Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

In syndication since 1986, and now in our 30th year — Over 3,000 questions answered
Most recent column here — 18 years of archived ones are linked below


FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 25, 2016

DEAR JERRY: In the 1960s and '70s, many radio stations began each new year with a countdown of the past year's top hits.

Their source was probably local, but I would love to know the No. 1 U.S. hit for each year from 1955 through 1989.

Might that be within your area of expertise?
—Brenda Weaver, Lake Charles, La.

DEAR BRENDA: Such things are definitely in my wheelhouse, but this mission is not as cut and dry as one would expect.

As evidenced by the following research, more often than not the leading national sources did not agree.

For the 35 years requested, only five times did all of our chart sources agree on the year's top tune: 1960; 1964; 1968; 1971; and 1977.

Not wanting to leave anyone out, for the other 30 years I will list any song holding the top position according to one or more survey.

As for the years with two, three, or four entries, the top listing will be my choice as the most deserving. Chart makers sometimes differed on how to assign a year to records issued near the end of one year, that remained popular into the next.

For those, I will pick the most appropriate year and stick with it, but will not list any songs twice.

1955
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" (Perez Prado)
"The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (Bill Hayes)

1956
"Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog" (Elvis Presley)
(This is the only time both sides of a record were the year's No. 1 hit.)
"Singing the Blues" (Guy Mitchell)
"Heartbreak Hotel" (Elvis Presley)

1957
"All Shook Up" (Elvis Presley)
"Tammy" (Debbie Reynolds)
"Love Letters in the Sand" (Pat Boone)

1958
"At the Hop" (Danny and the Juniors)
"Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)" (Domenico Modugno)
"It's All in the Game" (Tommy Edwards)

1959
"Mack the Knife" (Bobby Darin)
"The Battle of New Orleans" (Johnny Horton)

1960
"The Theme From A Summer Place" (Percy Faith)

1961
"Tossin' and Turnin'" (Bobby Lewis)
"Exodus" (Ferrante & Teicher)
"Big Bad John" (Jimmy Dean)

1962
"The Twist" (Chubby Checker)
"I Can't Stop Loving You" (Ray Charles)
"Stranger on the Shore" (Mr. Acker Bilk)

1963
"Sugar Shack" (Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs)
"Dominique" (The Singing Nun)
"Limbo Rock" (Chubby Checker)

1964
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" (The Beatles)

1965
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (The Rolling Stones)
"Wooly Bully" (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)
"Back in My Arms Again" (The Supremes)

1966
"I'm a Believer" (The Monkees)
"The Ballad of the Green Berets" (SSgt Barry Sadler)

1967
"To Sir With Love" (Lulu)
"The Letter" (Box Tops)
"Ode to Billy Joe" (Bobbie Gentry)

1968
"Hey Jude" (The Beatles)

1969
"Sugar, Sugar" (The Archies)
"Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" (The 5th Dimension)

1970
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Simon & Garfunkel)
"Spirit in the Sky" (Norman Greenbaum)
"My Sweet Lord" (George Harrison)
"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" (B.J. Thomas)

1971 "Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night)

1972
"American Pie" (Don McLean)
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (Roberta Flack)

1973
"Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree" (Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando)
"My Love" (Paul McCartney & Wings)
"Killing Me Softly With His Song" (Roberta Flack)

1974
"The Way We Were" (Barbra Streisand)
"Show and Tell" (Al Wilson)
"I Honestly Love You" (Olivia Newton-John)

1975
"Love Will Keep Us Together" (Captain & Tennille)
"That's the Way (I Like It)" KC & the Sunshine Band
"Rhinestone Cowboy" (Glen Campbell)

1976
"Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" Rod Stewart
"Silly Love Songs" (Wings)
"Disco Lady" (Johnnie Taylor)

1977
"You Light Up My Life" (Debby Boone)"

1978
"Night Fever" (The Bee Gees)
"Shadow Dancing" (Andy Gibb)

1979
"My Sharona" (The Knack)
"Le Freak" (Chic)

1980
"Call Me" (Blondie)
"Lady" (Kenny Rogers)
"Another One Bites the Dust" (Queen)

1981
"Physical" (Olivia Newton-John)
"Endless Love" (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie)
"Bette Davis Eyes" (Kim Carnes)

1982
"I Love Rock 'N' Roll" (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)
"Centerfold" (J. Geils Band)
"Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor)

1983
"Every Breath You Take" (The Police)
"Flashdance...What a Feeling" (Irene Cara)

1984
"Like a Virgin" (Madonna)
"When Doves Cry" (Prince)

1985
"We Are the World" (USA for Africa)
"Careless Whisper" (Wham! Featuring George Michael)
"Say You, Say Me" (Lionel Richie)

1986
"That's What Friends Are For" (Dionne & Friends)
"Higher Love" (Steve Winwood)
"Everybody Have Fun Tonight" (Wang Chung)

1987
"Faith" (George Michael)
"Walk Like an Egyptian" (The Bangles)
"Head to Toe" (Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam)

1988
"Roll With It" (Steve Winwood)
"Sweet Child O' Mine" (Guns N' Roses)
"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" (Poison)

1989
"Another Day in Paradise" (Phil Collins)
"Like a Prayer" (Madonna)
"Look Away" (Chicago)

IZ ZAT SO? Elvis has four entries on the above list, and several artists have two.

But if you're wondering which superstars never had a No. 1 song of the year on the Pop charts, here are the Top 10, based on their overall vinyl era success:

1. Stevie Wonder (Not as a solo, but is heard on "That's What Friends Are For" and "We Are the World")
2. Michael Jackson (Not as a solo, but is heard on "We Are the World")
3. James Brown
4. Aretha Franklin
5. Marvin Gaye
6. The Temptations
7. Ricky Nelson
8. Fats Domino
9. Neil Diamond
10. Connie Francis

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