The Hits

This past weekend, Betsy’s grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday. Betsy and I gave her an mp3 player we had loaded with the #1 hit song for every year from 1925 – her birth year – to 2014. (For the most part, I used Tsort to tell me which song was #1.)

Reading the list is like stepping in a time machine, only without all those pesky paradoxes. You can, of course, hear any of these songs by searching for them on YouTube.

1925 – Ben Bernie – Sweet Georgia Brown
1926 – Gene Austin – Bye Bye Blackbird
1927 – Hoagy Carmichael – Stardust
1928 – Jimmie Rodgers – T For Texas (Blue Yodel No 1)
1929 – Eddie Cantor – Makin’ Whoopee
1930 – Ben Selvin – Happy Days Are Here Again
1931 – Cab Calloway & His Cotton Club Orchestra – Minnie the Moocher
1932 – Fred Astaire & Leo Reisman – Night and Day
1933 – Ethel Waters – Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All the Time)
1934 – Benny Goodman – Moonglow
1935 – Fred Astaire – Cheek to Cheek
1936 – Bing Crosby – Pennies From Heaven
1937 – Benny Goodman – Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)
1938 – Artie Shaw – Begin the Beguine
1939 – Judy Garland – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
1940 – Glenn Miller – In the Mood
1941 – Glenn Miller – Chattanooga Choo Choo
1942 – Bing Crosby – White Christmas
1943 – The Mills Brothers – Paper Doll
1944 – Bing Crosby – Swinging on a Star
1945 – Les Brown & Doris Day – Sentimental Journey
1946 – Perry Como – Prisoner of Love
1947 – Francis Craig – Near You
1948 – Dinah Shore – Buttons & Bows
1949 – Vaughn Monroe – Riders in the Sky
1950 – Nat King Cole – Mona Lisa
1951 – Nat King Cole – Too Young
1952 – Jo Stafford – You Belong to Me
1953 – Les Paul & Mary Ford – Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You)
1954 – The Chordettes – Mr. Sandman
1955 – Bill Haley & His Comets – Rock Around the Clock
1956 – Doris Day – Que sera sera (Whatever will be will be)
1957 – Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock
1958 – The Kingston Trio – Tom Dooley
1959 – Bobby Darin – Mack the Knife
1960 – Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight
1961 – Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again
1962 – Pat Boone – Speedy Gonzales
1963 – Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil in Disguise
1964 – Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman
1965 – The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
1966 – Frank Sinatra – Strangers in the Night
1967 – Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale
1968 – The Beatles – Hey Jude
1969 – The Beatles – Get Back
1970 – The Beatles – Let It Be
1971 – George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
1972 – Don McLean – American Pie
1973 – The Rolling Stones – Angie
1974 – Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting
1975 – Billy Swan – I Can Help
1976 – ABBA – Dancing Queen
1977 – Eagles – Hotel California
1978 – Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
1979 – Blondie – Heart of Glass
1980 – Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)
1981 – Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
1982 – Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
1983 – Irene Cara – Flashdance (What a Feeling)
1984 – George Michael – Careless Whisper
1985 – USA for Africa – We Are the World
1986 – Berlin – Take My Breath Away
1987 – Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)
1988 – Phil Collins – A Groovy Kind of Love
1989 – Madonna – Like a Prayer
1990 – Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U
1991 – Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do it For You
1992 – Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
1993 – UB40 – Can’t Help Falling in Love
1994 – Ace of Base – The Sign
1995 – Coolio – Gangsta’s Paradise
1996 – Los Del Rio – Macarena
1997 – Elton John – Candle in the Wind
1998 – Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
1999 – Britney Spears – Baby One More Time
2000 – Madonna – Music
2001 – Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head
2002 – Eminem – Lose Yourself
2003 – OutKast – Hey Ya!
2004 – Usher – Yeah!
2005 – Madonna – Hung Up
2006 – Shakira & Wyclef Jean – Hips Don’t Lie
2007 – Rihanna & Jay-Z – Umbrella
2008 – Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
2009 – Lady Gaga – Poker Face
2010 – Eminem & Rihanna – Love The Way You Lie
2011 – Rihanna & Calvin Harris – We Found Love
2012 – Gotye & Kimbra – Somebody That I Used to Know
2013 – Robin Thicke, T.I. & Pharrell – Blurred Lines
2014 – Pharrell – Happy

Bring back any memories? I love “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Let It Be,” “Kung Fu Fighting,” “Lose Yourself,” and “Poker Face.” Draw your own conclusions.

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2 responses to “The Hits

  1. Well, this is interesting. I know more popular songs from before I was born than from the last 15 years.

    First of all, the two I despise: “I Will Always Love You” (a perfectly fine song beaten to death by egomaniacal singing), and “Blurred Lines” (pretty much the perfect combination of offensive pro-rape lyrics and a complete lack of song-craft).

    My faves: “Oh, Pretty Woman” (when Springsteen was making Born to Run, he said he wanted lyrics like Dylan, production like Phil Spector, and singing like Roy Orbison — pretty good on the first two, complete failure on the third — he’d probably agree), “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” and “Nothing Compares to U.”

    “Candle in the Wind” is the Princess Diana version, not the original. Elton’s great death song is still “Empty Garden,” though.

    “Like a Prayer” was the one moment I was really into Madonna. That album is like the great lost Tori Amos album. Plus it has a really great divorce song (my theory is that you can’t write a really great divorce song unless you’ve been divorced — it’s a whole different deal than a relationship breakup).

    • Interesting…
      Agree with you on “I Will Always Love You.” My wife and I love “Blurred Lines,” though. The lyrics, while manifestly stupid, don’t seem especially offensive to me (though I haven’t analyzed them in any depth), and we like the sound of it.
      “Pretty Woman” was one that I loved as a kid – I still like it okay, but not the way I used to. “Candle in the Wind,” I actually like the Princess Di version better (though to be fair, I’ve only heard the original once, I think).
      “Like a Prayer” is good. 🙂

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