Several of the best country music albums of all time were released in 1974, meaning they’ll celebrate a 50th birthday in 2024.
Here are 50 albums turning 50 years old this year.
Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings were beginning to find their forever voices in this year. They each released multiple albums with iconic titles — so, too, did less heralded legends like Don Williams and Tanya Tucker.
Other icons were stuck between versions of themselves, which makes their 1974 albums something of a time capsule. Loretta Lynn is known for honesty, but in 1974 she dropped an album filled with covers, plus one of 10 lifetime records with Conway Twitty. Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash were two more in transition that year.
1974 in Country Music
A deep dive into 1974 finds friction between a rugged brand of country music popularized by Jennings and Nelson, and a more pop-friendly, softer brand of the Nashville sound singers like Ronnie Milsap and (1974 CMA Entertainer of the Year winner) Charlie Rich relied on. John Denver and Olivia Newton-John were at career peaks during this year and the next — it’s nearly impossible to ignore parallels between then and now.
Two more things stand out about the 50 albums on this list: The first is that making country music was a J-O-B, and the men and women involved churned it out. It was common for an artist to drop two albums during any calendar year — maybe even three!
They could do that because they borrowed songs like you might borrow an ink pen.
Related: 50 Rock Albums Turning 50 in 2024
Imagine if an artist like Carly Pearce covered Lainey Wilson‘s “Heart Like a Truck” and released it on an album (and maybe even to radio). That kind of thing happened all the time 50 years ago, and beyond that, everyone would reach into other genres for great songs.
Never thought the Beatles were a huge influence on 1970s country music? This list includes nearly a half-dozen albums with covers of the rock band’s songs, plus more from the Bee Gees and the Allman Brothers Band.
Our list of 50 albums released 50 years ago is arranged chronologically, with release dates being an estimate (publications disagree on exact dates). In many cases, the release date listed is when Billboard reports that the album debuted on the Top Country Albums chart.
Each album on this list of 50 country albums turning 50 in 2024 is memorable, but not all of them will bring good memories. There’s a lot of great country music on this list, quite a bit of good and some bad, but the songs will objectively take you back to a time when outlaw country and R&B-infused pop-country lived together in Nashville.
Take special note of how common it was for one star to cover another’s recent hit. (Release dates are estimates based on information from several databases, including Billboard.)
Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes
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