider yourself a music savant, or something.

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