15 January – A new all-star rendition of the John Lennon song “Give Peace a Chance” is released, featuring Yoko Ono, Lenny Kravitz, Peter Gabriel, Alannah Myles, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt and many more, billed as “The Peace Choir“. The single has been rushed to market in response to the imminent Gulf War.
16 January – The sixth annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is held in New York. The event goes forward despite a tense atmosphere due to the President’s announcement of the Gulf War the same evening. The inductees are Ike & Tina Turner, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, LaVern Baker, The Byrds, The Impressions, Wilson Pickett and Howlin’ Wolf.
18 January – Three people are crushed to death during an AC/DC concert in Salt Lake City, Utah, when audience members rush the stage.
18–27 January – The massive nine-day festival Rock in Rio II is held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The headliners are Prince, INXS, Guns N’ Roses, New Kids on the Block, George Michael and Happy Mondays.
19 January – Janet Jackson with seventh single from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”, making her the only artist to have seven singles from the same album chart in the top five.
27 January – Whitney Houston sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl. The recording is then released and becomes a hit single.
31 January – DJ Magazine is founded.
27 February – James Brown is granted an early parole and released from jail, following his arrest after a high-speed car chase through two states in 1989. Pop Will Eat Itself documented the affair with their song, “Not Now James, We’re Busy”.
28 February – Hollywood’s Record Plant Studios recording studio closes down. Among the albums recorded at the Record Plant were The Eagles’ Hotel California, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.
11 March – Janet Jackson signs a $30 million (US) contract with Virgin Records, making her the highest paid female recording artist ever.
16 March – Seven members of country music singer Reba McEntire’s band and her road manager are killed when their private plane crashes in California, near the U.S.-Mexico border. McEntire travels on a separate plane.
20 March – Michael Jackson signs a contract with Sony for 1 billion dollars. Eric Clapton’s four-year-old son, Conor, dies after falling 49 stories from a New York City apartment window, which would inspire Clapton to write the hit single “Tears in Heaven”.
24 March – The Black Crowes are dropped as the opening act of ZZ Top’s tour for repeatedly insulting the tour’s sponsor, Miller Beer.
27 March – New Kids on the Block star Donnie Wahlberg is arrested in Louisville, Kentucky for allegedly setting his hotel room on fire.
28 March – George Harrison, Phil Collins and others attend funeral services for Eric Clapton’s late son, Conor.
28 April – Bonnie Raitt marries actor Michael O’Keefe in New York.
4 May – The Eurovision Song Contest 1991 is held in Rome, Italy and, after a highly controversial voting segment, Sweden’s Fångad av en stormvind by Carola is declared the winner.
7 May – In Macon, Georgia, a judge dismisses a wrongful death lawsuit against Ozzy Osbourne. The suit was filed by a local couple that believed their son was inspired to attempt suicide by Osbourne’s music.
10 May – Truth or Dare, a documentary chronicling singer Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour, is released to theatres.
24 May – Guns N’ Roses kick off their 26 months world Use Your Illusion Tour in Alpine Valley in East Troy.
25 May – The Billboard 200 album chart starts incorporating electronically monitored sales data provided by Nielsen SoundScan, thus beginning what chart aficionados tag as the “SoundScan era“.
28 May – The Smashing Pumpkins releases their debut album Gish, establishing the band as one of the most important of the alternative scene.
7 June – ABC revives the late-night rock performance series In Concert.
21 June – The Mérida State Symphony Orchestra is founded in Venezuela.
28 June – Paul McCartney’s classical composition, the Liverpool Oratorio, receives its première at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
July – Launch of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.
2 July – During the Use Your Illusion Tour, Axl Rose assaults a member of the audience watching the show on camera, after security fails to respond to the singer’s orders to confiscate the camera. After the attack, Rose angrily stomps off stage saying, “Thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m goin’ home!”
13 July – Pianist Keith Jarrett records his Vienna Concert at the Vienna Staatsoper.
18 July – Perry Farrell launches the first Lollapalooza tour as a farewell for his just-dissolved band, Jane’s Addiction. Other acts appearing on the tour include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Rollins Band, Fishbone and Rage Against The Machine.
13 August – Metallica releases their most successful album, “Metallica” (also called “The Black Album”). Something of a departure from the thrash metal sound they helped pioneer, it becomes one of the best-selling albums of all time
15 August – Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park takes place in Central Park. The free concert is broadcast live on HBO.
27 August – Pearl Jam releases their debut album, “Ten”. While initially slow to sell, it became No. 2 on the Billboard charts within a year and has since become certified thirteen times Platinum in the United States. Dr. Dre pleads no contest to charges that he beat up a woman at a West Hollywood nightclub. Dr. Dre is sentenced to 24 months probation.
17 September – Rock band Guns N’ Roses release their first full length follow up to their debut album Appetite for Destruction in the form of the double album Use Your Illusion I & Use Your Illusion II. Both go on to sell a combined excess of 1.3 million on their first week of sale in the USA alone.
24 September – Seattle-based band Nirvana releases their second album Nevermind, that in the beginning of 1992 replaces Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts. Nevermind would then make the Grunge movement explode and become one of the most famous rock albums of all time. It is considered the emblem of the Generation X. Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Red Hot Chili Peppers Album, was also released on this date.
3 November – A free tribute concert is held at Golden Gate Park in memory of concert promoter Bill Graham, killed in a helicopter crash three weeks earlier at the age of 60. Performers include Santana, Grateful Dead, Journey and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
7 November – Bryan Adams’s 16-week stay at the top of the UK Singles Chart is finally ended by U2 single “The Fly”, having already set a new record for the longest consecutive stay at the top of the UK Singles Chart. Izzy Stradlin quits Guns N’ Roses. Frank Zappa’s children, Dweezil and Moon, announce to an audience in New York that their father is unable to attend the tribute concert to his music because he is seriously ill with prostate cancer.
14 November – The new Michael Jackson music video “Black or White” premieres simultaneously in 27 different countries to an audience of 500 million people. Controversy is immediately generated by the video’s last four minutes in which Jackson smashes windows, vandalizes a car and causes a building to explode, as well as suggestively grabs his crotch repeatedly while dancing.
26 November – Michael Jackson releases his worldwide hit album Dangerous. The album goes on to sell over 10 million copies in the U.S. and more than 40 million worldwide, becoming one of the biggest albums of all-time, and the best selling album of the decade in the world.
30 November – Following on the steps of the Billboard 200, the Billboard Hot 100 also begins a new era by incorporating and merging electronically measured sales and airplay data from SoundScan and BDS respectively.
December – A Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert, featuring Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Stade, a jazz band led by Wynton Marsalis, and orchestra and chorus conducted by André Previn, is recorded for television.
1 December – George Harrison plays Yokohama, Japan. The brief Japanese tour with Eric Clapton marks his first set of formal concert performances since 1974.
4 December – The Judds give their final concert performance as a duo.
31 December – The twentieth annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special airs on ABC, with appearances by Boyz II Men, Simply Red, Vanessa L. Williams, Another Bad Creation, Restless Heart, Michael Bivins and Barry Manilow.
Also in 1991
Aerosmith signs a new deal with Sony Music worth an estimated $30 million.
The Rolling Stones sign a new contract with Virgin Records.
Country music legend Kenny Rogers starts his restaurant chain, “Kenny Rogers Roasters”.
Tupac Shakur’s solo career begins with his unsuccessful first album, 2Pacalypse Now. Six-year-old Qa’id Walker is shot dead by a stray bullet during a confrontation between Tupac’s entourage and a rival group.