KEXP’s 50th Anniversary - Independent Together

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In 1972, four students at the University of Washington in Seattle had an idea. The university -- and the city -- needed a radio station where students could learn the art of broadcasting and listeners could discover music. From that idea, KCMU was born. With an initial signal of only 10 watts, the station was small but mighty. With the support of the UW, a roster of DJs and hosts rotated through the station -- some in advance of long careers in journalism and broadcasting -- and the ethos of KCMU began to form. DJs should be in charge of programming their shows according to their idea of what should be on the air, not according to some playlist. Loving music isn’t about narrowing the scope of what you think sounds good, but rather about expanding it, and seeking out new sounds and new musical ideas with intention and purpose. Music is about connection.

Now, 50 years later, our call letters may have changed, and our audience may be a bit larger and more geographically dispersed, but we still hold on to the central truth that music matters. We work every day to build a community of music lovers and music makers, all focused on celebrating and championing the role that music plays in our lives. For over 50 years, we’ve done things our way by elevating artists from all backgrounds, by encouraging DJs to be their true selves, by speaking up when others go quiet, and by making KEXP a place you gather at not just something you listen to. Now we’re a thriving global community of individuals made stronger by our differences. We embrace uniqueness, allow time for discomfort, and constantly challnge our beliefs, all so we continue evolving together. That’s what drives us forward, as individuals, as a station, as a community.

As we celebrate this milestone, we’ll spend some time looking back, but we’ll also be looking forward. It’s going to be a lot of fun! Join us here for updates and new features throughout the year. Thank you for powering KEXP for 50 years.

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50 Years of Music

It’s KEXP’s 50th anniversary, and to celebrate we’re taking an in-depth look at each year of our history – from 1972 to 2022. All year long we’ll be bouncing around the timeline, pulling out the best music from a different year each week – both the songs we all know and love and music we might’ve missed the first time around. Tune in to hear spotlight features every Wednesday, and highlights from each year throughout the week. Listen live wherever you tune in.

Made possible in part by TomboyX, ACLU of Washington, Pagliacci Pizza, Alaska Airlines, and Bloodworks NW.


THIS WEEK: 1972

Two-Week Streaming Archive

1972 on The Roadhouse

Wow, 1972 was quite a year — amazing, in fact! I’ve always maintained that the early '70s was a watershed moment in music and a zenith in terms of sound production and artistic creative freedom. It was that good, and our initial 50 Years Of Music series demonstrated that all day.

There was such a wealth in 1972. The commercial hits combined with the many (now classic) songs that never charted, created an output that ranks right up there with any year in modern times. The depth and range is impressive; from Stevie Wonder to Gary Glitter, Miles Davis to Carole King. Long hairs and rednecks got together in Texas for Willie Nelson shows. Superfly was indeed fly! Even Sesame Street was funky. 

It came in all shapes and sizes and anything seemed possible to chart. Funky country? Sure. A sitar in that pop song? OK! Spiders from Mars? Hell yes. Gospel in everything? Hallelujah! How about a French moog-synth instrumental? Well, yes. In fact, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter went to number one in 1972. (It’s my first track.)  

I had quite a fun time digging for golden nuggets on this one; up until about 2:30 AM the night before cutting it down to three hours. There was just so much music. Then, for kicks, I decided to add a Velvet Underground segment to this broadcast as I had been looking for a place to land a mix of Velvet Underground-inspired music since last summer, when I first heard the latest Whitney K album. His album Two Years is like a country, early-VU album that I loved hard in 2021. Since my VU-inspired mix didn’t really fit well with the usual Roadhouse fair, I thought the 1972 show was a good landing spot for it. The only problem was that it grew into half of my show! Meaning the 1972 songs were cut to just 90 minutes and I used Lou Reed’s 1972 Transformer album as a bridge between the two segments. Considering that the Velvet Underground were a significant influence to all the Glam Rock bands, especially David Bowie, I think it worked.

Now, dig this pony!  — Greg Vandy

Two-Week Streaming Archive

1972 on EARLY

On Wednesday, January 5th, we kicked off our 50 Years of Music series with 1972, and DJ Gabriel Teodros delivered a two-hour set of nothing but music from the year 1972, and songs that sample songs from 1972. You'll hear classics from Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Delfonics, plus sampling from Scarface, Earl Sweatshirt feat. Armand Hammer, Moodymann, and more.

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