The 20 Most Popular Songs of All-Time

20. The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand

Released in November 1963, this is, amazingly, the only Beatles entry in this list. After the previous 5 singles by the Fab Four had created the start of Beatlemania, advance orders in the UK alone ere in excess of one million. It only didn’t go straight to the top of the charts on release because the Beatles already had a song in that position. It has sold 12 million copies in the fifty odd years since.

19. Gene Autry – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Made famous by the Singing Cowboy when released in 1949, this 12 million copy seller has gone on to be one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. It was also the first number 1 single of the 1950’s, and has the strange distinction of being the only chart-topper that dropped off the charts completely after reaching number 1.

18. Trio – Da DaDa

Recorded by the German band Trio, Da DaDa is known by more people than could possibly identify it. Very repetitive, and released in 1982, its synth, drum, and bass vibe is very much of its time. It sold an astonishing 13 million copies worldwide, but was Trio’s only international hit.

17. Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki

This Japanese language ballad reached the top of the US charts in 1963. The title in Japanese is actually “Ue o MuiteArukō” which means “I look up as I walk”. The title used in the West is the name of a beef dish. It was written as protest against the presence of US troops in Japan, and sold over 13 million copies.

16. Scorpions – Wind of Change

An unlikely hit for the German metal band, this song caught the spirit of the moment in the early 1990s as Communism was collapsing in Eastern Europe. Shortly after it was released in 1991, there was an attempted coup in the Soviet Union which led to its destruction and the rebirth of liberty in Russia and its satellite nations. It sold 14 million copies.

15, Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

A staple of the 1am dance floor, this anthem of personal strength and endurance was released in 1978, Gaynor originally had the song as a B side of a Righteous Brother cover, but DJs preferred this song (and why not?) and it was soon on its way to selling over 14 million copies.

14. Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

And On and On… This song was, of course, the theme song to the movie Titanic. It seemed to be everywhere in 1997 and 1998, and is the second best-selling single by a solo female performer. 15 million people loved this one enough to fork out for it.

13. Bryan Adams – Everything I Do, I Do It For You

From the largely forgettable movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, this ballad broke records at the top of the chart. In the UK it was at number 1 for sixteen weeks and in total sold 15 million copies, It received the ultimate accolade, however, when it was covered on an episode of Family Guy.

12. Kaoma – Lambada

This song by French Band Kaoma, featuring the Brazilian vocalist Loalwa Braz. Released in 1989 its dreamy summer-saturated sound was apparently perfect for the long summer of 1989 in Europe where the record sold 15 million copies.

11. John Travolta and Olivia Newton John – You’re The One That I Want

Written for the movie version of the musical Grease, this song was first heard in 1978, and it became an immediate hit. It was written specifically for Olivia Newton John and had not been in the original stage play. The movie’s director did not like the song as he felt it didn’t fit with the rest of the score. Nevertheless, it went on to sell over 15 million copies.

10. The Ink Spots – If I Didn’t Care

The Ink Spots were a foursome whose harmonious ballads led directly to rhythm and blues and rock and roll. This song, recorded and released on early 1939 has such a feel of the time it was produced that its popularity is timeless and it has been used in countless movies and TV shows. It has sold over 19 million copies, and why not!

9. USA for Africa – We Are The World

This song was the response of US recording artists to Band Aid’s Do They Know It Christmas. Both records were recorded to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. We Are the World released in 1985, was the brain child of Harry Belafonte, and was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. With that pedigree it could not fail, and it has sold in excess of 20 million copies, each one raising cash for a very good cause.

8. Elvis Presley – Now or Never

The King’s only entry in this list has a tune based on the Italian song O Sole Mio. The lyrics were by Aaron Schroder and Wally Gold. They knocked them out in 30 minutes, and for each of them it’s the biggest song they ever wrote. Elvis’s recording spent five weeks at the top of the chart, and in total has sold over 20 million copies.

7. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

A hit for writer Dolly Parton in the early ‘70s, most people know this song from the epic cover version recorded by Ms Houston for the movie The Bodyguard in which she starred with Kevin Costner. And yes, we have all tried to sing it on karaoke, and only a very few of us can hit that big note. Whitney could hit it, big time. Her version sold over 20 million copies.

6. Domenico Modungno – Volare

Italy’s entry in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest is a quintessentially Italian song about flying high with love, Translated and recorded by everyone from Louis Armstrong to David Bowie, it sold over 22 million copies of the original recording.

5. Bill Haley and His Comets – Rock Around the Clock

The rebellious youth of the 1950s turned to this seminal song as a focus of their new culture. Recorded by 29-year-old Bill Haley in 1954 it’s a song that everyone can recognise, and represented the new hope of the baby boom generation. It has sold 25 million copies.

4. Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime

A song that can set the mood in its first few bars, In the Summertime conjures up the lazy days of summer perfectly. The debut single of the British band Mungo Jerry, it has sold over 30 million copies and was successfully covered by Shaggy in 1995.

3. Bing Crosby – Silent Night

Bing Crosby was the biggest selling artist of his day. And his two best known recordings are both Christmas songs. This one was originally written in 1818 in Germany, and the German version is still widely performed. It has sold over 30 million copies.

2. Elton John – Candle In the Wind

1. Bing Crosby – White Christmas

No surprise here. The Irving Berlin song is simply part of the cultural bloodstream. Every year it is heard countless times in malls and bars. We have all sung it. It has been covered by just about everybody who can sing. The feeling of nostalgia it creates has resulted in a staggering 100 million copies sold of Crosby’s version. All together now… “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”

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