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Top 10 Songs of the 40s

Updated on April 5, 2015

Glenn Miller

40s Music

With the stock market crash of 1929 music sales dropped dramatically but, by the late 1930s the industry was back on the upswing. By the 1940s music had made a recovery and once again became an incredibly large part of media. The 40s was popular for several types of music. with genres including: Jazz, Big Band and Country. These genres were those that were the most popular in first world countries. Country songs were often popular due to the romanticized vision of the cowboy and many of the songs are considered Western songs or Cowboy songs. Big Band originated in the United States during the Swing Era that utilized guitar, drums, piano, bass, trumpets, saxophone, clarinet and trombones. Pure Jazz was popularized by artists like Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole and often featured solos on horn/brass instruments over a catchy riff by other instruments.

From all these genres a lot of good, catchy and popular songs were released during the era, the following is a list of my ten favorite!

10. Chatanooga Choo Choo

A unique piece of the era, that captures elements of a train with its instrumentals well in the beginning of the track. The track is also accompanied by Glenn Miller singing with a group of back up singers. The song was inspired by the Chattanooga rail company of the era.

9. Nature Boy

This song by Nat King Cole has absolutely beautiful, smooth vocals along with an enchanting and mysterious sounding flute riffs. The song seems very minor and is heavy with string instruments that accompany the powerful vocals.

8. Jingle, Jangle, Jingle

Another of the cowboy songs mixed with a strong big band sound, the song has an incredibly catchy percussive instrumental through the verse. When there are no lyrics the jazzy instrumentals take charge and feature brass instruments, the song has an amazingly clean sounding low brass section as well.

7. Cruising Down The River

Fluid and almost carousel like instrumental with interesting riffs from brass instruments, string instruments, woodwind instruments as well as piano. The song features several singers with a simplistic yet memorable chorus.

6. White Christmas

Bing Crosby was prominent in many areas of the media, from film to music. This song is still played often today and is heavily covered albeit only around the holidays. Most likely you know a few lyrics here and there from it, and at the very least know "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" The song is the best selling of the decade with a reported "50 million" sales of the song.

5. Riders In The Sky

An evident cowboy song, popularized by Vaungh Monroe and Peggy Lee. The song has catchy lyrics and features western vocals that are easy to get stuck in your head. The instrumental to the track is also interesting and features fast riffs on the guitar.

4. Swinging on A Star

Peculiar lyrics and with light yet catchy instrumentals and a balanced group of back up singers that take lead in some verses. The song has a simple formula but, is often considered one of Bing Crosby's best songs. The song was further popularized by Frank Sinatra who did a cover of the song.

3. You Are My Sunshine

This is another song that is still popular today, although its more often categorized as a folk song now a days. The song has an interesting sounding guitar riff and excellent swing instrumentals from clarinet and trumpet. This is another song that people today still know the lyrics and have probably heard or sung at one time or another.

2. That Lucky Old Sun

Written in 1949 by Frank Laine, That Lucky Old Sun is a song with strong meaning starting of with basic instrumentals, especially evident in listening to the guitar, that add beauty without taking attention away from the lyrics of the song. The song is meant to be about the toil and hardships of the singers life. The song is dynamic in that it becomes much more grand throughout the piece and ends with a good deal of flair. The song has been covered by many artists including Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.

1. You Always Hurt The One You Love

Features smooth and rich vocals on top of a steady and sweet backing along with a quiet and tasteful soloing guitar. After a minute into the song the guitar becomes more defined and the instrumentals do as well as the beat picks up. The tempo increases and back-up singers add into the dynamic song. Quick guitar riffs are often incorporated into songs by the Mills Brothers and this song is no exception.

The Mills Brothers

Was Your favorite Song of The 40s Included in The List?

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    • Shivendra Tiwari profile image

      Shivendra Tiwari 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      such a cult classic songs.

    • Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

      Matthew A Easterbrook 

      4 years ago from Oregon

      I enjoy listening all different types and generations of music. Great work on the list and with so many talented artists and pieces back in the 1940s. As a middle age person myself it is good to see younger people as yourself appreciating music of the 1940s etc. I am a firm believer to keep an open mind about all music and just listen and enjoy the different rhythms and melodies. I voted it up for useful, interesting, and an awesome hub.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      4 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I spend a lot of time listening to music of the 30s and 40s (I'm doing it right now). The only one of the songs you list that I'm not familiar with is Cruising Down The River. These songs have stood the test of time, and I often wonder if any of today's pop music will fare as well. I doubt it.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 

      4 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      I was born in 48 so these songs were popular before I was listening to music. But some of them are still popular. You Are My Sunshine is still sung my children today; so is White Christmas; and You Always Hurt The One You Love. The other songs are well known also. If you notice the songs of years ago are still remembered, but the songs of today are almost forgotten when the new hit comes out. I liked reading this hub and voted up.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 

      4 years ago from Australia

      A really interesting list - the songs reveal so much about how life was at the time, from Bing Crosby with a voice said to be reminiscent of how people believed they sounded when singing in the shower (I wish!) to the magical escapism of many of the lyrics.

      I hope you do a list of either the 30s or 50s and compare them - that would be interesting to read!

      Voted up.


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