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List of years in music
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This is a list of notable events in music that took place in the year 1981.

Events

January–April

May–August

  • 2 May – British vocalist Sheena Easton hits No. 1 in the US with "Morning Train (9 to 5)" following a swift rise to fame as the result of a reality TV show.
  • 14 MayDiana Ross signs with RCA Records (EMI internationally), leaving Motown Records, her label of two decades. The $20,000,000 deal is the most lucrative recording contract in history at that time.
  • 15 May – A riot breaks out at The Ritz rock club in New York when Public Image Ltd plays behind a videoscreen while completely different music plays over the club's speakers.
  • 4 JuneU2 appears on the Tomorrow show with Tom Snyder, their first U.S. television appearance.
  • 5 June – The TV series Night Flight, a variety show featuring music documentaries and videos, is premiered on the USA Network.
  • 6 JuneKerrang! magazine publishes its first issue. Angus Young of AC/DC is on the cover.
  • 30 JuneJerry Lee Lewis is rushed to hospital in Memphis for emergency surgery for a tear in his stomach. Despite being given less than a 50% chance of survival, he eventually pulls through.
  • 1 August
    • MTV broadcasts for the first time on cable television in the United States, playing music videos 24 hours a day.
    • the success of Stars On 45 leads to a short-lived medley craze. The most successful imitator of the Stars On 45 format is, rather unexpectedly, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra whose "Hooked On Classics (Parts 1&2)" reaches number two in the charts.
  • 23 August – The Violent Femmes are discovered by members of The Pretenders busking outside a Milwaukee venue and are invited to play a 10-minute acoustic set as a second opening act in the Pretenders' show that night.

September–December

Also in 1981

Bands formed

Bands disbanded

Albums released

  1. Reckoning Grateful Dead

Biggest hit singles

The following songs achieved the highest chart positions in the charts of 1981.

# Artist Title Year Country Chart Entries
1 Kim Carnes Bette Davis Eyes 1981 23x15pxScript error: No such module "Check for unknown parameters". US BB 1 – April 1981, Canada 1 – April 1981, France 1 – June 1981, Switzerland 1 – June 1981, Norway 1 – June 1981, Germany 1 – June 1981, Australia 1 for 5 weeks May 1982, Grammy in 1981, US CashBox 2 of 1981, Austria 2 – July 1981, South Africa 2 of 1981, Sweden (alt) 4 – May 1981, Italy 5 of 1981, Australia 6 of 1981, UK 10 – May 1981, Netherlands 16 – May 1981, RYM 16 of 1981, Germany 18 of the 1980s, OzNet 45, Scrobulate 66 of 80s, RIAA 268, Acclaimed 738
2 Soft Cell Tainted Love 1981 23x15pxScript error: No such module "Check for unknown parameters". UK 1 – August 1981, Canada 1 – November 1981, France 1 – August 1981, Australia 1 for 3 weeks January 1983, Austria 2 – December 1981, Switzerland 2 – November 1981, Germany 2 – January 1982, Scrobulate 2 of 80s, Australia 3 of 1982, Sweden (alt) 4 – October 1981, RYM 4 of 1981, Netherlands 5 – October 1981, South Africa 5 of 1982, US BB 8 – May 1982, US BB 15 of 1982, POP 18 of 1982, Germany 37 of the 1980s, KROQ 38 of 1982, Virgin 41, US CashBox 50 of 1982, Party 142 of 2007, Acclaimed 163, Belgium 242 of all time, OzNet 451, WXPN 745
3 Phil Collins In the Air Tonight 1981 23x15pxScript error: No such module "Check for unknown parameters". Netherlands 1 – February 1981, Sweden (alt) 1 – February 1981, Austria 1 – April 1981, Switzerland 1 – April 1981, UK 2 – January 1981, France 2 – March 1981, Germany 2 – March 1981, Canada 3 – June 1981, Norway 4 – March 1981, OzNet 7, Poland 12 – August 1982, Europe 13 of the 1980s, RYM 15 of 1981, POP 16 of 1981, US BB 19 – July 1981, Australia 23 of 1981, Italy 23 of 1981, US BB 27 of 1981, Germany 44 of the 1980s, Scrobulate 60 of pop, TheQ 87, Belgium 230 of all time, Acclaimed 1238
4 John Lennon Woman 1981 23x15pxScript error: No such module "Check for unknown parameters". UK 1 – January 1981, Canada 1 – January 1981, Éire 1 – February 1981, New Zealand 1 for 5 weeks February 1981, US BB 2 – January 1981, Switzerland 2 – March 1981, Austria 4 – March 1981, Norway 5 – February 1981, France 7 – March 1981, Germany 7 – February 1981, US CashBox 16 of 1981, Sweden (alt) 18 – February 1981, Netherlands 21 – March 1981, RYM 22 of 1981, US BB 30 of 1981, Italy 34 of 1981, POP 34 of 1981, Virgin 59, OzNet 139, Germany 213 of the 1980s
5 Stars On 45 Stars On 45 Medley 1981 23x15pxScript error: No such module "Check for unknown parameters". US BB 1 – May 1981, Netherlands 1 – January 1981, Austria 1 – May 1981, Switzerland 1 – May 1981, Germany 1 – March 1981, New Zealand 1 for 7 weeks June 1981, Australia 1 for 4 weeks June 1982, UK 2 – April 1981, Australia 2 of 1981, Germany 5 of the 1980s, Sweden (alt) 7 – June 1981, US CashBox 13 of 1981, Italy 54 of 1981

Chronological table of US and UK Number One hit singles

Chronological table of US and UK Number One hit albums

1981' s Significant singles

  1. Ghost Town The Specials
  2. Don't You Want Me The Human League

Published popular music


Births

Deaths

Awards

Grammy Awards

Country Music Association Awards

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Eurovision Song Contest

Charts

List of No. 1 Hits

US Top 40 Hits

See also

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References

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