First performed by Lucille Ball & Paula Stewart (1960).
Popular versions by Peggy Lee (1963), Rosemary Clooney (1963), Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney (1963), Judy Garland (1963), Louis Armstrong (1964).
From the wiki: “‘Hey, Look Me Over’ was from the 1960 Broadway musical Wildcat, and was first performed by comedy actress Lucille Ball in what was the only Broadway appearance of her career.
First recorded (as “At the Darktown Strutters’ Ball”) by Six Brown Brothers (US #10 1917).
Other hit versions by The Original Dixieland Jazz Band (US #2 1917), The Jaudas’ Society Orchestra (US #9 1918), Ted Lewis and His Band (US #12 1927), Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers (R&B #7 1948), Lou Monte (US #7 1954), Joe Brown & the Bruvvers (UK #34 1959), Ted Mulry & His Gang (AUS 1976).
Also recorded by Coleman Hawkins (1933), Ella Fitzgerald (1936), Fats Waller (1939), Alberta Hunter (1978).
From the wiki: “‘Darktown Strutters’ Ball’ was written by Shelton Brooks. First published in 1917, the song has been recorded many times and is considered a Popular and Jazz standard. There are many variations of the title, including ‘At the Darktown Strutters’ Ball’, ‘The Darktown Strutters’ Ball’, and just ‘Strutters’ Ball’.
“The song was first performed in 1917 by Sophie Tucker in her Vaudeville routine. It was first recorded on May 9 that same year by the Six Brown Brothers, a comedic musical ensemble. The best-selling early recording by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was recorded on May 30, 1917. It would be this version that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006.
First recorded (as a demo) by Franke & the Knockouts (1987, released 1998).
Hit version by Jennifer Warnes & Bill Medley (US #1/MOR #1/UK #6 1987 |UK #8 1991).
From the wiki: “‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ was composed in late 1986 or early 1987 by Franke Previte, John DeNicola, and Donald Markowitz. Previte, the ‘Franke’ of the group Franke & the Knockouts, had had solo success with the song ‘Sweetheart’ in 1981 but, by 1986, was without a recording contract. Producer and head of Millennium Records, Jimmy Ienner, asked Previte about writing some music for ‘a little movie called Dirty Dancing‘. Previte initially turned the request down because he was still trying to get a record deal, but Ienner was persistent, and got Previte to write several songs for the film, including ‘Hungry Eyes‘, later recorded by singer Eric Carmen.
“After getting further approval, Previte created a demo of the song, performing on it himself with singer Rachele Cappelli. The demo showcased how the harmonies were to be used, employing a ‘cold open’ and a slow build-up of the song to its finale.
First recorded by Roy Hamilton (R&B #8 1954).
Other hit versions by Timi Yuro (US #4/MOR #2/R&B #22 1961), Little Anthony & the Imperials (US #55 1966), Fausto Leali (as “A Chi” ITA #1 1967), Connie Cato (C&W #14 1975), The Manhattans (US #97/R&B #10/UK #4 1976), Elvis Presley (US #28/MOR #7/C&W #6/UK #37 1976), Juice Newton (C&W #1 1985).
Also recorded by Carly Simon (1981).
From the wiki: “‘Hurt’ was written by Jimmie Crane and Al Jacobs, and was first recorded by Roy Hamilton (‘Unchained Melody‘, ‘Don’t Let Go‘), whose version peaked at #8 on the R&B Best Seller chart and spent a total of seven weeks on the chart.
“The song is considered to be the signature hit of Timi Yuro, whose version went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. But, Juice Newton’s recording charted highest on any chart when it reached #1 on Billboard’s Country chart in 1985.
Written and first recorded by Nine Inch Nails (1994).
Hit version by Johnny Cash (C&W #56/ALT #33/UK #39 2002).
From the wiki: “‘Hurt’ was written by Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor for the group’s second studio album, The Downward Spiral (1994). The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996, but ultimately lost to Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’.
“In 2002, ‘Hurt’ was covered by Johnny Cash to commercial and critical acclaim; it was one of Cash’s final hits released before his death, and the related music video was considered one of the greatest of all time by publications such as NME. Reznor praised Cash’s interpretation of the song for its ‘sincerity and meaning’, going as far as to say ‘that song isn’t mine anymore.’ The line ‘crown of shit’ was changed by Cash to ‘crown of thorns’, not only removing profanity from the lyrics, but also more directly referencing Christ and Cash’s devout Christianity.
Written and first recorded by Leonard Cohen (1984).
Hit versions by k.d. lang (US #61/CAN #2 2004), Epsen Lind (NOR #1 2006), Rufus Wainwright (ROCK #34/UK #97 2007), Jeff Buckley (recorded 1994, released UK #65 2007 |US #102/UK #2 2008), Alexandra Burke (UK #1/IRE #1/EUR #1 2008), Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris (US #13/UK #91 2010), Pentatonix (US #23/GER #1/SWZ #7 2016).
Also recorded by John Cale (1991), Allison Crowe (2003).
From the wiki: “‘Hallelujah’ was written by Canadian poet-singer Leonard Cohen, and was originally released on his album Various Positions (1984). Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a recording by John Cale, which inspired a recording by Jeff Buckley. It is considered as the ‘baseline’ of secular hymns. Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for “Hallelujah”, with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.
“His original version, as recorded on his Various Positions album, contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and treacherous Delilah from the Book of Judges. Following his original 1984 studio-album version, Cohen performed the original song on his world tour in 1985, but live performances during his 1988 and 1993 tours almost invariably contained a quite different set of lyrics, with only the last verse being common to the two versions. Numerous singers mix lyrics from both versions, and occasionally make direct lyric changes; for example, in place of Cohen’s ‘holy dove’, Canadian-American singer Rufus Wainwright substituted ‘holy dark’, while Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe sang ‘Holy ghost’.
Written and first recorded (as “Funky Broadway Parts 1 & 2”) by Dyke & the Blazers (1966).
Hit version by Wilson Pickett (US #8/R&B #1/UK #43 1967).
From the wiki: “‘Funky Broadway’ was written by Arlester ‘Dyke’ Christian, and was originally recorded by his band, Dyke & the Blazers, in 1967. The song became a hit later same year when recorded by Wilson Pickett in a session at Muscle Shoals produced by Jerry Wexler.The song is notable as being the first charted single with the word ‘Funky’ in the title as well as being prototypical funk music itself.
“The ‘Broadway’ referred to in the title of the original is the Broadway Road (now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) in Phoenix, Arizona, that was at the center of the culture and entertainment of the area’s African American community, and which was ‘Dyke’ Christian’s hometown at the time.”
First recorded by Edward Furman & William Nash (1923).
Hit versions by Billy Jones (US #1 1923), Ben Selvin (US #1 1923), The Great White Way Orchestra (US #3 1923).
Also recorded by Benny Goodman & His Rhythm Makers (1935), Spike Jones & His City Slickers (1950), Louis Prima & Keely Smith (1950).
Also recorded (as “I’ve Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues”) by Eddie Cantor (US #2 1923).
From the wiki: “‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’ is a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn published July 19, 1923. The song title was inspired by the yell of a Long Island fruit salesman from Greece.
“First introduced by both authors (as Frank Silver’s Music Masters) in a Long Island roadhouse, then later in Murray’s restaurant in New York, ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ was widely popularized on stage by Eddie Cantor in his revue Make It Snappy. The song was first recorded in 1923 by Edward Furman & William Nash. Nationally popular recordings were also released in 1923 by Billy Jones, Ben Selvin, and The Great White Way Orchestra, and others, before Cantor released a popular parody titled ‘I’ve Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues’. Covers of ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’ were recorded a decade later by Benny Goodman & His Rhythm Makers (1935), and in 1950 by Spike Jones & His City Slickers (1950), and Louis Prima & Keely Smith (1950).
“In his book, A History Of Popular Music In America, Sigmund Spaeth noticed a striking similarity between the melodies of ‘My Bonnie Is Over The Ocean’ and Händel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. Try for yourself: ‘Hallelujah bananas, oh bring back my Bonnie to me.’ No wonder Spike Jones & His City Slickers cut a version.”
First released by The Charleston Chasers (1929).
Hit versions by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (US #2 1929), Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five (US #7 1929), Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (US #8 1929), Fats Waller (US #17 1929 |1943), The Teddy Wilson Quartet (US #6 1937), Dinah Washington (R&B #6 1948), Johnnie Ray (UK #17 1956), Tommy Bruce & the Bruisers (UK #3 1960), Hank Williams, Jr. (C&W #1 1986).
Also recorded by King Cole Trio & Anita O’Day (1945), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957), Sam Cooke (1958), Leon Redbone (1975).
From the wiki: “With lyrics by Andy Razaf and score by Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller and Harry Brooks, ‘An’t Misbehavin” was created specifically as a theme song for the Razaf/Waller/Brooks Broadway musical comedy Connie’s Hot Chocolates. In a 1941 interview with Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, of The Jack Benny Show fame, Fats said the song was written while ‘lodging’ in alimony prison, and that is why he was not ‘misbehavin’.’
“The song was first performed at the premiere of Connie’s Hot Chocolates at Connie’s Inn in Harlem as an opening number by Margaret Simms and Paul Bass, and repeated later in the musical by Russell Wooding’s Hallelujah Singers. Connie’s Hot Chocolates transferred to the Hudson Theatre on Broadway in June 1929, where it was renamed to Hot Chocolates and where Louis Armstrong took over as orchestra director. The script also required Armstrong to play ‘Ain’t Misbehavin” in a trumpet solo, and although this was initially slated to only be a reprise of the opening song, Armstrong’s performance was so well received that the trumpeter was asked to climb out of the orchestra pit and play the piece on stage.
First recorded (as a demo) by Van McCoy (1965).
Hit versions by Barbara Lewis (US #11/R&B #5 1965), Peter & Gordon (UK #19 1965), Jody Miller (C&W #5 1971), Linda Lewis (UK #33 1976).
Also recorded by The Paramounts (1965, released 1988), Cher (1990).
From the wiki: “Barbara Lewis has stated that Van McCoy wrote ‘Baby I’m Yours’ specifically for her. But, that when she first heard the demo she disliked the song. (She has suggested that she was actually daunted by the high quality of the vocal, by McCoy himself, on the demo, and at the original session recalled ‘I didn’t really put 100% into my vocal performance’ hoping that Atlantic would shelve the track as sub-par.)
“‘[Producer] Ollie [McLaughlin] told me ‘Barbara, we’re gonna have to go back to Detroit and dub you in. We gotta do your vocals over. You’re just not giving like you should on the song.’ We did several takes [in Detroit] and he was wondering ‘How am I going to get this girl to give? She’s so hard-headed.’ He said ‘You know, Barbara, Karen can sing that song better than you.’ That was his little daughter. And it pissed me off. I did one more take, and that was the take that they selected.’
First recorded by George Jackson (recorded 1972, released 2012).
Hit version by Bettye Swann (US #63/R&B #16 1972).
Also recorded by Joss Stone (2003).
From the wiki: “George Jackson was the in-house songwriter for Rick Hall’s ‘Fame Records’ in Muscle Shoals from 1968 well into the 1970s, and wrote hits for Candi Staton, Wilson Pickett and Clarence Carter, among others. He was also a great performer, but his demand as a songwriter kept his recording career very much in the background.
“In 1972, Jackson recorded ‘Victim of A Foolish Heart’ which is thought to have been recorded as a follow-up to George’s two previous Fame singles. But, his recording was shelved in favor of Bettye Swann’s version, which was released on Atlantic with some chart success. ‘Victim of a Foolish Heart’ would later be covered by Joss Stone, in 2003, on her multi million-selling Soul Sessions album.”
Co-written and first recorded (as “Comme d’habitude”) by Claude François (1967).
Hit English-language versions by Frank Sinatra (US #27/MOR #2 1969), Dorothy Squires (UK #25 1970), Elvis Presley (US #22/MOR #6/UK #9 1977 |C&W #2 1978).
Also recorded by Paul Anka (1969).
From the wiki: “‘My Way’ was popularized in 1969 by Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to the music of the French song ‘Comme d’habitude’ (‘As Usual’) co-written by Claude François, and first performed in 1967 by François.
“Anka’s English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song. He had heard the original 1967 French pop song by François while on holiday in the south of France. Anka flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song, acquiring adaptation, recording, and publishing rights for the mere nominal, but formal, consideration of one dollar, subject to the provision that the melody’s composers would retain their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka or his designates created or produced.
“Some time later, Anka had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra during which Sinatra said ‘I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it; I’m getting the hell out.’ Back in New York, Anka re-wrote the original French song for Sinatra, subtly altering the melodic structure and changing the lyrics.
Written and first recorded by Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys (1950).
Also recorded by Manassas (1971, released 2009), Goose Creek Symphony (1971), Michael Nesmith (1973), Phish (1997)
Hit versions by Porter Wagoner (C&W #14 1956), Ricky Skaggs (C&W #1/CAN #1 1984).
From the wiki: “James Pendleton Vandiver was a Kentucky fiddler, born there shortly after the American Civil War. He was uncle to Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, who immortalized him in a song, ‘Uncle Pen’, first recording in 1950.
“Monroe’s parents had both died by the time he was 16, and he lived part of the time with his Uncle Pen. Monroe used to hear his uncle playing fiddle on the hilltop where he lived, while Monroe put away his mules at night. He later said that Vandiver was ‘the fellow that I learned how to play from.’ Bill Monroe’s biographer, Richard D. Smith writes, ‘Pen gave Bill more: a repertoire of tunes that sank into Bill’s aurally-trained memory and a sense of rhythm that seeped into his bones. Sometimes Bill played guitar behind his uncle, sometimes the mandolin.’
First recorded (as “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”) by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1972).
Hit version by The Charlie Daniels Band (US #3/C&W #1 1979).
Also recorded by Old and in the The Way (recorded 1973, released 1975), Vassar Clements (1975).
From the wiki: “‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ was written by the Charlie Daniels Band, and was based on a song Bluegrass fiddler Vassar Clements originally wrote, an octave lower, titled ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ that Clements first recorded in 1972 with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for the album Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
“In 1973, Clements joined and toured with the Bluegrass supergroup Old and in the Way with Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Peter Rowan. The group recorded ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ in 1973 but it would not be released until February 1975. Clements also recorded a version in 1975 for his self-titled solo album on which Charlie Daniels played guitar.”
Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (B-side 1956).
Hit album version by Santana (1983).
From the wiki: “‘Havana Moon’ was written and first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1956, and released as the B-side to the single ‘You Can’t Catch Me‘. According to Rolling Stone magazine:
Berry’s story of a Cuban woman missing an American woman came from playing Nat King Cole’s “Calypso Blues” when Berry was still slugging it out at St. Louis’ Cosmopolitan Club at a time when Latin rhythms were popular. He decided to write his own song after a gigging in New York City, where he met Cubans for the first time. “It is the differences in people that I think gives me a tremendous imagination to create a story for developing a lyric,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I had read, seen or heard in some respect all the situations in the Havana story. Certainly, missing the boat and surely missing the girl had been experienced many times by me.” The Rolling Stones recently paid tribute to the song by naming a concert film, shot in Cuba, after the song.
First performed by Digby Wolfe (1964).
Also recorded by Frank Sinatra (1964).
Popular version by Peggy Lee (US #93/MOR #19 1965).
(Above): Opening credits clip from ‘Father Goose’.
From the wiki: “‘Pass Me By’ was composed by Cy Coleman with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh for the 1964 romantic comedy film Father Goose, set in World War II, starring Cary Grant. The film would go on to win an Academy Award for its screenplay. Although ignored by Oscar, the film’s theme song, ‘Pass Me By’, would later become a hit for his collaborator, Peggy Lee. Coleman has said that he based the song’s tempo on Grant’s jaunty walk in the movie.
First recorded (as a demo) by Percy Mayfield (1960).
Hit version by Ray Charles (US #1/R&B #1/UK #6 1961).
From the wiki: “‘Hit the Road Jack’ was written by R&B artist Percy Mayfield and was first recorded by Mayfield in 1960 as an a cappella demo sent to producer and Specialty Records owner Art Rupe. It became famous after it was recorded by Ray Charles, with an arrangement featuring Raelettes’ vocalist Margie Hendrix.”
First performed by Ernest Gold (1960).
Hit versions by Pat Boone (US #64 1960), Ferrante & Teicher (US #2 1960).
Also recorded by Eddie Harris (1961), Skatalites (1967).
From the wiki: “The soundtrack for Exodus, including ‘Theme of Exodus’ was written by Ernest Gold, born in Austria and Pop songwriter Andrew Gold’s father, and was recorded with the Sinfonia of London for the 1960 film directed by Otto Preminger. In 1961, Gold’s ‘Exodus’ was nominated for a Golden Globe under the Best Original Score category. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Score and a Grammy for Best Soundtrack Album. For his contributions, Gold had his name engraved in the Hollywood Walk of Fame – the first composer to receive this honor.
“The main theme from the film (‘Theme of Exodus’) was been widely recorded and covered by many artists such as Ferrante and Teicher, whose version went #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. Pat Boone wrote lyrics to Gold’s instrumental and released his recording, titled ‘Exodus Song (This Land is Mine)’, in 1960. Jazz saxophonist covered the song in 1961; Jamaican ska band, Skatalites, recorded a reggae version of the song in 1967.”
Written and first recorded by P.F. Sloan (1965).
Hit version by The Turtles (US #29 1965).
From ReBeatMag: “‘Let Me Be’ was written and recorded by P.F. Sloan, very successful in the mid-1960s, writing, performing, and producing Billboard Top-20 hits for artists such as Barry McGuire, The Searchers, Jan & Dean, Herman’s Hermits, Johnny Rivers, The Grass Roots, The Mamas & the Papas, and The Turtles. His most successful songs as a writer were three top ten hits. Barry McGuire’s 1965 ‘Eve of Destruction‘, Johnny Rivers’ 1966 ‘Secret Agent Man’ and Herman’s Hermits’ 1966 ‘A Must to Avoid’.
“‘Let Me Be’ was The Turtles’ second single. It didn’t come close to achieving the success of its predecessor, the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe‘. But, it did establish a working relationship between P.F. Sloan and The Turtles. More importantly, the song’s lyrics illustrated the independent, free-thinking spirit of both its composer and its audience, and though, in the big picture, the Turtles weren’t really ‘that kind’ of a band, their energetic and expressive take on the song is what makes it still fresh and relatable today.”
First recorded by The Paramount Jubilee Singers (1923).
Hit versions by Louis Armstrong (US #10 1939), The Weavers (US #27 1951), Percy Faith & His Singers (US #29 1951), Fats Domino (US #50 1959).
Also recorded (as “The Saints Rock ‘n Roll”) by Bill Haley & His Comets (US #18/UK #5 1956), The Million Dollar Quartet (1956), Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers (1961).
From the wiki: “‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, often referred to as ‘The Saints’, is an American gospel hymn. According to jazz critic Al Rose this tune was first published as a Baptist hymn in 1916 and credited to Edward Boatner, the man behind religious-classic ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’. Though it originated as a Christian hymn, it is often played by jazz bands. This song was famously recorded on May 13, 1938 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.
“The first known recorded version was in 1923 by the Paramount Jubilee Singers on Paramount 12073. Although the title given on the label is ‘When All the Saints Come Marching In’, the group sings the modern lyrics beginning with “When the saints go marching in”. No author is shown on the label. The earliest versions were slow and stately, but as time passed the recordings became more rhythmic. Louis Armstrong was one of the first to make the tune into a nationally known Pop tune in the 1930s. (Armstrong wrote that his sister told him she thought the secular performance style of the traditional church tune was inappropriate and irreligious.)
First recorded by Eddie Cantor (1926).
Hit versions by Ben Bernie & His Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra (US #1 1927), Johnny Marvin (US #14 1927), Gene Austin (US #4 1927), Mr. Ford & Mr. Goon-Bones (US #14 1947), The Beatles (recording as “The Beat Brothers”, 1961 |US #19/UK #29 1964).
Also recorded by Gene Vincent (1956), Duffy Power (1959).
From the wiki: “‘Ain’t She Sweet’ was composed by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics). Ager wrote the song for his daughter Shana Ager, who in her adult life was known as the political commentator Shana Alexander. ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ became popular in the first half of the 20th century as one of the hit songs that typified the Roaring Twenties. Like ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ (1929), it became a Tin Pan Alley standard. Both Ager and Yellen were later elected to membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
First recorded by David Bowie & John Hutchinson (1969).
Hit version by David Bowie (US #124/UK #5 1969 |US #15/CAN #16 1973 |UK #1 1975).
Also re-recorded by David Bowie (1979).
From the wiki: “‘Space Oddity’ was written by David Bowie. Three primary studio recordings of the song exist: an early version recorded in February 1969, the album version recorded that June (edited for release as a single), and a 1979 re-recording. The earliest version of ‘Space Oddity’ was recorded on 2 February 1969 by Bowie and John Hutchinson for Bowie’s promotional film Love You Till Tuesday. (Bowie and Hutchinson were the remaining members of the trio Feathers after the departure of Hermione Farthingale.) John was ‘Ground Control’, David was ‘Major Tom’.
First recorded (as a demo) by Jackson Browne & Glenn Frey (1972).
Hit version by The Eagles (US #12 1972).
Also recorded by Jackson Browne (1973).
From the wiki: “Jackson Browne originally began writing ‘Take It Easy’ in 1971 for his own eponymous debut album but was having difficulty finishing the song. His friend and then-neighbor Glenn Frey had heard an early version and later asked Browne about it. Browne then played the unfinished second verse that begins with ‘Well, I’m a-standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…’, and Frey finished the verse with ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ Browne was very happy with the result and suggested that they co-write the song.
Earliest known recording by The Nebe Quartett (1907).
Other popular recordings by Nat “King” Cole (1960), Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965), They Might Be Giants (1992).
From the wiki: “‘O Tannebaum’ is a German Christmas song. A ‘Tannenbaum’ is a fir tree. Based on a traditional folk song, it became associated with the traditional Christmas tree by the early 20th century and sung as a Christmas carol. The modern lyrics were written in 1824, by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz, but do not actually refer to Christmas or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen qualities as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.”
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