Best Hits Of All-Time (1940-1954)
Ranking The All-Time Best Songs
How to rank the all-time best songs from 1940-1954 will be a great task? Easy, all that's needed is a source which ranks the songs according to their popularity. Does such a source exist? Yes. Billboard magazine. In 1940, Billboard began issuing it's first weekly chart covering the "Best-Selling Retail Records". We will use this source to rank our top 100 songs of all-time during this era of the big bands. During this period many singers got known and went on to become great performers as individual artists. Some of these include, Bing Crosby, Friank Sinatra and Dinah Shore just to name a few.
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I have just completed the top 100 songs for each decade from 1890 - 2010 check this out by going there now!
Criteria Used To Determine The Ranking Of The Songs
The following criteria will be used to rank the songs for this period.
- Peak position
- Number weeks at peak position
- Total weeks charted
- If still tied, alphabetical by artist
The Top 100 Songs For 1940 - 1954
Here is the list of the top 100 songs of all-time for the period 1940-1954. This list will provide the title/artist/number of weeks holding the #1 position ().
1. Near You / Francis Craig 1947 (17)
2. White Christmas / Bing Crosby 1942 (14)
3. Frenesi / Artie Shaw 1940 (13)
4. The Tennessee Waltz / Patti Page 1950 (13)
5. I've Heard That Song Before / Harry James 1943 (13)
6. Goodnight, Irene / Weavers with Gordon Jenkins / 1950 (13)
7. The Gypsy / Ink Spots 1946 (13)
8. Heartaches / Ted Weems 1947 (13)
9. Paper Doll / Mills Brothers 1943 (12)
10. In The Mood / Glenn Miller 1940 (12)
11. You Belong To Me / Jo Stafford 1952 (12)
12. Riders In The Sky / Vaughn Monroe 1949 (12)
13. I'll Never Smile Again / Tommy Dorsey 1940 (12)
14. Vaya Con Dios / Les Paul & Mary Ford 1953 (11)
15. The Third Man Theme / Anton Karas 1950 (11)
16. The Third Man Theme / Guy Lombardo 1950 (11)
17. Cry / Johnnie Ray 1951 (11)
18. Oh! What It Seemed To Be / Frankie Carle 1948 (11)
19. Because Of You / Tony Bennett 1951 (10)
20. Buttons And Bows / Dinah Shore 1948 (10)
21. Wheel Of Fortune / Kay Starr 1952 (10)
22. Song From "Moulin Rouge" / Percy Faith 1953 (10)
23. Ballerina / Vaughn Monroe 1947 (10)
24. I Went To Your Wedding / Patti Page 1952 (10)
25. Rum And Coca-Cola / Andrews Sisters 1945 (10)
26. Till The End Of Time / Perry Como 1945 (10)
27. Moonlight Cocktail / Glenn Miller 1942 (10)
28. Amapola / Jimmy Dorsey 1941 (10)
29. If I Knew You Were Coming I'd've Baked A Cake / Eileen Barton 1950 (10)
30. Sentimental Journey / Les Brown 1945 (9)
31. Swinging On A Star / Bing Crosby 1944 (9)
32. Little Things Mean A Lot / Kitty Kallen 1954 (9)
33. Chattanooga Choo Choo / Glenn Miller 1941 (9)
34. How High The Moon / Les Paul & Mary Ford 1951 (9)
35. Shoo-Shoo Baby / Andrews Sisters 1944 (9)
36. Manana (Is Soon Enough For Me) / Peggy Lee 1948 (9)
37. Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart / Vera Lynn 1952 (9)
38. Sh-Boom / Crew-Cuts 1954 (9)
39. Only Forever / Bing Crosby 1940 (9)
40. Tuxedo Junction / Glenn Miller 1940 (9)
41. Rumors Are Flying / Frankie Carle 1946 (9)
42. Pistol Packin' Mama / Al Dexter & His Troopers 1943 (8)
43. Twelfth Street Rag / Pee Wee Hunt 1948 (8)
44. You, You, You / Ames Brothers 1953 (8)
45. Mona Lisa / Nat "King" Cole 1950 (8)
46. Peg O' My Heart / Harmonicats 1947 (8)
47. Rags To Riches / Tony Bennett 1953 (8)
48. Piano Concerto In B Flat / Freddy Martin 1941 (8)
49. If / Perry Como 1951 (8)
50. To Each Is Own / Eddy Howard 1946 (8)
51. Sin (It's No Sin) / Eddy Howard 1951 (8)
52. Wanted / Perry Como 1954 (8)
53. That Lucky Old Sun / Frankie Laine 1949 (8)
54. Don't Fence Me In / Bing Crosby 1944 (8)
55. The Gypsy / Dinah Shore 1946 (8)
56. The Doggie In The Window / Patti Page 1953 (8)
57. Come On-A My House / Rosemary Clooney 1951 (8)
58. Kalamazo / Glenn Miller 1942 (8)
59. Oh! My Papa / Eddie Fisher 1954 (8)
60. On The Atchison, Topeka, And Santa Fe / Johnny Mercer 1945 (8)
61. Nature Boy / Nat "King" Cole / 1950 (8)
62. Daddy / Sammy Kaye 1941 (8)
63. Oh! What It Seemed To Be / Frank Sinatra 1946 (8)
64. Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy / Red Foley 1950 (8)
65. Jingle, Jangle, Jingle / Kay Kyser 1942 (8)
66. I'm Walking Behind You / Eddie Fisher 1953 (7)
67. Till I Waltz Again With You / Teresa Brewer 1953 (7)
68. Make Love To Me / Jo Stafford 1954 (7)
69. Besame Mucho / Jimmy Dorsey 1944 (7)
70. You Can't Be True Dear / Ken Griffin 1948 (7)
71. Crusing Down The River / Russ Morgan 1949 (7)
72. A Little Bird Told Me / Evelyn Knight 1949 (7)
73. Crusing Down The River / Blue Barron 1949 (7)
74. Mr. Sandman / Chordettes 1954 (7)
75. Kiss Of Fire / Georgia Gibbs 1952 (7)
76. There! I've Said It Again / Vaughn Monroe 1945 (6)
77. I'll Get By / Harry James 1944 (6)
78. Cold, Cold Heart / Tony Bennett 1951 (6)
79. Hey There / Rosemary Clooney 1954 (6)
80. There Are Such Things / Tommy Dorsey 1943 (6)
81. Peg O' My Heart / Harmonicats 1947 (6)
82. For Sentimental Reasons / Nat "King" Cole 1946 (6)
83. You Call Everybody Darlin' / Al Trace 1948 (6)
84. Why Don't You Believe Me / Joni James 1952 (6)
85. I Can't Begin To Tell You / Bing Crosby 1945 (6)
86. Maria Elena / Jimmy Dorsey 1941 (6)
87. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) / Tex Williams 1947 (6)
88. Tangerine / Jimmy Dorsey 1942 (6)
89. Woody Woodpecker / Kay Kyser 1948 (6)
90. A Hot Time In The Town Of Berlin / Bing Crosby 1944 (6)
91. Mule Train / Frankie Lain 1949 (6)
92. Blue Tango / Leroy Anderson 1952 (5)
93. You Always Hurt The One You Love / Mills Brothers 1944 (5)
94. Too Young / Nate "King" Cole / 1951 (5)
95. Some Enchanted Evening / Perry Como 1949 (5)
96. I Can Dream Can't I / Andrews Sisters 1950 (5)
97. Love Somebody / Doris Day & Buddy Clark 1948 (5)
98. All My Love / Patti Page 1950 (5)
99. A Tree In The Meadow / Margaret Whiting 1948 (5)
100. San Fernando Valley / Bing Crosby 1944 (5)
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Historical Information During The Era
Did you find your favorite song in the list? I hope so.
Did you know...in 1941, Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was honored with the first "gold record", officially certifying it as a million-seller.
Did you know...in 1942, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" soars to #1 and will become the biggest-selling record in popular music history, with total sales through the years of more than thirty million.
Did you know...in 1947, Francis Craig's hit "Near You" stays at #1 for seventeen weeks which a record that still stands today.
Did you know...in 1948, the 45 rpm record is launched and within two years it becomes the standard for single releases and the 78s get phased out by the late 50s.
Did you know...in 1954, "That's All Right" is the first Sun Records release by a young man named Elvis Presley.
Order Your Songs Now
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For your listening pleasure, you can hear the top ten all-time best songs. Also, important facts about the artist and the recording of each song.
If you are an avid fan of music charts, check out the top 100 songs for each decade from 1910-1979 by going here now!
1. Near You / Francis Craig 1947 - Spent 17 weeks at #1.
"Near You" is a popular song. The music was written by Francis Craig, the lyrics by Kermit Goell. The song was published in 1947. The recording by Francis Craig (the song's composer) was released by Bullet Records as catalog number 1001. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on August 30, 1947 and lasted 21 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1. And staying at #1 for 17 weeks. A record which still stands today. The recording by Larry Green was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-2421. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on October 10, 1947 and lasted 13 weeks on the chart, peaking at #3.
2. White Christmas / Bing Crosby 1942 - Spent 14 weeks at #1.
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. The version sung by Bing Crosby is assumed to be the best selling single of all time. The morning after Berlin wrote the song in 1940 at the poolside - he often stayed up all night writing - he told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written - hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"
The first public performance of the song was also by Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941; the recording is not believed to have survived. He recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm songs from the film. At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just said "I don't think we have any problems with that one, Irving."
The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by the film's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's my Heart". By the end of October 1942, however, "White Christmas" topped the "Your Hit Parade" chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year. (It has often been noted that the mix of melancholy - "just like the ones I used to know" - with comforting images of home - "where the treetops glisten" - resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II. The Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for the song.
3. Frenesi / Artie Shaw 1940 - Spent 13 weeks at #1.
"Frenesi" is a musical piece originally composed by Alberto Dominguez for the marimba, and adapted as a jazz standard by Leonard Whitcup and others. A hit version recorded by Artie Shaw (with an arrangement by William Grant Still) reached number one on the Billboard pop chart on December 21, 1940. Other performers who have recorded the song include Cliff Richard, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Dave Brubeck, June Christy, The Four Freshmen, Anita O'Day, Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Perez Prado, Linda Ronstadt, Eydie Gorme and Frank Sinatra. Thomas Pynchon's 1990 novel Vineland features a character named Frenesi Gates.
The word "frenesi" is the Spanish equivalent of "frenzy". Major Thomas Hayes, WWII flying Ace named his P-51 "Frenesi" after the song. He said it was a tribute to his wife Marie, for the song they listened to. He believed the song's name translated to "Love me Tenderly".
4. The Tennessee Waltz / Patti Page 1950 - Spent 13 weeks at #1.
"The Tennessee Waltz" is a popular/country music song written by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King in 1947. Originally recorded by Roy Acuff, it was later popularized by Patti Page and by Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1950. The popularity of this song also made it the fourth official song of the state of Tennessee in 1965. It was adopted by Senate Joint Resolution 9 of the 84th General Assembly. Like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Crocodile Rock", "The Tennessee Waltz" is a self-referential song, i.e. a song about the song itself.
Patti Page was familiar with "Tennessee Waltz" as it was a favorite song of her father's. She made her recording of the song to be the B-side of a seasonal single "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" issued by Mercury Records as catalog number 5534; it was radio disc jockeys who chose to play "Tennessee Waltz" boosting the track into the Billboard pop music chart on November 10, 1950 for a 30 week chart run with a #1 peak. A #2 C&W hit, "Tennessee Waltz" became Page's career record. The success of the Patti Page version led to covers by Les Paul with Mary Ford (Capitol 1316) and Jo Stafford (Columbia 39065) both of which reached the Top Ten (Stafford's at #7).
5. I've Heard That Song Before / Harry James 1943 - Spent 13 weeks at #1.
"I've Heard That Song Before" is a 1942 popular song with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn. It was introduced by Martha O'Driscoll (dubbed by Margaret Whiting) in the 1942 film Youth on Parade. It was recorded by Harry James and his Orchestra with Helen Forrest on vocal on July 31, 1942. This was the last day of recording before the Musician Union's ban. The recording was issued on Columbia 36668 and became a number one hit on both the pop and R&B charts in the USA in early 1943. This version of the song can be heard in Woody Allen's movie Hannah and Her Sisters.
6. Goodnight Irene / Weavers 1950 - Spent 13 weeks at #1.
"Goodnight, Irene" or "Irene, Goodnight," is a 20th century American folk standard, written in 3/4 time, first recorded by American blues musician Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter in 1932. The lyrics tell of the singer's troubled past with his love, Irene, and express his sadness and frustration. Several verses make explicit reference to suicidal fantasies, most famously in the line "sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown," which was the inspiration for the 1964 Ken Kesey novel Sometimes a Great Notion.
In 1950, US folk group The Weavers recorded a version which became a US #1. Although generally faithful, the Weavers chose to omit some of Lead Belly's more controversial lyrics, leading Time magazine to label it a "dehydrated" and "prettied up" version of the original. Due to the recording's popularity, however, The Weavers' lyrics are the ones generally used today.
7. The Gypsy / Ink Spots 1946 - Spent 13 weeks at #1.
"The Gypsy" is a popular song written by Billy Reid, and published in 1945. "The Gypsy" was originally introduced in the United Kingdom by Reid's orchestra and vocalist Dorothy Squires. In the United States, the song was recorded by The Ink Spots, by Dinah Shore, and by Sammy Kaye's orchestra, becoming a hit for all three.
The recording by The Ink Spots was released by Decca Records as catalog number 18817. It first reached the Billboard chart on May 2, 1946 and lasted 18 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1.and was also number one on the R&B charts for three non consecutive weeks. The recording by Dinah Shore was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 36964. It first reached the Billboard charts on May 2, 1946 and lasted 15 weeks on the chart, peaking at #2. This recording was a two-sided hit, with the flip side, "Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)," reaching #3 the same year. The recording by Sammy Kaye was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-1844. It first reached the Billboard chart on May 9, 1946 and lasted 10 weeks on the chart, peaking at #4.
The Gypsy was also recorded by Charlie Parker on July 29, 1946, during the famous "Lover" session after which he was committed to the Camarillo State Mental Hospital in California.
8. Heartaches / Ted Weens 1947 - Spent 13 weeks at #1.
"Heartaches" is a popular song with music by Al Hoffman and lyrics by John Clenner. The song was published in 1931.
The biggest recorded version of the song was by the Ted Weems Orchestra, with Elmo Tanner whistling. The recording was made in 1933 but subsequently revived (not in a new recording, but in the original 1933 recorded version) fourteen years later. This recording was jointly released by Decca Records as catalog number 25017 and by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-2175. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on February 21, 1947 and lasted 16 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1. The recording by Harry James was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 37305. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on April 18, 1947 and lasted 3 weeks on the chart, peaking at #8. This was his last charting hit.
9. Paper Doll / Mills Brothers 1943 - Spent 12 weeks at #1.
"Paper Doll" was a hit song for the Mills Brothers. In the United States it held the number-one position on the Billboard singles chart for twelve weeks, from November 6, 1943, to January 22, 1944. The success of the song represented something of a revival for the group, after a few years of declining sales.
The song has been named one of the Songs of the Century and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It appeared in the films The Execution of Private Slovik and The Majestic and in the British television miniseries The Singing Detective. Four lines of it are sung by Rodolfo in the first act of Arthur Miller's play A View from the Bridge.
The song was written in 1915 (although it was not published until 1930) by Johnny S. Black, whose greatest success would come with his song "Dardanella," which sold 5,000,000 copies in a recording by bandleader Ben Selvin in 1920, and a further 2,000,000 copies of sheet music. Black died in 1936, six years before his second greatest success, "Paper Doll," swept the country.
10. In The Mood / Glenn Miller 1940 - Spent 12 weeks at #1.
"In the Mood" is a song popularized by the American bandleader Glenn Miller in 1939, and one of the best-known arrangements of the big band era. Miller's rendition topped the charts one year later and was featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade. The song is an anomaly to chart purists. "In The Mood" was released in the period immediately prior to the inception of retail sales charts in Billboard magazine. While it led the Record Buying Guide (jukebox list) for 12 weeks, it never made the top 15 on the sheet music charts, which were considered by many to be the true measure of popular song success. The popular Your Hit Parade program ranked the song no higher than ninth place, for one week only (1940).
It opens with a now-famous sax section theme, and is joined by trumpets and trombones after 13 counts. It has two main solo sections; a "tenor fight" solo—in the most famous recording, between Tex Beneke and Al Klink—and a 16-bar trumpet solo. It is also famous for its ending. This song was selected for the NARAS Hall of Fame.