Sharon Van Etten on why 1981 was the Greatest Year in Music

We asked musician Sharon Van Etten to pick her favorite year in music.

The New Jersey native released an EP called I Don’t Want to Let You Down earlier this year (which you can learn more about via NPR here), following up last year’s Are We There Yet full-length. Read her case for 1981 below and vote for your favorite year here.


I was born in 1981. My parents raised me on rock & roll, oldies, folk music, and musicals. My siblings got me into funk and soul and pop music on the radio. As I entered into adulthood, I came to find that my favorite moment in time was the year I was born: the post-punk era.

The mood, beats, instrumentation, experimentation, and the angst represented in this time frame really turned me on. To imagine that at one time all of these bands were playing shows and recording and even collaborating with each other… it blows my mind! The list [of great albums] is so long and it can keep going.

Duran Duran – “Girls on Film”

The Ramones – “The KKK Took My Baby Away”

Depeche Mode – “Just Can’t Get Enough”

Jim Carroll – “People Who Died”

Kraftwerk – “Computer Love”

Ultravox – “The Voice”

Gary Newman – “She’s Got Claws”

English Beat – “Drowning”

Blondie – “The Tide is High”

Television Personalities – “This Angry Silence”

Killing Joke – “Follow the Leaders”

Durutti Column – “Never Known”

The Clean – “Tally Ho!”

Sonic Youth – Their first live recording (PRE studio album!)

The Birthday Party – “Nick the Stripper”

Delta 5 – “Shadows”

The Raincoats – “Only Loved at Night”

And …

New Order
The Fall
Gang of Four
Joy Division
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Cure
The Human League
Echo & The Bunnymen
Psychedelic Furs
The Go-Go’s
The Cars
Simple Minds
Brian Eno
The Church
The Cramps
Modern English
Joe Jackson
Iggy Pop

… You get the picture.

Category: 80s


Article by: Bruce Warren