Washington, DC is paradise to me! 51 albums of DC history by EyeKanFly (2021)

Washington DC is home to some of the most powerful institutions and people on the planet, yet this is in stark contrast to the 700,000+ people who live within the District's borders: utterly powerless to change all but the most basic tenets of their local government.

These 51 albums encapsulate the artists, producers, venues, labels, and genres most important to the history and legacy of the District of Columbia. Some are by local DC artists, some are by artists who grew up in DC never to return in adulthood. Some are by foreigners who have made this city home, or maybe just passed through on a tour. Some are by artists who experienced DC at its best, and some are by artists who have experienced DC at its worst.

In addition to the 51 albums, here are a handful of honorable mentions, mostly songs or other recordings which don't fit into the "album" format. All however are important to the past, present, and future of Washington, DC:
- "A 1000 Times" - Hamilton Leithauser
- "Crew" - GoldLink
- "Embassy Row" - Pavement
- "Ghost of Old D.C." - J. B. Beverley & The Wayward Drifters
- "God Bless America" - Kate Smith
- "One Mint Julep" - The Clovers
- "Reunited" - Peaches & Herb
- "Summertime" - Billy Stewart
- "Swanee" - Al Jolson
- "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" - The Postal Service
- "The Hustle" - Van McCoy
- "Ugly Man" - Danny Gatton
- "Washington D.C." - The Magnetic Fields
- "Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues" - Skip James
- Library of Congress recordings - Jelly Roll Morton; Woody Guthrie
- Native American music of the Eastern Woodlands - Piscataway Conoy Tribal Nation musicians

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DC born and raised, Marvin Gaye spent almost none of his adult life in his hometown. That said, What's Going On is an important project in music history. It's told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to the US only to experience racism, poverty, and drug dependence. It's also one of the first mainstream music projects to promote awareness of ecological issues. These issues all resonate with Washington, the seat of power of the country. The city where decisions get made which result in war, mistreatment of veterans, mistreatment of minorities, and mistreatment of the environment.

I would recommend listening to the 2001 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of this album, which features a live performance of (nearly) the whole album (plus some extras) at the Kennedy Center in 1972.
[First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1971
Appears in:
Rank Score:
20,965
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DC's other famous son. Ellington was a famous bandleader from the late 1920s to early 1940s, and this album helped revitalize his career in the late 1950s. Newport 1956 was one of the best recorded performances of Ellington's whole career. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1956
Appears in:
Rank Score:
1,358
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3. (=)
Minor Threat 
Compilation
Other than maybe Marvin Gaye and Duke Ellington, no one looms quite as large over the DC music scene as Ian MacKaye. This is one of MacKaye's first projects, and it set the stage for the DC punk scene. Unlike punk scenes in London or New York (perhaps the only cities with larger punk scenes than DC), DC punk rockers were known for promoting their "straight-edge" lifestyle: abstinence from drugs and alcohol. While this album is a great collection of punk songs, I do feel I need to mention "Guilty of Being White": on the surface it appears to be white supremacist in nature, but according to MacKaye the (admittedly hard to comprehend) lyrics actually relate to being white in a black-majority school, neighborhood, and city. While it appears to me to be misguided, the intent is that MacKaye sympathizes with the plight of minority Americans. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1984
Appears in:
Rank Score:
491
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4. (=)
13 Songs 
Compilation
This is MacKaye's most famous project. Fugazi are THE DC punk band, credited with developing the post-hardcore genre. Their music is what put MacKaye's record label (Dischord, which he still runs) on the map. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1989
Appears in:
Rank Score:
1,547
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Go-go is DC's official music genre, and there's no better place to go for go-go than Chuck Brown. This live set was recorded at the Crystal Skate in Temple Hills, just outside of DC (fun fact: it's still around, I had to go to the hospital with a sprained knee after roller skating there). This album features a surprise rap cameo by then-mayor of DC Marion Barry (on the song "Go-Go Drug Free", ironic considering his later prison sentence for being caught smoking crack). [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1987
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None
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None
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Funk band Parliament's tribute to DC and "chocolate" (majority black) cities all over the USA. Now just under 50% black, at the time this album was released DC was around 70% black. Currently the US state with the highest percentage of Black Americans is Mississippi at a little under 40%. Among all US states and territories, only the Virgin Islands have a higher percentage of Black Americans (75%) than DC. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1975
Appears in:
Rank Score:
117
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Other than Fugazi, Bad Brains is probably the most important band of the DC punk scene. However, Bad Brains were banned from playing at all the DC clubs at the beginning of their career, largely because they were the only black punk band around, and they fused genres like reggae and metal into their punk music. Hence the song "Banned in D.C.". Fortunately the de facto ban was lifted and Bad Brains became major players in the DC punk scene. Lead singer H.R. (Human Rights) was actually born in Liverpool, England, but grew up in DC. He's a devout Rastafari, but he holds some...antiquated views about gender and sex that don't jive with either his belief system or his stage name. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1982
Appears in:
Rank Score:
1,860
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Before there was rock, before there was jazz, there were marches. I guess. As the Romantic era began trending towards the Modern era, Sousa helped bridge the gap with his mastery of the genre. He conducted the US Marine Band, the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. Sousa was very resistant to having his music recorded, nevertheless some recordings of his conducting finesse have survived, and they're collected in this compilation. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1999
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Rank in 1999:
None
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None
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Formed in DC in 1993, The Dismemberment Plan is one of the most important indie and experimental rock bands of the 90s. Look no further than their best album. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
1999
Appears in:
Rank Score:
5,107
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10. (=)
One of DC's most well-known rappers, Wale has no shortage of songs that pay tribute to DC and its cultural institutions (like go-go). Ambition is on the list for the track "DC or Nothing", but The Mixtape About Nothing is probably the best of Wale's work, drawing heavy influence and samples from Seinfeld. [First added to this chart: 04/22/2021]
Year of Release:
2011
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Rank Score:
4
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Total albums: 51. Page 1 of 6

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Washington, DC is paradise to me! 51 albums of DC history composition

Decade Albums %


1930s 0 0%
1940s 0 0%
1950s 1 2%
1960s 5 10%
1970s 9 18%
1980s 10 20%
1990s 7 14%
2000s 7 14%
2010s 12 24%
2020s 0 0%
Country Albums %


United States 47 92%
Ethiopia 1 2%
United Kingdom 1 2%
Iraq 1 2%
Iran 1 2%
Compilation? Albums %
No 47 92%
Yes 4 8%
Live? Albums %
No 42 82%
Yes 9 18%
Soundtrack? Albums %
No 50 98%
Yes 1 2%

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BEA's Top 100 re-ranked by EyeKanFly (2020)
50 States by EyeKanFly (2021)
Best Album of Every Year 1940-2021 by EyeKanFly (2021)
EyeKanFly's 1960s #101-200 by EyeKanFly (2020)
EyeKanFly's 1970s #101-200 by EyeKanFly (2020)
EyeKanFly's 1980s #101-200 by EyeKanFly (2020)
EyeKanFly's 1990s #101-200 by EyeKanFly (2020)
EyeKanFly's 2000s #101-200 by EyeKanFly (2020)
EyeKanFly's 2010s #101-200 by EyeKanFly (2020)
EyeKanFly's 2010s #201-300 by EyeKanFly (2020)
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Washington, DC is paradise to me! 51 albums of DC history ratings

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90/100 (from 6 votes)
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From 08/16/2021 11:46
Really interesting idea for a chart- I was thinking of doing something like this for a major city. Seems you were ahead of me on this!
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
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From 08/04/2021 19:52
John Fahey Visits Washington DC...now that's something I need to hear!
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +1 votes (1 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
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From 05/06/2021 18:32
Appreciate it EyeKanFly. Was definitely a bit of fun to make. Always wanted to and never got around to it until this year. Not going to kid myself and say it's done, but I'll admit I've stopped digging around the twoonie bins for a sec.

Oddly, Canada just released a 'Canada-based playlist' for people to 'do our census to', and there's a lot of suspicious overlap. I'm assuming the government has stolen my idea (as usual).

(I kid of course, but just a coincidence).

Hoping people pluck a few records from the list, whether or not they like them. The 70s folk scene in particular was very strong, and I'd double down on the northern indigenous work.
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