15 May

An annoying tendency among music-album listmakers is their defining lists by decades: the best albums of the 1970's, the best singles of the 1960's, and so on. Even worse, though, are lists of the best artists of a decade. These lists will tend to ignore artists who emerged toward the end of one decade, and yet produced their best work before the mid-point of the next decade. Plenty of Punk-era artists are good examples of this problem at work; that is, are Elvis Costello or The Ramones going to make many lists of the best artists of the 1970's or 1980's? A better approach is shown below: overlapping lists, set at five-year intervals instead of ten years. The lists still cover an entire decade, but the five-year spans allow for greater nuance in historical understanding of the music

1950-59:  
  1. Tony Bennett
  2. The Clovers
  3. Miles Davis 
  4. Fats Domino
  5. The Dominoes
  6. Ella Fitzgerald
  7. Bill Monroe
  8. Pete Seeger
  9. Frank Sinatra
  10. Sarah Vaughn
1955-65:
  1. Chuck Berry
  2. Johnny Cash
  3. Ray Charles
  4. Patsy Cline
  5. Bo Diddley
  6. The Everly Brothers
  7. Howlin' Wolf
  8. Little Richard
  9. Elvis Presley
  10. Link Wray
1960-70:
  1. Joan Baez
  2. The Beach Boys
  3. The Beatles
  4. James Brown
  5. The Byrds 
  6. Bob Dylan 
  7. Aretha Franklin
  8. The Rolling Stones 
  9. The Supremes
  10. The Temptations
1965-75:
  1. Black Sabbath
  2. The Doors 
  3. The Grateful Dead
  4. Merle Haggard
  5. Jimi Hendrix
  6. King Crimson
  7. Led Zeppelin
  8. The Stooges 
  9. The Velvet Underground
  10. The Who
1970-79:
  1. David Bowie
  2. Bob Marley
  3. Elton John
  4. Curtis Mayfield
  5. Joni Mitchell
  6. Willie Nelson
  7. Pink Floyd
  8. Stevie Wonder
  9. Neil Young
  10. Frank Zappa
1975-85
  1. Blondie
  2. The Clash
  3. Elvis Costello
  4. Echo and the Bunnymen
  5. The Fall
  6. Emmylou Harris
  7. Kraftwerk
  8. The Ramones
  9. Talking Heads
  10. Van Halen
1980-89:
  1. Michael Jackson
  2. Madonna
  3. Prince
  4. R E M
  5. Run-D M C
  6. The Smiths
  7. Sonic Youth
  8. Bruce Springsteen 
  9. George Strait
  10. U 2