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Revolutionary 1965

From the Beach Boys to John Coltrane, these 12 acts made albums that reshaped popular music — and culture — 50 years ago

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    Revolutionary 1965

    En español | In 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music, author Andrew Grant Jackson paints that year as “the moment in rock, soul and jazz history when the Technicolor butterfly burst out of its black-and-white cocoon.” Join us in revisiting a dozen artists — and 14 landmark LPs — from that turbulent time.

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    Bob Dylan

    Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited Defying “acoustic purists” and matching “the visionary depth of folk music with the raw power of electric rock,” writes Jackson, Dylan used amplified guitars for the first time on these two LPs. He also strayed from social commentary into personal revelations. Signature tunes: “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Desolation Row,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”

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    The Impressions

    People Get Ready Curtis Mayfield’s masterly songwriting dovetailed with the Chicago trio’s hit-making streak to produce this classic LP. “People get ready / There’s a train a-comin’ ” became an anthem for the civil rights movement of the mid-1960s. Signature tunes: “People Get Ready,” “Woman’s Got Soul”  

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    Beach Boys

    The Beach Boys Today! Talk about your career years! This is one of three LPs the Beach Boys released in 1965. Already arranger and songwriter Brian Wilson (center) was moving away from anodyne pop toward the more sophisticated songs of Pet Sounds (1966). Signature tunes: “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man),” “Help Me, Rhonda”

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    John Coltrane

    A Love Supreme The pioneering saxophonist superbly articulated his spiritual awakening on this mesmerizing four-part suite. Coltrane’s improvisations could sound like fevered sermons. Signature tune: “Resolution”

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    The Supremes

    More Hits by the Supremes The Supremes’ sisterly vibe was still intact on their third studio album, loaded with many an eternal Motown classic — all of them penned by the immortal songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Signature tunes: “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again”

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    The Byrds

    Mr. Tambourine Man American rock’s first challenge to the British Invasion was probably this galvanizing debut LP, which helped usher in folk rock. Signature tunes: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “All I Really Want to Do”

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    Otis Redding

    Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul Redding penned a few of the tunes on this Memphis soul LP from Stax Records, which included covers of three Sam Cooke songs. Several tracks from the album have endured to become definitive American classics. Signature tunes: “Respect,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “A Change Is Gonna Come”

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    The Beatles

    Rubber Soul The Fab Four flaunted their musical ambition — and newfound sophistication — by sublimely incorporating proto-psychedelica, rock, R&B, folk, pop and orchestral elements in this sea-change LP. Signature tunes: “Norwegian Wood,” “Michelle,” “Nowhere Man,” “I’m Looking through You.”

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    James Brown

    Papa Got a Brand New Bag and I Got You (I Feel Good) Mr. Dynamite lays the rhythmic foundations for funk on these two transitional LPs, which are more important for respective lead singles than their total packages. Signature tunes: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

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    The Who

    The Who Sings My Generation Bursting ferociously on the London scene, the world’s hardest rockers wrote a blueprint for the heavy-metal and punk scenes to come. The Who would soon outgrow its R&B roots, but My Generation features faithful covers of James Brown’s “I Don’t Mind” and “Please, Please, Please.” Signature tunes: “My Generation,” “The Kids Are Alright”

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    Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

    Going to a Go-Go The fact that this consistently engaging LP consists mainly of material cowritten by Smokey Robinson may be why it was the first Miracles album to give the lead singer top billing. Signature tunes: “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Going to a Go-Go”

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    Wilson Pickett

    In the Midnight Hour The rollicking title track, written by Pickett and lead guitarist Steve Cropper at Memphis’ ill-fated Lorraine Motel, earned the searing soul singer his first No. 1 hit. Signature tunes: “In the Midnight Hour,” “Don’t Fight It”

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