Song writers
Early Elvis
Cowboy Songs
 
 

 

 

A Century

of

American Songs

(1861 - 1961)

The classification of a song is a short piece
having
both words and music.Therefore, there are no instrumental works included on this list.  

The categories include:

classical, folk, blues, jazz, pop (or easy listening), stage musicals, movie songs, country & western, rhythm & blues, and rock .

Naturally not all the great songs could be included. It is a matter of subjective opinion which song might be greater than another. There is no way to please everyone's musical tastes.

The survey is based on three criteria:

1. songs which are representative of a musical style.
2. songs evoking their historical period.
3.songs
chosen because of their popularity
in sheet music or record sales
.

The list of 100 songs is not based solely on surveys such as the Billboard charts, but the authoritative reference books by Joel Whitburn were used as sources and
are indicated where appropriate.

Click on these links for each section:

I. The Civil War (1861-1865)

II. The Sentimental Age (1869-1889)

III. The 1890s

IV. Rise of Tin Pan Alley (1900-1910)

V. Home Life and World War I (1911-1919)

VI. The Roaring Twenties (1920-1929)

VII. The Great Depression (1930-1938)

VIII. Radio, Movies and World War II (1939-1949)

IX. The Early Fifties (1950-1954)

X. Youth Market and The Cold War(1955-1961)


 

Essential American Recordings Survey

The year 2009 marks the the 250th anniversary of the
FIRST SONG WRITTEN BY AN AMERICAN.

To honor this anniversary, a survey of recommended recordings has been compiled listing essential American music.

The recordings include a cross section of music, including 18th century psalm tunes, 19th century patriotic songs; 20th century classical, jazz, stage & screen, and popular songs.

To read this survey, go to:

EARS


If you know of a possible publisher
for an expanded book version of this survey,
write to:

Essential American Recordings Survey


 

Do you have enjoy songs from the past?

Then consider joining this web group:

The Tune Lovers Society

Membership is Free.

Also take part in the annual free web event known as

National Carry A Tune Week


 

The Civil War

to

The Cold War

(1861 - 1961)

Selected by Roger Lee Hall

 
 + = Top 100 hits (8 or more weeks at No. 1) in
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890 - 1954
     
                                                                                               

 $ = Top 100 Singles, 1955-1995 (3 or more weeks at No. 1) in
The Billboard Top 100 Singles, 1955-1995
,
compiled by Joel Whitburn
       
               
                                                                                                         

Songs listed below marked with # are available on

America in Song, Volune 2 (1861 - 1961)

Note:  Songs are arranged  by date, not by popularity or Billboard listing.

w = words/lyrics

m = music

I. The Civil War
(1861 - 1865)

1.# "John Brown (John Brown's Body") (1861) -
w: attributed to C.S. Hall/ m: unknown

2.# "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1862) -
w: Julia Ward Howe/ m: attributed to William Steffe

3. "The Vacant Chair" (1861) - w: H.J. Washburn/ m: George F. Root

4. "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1861) - w: Harry McCarthy

5. # "A Prayer for the Captive" (1862) - w & m: Cecilia DeVere
(Shaker Pacifist Hymn)

6. # "Go Down, Moses" (c. 1862) - Afro-American Spiritual

7. "The Battle Cry of Freedom" (1862) - w & m: George F. Root

8. # "Willie Has Gone to the War" (1863) - w & m: Stephen C. Foster

9. "Weeping Sad and Lonely ( When This Cruel War is Over)" --
w: Charles C. Sawyer/ m: Henry Tucker

10. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (1863) -
w & m: Patrick S. Gilmore

II. The Sentimental Age
(1869-1889)


11. # "Hymn of Peace" (1869) - w: Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes/
m: Matthias Keller (written for National Peace Jubilee in Boston)

12. # "Home on the Range" (1873) -
w: Dr. Brewster M. Higley/ m: Daniel E. Kelley

13. # "Grandfather's Clock" (1876) - w & m: Henry Clay Work

14. "Oh, Promise Me!" (1889) -
w: Clement Scott/m: Reginald De Koven

III. The 1890s

15. # "After the Ball" (1892) - w & m: Charles K. Harris

16. # "Waltz" (1894) - w & m: Charles Ives

17. # "Prayer of Thanksgiving (We Gather Together)" (1894) -
translated and arranged by Dr. Theodore Baker

18. # "On the Banks of the Wabash" (1897) - w & m: Paul Dreiser

19. # "Hello, Ma Baby" (1899) -
w & m: Joseph E. Howard & Ida Emerson

IV. Rise of Tin Pan Alley
(1900-1910)

20. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (1900) - w: James W. Johnson/
m: J. Rosamond Johnson

21. +"Sweet Adeline" (1903) -
w: Richard H. Gerard/ m: Harry Armstrong

22. "Toyland" (1903) - words: Glen McDonough/
music: Victor Herbert

23. +"Meet Me in St. Louis" (1904) - w: Arthur B. Sterling/
m: Kerry Mills

24. # "Give My Regards To Broadway" (1904) -
w & m: George M. Cohan

25. "I Love You Truly" (1906) - w & m: Carrie Jacobs-Bond

26. # +"You're a Grand Old Flag" (1906) -
w & m: George M. Cohan

27. +"My Gal Sal"(1907) - w & m: Paul Dresser

28.  "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1908) - words: Jack Norworth/
m: Albert Von Tilzer

29. +"By the Light of the Silvery Moon" (1909) -
w: Edward Madden/ m: Gus Edwards

V.   Home Life
and
World War I
(1911-1919) 

30.  +"Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911) --- w & m:  Irving Berlin

31.    "My Melancholy Baby" (1912) - w:  George A. Norton/
m: Ernie Burnett

32. +"On Moonlight Bay" (1912) - w: Edward Madden/
m: Percy Weinrich

33.  "Danny Boy" (1913) - w & m: Frederick Edward Weatherly

34. "St. Louis Blues" (1914) - w & m: W.C. Handy

35. "They Didn't Believe Me" (1914) - w: Michael E. Rourke/
m: Jerome Kern

36.  +"Over There" (1917) - w & m: George M. Cohan

37.    "The Lament of Ian the Proud" (1918) - w: Fiona MacLeod/
m: Charles Tomlinson Griffes

38.  +"Rock-a-Bye Your Baby" (1918) - w: Sam Lewis & Joe Young/
m: Jean Schwartz

39.  # +"Swanee" (1919) - w: Irving Caesar/ m: George Gershwin

VI.  The Roaring Twenties
(1920-1929) 

40. +"Whispering" (1920) - w & m: John Schonberger,
Richard Coburn, Vincent Rose

41. +"April Showers" (1921) - w: Buddy De Sylva/ m: Louis Silvers

42. "Charleston" (1923) - w: Cecil Mack/ m: James P. Johnson

43. "Manhattan" (1925) - w: Lorenz Hart/ m: Richard Rodgers

44.   "Someone to Watch Over Me" (1926) - w: Ira Gershwin/
m: George Gershwin

45. # +"My Blue Heaven" (1927) - w: George Whiting/
m: Walter Donaldson

46.   "Ol' Man River" (1927) - w: Oscar Hammerstein II/
m: Jerome Kern

47.   "I Can't Give You Anything But Love"(1928) -
w: Dorothy Fields/
m: Jimmy McHugh

48. # "Star Dust" (1929) - w: Mitchell Parrish/ m: Hoagy Carmichael

49.  "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1929) - w: Andy Razaf/ m: Fats Waller

VII.   The Great Depression
(1930-1938) 

50.    "I Got Rhythm" (1930) - w: Ira Gershwin/ m: George Gershwin

51.    "Mood Indigo" (1931) - w & m: Edward "Duke" Ellington and Irving Mills

52. #  "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" (1932) - w: E.Y. Harburg/
m: Jay Gorney

53.   +"Night and Day" (1932) - w & m: Cole Porter

54. # +"The Last Round-Up" (1933) - w & m: Billy Hill

55.    "Sophisticated Lady" (1933) - w: Mitchell Parrish, Irving Mills/
m: Duke Ellington

56.  +"Stormy Weather" (1933) - w: Ted Koehler/ m: Harold Arlen

57.    "Solitude" (1934) - w: Eddie DeLange, Irving Mills/
m: Duke Ellington

58.    "Begin the Beguine" (1935) - w & m: Cole Porter

59. +"Cheek to Cheek" (1935) - w & m: Irving Berlin

60.   "I've Got You Under My Skin" (1935) - w & m: Cole Porter

61.   "The Way You Look Tonight" (1936) - w: Dorothy Fields/
m: Jerome Kern

62.   "They Can't Take That Away From Me" (1937) -
w: Ira Gershwin/ m: George Gershwin

63. "Our Love is Here to Stay" (1937) - w: Ira Gershwin/
m: George Gershwin

64. # "God Bless America" (1938) - w & m: Irving Berlin

VIII.   Radio, Movies
and
World War II
(1939-1949) 

65.  # "All the Things You Are" (1939) - w: Oscar Hammerstein II/
m: Jerome Kern - recording sung by Tony Martin with Jerome Kern at piano

66.   "Over the Rainbow" (1939) - w: E.Y. Harburg/ m: Harold Arlen

67.   "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (1940) -
w: Lorenz Hart/ m: Richard Rodgers

68. "When You Wish Upon a Star" (1940) - w: Ned Washington/
m: Leigh Harline

69. "This Land is Your Land" (1940) - w & m: Woody Guthrie

70.   "Blues in the Night" (1941) - w: Johnny Mercer/
m: Harold Arlen

71. # +"Chattanooga Choo-Choo" (1941) - w: Mack Gordon/
m: Harry Warren

72. +"White Christmas" (1942) - w & m: Irving Berlin

73. # "People Will Say We're in Love'"(1943) - w: Oscar Hammerstein II/ m: Richard Rodgers

74. # "Ac-cent-tchuate the Positive" (1944) - w: Johnny Mercer/
m: Harold Arlen

75.   "Laura" (1945) - w: Johnny Mercer/m: David Raksin

76. "Stella By Starlight" (1946) - w: Ned Washington/m: Victor Young

77.   "There's No Business Like Show Business" (1946) - w & m: Irving Berlin

78. +"Near You" (1947) - w:  Kermit Goell/m:  Francis Craig

79. +"Ghost Riders in the Sky" (1949) w & m: Stan Jones

IX.  The Early Fifties
(1950-1954)

80. # "Mona Lisa" (1950) - w: Ray Evans/ m: Jay Livingston

81. +"Goodnight, Irene" (1950) - w & m: Huddie Ledbetter & Alan Lomax

82.   "High Noon" (1952) - w: Ned Washington/ m: Dimitri Tiomkin

83. +"You Belong to Me" (1952) - w & m: Pee Wee King,
Redd Stewart, Chilton Price

84. # "Cold, Cold Heart" (1952) - w & m: Hank Williams

85. "Secret Love" (1953) - w: Paul Francis Webster/ m: Sammy Fain

86. "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) -
w: Sammy Cahn/ m: Jule Styne

X.  Youth Market
and
The Cold War
(1955-1961)

87. $ "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) - w & m: Max Freedman and Jimmy DeKnight

89. # $"Sincerely" (1955) - w & m: Harvey Fuqua & Alan Freed

90. $ "Don't Be Cruel" (1956) - w & m: Otis Blackwell (not co-written by Elvis Presley)

91. $ "Love Me Tender" (1956) - w & m: Ken Darby (adapted from the 1861 song "Aura Lee" - not co-written by Elvis Presley )

92. " On the Street Where You Live" (1956) - w: Alan Jay Lerner/
m: Frederick Loewe

93.   "True Love" (1956) - w & m: Cole Porter

94.   "All the Way" (1957) - w: Sammy Cahn/ m: James Van Heusen

95.   "Maria" (1957) - w: Stephen Sondheim/ m: Leonard Bernstein

96. $ "Don't" (1958) - w & m: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

97.   "Small World" (1959) - w: Stephen Sondheim/ m: Jule Styne

98.   "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" (1959) - w: Oscar Hammerstein II/
m: Richard Rodgers

99.   "Camelot (1960) - w: Alan Jay Lerner/m: Frederick Loewe

100. "Moon River" (1961) - w: Johnny Mercer/ m: Henry Mancini

 
 + = Top 100 hits (8 or more weeks at No. 1) in
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890 - 1954
     
                                                                                               

$ = Top 100 Singles, 1955-1995 (3 or more weeks at No. 1) in
The Billboard Top 100 Singles, 1955-1995
,
compiled by Joel Whitburn
       
               
                                                                                                         

 


 

Songs listed above marked with # are available on

America in Song, Volume 2 -
From The Civil War to The Cold War
(1861-1961)

 


Also recommended:

Carousel Of American Music: The Fabled 24 September 1940 San Francisco Concerts

Carousel of American Music:
The Fabled 24 September 1940 San Francisco Concerts

Songwriters with 2 or more songs on the Top 100:

Harold Arlen = 4 [1933, 1939, 1941, 1945]

Irving Berlin = 4 [1911, 1938, 1942, 1946]

Sammy Cahn = 2 [1954, 1957]

George M. Cohan = 3 [1904, 1906,1917]

Duke Ellington = 3 [1931, 1933, 1934]

Dorothy Fields = 2 [1928, 1936]

George Gershwin = 5 [1919, 1926, 1930, 1937 (2) ]

Ira Gershwin = 4 [1926, 1930, 1937(2) ]

Oscar Hammerstein II = 4 [1927, 1939, 1943, 1959]

E.Y. Harburg = 2 [1932, 1939]

Lorenz Hart = 2 [1925, 1941]

Jerome Kern = 3 [1927, 1936, 1939]

Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe = 2 [ 1956, 1960]

Johnny Mercer = 4 [1941, 1945 (2), 1961]

Mitchell Parrish = 2 [1929, 1933]

Cole Porter = 4 [1932, 1935 (2), 1956]

Richard Rodgers = 4 [1925, 1940, 1943, 1945]

George F. Root = 2 [1861, 1862]

Stephen Sondheim = 2 [1956, 1959]

Ned Washington = 2 [1940, 1952]

TOTAL = 60 songs by the above 20 songwriters in the Top 100 list

 


All of the above songs are located in the archive of the

American Music Recordings Collection (AMRC)

See also:

A Century of American Songs, Part One (1759-1859)

Tunemaker Hall of Fame


 

 

Send your comments or questions to:

A Century of American Songs

 

Other links

National Carry A Tune Week

 

 


 

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American music collections and CDs, go to the

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