January 1 – The newest music video channel, VH-1, begins broadcasting on American cable. It is aimed at an older demographic than its sister station, MTV. The first video played is Marvin Gaye’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
One of the biggest music festivals in the world begins in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Rock in Rio, had a public of 1.5 million people at all, including artists like Iron Maiden, Nina Hagen, The B52’s, Go Go’s, Queen, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, AC/DC, and many more. National artists such as Gilberto Gil, Elba Ramalho, Barão Vermelho and Paralamas do Sucesso also perform.
Willie Dixon sues Led Zeppelin over the song “Whole Lotta Love”, on the grounds that it contains too many similarities to his own song “You Need Love”. The lawsuit is settled out of court.
January 28 – Various artists, under the group name USA For Africa, including Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Huey Lewis, Tina Turner, Sheila E., Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Dionne Warwick, Waylon Jennings, Bob Geldof and Stevie Wonder, record the song “We Are the World”, written by Jackson and Ritchie.
February – Just months after the compact disc release of his sixteenth and most recent studio album, Tonight, and nearly two years after the initial CD release of its predecessor, Let’s Dance, RCA Records reissues David Bowie’s previous fourteen studio albums plus four greatest hits albums on the format. Consequently, Bowie becomes the first major artist to have his entire catalog converted to CD.
Whitney Houston releases her debut album.
The “One Night with Blue Note” concert, celebrating the relaunch of Blue Note Records and featuring over 30 jazz greats, is held at The Town Hall in New York. Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, McCoy Tyner and Grover Washington, Jr. are just a few of the performers.
March 27 – The South African Broadcasting Corporation bans Stevie Wonder’s music in response to Wonder dedicating the Oscar he had won the night before to Nelson Mandela.
March 28 – A wax likeness of Michael Jackson is unveiled at Madame Tussaud’s in London, UK
April 1 – After months of squabbling, David Lee Roth leaves Van Halen to begin a solo career.
April 7 – Wham! becomes the first Western pop group to perform in China when they play a concert in Beijing’s Workers Stadium during an historic 10-day visit.
April 10 – Madonna begins her very first tour, The Virgin Tour (named after her Like a Virgin album) in Seattle, Washington, USA.
May – Russian singer Valery Leontiev starts his 10-date tour “Alone with all” and it become an instant hit. Queues for tickets blocked the traffic on a few central streets of Leningrad.
May 4 – With “La det swinge” by Bobbysocks!, Norway scores its first win at the Eurovision Song Contest, in Gothenburg, Sweden.
May 13 – Dire Straits release their fifth studio album, Brothers in Arms. The album becomes highly successful in part because of its unusually high sound quality, the result of it being recorded entirely digitally as opposed to with standard analog magnetic tape. The album additionally serves as a killer app for the compact disc format, becoming the first album to sell more copies on CD than on phonograph record, and goes on to become the highest selling album of the 1980’s in the UK.
June 11 – Madonna ends The Virgin Tour at Madison Square Garden in New York, USA.