"YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE," say the lucky ones who were. Of all the ball games, concerts and other live performances that go by the boards every day, a precious few live on. You probably have your own personal favorites: that wild day your home team finally won the Big One; the night in Jersey when the Boss was really on; the time you wandered into some jazz joint to find Coltrane at his peak. Then there are some we might all agree on--moments that marked a new phase in the arts or new heights of athletic achievement. We offer an album of some of the great ones that took place on TIME's watch:
Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue Aeolian Hall, New York City, Feb. 12, 1924
Up-tempo indeed. George Gershwin had agreed to write a symphonic jazz piece for bandleader Paul Whiteman. Gershwin didn't think he had agreed to finish it for a February performance until he read about it in a newspaper a month before the date. So Gershwin got to writing, developing some early musical sketches to a complete score. Almost. By the premiere, he hadn't finished scoring the piano solo. He played it himself, cuing Whiteman when to bring the orchestra back in. An orchestral star was born.
Babe Ruth's 60th Home Run Yankee Stadium, New York City, Sept. 30, 1927
It couldn't possibly have surprised anyone in 1927 that the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, would sock a bunch of homers. Since joining the Yankees back in 1920 after his sensational trade from the Boston Red Sox, he had been averaging 44 a year--54 in that first year alone. In the process he changed baseball. His upward swing and the short right-field fence in Yankee Stadium--the House That Ruth Built, which opened in 1923--would lead the 1927 Yanks to the pennant. At the end of the season, on a 1-1 pitch against Washington's Tom Zachary, he set a home-run record that would stand for 34 years. BABE SMACKS SIXTIETH CIRCUIT SWAT, read one headline. The World Series against Pittsburgh would be a mere formality. Babe 4, Bucs 0.
Marion Anderson's Washington Recital Lincoln Memorial, April 9, 1939
The Daughters of the American Revolution 0, Marian Anderson 75,000. That's how many people thronged to the contralto's magnificent concert at the Lincoln Memorial, made possible by the D.A.R.'s refusal to rent her Constitution Hall.
Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Washington, Oct. 30, 1944
Aaron Copland called it Ballet for Martha, as in Martha Graham. But she named it after a Hart Crane poem. Her ballet told the tale of a young marriage blossoming in pioneer-era Pennsylvania. In Copland's music, listeners heard not just an evocation of the Appalachians; they also heard the sound of a nation blossoming. The immediate impact is all the more amazing given the spareness of the composition. Framed by the Shaker folk song Simple Gifts, the music was originally scored for just 13 instruments because of the limited size of the orchestra pit at its opening venue.
Orson Welles' War of the Worlds Mercury Theatre, N.Y., Oct. 30, 1938