THE GREATEST MUSIC HITS OF ALL TIME!
A list of songs that remained in the number one spot for ten or more weeks.

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Every once in a while a song comes along that appeals to so many people that it dominates the number one position of the popular music charts. Over the last century there have been thousands of songs that have held on to the number one position for one to three weeks. Many hundreds have lasted four to seven weeks, and a few have managed to remain there for up to nine weeks. But, incredibly few have accomplished the feat of staying in the number one position for ten or more weeks. These are songs that become part of our nation's psyche and, long after we think of them as having been forgotten, continue to pop up on greatest hits anthologies, oldies stations, and elevator music. Here is as list of these songs compiled from Joel Whitburn's Top 40 Hits and Pop Memories books:

(Remember that although most of the performers are long forgotten, they were the Elvis Presleys, Beatles, Madonnas, Mariah Careys, and Boyz II Men of their eras. Just as they have been forgotten, the great performers of today will also, one day, fade into oblivion. Note that it's not uncommon for years to pass between super hits like these.)

(Why should we remember? Because if we don't care enough to mark their passing, then why should anyone care enough to mark ours?)

NEW MEGAHIT DISCOVERED!!! While researching the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, I discovered I'd missed his super hit I'll Never Smile Again, which held onto the #1 spot for 12 weeks. I've added it to the list below.

 
I've posted MIDI files to 24 of the following songs. A MIDI file uses the synthesizer in a computer to simulate instruments. It allows music to be transferred over the Internet in very small files, typically 1/100th the size of normal music files. The prices paid for this are that it's only monaural, the number of instruments is usually just one to three, and most instruments come out sounding like kazoos. Many (like Alexander's Ragtime Band, Cheek to Cheek, Night and Day, Frenesi, Buttons and Bows and several others) are very good electronic renditions and have been highlighted.

These MIDI files are intended to offer a hint at what the melodies of some of these great hits sounded like. Most of these songs also had vocals, something midi files can't support. The reason I'm using MIDI files is that if I put normal music files on this page the site's bandwidth would be exceeded in short order and it would be shut down by my server.

Depending on your connection speed it may take up to 30 seconds for the music to start.

 
Important Update!!! This page was created so long ago Youtube did not exist at the time, which is why I had to resort to using midi files. In 2014 I realized I could imbed Youtube videos of the original performers of many of these songs to provide visitors with the best possible example of what these great songs are supposed to sound like. The Youtube videos I selected where the ones that had the best audio tracks rather than video content. I hope you enjoy them.

 

The Laughing Song by George Johnson.........................1891 - 10 weeks in the #1 spot
After the Ball by George Gaskin...................................1893 - 10 weeks
The Band Played On by Dan Quin listen to it...................1895 - 10 weeks
My Old Newhampshire Home by George Gaskin................1898 - 10 weeks
Arkansaw Traveler by Len Spencer................................1902 - 11 weeks
Sweet Adeline by the Haydn Quartet..............................1904 - 10 weeks
The Preacher and the Bear by Arthur Collins....................1905 - 11 weeks
The Grand Old Rag by Billy Murray.................................1906 - 10 weeks
My Gal Sal by Byron Harlan...........................................1907 - 10 weeks
School Days by Byron Harlan listen to it..........................1907 - 11 weeks
Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet the Haydn Quartet listen to it.1909 - 11 weeks
Casey Jones by Billy Murray & the American Quartet.........1910 - 11 weeks
Alexander's Ragtime Band by Arthur Collins listen to it...1911 - 10 weeks
Just a Baby's Prayer at Midnight by Henry Burr................1918 - 11 weeks
Dardanella by Ben Selvin's Novelty Orchestra listen to it....1920 - 13 weeks
Whispering by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra listen to it.....1920 - 11 weeks
April Showers by Al Jolson............................................1922 - 11 weeks
Valencia by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra........................1926 - 11 weeks
My Blue Heaven by Gene Austin listen to it......................1927 - 13 weeks
Watch it!

 
Sonny Boy by Al Jolson................................................1928 - 12 weeks
Tip Toe Through the Tulips by Nick Lucas........................1929 - 10 weeks
The Stein Song by Rudy Vallee......................................1930 - 10 weeks
In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town by Ted Lewis..................1932 - 10 weeks
Night and Day by Fred Astaire listen to it.......................1932 - 10 weeks
Watch it!

 
Cheek to Cheek by Fred Astaire listen to it.....................1935 - 11 weeks
Watch it!

 
Pennies from Heaven by Bing Crosby listen to it................1936 - 11 weeks
Sweet Leilani by Bing Crosby.........................................1937 - 10 weeks
A-Tisket, A-Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald listen to it.................1938 - 10 weeks
In the Mood by Glenn Miller listen to it.............................1940 - 12 weeks
I'll Never Smile Again by Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra..1940 - 12 weeks
Frenesi by Artie Shaw listen to it...................................1940 - 13 weeks
Watch it!

 
Amapola by Jimmy Dorsey listen to it...............................1941 - 10 weeks
White Christmas by Bing Crosby.....................................1942 - 11 weeks
(#1 for 14 weeks lifetime. The most popular song of all time.)

I've Heard that Song Before by Harry James listen to it.......1943 - 13 weeks
Watch it!

 
Paper Doll by the Mills Brothers listen to it........................1943 - 12 weeks
Rum and Coca-Cola by the Andrews Sisters......................1945 - 10 weeks
Till the End of Time by Perry Como..................................1945 - 10 weeks
Oh, What it Seemed to Be by Frankie Carle......................1946 - 11 weeks
The Gypsy by the Ink Spots..........................................1946 - 13 weeks
Heartaches by Ted Weems listen to it..............................1947 - 13 weeks
Watch it!

 
Near You by Francis Craig listen to it................................1947 - 17 weeks!!!
Watch it!

(http://weeklywire.com/ww/02-21-00/nash_music-local_view.html has more info about this great song)

 

Ballerina by Vaughn Monroe.............................................1947 - 10 weeks
Buttons and Bows by Dinah Shore listen to it.....................1948 - 10 weeks
Watch it!

 
Riders in the Sky by Vaughn Monroe listen to it......................1949 - 12 weeks
Watch it!

 
If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake by Eileen Barton.1950 - 10 weeks
Goodnight, Irene by the Weavers..........................................1950 - 13 weeks
The Third Man Theme by Anton Karas listen to it.....................1950 - 11 weeks
The Third Man Theme by Guy Lombardo (same song as above)...1950 - 11 weeks
The Tennessee Waltz by Patti Page listen to it.........................1950 - 13 weeks
Watch it!

 
Because of You by Tony Bennett...........................................1951 - 10 weeks
Cry by Johnny Ray...............................................................1951 - 11 weeks
Wheel of Fortune by Kay Starr...............................................1952 - 10 weeks
You Belong to Me by Jo Stafford.............................................1952 - 12 weeks
I Went to Your Wedding by Patti Page.....................................1952 - 10 weeks
Where is Your Heart by Percy Faith.........................................1953 - 10 weeks
Vaya Con Dios by Les Paul Orchestra with Mary Ford..................1953 - 11 weeks
Sincerely by the McGuire Sisters.............................................1955 - 10 weeks
Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White by Perez Prado listen to it....1955 - 10 weeks
Singing the Blues by Guy Mitchell listen to it...............................1956 - 10 weeks
You Light Up My Life by Debbie Boone.......................................1977 - 10 weeks
Physical by Olivia Newton John.................................................1981 - 10 weeks

(A good place to hear full orchestral versions of many of these songs is to join napster Light, which allows you the hear 30-second snippets of these songs by the original artists for free. One problem is that the old recording systems were very weak at picking up base tones, the consequence being that they all end up sounding like kazoo bands playing in a tunnel. In reality these bands featured the greatest instrumentalists the world has ever seen and many had enough power and breadth to blow out the eardrums of someone sitting in the back balcony of Carnegie Hall. The album In The Digital Mood shows what these bands really sounded like.)

 
After 1991 the number of songs making it to the number one spot and staying there for over ten weeks took an incredible 17-fold increase. What happened?

What happened is that since most artists were no longer releasing singles, in 1991 Billboard changed it's rating system so it was no longer based on a combination of single song sales and air play, to air play only. This makes it much easier to get a song into the number one spot and keep it there. From 1956 to 1990 (34 years) only 3 songs remained #1 for 10 or more weeks. From 1990 to 2003 (13 years) 19 songs lasted ten weeks or more in the number one spot. Scaling the 13-year period up indicates that in the same amount of time as the earlier period (34 years) there would be 50 songs with ten or more weeks in the number one spot. Clearly, the new system makes it much easier to accomplish this feat.

I've tried several techniques to compensate for the #1-hit inflation. The best I've come up with is to find that historically, only 6 percent of the top fifty songs over an era covering several decades made it into the #1-for-ten-weeks-or-longer category. With this as a rule of thumb then only the top 6 percent of the top 50 songs in the 1990-2003 era should be considered as being super hits. Based on the information in my new copy of Billboard's Top 40 Hits - 8th edition, this means only three songs make it on this list:

Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls........................................................1998 - 18 weeks
Don't Speak by No Doubt........................................................1996 - 16 weeks
One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men...........................1995 - 16 weeks

Direct comparisons between the lengths of the super hits for the two eras suggest that a correlation could be made by dividing the longevity of the new era hits by 1.6. This would seem to provide a way of comparing the relative popularity of songs from different eras. Using this scaling factor, the above three songs would have lasted 11 weeks, 10 weeks and 10 weeks respectively. To give a better idea of how big a mega-hit Near You was in 1947, its longevity of 17 weeks at the number one position under the old system translates to a song under the new system remaining in the number one spot continuously for 28 weeks, over six months.

Please note that I'm not trying to stack the deck against the new era to cheat some hits out of being recognized. All I'm attempting to do is set up a system by which the popularity of today's hits can be fairly compared to the hits of previous eras.

 

 
Closing comments:

The rate of songs able to hold the #1 spot for ten or more weeks dropped dramatically after rock and roll took over the charts (At least prior to the rating system change in 1990.). I believe this is because the age of the popular listener decreased and their impatience increased so that they were more willing to exchange something that was "good" for something that was "new."

Other the 116 years covered by this study, 64 songs lasted 10-weeks or more continuously in the #1 spot. That's barely more than one megahit every two years. These break down to 30-songs lasting 10-weeks, 19 lasting 11, 6 lasting 12, 8 lasting 13 and 1 that lasted for 17 weeks. (Inflation correction of 1.6 applied to the three hits in the modified ranking era.)

Some Elvis Presley fans will be offended that I did not include the Don't Be Cruel/Hound Dog double hit (11 weeks at number one.) The reason I didn't is that the eleven weeks is the total for both songs, released on the same 45 rpm record, and not for a single hit. During these 11 weeks the songs switched back and forth between #1 and #2 several times. Joel Whitburn's analysis indicates that either song by itself would have only lasted 6 to 8 weeks at the number one spot.

 
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