The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is the cover story of a special issue of Rolling Stone magazine published in November 2003. The list was based on the votes of 273 rock musicians, critics and industry figures, each of whom submitted a weighted list of 50 albums. Various music genres were featured in the list, including pop, rock, ska, soul, blues, folk, jazz, hip hop, and combinations thereof. The accounting firm Ernst & Young devised a point system to weigh votes for 1,600 submitted titles.
The list was released in book form in 2005, with an introduction written by Steven Van Zandt. The book's list was slightly different, explained in the editor's foreword as the removal of some compilation albums and the consolidation of the two LPs of Robert Johnson's King of the Delta Blues Singers into The Complete Recordings, making room for eight additional albums on the list.
The list's apparent generational bias toward the 1960s and 1970s prompted a response. Following the publicity surrounding the list, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, a former Rolling Stone editor, published Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics (ISBN 1-56980-276-9) in 2004. This featured a number of younger critics arguing against the magazine's high evaluation of various "classic" albums, including DeRogatis taking on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had been Rolling Stone's top choice.
As with other similar lists from Rolling Stone, it is almost totally made up of the output of American and British artists. Only two albums produced in a non-English speaking country are included in it: Trans-Europe Express, by the German band Kraftwerk (#253) and the Cuban production Buena Vista Social Club (#260). Moreover, the first ten albums were all produced in the 1960s and 1970s.
The list also includes many compilations such as "greatest hits" collections and soundtracks.