Several weeks ago one of my favorite websites, 24/7wallstreet.com, teased me by releasing its version of the “100 Absolute Best Songs in History” and anytime I see such a boast it's like trying to pick “The Best of All Your Girl Friends Who You Didn’t Marry,” or “My Best SEC Football Players In 50 Years Of Watching Close.” The easiest way to shut down any argument is to counter: “Which Of Your Children Do You Love Most?” I’m telling you, it’s impossible.
That established, I believe two guys at 24/7 Tempo have come as close to perfection as I have seen because 73 songs on their list are also in my personal library. It you were to take my music list, which is on my iPhone, my iPods, my iPads and my iCloud – which shows how precious it is to me – and played my list from beginning to end without stopping, it would take over two weeks of 24/7.
I literally adore my music and it plays at my house all the time.
It is obvious that Charles Stockdale and John Harrington also love the music that I do but they set some rules: How did each song perform on the weekly Billboard charts? How many times have other artists covered it (performed it), what was its rank on Rolling Stones magazine’s legendary “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” and is it fair that over 50 of the songs were born in the 1960s? The decade of the 60s is commonly acknowledged as having the greatest influence on the music we enjoy today.
Then the 24/7 list was further refined. The two wrote, “To be considered for inclusion, a song must have both charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and be included on Ranker.com’s list of the best songs of all time. How well a song performed on the Billboard Hot 100 was determined by awarding points based on the number of weeks it charted and its rank for each week. Data on the estimated number of times a song has been covered was provided by SecondHandSongs.com. Performers were not permitted to have more than three songs included on the list so as to increase variety. Songs performed under multiple names were not counted for the same tally, however. For instance “The Beatles” and “John Lennon” were counted as separate artists. Finally, editorial discretion was used to include songs that, in rare cases, performed exceptionally well in certain metrics but not others.”
Now, what a great day to stroll down memory lane …
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THE ‘100 ABSOLUTE BEST SONGS IN HISTORY’
[NOTE: This list, compiled by Charles Stockdale and John Harrington of Tempo 24/7, appeared on 24/7wallstreet.com on November 21, 2019.]
100. PLEASE MR. POSTMAN by The Marvelettes. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 4, 1961 -- “Please Mr. Postman” was the first song released by the famed Motown record label to hit No. 1 on the pop charts. The song, with its catchy melody in The Marvelettes’ recording, would be covered by numerous other artists, including The Beatles and The Carpenters, the latter of whom also hit the top spot on the Hot 100 with it.
99. GIMME LITTLE SIGN by Brenton Wood. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 12, 1967 -- The smooth and soulful “Gimme Little Sign” was the biggest hit for Shreveport, Louisiana-native Brenton Wood. The song peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1967.
98. WILD THING by The Troggs. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 25, 1966 -- The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” is a defining garage rock song. The simple yet infectious song caught on like wildfire in 1966, reaching the top position on the Hot 100. It’s been covered near countless times since by artists including The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Prince.
97. LITTLE SISTER by Elvis Presley. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 21, 1961 -- “Little Sister” was not one of Elvis Presley’s blockbusters (though it did top the U.K. charts), but it did reach No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1961. The song tells the story of a guy whose girlfriend dumps him, so he sets his sights on her younger sister.
96. GLAD ALL OVER by The Dave Clark Five. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 15, 1964 -- “Glad All Over” was the first single from The Dave Clark Five to peak within the Hot 100’s top 10. The song’s chart performance was aided by the band’s appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The appearance also established the group as leading members of the British Invasion alongside the Beatles. The song has historically been popular amongst British soccer and rugby teams.
95. WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN by The Carpenters. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 12, 1970 -- The brother and sister hitmakers from the 1970s had 12 top-10 hits, including “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which peaked at No. 2 in October of 1970. The song was written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, who were hired to write an ad jingle. Richard Carpenter asked if there was a longer version and the Carpenters recorded it. The song became very popular as a wedding song.
94. RING OF FIRE by Johnny Cash. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 1, 1963 -- “Ring of Fire” was written by Johnny Cash’s eventual wife June Carter and songwriter Merle Kilgore and originally performed by June’s sister Anita Carter. Cash’s version was the big hit, however, thanks in part to its distinctive mariachi horns — an idea that reportedly came to the Man in Black in a dream.
93. WHITE ROOM by Cream. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 5, 1968 -- Cream, so named because the three members — Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton — were claimed to be the best drummer, bass player, and guitarist in the rock — had a brief but history-making appearance as the world’s first super band. “White Room” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1968. The song is about depression and despair. That apparently didn’t deter Apple, which used the song in a 2000 commercial for the company’s white iMacs.
92. LOVE IS ALL AROUND by The Troggs. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 24, 1968 -- English rock band The Troggs displayed their softer side with “Love Is All Around.” The song, which was inspired by the Joy Strings Salvation Army band, peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100 in 1968. It was later covered by the band Wet Wet Wet, whose popular version was featured prominently in the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994).
91. HEART OF GLASS by Blondie. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 17, 1979 -- Blondie emerged from New York City’s punk scene in the late 1970s and surfed the rock, pop, punk, and reggae genres to craft a series of hits in the late 1970s and 1980s. Among them was “Heart of Glass,” a fusion of disco and punk that topped the U.K. and U.S. charts. “Heart of Glass,” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in April of 1979 and was the first of four Blondie songs to top the charts.
90. POISON IVY by The Coasters. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 24, 1959 -- Written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “Poison Ivy” was a major hit for doo-wop group The Coasters, topping the R&B chart and peaking at No. 7 on the Hot 100. The song — about a tempting but toxic woman — has been covered by the likes of The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, and The Kingsmen.
89. KING OF THE ROAD by Roger Miller. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 30, 1965 -- Breezy country singer Roger Miller had a crossover hit with “King of the Road” in March of 1965. The song topped the Hot Country Songs chart, Miller’s second country chart-topper, and it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
88. MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK by The Angels. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 3, 1963 – The girl group The Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” topped the charts in the summer of 1963 and stayed there for three weeks. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes in length, the song packs a mean pop punch, completed with upbeat handclaps and catchy “hey-la” background vocals.
87. LOW RIDER by War. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 20, 1975 -- Latin-influenced group War enjoyed mainstream success with “Low Rider,” a song about the culture created around low-riding cars. The funky song was a crossover hit and rode to the No. 7 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1975 and topped the Hot R&B Songs chart.
86. MISTER SANDMAN by The Chordettes. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: N/A -- Although the release of The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” in 1954 preceded the Hot 100, it topped Billboard’s other popular music charts at the time. The infectious pop hit has been a boon to artists aside from the a cappella quartet, who first met in high school. Artists including Chet Atkins and Emmylou Harris released successful covers.
85. EIGHT MILES HIGH by The Byrds. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: April 9, 1966 -- The Byrds dipped their beaks into psychedelic music with the single “Eight Miles High,” which climbed to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May of 1966. It was the group’s third most successful single, drawing inspiration from the song “India” from jazz musician John Coltrane and the sitar strains of Ravi Shankar.
84. DUKE OF EARL by Gene Candler. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 13, 1962 -- Singer Gene Chandler scored his lone No. 1 hit with “Duke of Earl” in 1962. The song has been identified by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of 500 that helped most shape rock and roll. It also was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
83. SOLDIER BOY by The Shirelles. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 24, 1962 -- The Shirelles were one of the most successful all-girl groups of the early 1960s, and “Soldier Boy” was one of their two songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100. The song tells the story of a girl dealing with life after her boyfriend goes off to war. The song is featured in the 1989 film “Born on the Fourth of July” with Tom Cruise.
82. HEART OF GOLD by Neil Young. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 5, 1972 -- Canadian-born rocker Neil Young has been recording music for more than 60 years. He struck gold in 1972 with the release of “Harvest” — the year’s best-selling album. The album’s lead single, “Heart of Gold,” rocketed to No. 1 on the Hot 100, becoming Young’s best performing track to date and his signature song.
81. CARRIE-ANNE by The Hollies. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 17, 1967 -- British rockers The Hollies were consistent hitmakers in the 1960s and early 1970s with songs like “Bus Stop,” “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress),” and “On A Carousel.” “Carrie-Anne,” which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1967. The song was one of the first pop tunes to feature a steel drum.
80. CHAIN OF FOOLS by Aretha Franklin. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 9, 1967 -- “Chain of Fools,” written by Don Covay, was initially proposed to Otis Redding. Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler decided it was a better fit for Franklin, however, thereby making history. The song topped the R&B charts and peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, spending a total of 12 weeks on the pop chart.
79. LA BAMBA by Ritchie Valens. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 29, 1958 -- “La Bamba” was not the biggest hit for Latin rock pathfinder Ritchie Valens (that was the No. 2 “Donna”). “La Bamba” rose to No. 22 in February of 1959, the same month Valens perished in a plane crash. The song would achieve greater glory 18 years later, when the version recorded by the group Los Lobos for the Valens biopic “La Bamba” would soar to No. 1.
78. YOU DON’T OWN ME by Lesley Gore. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 28, 1963 -- Though written by two men — David White and John Madara — “You Don’t Own Me” has developed a status as a feminist anthem. The song also marked the maturation of then 17-year-old singer Lesley Gore, who up to that point had been known mostly for light-hearted pop hits such as “It’s My Party.” The song peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100.
77. SUMMERTIME BLUES by Eddie Cochran. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 4, 1958 -- “Summertime Blues” has been covered many times by music acts, including The Who, Joan Jett, and even Olivia Newton-John. It was Eddie Cochran’s breakthrough hit, climbing to No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song about teenage frustration cast the Minnesota native as a musical rebel in the style of James Dean. Like Dean, Cochran’s life was cut short by a car accident in 1960.
76. THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN by Thin Lizzy. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 15, 1976. -- “The Boys Are Back in Town” is the biggest hit of Irish rockers Thin Lizzy, reaching No. 12 on the Hot 100. Guitarist Scott Gorham has recounted that the band nearly left the iconic track off their album “Jailbreak.” The song went on to become the album’s best-performing single by far, with its double guitars and powerhouse chorus.
75. BULLET WITH BUTTERFLY WINGS by The Smashing Pumpkins. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Nov. 11, 1995 -- “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” was Chicago-based Smashing Pumpkins’ second biggest hit, rising to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is about the stress of being a rock star, and songwriter/singer Billy Corgan said the overly dramatic lyrics were not meant to be taken totally seriously. The song won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1996.
74. JOLENE by Dolly Parton. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 26, 1974 -- Country superstar Dolly Parton has scored numerous crossover pop hits, including the No. 1 songs “9 to 5” and “Islands in the Stream,” performed with Kenny Rogers. However, “Jolene” may be her best, despite it only peaking at No. 60 on the Hot 100. The song features Parton begging the titular character Jolene not to steal her lover. This classic country story has been performed by artists including Olivia Newton-John, Reba McEntire, and The White Stripes.
73. HE’S SO FINE by The Chiffons. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 23, 1963 -- “He’s So Fine” wasn’t fine, according to the major recording companies, who all rejected it. One company called the song “too trite.” A smaller record company, Laurie, took a chance, and the song became the Chiffons’ only No. 1, holding the top spot for four weeks in March of 1963.
72. BABY BLUE by Badfinger. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 25, 1972 -- Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” was a hit upon release, reaching No. 14 on the Hot 100. The song recently underwent a resurgence in popularity following its inclusion in the series finale of “Breaking Bad,” which triggered thousands of streams and online purchases.
71. THE LETTER by The Box Tops. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 12, 1967 -- “The Letter” was the biggest hit for The Box Tops, a blue-eyed soul group from Memphis known for the robust vocals of singer Alex Chilton. “The Letter” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in September of 1967.
70. WHOLE LOTTA LOVE by Led Zeppelin. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Nov. 22, 1969. Few albums have a more powerful opening than “Led Zeppelin II” with “Whole Lotta Love.” The combination of Jimmy Page’s guitar work — the main riff was voted “greatest guitar riff of all time” by BBC Radio 2 listeners — and Robert Plants’ vocals (delivering lyrics famously borrowed from bluesman Willie Dixon) make this a hard rock mainstay.
69. SPILL THE WINE by Eric Burdon And War. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 23, 1970 -- “Spill the Wine” is the product of former Animals lead singer Eric Burdon and the funk group War. The funky Latin-sounding song is widely believed to be influenced by the hallucinogenic drugs that band members used. According to the group, the song is a celebration of women. The song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1970.
68. NOTHING COMPARES 2 U by Sinéad O’Connor. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 17, 1990 -- Sinéad O’Connor scored her lone No. 1 hit with “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1990. The song was written and originally performed by Prince, although he failed to release a recording prior to O’Connor’s version. The Irish singer was nominated for three Grammy Awards for the song, including Record of the Year.
67. 96 TEARS by ? & The Mysterians. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 3, 1966 -- ? & The Mysterians was a garage band made up of musicians of Mexican descent. Their song “96 Tears” first became a regional hit but soared to No. 1 In October of 1966 after it got a national distributor. The quirky group, who took their name from a Japanese sci-fi film, included offbeat frontman Question Mark, who wore wraparound sunglasses and claimed he was born on Mars and had lived among the dinosaurs in a previous life.
66. CRYING by Roy Orbison. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 14, 1961 -- Described as the “greatest singer in the world” by Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison displayed his ample talents with “Crying.” The song peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 1961. In 1988, Orbison won a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for a version of the song he performed alongside k.d. lang.
65. MR. TAMBOURINE MAN by The Byrds. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 15, 1965 -- The California folk-rockers had their first No. 1 with “Mr. Tambourine Man” that was penned and originally recorded by Bob Dylan. This song changed rock history by ushering in the folk-rock genre. Once Dylan heard the Byrds’ twangy version of his song, it persuaded him to go electric. One cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” worth a listen is William Shatner’s curious interpretation of the song.
64. WAR by Edwin Starr. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 11, 1970 -- Edwin Starr scored his sole No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 with “War,” which spent three weeks at the top. The anti-war anthem was originally recorded by The Temptations, but it was Starr’s delivery that earned it a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Bruce Springsteen would also later cover the song.
63. THE WANDERER by Dion. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 4, 1961 -- Bronx, New York-born Dion DiMucci, known mononymously as Dion, had a string of hits in the early 1960s as a solo artist and with his group Dion and the Belmonts, fusing doo-wop, rock and R&B. “The Wanderer” was Dion’s second biggest hit, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, after his No. 1 “Runaround Sue.”
62. SEVEN NATION ARMY by The White Stripes. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 24, 2003 -- The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” is proof that there is still room for unbearably catchy rock riffs in the new millennium. The song has become a standard at sporting events and has been covered by artists ranging from Kelly Clarkson to Metallica.
61. PIECE OF MY HEART by Big Brother & The Holding Company. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 31, 1968 -- Featuring the mercurial blues/rocker Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the Holding Company’s “Piece of My Heart” was the San Francisco-based group’s biggest hit — it climbed to No. 12 in November of 1968. Erma Franklin, Aretha’s sister, sang the original, which reached No. 62 in 1967.
60. ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK by Bill Haley & The Comets. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 16, 1974 -- Bill Haley and His Comets’ version of “Rock Around the Clock” topped the Billboard pop chart in 1955 — prior to the creation of the Hot 100 — and stayed there for eight weeks. It would enter the Hot 100 in 1974, following its inclusion in the movie “American Graffiti” and the TV show “Happy Days,” peaking at No. 39. The rebellious anthem helped bring rock and roll to the forefront of American culture like few other songs did.
59. TIME HAS COME TODAY by The Chambers Brothers. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 10, 1968 -- The Chambers Brothers, who had chart success in the mid-1960s, started out as gospel singers from Mississippi. They tapped into the era’s angst about civil rights and the Vietnam War with a psychedelic classic that rose to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1968. The single that ran for and AM-unfriendly 4:45 minutes, while the album version topped out at 11:06 minutes and was mostly heard on album-oriented FM radio.
58. RHIANNON by Fleetwood Mac. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 6, 1976 -- Fleetwood Mac sent 25 songs to the Hot 100, primarily throughout the ’70s and ’80s. “Rhiannon” — written and sung by band member Stevie Nicks — stands out thanks to its emotional weight and exceptional songwriting.
57. PURPLE HAZE by Jimi Hendrix. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 26, 1967 -- Jimi Hendrix has had seven songs chart in the Billboard Hot 100, with the guitar-powered “Purple Haze” reaching No. 65 in October of 1967. Hendrix said the song was about a dream he had in which he was walking under the ocean and enveloped by a purple cloud. The song is heard frequently on classic rock radio stations.
56. I CAN SEE FOR MILES by The Who. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 14, 1967 -- The Who’s venture into psychedelic music features Pete Townshend’s soaring guitar that closes the song, which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1967. The lyrics are about jealousy and distrust that borders on the obsessive.
55. PEOPLE ARE STRANGE by The Doors. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 23, 1967 -- The Doors built on the success of “Light My Fire” with “People Are Strange,” which rose to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1967. The song was written by Jim Morrison during a period of depression and alienation. It has been covered by punk/post-punk rockers Echo & the Bunnymen. The song also appears in “Forrest Gump.”
54. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas and Papas. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 8, 1966 -- Written in 1963 and first released as a single two years later, “California Dreamin'” would become an iconic anthem to both homesickness and sunny California. The version performed by The Mamas & The Papas peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100, and artists including Bobby Womack, the Beach Boys, and Sia — for the movie “San Andreas” (2015) — released popular covers.
53. BLACK DOG by Led Zeppelin. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 25, 1971 -- Led Zeppelin, the band that defined hard rock, named the song after a Labrador retriever wandering the grounds of the mansion where they were recording an album. “Black Dog” rose to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1972, and it was the group’s second highest charting single after “Whole Lotta Love.”
52. SUZIE Q by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 7, 1968 -- Louisiana musician Dale Hawkins scored a hit of his own in 1957 with “Susie Q.” It was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of the track that crossed over to pop radio, though, reaching No. 11 on the Hot 100 in 1968. Other artists who have performed the song include The Rolling Stones and Carl Perkins.
51. CATHY’S CLOWN by The Everly Brothers. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: April 18, 1960 -- “Cathy’s Clown,” about a guy who gets dumped by his girlfriend, was The Everly Brothers only No.1 hit, and the first single to go to the top spot in the United States and the U.K. at the same time in May of 1960. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.
50. WALK ON BY by Dionne Warwick. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: April 25, 1964 -- “Walk on By” is among the best songs written by legendary team Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Between 1961 and 1981, the songwriters either penned or produced 38 charting hits for singer Dionne Warwick. However, it’s “Walk on By” — which has been covered dozens of times by artists including Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, and the Beach Boys — that endures as a beloved pop standard.
49. TURN! TURN! TURN! (TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON) by The Byrds. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 23, 1965. The jangly guitar strumming California folk-rockers turned eight verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes into one of the rock era’s most memorable songs. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season),” originally recorded by The Limeliters and written by Pete Seeger, was the Byrds’ second No.1 (after “Mr. Tambourine Man”) and reached the Billboard Hot 100 summit in December of 1965. The song is featured in the motion picture “Forrest Gump.”
48. ROCK THE CASBAH by The Clash. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 2, 1982 -- The Clash, the iconoclastic London punk rockers who were once called “the only band that mattered” sneered at commercial success, though their groundbreaking albums were major sellers. Their biggest single was “Rock the Casbah,” a risible poke at Islam that rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 1983. The song was briefly removed from radio airplay after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
47. LIKE A ROLLING STONE by Bob Dylan. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 24, 1965 -- Few songs say the Sixties more than “Like A Rolling Stone,” written and sung by the Nobel Prize-winning Bob Dylan. The song, that skewers society for its hypocrisies, was the biggest pop hit for the folk-rock balladeer, climbing to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1965.
46. JOHNNY B. GOOD by Chuck Berry. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 4, 1958 -- Duck-walking rock pioneer Chuck Berry got 1950s dances hopping with his signature song. “Johnny B. Goode” was famously covered by Michael J. Fox’s time-traveling character in “Back to the Future.” In 1977, NASA sent a copy of “Johnny B. Goode” on the Voyager space probe as part of a package meant to represent American culture.
45. COME AS YOU ARE by Nirvana. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 21, 1992 -- “Come as You Are” was the second most successful single for the grunge rockers, topping out at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May of 1992. The song’s lyrics may be intentionally confusing, but it was the repeating line, “I don’t have a gun,” that would take on a disturbing meaning when Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain committed suicide by gun two years after the song’s release.
44. WHIP IT by Devo. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 30, 1980 -- The Akron, Ohio-based punk rockers, once called by David Bowie “the band of the future,” posted their biggest hit, “Whip It,” at its Hot 100 peak in November 1980. The sadomasochistic-themed music video became popular with the advent of MTV in the early 1980s.
43. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN by Santana. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Nov. 14, 1970 -- Before Carlos Santana’s renaissance in the late 1990s, his biggest hit had been “Black Magic Woman.” This was actually a cover of a bluesy song performed by the original Fleetwood Mac, and the Mexican-American guitar master added a more sultry Latin sound to the song. “Black Magic Woman” rose to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 1971.
42. YOU WERE ON MY MIND by We Five. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 24, 1965 -- We Five were a folk-rock group from California whose time in the music limelight was brief. Their biggest hit was a remake of the Ian & Sylvia song “You Were on My Mind,” which climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
41. OVER THE RAINBOW by Judy Garland. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: N/A -- According to cover songs database SecondHandSongs, “Over the Rainbow” has been covered by other musicians more than 1,000 times. Yet Judy Garland’s original recording for “The Wizard of Oz,” performed at age 17, remains the greatest. The song won an Academy Award in 1940.
40. ALL DAY AND ALL OF THE NIGHT by The Kinks. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 26, 1964 -- The rockers who were part of the British Invasion in the 1960s had five top-10 hits. “All Day and All of the Night” was one of two of their songs to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.
39. LOSER by Beck. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 29, 1994 -- Alt-rocker Beck (born Bek David Campbell) scored his lone top-10 hit “Loser” in 1994. Beck said he wrote the song as kind of a joke. He said a friend kept calling him a loser, so he incorporated that into the chorus of the song.
38. HAPPY TOGETHER by The Turtles. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 11, 1967. “Happy Together” was the signature song for the Los Angeles-based pop group. The single went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, their lone chart-topper, and had the distinction of knocking off the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” from the top perch.
37. WHITE RABBIT by Jefferson Airplane. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 24, 1967. “White Rabbit” is an unabashed song about drug use that includes allusions to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.” Lead singer Grace Slick urges listeners to “feed your head,” a call to liberate your mind and your senses. Young people were listening — the song was the San Francisco group’s second biggest single, reaching No. 8 in July of 1967. The song was covered extensively by artists such as Patti Smith and Pink.
36. SCHOOL’S OUT by Alice Cooper. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 3, 1972 -- The early goth rocker was a major rock act in the early 1970s, and “School’s Out,” a playfully defiant single, rose to No.7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1972. It was the title track of Cooper’s fifth studio album.
35. PROUD MARY by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 25, 1969 -- The California rockers had four songs reach No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Proud Mary” was their biggest hit and the song most associated with the band. Ike and Tina Turner, among the many artists who covered the song, did a scorching version, which went to No. 4 on Billboard.
34. ROCKIN’ ROBIN by Bobby Day. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 4, 1958 -- Rock music in the 1950s was about having fun, and that was the case with “Rockin’ Robin.” It was the biggest hit for Bobby Day, a musician from Texas, whose single went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1958. The song has been covered by a number of artists, most notably by Michael Jackson in 1972, which also went to No. 2.
33. GOLDEN YEARS by David Bowie. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 13, 1975 -- Rock and roll’s most famous chameleon reached the top 10 with “Golden Years” in April of 1976. Bowie reportedly offered the song to Elvis Presley, who turned it down. The song was used as the theme song of Stephen King’s “Golden Years” and in the movie “A Knight’s Tale.”
32. BE MY BABY by The Ronettes. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Aug. 31, 1963 -- Led by singer Ronnie Spector, girl group The Ronettes reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 1963 with their song “Be My Baby.” Written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, the song has been referred to as “the greatest record ever produced” by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.
31. WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN by The Who. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 17, 1971 -- With a running time of 8:32 minutes, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is not a typical pop song. No matter. For nearly 50 years, the anti-anthem (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”) has been on the short list of the greatest rock songs of all time, remembered for its pioneering use of synthesizers, Pete Townshend’s growling guitar, Keith Moon’s thunderous drumming, and the most famous scream in rock history from Roger Daltrey. The song is used in the intro to the crime series “CSI: Miami.”
30. SURFIN’ U.S.A. by The Beach Boys. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 23, 1963 -- Surfin’ U.S.A.” is a paean to carefree youth. In early 1960s America, who could ask for more? “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was the Beach Boys’ first top-10 hit, reaching No. 3 in March of 1963. It would be viewed as lampooned by the Beatles when they sang “Back in the U.S.S.R.” on the “White Album” in 1968.
29. FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH (STOP, HEY WHAT’S THAT SOUND) by Buffalo Springfield. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 28, 1967 -- Many people believe that “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)” is a song protesting the Vietnam War. However, Stephen Stills wrote it in the aftermath of clashes between young people and police who were enforcing a curfew in Los Angeles in 1966. The song was Buffalo Springfield’s biggest hit, reaching No. 7 in March of 1967. Members of the band would eventually form the folk-rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
28. SPACE ODDITY by David Bowie. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Jan. 27, 1973 -- In early 1973, as America was still trying to understand the quirky act of the famously androgynous English rocker, David Bowie notched his first top 40 American hit, as “Space Oddity” rose to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. “Space Oddity” was about a forlorn astronaut dealing with the void of space. When Elon Musk sent his Tesla Roadster into space, “Space Oddity” was blasting from the vehicle’s speakers.
27.BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER by Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 7, 1970 -- The chart-topping title track of the folk-rock duo’s monumental album, and their final studio LP, won five Grammy Awards. Fifty years later, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” remains one of the most moving songs of the rock era. It became one of the most performed songs of the 20th century, with more than 50 artists, among them Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, covering the song.
26. YOU REALLY GOT ME by The Kinks. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 26, 1964 -- The Kinks, led by quarrelsome brothers Ray and Dave Davies, took the well-traveled British Invasion route to the United States in the mid-1960s. They scored five top-10 hits on American shores. “You Really Got Me” reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1964.
25. BORN TO BE WILD by Steppenwolf. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 13, 1968 -- The Canadian-American band enjoyed success in the late 1960s with memorable rockers such as “Born to Be Wild,” an anthem about unfettered freedom. The song was Steppenwolf’s biggest hit, going to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Born to Be Wild” is heard during the beginning of the counterculture film “Easy Rider” starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.
24. RESPECT by Aretha Franklin. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: April 29, 1967 -- One of only two No. 1 hits released by Aretha Franklin, “Respect” is one of the greatest R&B and rock songs of all time. The song was originally released by Otis Redding but it was Franklin, along with her sister Carolyn, who came up with the song’s famous “sock it to me” portion.
23. ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER by Jimi Hendrix. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 21, 1968 -- Jimi Hendrix admired the work of Bob Dylan and brought his vision to the Dylan-penned song “All Along the Watchtower,” which continues to enjoy frequent airplay on classic rock radio stations. “All Along the Watchtower” was the most successful single for Hendrix, rising to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
22. WIPE OUT by The Safaris. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 22, 1963 -- Every band worth its salt in the 1960s learned the guitar riff and the drum solo to “Wipe Out,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Surfaris were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019 for the instrumental song.
21. I GET AROUND by The Beach Boys. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 23, 1964 -- One of the great youth anthems of the 1960s, “I Get Around” was the first of four No. 1 singles for the band that symbolized the freewheeling California lifestyle.
20. IMMIGRANT SONG by Led Zeppelin. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Nov. 21, 1970 -- One of the most recognizable songs of the rock era, “Immigrant Song” has been played in movies such as “Shrek the Third,” “School of Rock,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” It’s the first track and single from the “Led Zeppelin III” album and is on regular rotation on classic rock radio stations. Grunge rockers Nirvana did a cover of the song as did Moby and Ann Wilson to name a few.
19. HONKY TONK WOMAN by The Rolling Stones. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 19, 1969 -- “Honky Tonk Women,” about the licentious lifestyle, brought the Rolling Stones their fifth No.1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1969. It was also their first chart-topper after the death of ousted guitarist Brian Jones.
18. YESTERDAY by The Beatles. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 25, 1965 -- “Yesterday,” a lament about lost love, is probably the most covered song of all time. At first, Paul McCartney thought he had accidentally plagiarized the melody but once he was confident he had not, he started writing the lyrics. It was originally titled “Scrambled Eggs,” but McCartney eventually, fortunately, changed it to “Yesterday,” which went to No. 1 in October of 1965.
17. LOUIE LOUIE by The Kingsmen. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Nov. 9, 1963 -- The big party favorite with the indecipherable lyrics prompted an FBI probe to see if obscenity laws were violated. The song — initially performed by Richard Berry & The Pharaohs — was the biggest hit for the Portland, Oregon-based group The Kingsmen, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also achieved lasting fame when it was played in the 1978 comedy “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”
16. LET IT BE by The Beatles. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: March 21, 1970 -- The gospel-inspired Beatles hit that tapped into the anxiety of the tumultuous late 1960s. The Paul McCartney-penned single was the Fab Four’s next-to-last chart-topper, reaching No. 1 for two weeks in April 1970. McCartney said he was inspired by his mother named Mary — who had passed away about 10 years earlier — who came to him in a dream and comforted him during a personal time of turmoil.
15. WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD by Louis Armstrong. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Feb. 20, 1988 -- “What a Wonderful World” is the song most associated with beloved trumpet player Louis Armstrong. Originally released in 1968, the slow tempo ballad that was turned down by Tony Bennett failed to find an audience in the United States, though it did top the charts in the U.K. The song reached No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988 when it was played in the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam.” The song has been used in at least 50 TV shows and films.
14. BAD MOON RISING by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 3, 1969. This song is one of true rock gems from one of America’s most popular and influential bands from the 1960s. “Bad Moon Rising” was one of five CCR songs to reach No. 2, and it gained more attention after its use in the movie “American Werewolf in London” when the unfortunate victim of a werewolf’s bite transforms into a werewolf.
13. SOMEBODY TO LOVE by Jefferson Airplane. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: April 1, 1967 -- The poster children for the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic and countercultural scene in the 1960s scored their biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Somebody to Love.” The song had been released by the Bay Area band The Great Society that included singer Grace Slick. The song failed to find an audience. Slick left the band to join Jefferson Airplane and brought the song with her. “Somebody to Love” reached No. 5, just before the arrival of the famed Summer of Love in 1967.
12. WALK DON’T RUN by The Ventures. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: July 18, 1960 -- The quintessential surf band from Tacoma, Washington (think the theme from the television show “Hawaii Five-O”) had its biggest hit, “Walk, Don’t Run,” reaching No. 2 in August of 1960. The Ventures recorded subsequent versions in disco and heavy-metal styles, and the 2000 track featured a saxophone. Influential guitar master Chet Atkins recorded a version of “Walk, Don’t Run.”
11. PAINT IT, BLACK by The Rolling Stones. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: May 14, 1966 – The Rolling Stones had four chart-toppers in the United States within two years in the mid-1960s, and “Paint It, Black” was their third No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song, about depression and desolation, is famous for its use of sitar, a contribution by Brian Jones, who studied the instrument under the tutelage of Ravi Shankar disciple Harihar Rao.
10. (I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION by The Rolling Stones. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 12, 1965 -- Perhaps the most recognizable opening of any rock song ever, and the song every garage band ever learned, this was the Rolling Stones’ first of eight U.S. chart-toppers in July of 1965. Keith Richards crafted the signature guitar riff after waking up in a hotel following a concert the Stones performed in Florida. He created the distorted guitar sound through Gibson Fuzz Box.
9. GOOD VIBRATIONS by the Beach Boys. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 22, 1966 -- The Beach Boys’ groundbreaking psychedelic ode to the groovy era was a product of Brian Wilson’s quest to get every writing and instrumental nuance perfect. The song was a critical and commercial success, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December of 1966.
8. LIGHT MY FIRE by The Doors. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 3, 1967 -- L.A.’s bad boys of rock scored their first No. 1 and their biggest hit in 1967, as “Light My Fire” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. The band appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show that September and were asked to change the lyric “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” because of the producers thought it was a reference to drugs. Lead singer Jim Morrison refused and sang the original lyrics, and the band was banned from the show. José Feliciano’s cover version won two Grammy awards.
7. HEY YA! by Outcast. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 18, 2003 -- The Atlanta-based hip-hop duo reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the second of their three chart-toppers. The duo released a Beatlemania-type video for the song, only instead of the setting of the Ed Sullivan Show in America, the hysteria is in England.
6. CRAZY by Patsy Cline. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 23, 1961 -- Patsy Cline scored her best-performing hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with this Willie Nelson-penned ballad that peaked at No. 9. Cline reportedly recorded her vocals in just one take — a testament to the talents of the singer who died at just 30 years of age.
5. ONLY THE LONELY (KNOW HOW TO FEEL) by Roy Orbinson. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: June 6, 1960 -- The seminal Roy Orbison song written by Orbison and Joe Melson actually was offered to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers, the latter of whom suggested Orbison should release it himself. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the U.K. pop charts.
4. THE SOUND OF SILENCE by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Nov. 20, 1965 -- “The Sound of Silence,” the title track from the Simon & Garfunkel album, was the duo’s first No. 1 hit, climbing to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on Jan. 1, 1966. The song has been covered extensively, from metal band Disturbed’s haunting and highly successful version to Anna Kendrick’s rendition in the movie “Trolls.”
3. IMAGINE by John Lennon. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: October 23, 1971 -- “Imagine,” an idealistic appeal for peace and understanding, is the song most associated with John Lennon’s solo career after the Beatles. “Imagine” has been played before the ball drops at Times Square on New Year’s and during the closing of several Olympic Games.
2. SMELLS LIKE A TEEN SPIRIT by Nirvana. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Dec. 7, 1991 -- Considered an anti-anthem by some pop culture observers, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” made a rising Pacific Northwest band named Nirvana famous and embodied the grunge movement of the early 1990s. The song reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 1992. According to an analysis at the University of London, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the most iconic song of all time.
1. HEY JUDE by The Beatles. Billboard Hot 100 entry date: Sept. 14, 1968 -- Paul McCartney wrote the song to comfort John Lennon’s young son Julian, who was trying to cope with his parents’ divorce. The song was the first single released on the Beatles own Apple label and went for an unheard of 7 minutes and 11 seconds. It featured a full orchestra and a memorable singalong chorus at the end. “Hey Jude” spent nine weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, longer than any Beatles single.
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If you are unable to remember or place a song, go to 24/7 wall street.com website and do a search, “The
Charles Stockdale and John Harrington did a mighty job with this list, so easily defendable until you hear what Luther Van Dross can do with “The Impossible Dream,” or Sandy Patty sing every verse of the Star Spangled Banner. I’ll forever include Don Henley and the Eagles with “Desperado” and, for whatever it’s worth, “This Girl Is A Woman Now” by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. When Johnny Mathis sings the words to “An Affair to Remember” that sticks with me, and how about the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir pledging, “Here I am, Lord … I will go.”
But the ultimate comes from the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds’ album. Almost every song was a platinum hit but “God Only Knows” is probably my favorite song as I stand here at age 70. How it can omitted from any list is unfathomable. Five years ago the BBC used the song in a classic way. They got some of the best artists on earth to sing it and when you see the tiger appear on the piano, the iconic Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, is actually at the keyboard in the scene
By order-of-appearance in the BBC’s God Only Knows video are Martin James, Pharrell Williams, Emeli Sande, Elton John, Lorde, Chris Martin, Brian Wilson, Florence Welch, Kylie Minogue, Stevie Wonder, Eliza Carthy, Nicola Benedetti, Jools Holland, Brian May, Jake Bugg, Katie Derham, Lauren Laverne, Gareth Malone, Alison Balsom, One Direction, Zane Lowe, Jaz Dhami, Paloma Faith, Chrissie Hynde, Jamie Cullum, Baaba Maal, Danielle de Niese, Dave Grohl, Sam Smith.
To see the BBC salute, CLICK HERE.