American Beauty. The Best Album of All Time at 50.

Grateful Dead, American Beauty Released November 1970.

One of the nice things about writing Strumings is my ability to have a subjective point of view about something and state it affirmatively. Obviously naming a “best” album of all time is highly subjective. Rolling Stone Magazine named American Beauty #215 on their most recent list of the greatest albums of all time. Not too shabby, but hardly #1. However, on my own Top 10 albums of all time American Beauty reigns supreme, and always will.

Interestingly American Beauty was not a mega hit and merely reached #30 on the Billboard album chart after its November 1970 release (hence the 50th anniversary).

When it was released, I was an 18 year old freshman at Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ, on the banks of the old Raritan. I had just gotten into the Grateful Dead first listening to late 60s Live Dead, but 1970 was a breakthrough year with the release of two brilliant studio albums, Workingman’s Dead and then in November, American Beauty. Whoa!

What makes American Beauty the best ever is that it contains 10 songs, of which 6 are truly great, says me. The list is shown below. I’ve highlighted what I believe are truly great. And the Dead must believe it too since they are still staples of Dead & Company shows today (or at least pre COVID).

Here are the songs of American Beauty (“great” ones highlighted)

Side one

Box of Rain

Friend of the Devil

Sugar Magnolia



Side two


Brokedown Palace

Till the Morning Comes

Attics of My Life


Also many of these highlighted songs are on the Lonny Strum Grateful Dead set list of all time. 1970 was also an unbelievable year for music, arguably the best ever. Beyond the 2 classic Grateful Dead albums, American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, how is this list of albums from 50 years ago (shown alphabetically)?

After the Gold Rush—Neil Young

All Things Must Pass—George Harrison

Bridge Over Troubled Water–Simon & Garfunkel

Chicago (#2)–Chicago

Cosmos Factory—Credence Clearwater Revival

Déjà vu—Crosby Stills Nash & Young

John Barleycorn—Traffic

John Lennon/Plastic Ono—John Lennon

Layla–Derek & the Dominoes

Let it Be—The Beatles

Sweet Baby James—James Taylor

Tea for the Tillerman—Cat Stevens

Tumbleweed Connection—Elton John

In 1970 my love for music turned into a hobby and later a side gig as a disc jockey. In December 1970 I became a disc jockey at WRSU the Rutgers radio station (more on that in a future Struming). Therefore, I had the opportunity to play these great albums on my shows. What a thrill.

But among all albums, American Beauty reigns supreme, so says me.

What say you?

More Strumings


  1. Lonny, as you point out, 1970 was an amazing year for music. Never thought or knew about it until you mentioned it. Hope you’re well and staying safe. Been forever since the old BBDO days.
    Be well

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Yes, 1970 was a great year. And yes BBDO was a long time ago. All the angst is gone, just the good memories. Hope all is well.

  2. Bennett Inkeles says:

    Lonny, I will concur that 1970 was an iconic year in the annals of classic rock. And while I would choose Workingman’s Dead over American Beauty, it is splitting hairs. I was especially pleased to see that you included Tumbleweed, a softer side of Elton, which was sadly fleeting.

    The recent passings of Chad Stuart, Gerry Marsden and Hilton Valentine are wistful reminders of another great era, 1964-1965. Those were the days…

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