Top Billboard number one songs throughout the decades

Kate Hennessy, sports writer

image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License
“Mack the Knife” singer Bobby Darin


Racial tensions were brewing in America throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, and under the leadership of civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement was gaining nation-wide attention. The ‘60s featured the civil rights March on Washington where Luther delivered his iconic ‘I have a Dream’ speech. While segregation divided the nation, the upbeat rhythms of the jazzy blues and electrifying guitar riffs of rock ‘n’ roll gave a common ground for people of all races to enjoy a break from the strains in their divided society surrounding them. Nat “King” Cole  was a black performer who skyrocketed to success in the decades. Other black performers such as Ray Charles and Chuck Berry also became legends in rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. The “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” himself, Elvis Presley, became known for his dynamic guitar playing and gyrating dance moves. These decades were a turning point not only in civil rights for blacks in America, but also in the entertainment industry. They featured new styles in music that differed from traditional or classical music and would inspire later decades to stray from the norm.

  1. Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin
  2. Theme from a Summer Place by Percy Faith
  3. Hey Jude by The Beatles
  4. Tossin’ and Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis
  5. I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles
  6. I’m a Believer by The Monkees
  7. I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
  8. It’s All in the Game by Tommy Edwards
  9. The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton
  10. Are You Lonesome Tonight? By Elvis Presley
  11. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In by The 5th Dimension
  12. In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
Rod Stewart image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License


After a decade of rock ‘n’ roll and blues, a completely new genre of music emerged in the ‘70s. Disco swept through different ethnic groups ad reached the floor of funky nightclubs. Disco involved elements of pop, soul, funk, with the salsa inspired dance moves. Along with music came afros and bellbottoms and featured an entirely new culture of music. The decade still featured rock and slow love ballads, however Disco prevailed as the defining genre of the decade.

  1. You Light Up My Life by Debby Boone
  2. Night Fever by Bee Gees
  3. Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) by Rod Stewart
  4. Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb
  5. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
  6. Joy to the World by Three Dog Night
  7. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack
  8. Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O’Sullivan
  9. Le Freak by Chic
  10. My Sharona by The Knack
Michael Jackson image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License





As disco ran its course through the music industry, new genres broke off such as softer rock and dance pop. Music legends such as Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder partook in these genres. When Michael Jackson rose as a solo artist in the ‘80s, songs he released soon led him to be known as the “King of Pop,” who also became famous for his dancing on the stage, similar to “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Rock continued to be popular through the decade, yet slower rock music evolved into its own genre.

  1. Physical by Olivia Newton-John
  2. Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
  3. Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
  4. Every Breath You Take by The Police
  5. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  6. Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
  7. Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
  8. Call Me by Blondie
  9. Lady by Kenny Rogers
  10. Centerfold by The J. Geils Band
  11. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
  12. Flashdance….What a Feeling by Irene Cara
  13. Say, Say, Say by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
  14. Like a Virgin by Madonna
image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License
Whitney Houston


Pop of this decade continued to see Michael Jackson and welcomed stars like britney Spears and Mariah Carey. Boy Bands including INSYNC and Boyz II Men reappeared, featuring synced dance moves and matching outfits. Rock ‘n’ Roll transitioned from smooth and rhythmic to a more grunge and alternative style. Bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam blew up in the charts and a decade of rebellion and dark denim took off.

  1. One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
  2. I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
  3. I’ll Make Love to You by Boyz II Men
  4. Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) by Los Del Rio
  5. Candle in the Wind ‘97/ Something About the Way You Look Tonight by Elton John
  6. End of the Road by Boyz II Men
  7. The Boy Is Mine by Brandy and Monica
  8. Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas
  9. I Swear by All-4-One
  10. Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton
  11. I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112
image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License
Kanye West


At the turn of the century a new type of pop and rap music would blow up throughout the music industry. Groups like The Black Eyed Peas would turn to electro-music style, that had robotic sounds and beats mixed into their melodies and voices. Gone were the harmonies of slower raps, as faster, smooth beats in raps, as fast, intense raps of Eminem became the new norm. Rappers like Eminem and Kanye West would use stray from describing club scenes and instead use bold lyrics and statements in their verses. Girl Groups like Destiny’s Child and TLC serenaded listeners with smooth harmonies in support of women. This decade’s rap and pop influence would inspire artists into the next decade.


  1. We Belong Together by Mariah Carey
  2. I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas
  3. Lose Yourself by Eminem
  4. Yeah! by Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris
  5. Boom Boom Pow by The Black Eyed Peas
  6. Independent Women by Destiny’s Child
  7. Maria Maria by Santana featuring The Product G&B
  8. Foolish by Ashanti
  9. Dilemma by Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland
  10. Gold Digger by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx
  11. Irreplaceable by Beyonce
  12. Low by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain

image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License


Following the new styles of upbeat pop and rap, this decade features songs ranging from heart-felt ballads to electronic dance music. Songs like “Uptown Funk” and “Blurred Lines” pay tribute to earlier pop styles of the later 20th century. A new genre of songs referred to as bubblegum pop emerges as boy bands and young artists produce upbeat songs with lyrics of heartbreak or falling in love, all marketed to teen girls. Electronic dance songs like “Closer” feature high, energetic melodies that erupt into a blast of different beats. Furthermore, the artist Adele bursts through the music scene with her belted out ballads of love and heart break, with “Hello” being a perfect example of her vast vocal range.


  1. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  2. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell
  3. See You Again by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
  4. Closer The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
  5. We Found Love by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
  6. Happy by Pharrell Williams
  7. Hello by Adele
  8. One Dance by Drake featuring Wizkid and Kyla
  9. Tik Tok by Kesha
  10. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
  11. One More Night by Maroon 5
  12. Royals by Lorde
  13. Work by Rihanna featuring Drake