81. White Christmas (Bing Crosby)
Written by Irvin Berlin, “White Christmas” marked Bing Crosby’s best-selling single of all time (according to the Guinness world records book), selling some 50+ million copies worldwide. The song, used in the movies Holiday Inn (which also starred Crosby) and White Christmas, was then the biggest selling Christmas song of all time–although its sales figures competing practically neck-in-neck with “Rock Around The Clock.”
Meaning of the Song: “White Christmas” was originally about a New Yorker who found himself stranded in California during Christmas, hence “dreaming of a white Christmas.” However, that first verse, somewhat ironically, was cut from the song in both of the movies White Christmas and Holiday Inn.
Accolades: 11 weeks on top of the Billboard charts (second recording, this one with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and Ken Darby Singers); No. 1 on the Harlem Hit Parade for three weeks; Crosby’s first debut ever on a mostly African-American chart (Harlem Hit Parade); when re-released by Decca, it returned to the No. 1 spot during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946; won an Academy Award (1942) for Best Original Song.
82. The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Charlie Daniels Band)
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a hit 1979 by The Charlie Daniels Band for the album Million Mile Reflections. The song–whose lyrics sound closer to being spoken than actually sung (i.e. chant, Sprechstimme)–is widely regarded as the impetus that The Charlie Daniels Band needed to break out of its traditional Southern Rock style and into the world of Pop. In fact, in the years proceeding its debut, The Charlie Daniels Band experienced more success on the rock-crossover charts then on the Country charts where it all began. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is also notable for its appearance in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy.
Meaning of the Song: This song tells the story of a boy named Johnny, who makes a deal with the Devil. With instrumental bridges facilitating the Devil and Johnny’s actions, Lucifer comes down to Georgia to acquire souls. Not being as successful as he’s accustomed to, he strikes a deal with the young fiddle player Johnny, challenging him to a “fiddle-off”. Satan establishes the terms: If Johnny wins, he gets a solid gold fiddle. If the Devil wins, he gets little Johnny’s soul. Despite a “riveting” performance by the Devil (and his demon crew), Johnny defeats him–proudly boasting “I done told you once, you son of a bitch, I’m the best that’s ever been.”
Accolades: The Charlie Daniels Band’s biggest hit; spent two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 3; spent fourteen weeks on the Hot Country Singles chart, where it peaked at No. 1; RIAA-certified as the “top selling song of all time with a US state in the title of the song”; June 1998 re-release: re-entered the country charts at No. 62–remaining on the charts for seven weeks, topping out at No. 60.
83. Safe & Sound (Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars)
“Safe & Sound” is a song by Taylor Swift and country/folk duo The Civil Wars, the latter who served as backup singers, for the soundtrack to the 2012 film, “The Hunger Games”. “Safe & Sound” is a melancholy, acoustic ballad that premiered via Twitter. Swift tweeted about the song “Something I’ve been VERY excited about for a VERY long time is going to be happening VERY soon (and I’m not referring to Christmas),” and subsequently urged “this is it, the big surprise… Go get it!”. Originally, the song was only available on iTunes.
Meaning of the Song: Another song whose core meaning is pretty open to debate, one theory stipulates that it tells the untold stories of the rebels who died long before the movie’s events transpired, whose back-stories were missing in the movie itself. Intriguingly, “Safe & Sound” seems in chronological order, from the first shots of ‘the rebellion’ to its last dying breaths. Another possibility is that it’s about the on-screen death of Hunger Games’ character “Rue” (Amandla [sic] Stenberg).
Accolades: Debuted on the Billboard Hot Digital Songs register at No. 19 (136,000 paid iTunes downloads in two days); debuted at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100; after its music video released, “Safe & Sound” re-entered the Hot 100 at No. 56; has sold more than a million copies in the U.S. (as of April 2012); peaked in Canada at No. 31, No. 38 in Australia; first multi-artist film soundtrack to reach the peak position since “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
84. Will You Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles)
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, also known as “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and originally recorded by The Shirelles. The song was, in a respect, is an “answer” by Carole to her ex-boyfriend’s (Neil Sedaka) recording of “Oh, Carol”. “Tomorrow”, released in 1960 with “Boys” on the flip-side, is also significant in that it was the first song by an all-girl group to reach the top spot in the U.S. And in 1961, singer Tony Orlando recorded an “answer song” entitled “Not just Tomorrow, But Always”; the Motown group The Satintones also released an answer song to “Tomorrow entitled “Tomorrow and Always.”
Goffin and King—a husband and wife songwriting team who worked were signed to Don Kirshner’s Aldon music—was the center of the songwriting universe in the early ’60s. Kirshner assigned them to write a song for the Shirelles as a follow-up song to “Tonight’s The Night.”
Meaning of the Song: “Love Me Tomorrow” is a subtly sexual song that features its narrator wondering what will happen the day after an encounter with her man. Although radio stations initially hesitated to play it, it nonetheless became an enormous hit for Robinson and The Miracles, selling well over a million copies.
Accolades: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.ranked as the 110th greatest song of all time, as well as the best song of 1960, by Acclaimed Music; RS/500, No.126.
85. Good Life (One Republic)
One Republic’s third single of its 2009 album Waking Up, “Good Life”‘s upbeat lyrics, whistles, and fast drumming help describe the storyteller’s long travels. It’s appeared in numerous television series–including Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, Cougar Town, and 90210–and has been performed at such venues as the 2011 Billboard Music Awards and 2011 American Music Awards.
Meaning of the Song: Frontman and songwriter Ryan Tedder sings about leading a ‘good life’ no matter what obstacles he/we might face along the journey. Says band member Brent Kutzle: “The whole song is a memory of touring our first album. It seems like one big whirlwind looking back on that now.”
Accolades: Peaked at No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100; reached the top 20 of several music charts in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia; Rolling Stone also placed “Good Life” on its “15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time” list.
86. Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland)
“Over the Rainbow” (a.k.a. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) is an Oscar-winning ballad song that was written by E.Y. Harburg and sung by singer/actor Judy Garland.Written for the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, for Garland’s character (Dorothy Gale), it would become her signature, most enduring song of all time. In fact, in part of a letter to Harold Arlen (the instrumental composer), Garland claimed: “‘Over the Rainbow’ has become part of my life. It’s so symbolic of everybody’s dreams and wishes that I’m sure that’s why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I’ve sung it thousands of times and it’s still the song that’s closest to my heart.”
Meaning of the Song: The underlying meaning of “Over the Rainbow” has always seemed subjective, but at face value, it waxes general feelings about our lives not being so great, leaving us to wonder if there’s somewhere or something better out there–that is, if the grass is truly greener on the other side.
Accolades: No. of the “Songs of the Century” lists by both the RIAA and National Endowment for the Arts; No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) “100 Years, 100 Songs” list; Academy Award for best ballad song; USPS issued a commemorative stamp honoring OTR’s lyric writer, Yip Harburg.
87. Bring It On Home to Me (Sam Cooke)
A 1962 soul song by R&B singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, “Bring It On Home To Me” proved a smash hit for Cooke and eventually became a sort of ‘staple’ for musicians from several different genres–being covered from artists like Van Morrison and John Lennon to R. Kelly and Michael Bolton. And a little-known fact about the song: Lou Rawls was an uncredited background vocalist in both “Bring It On Home to Me” and its B-side entitled “Having a Party”.
Meaning of the Song: While part of “Bring It On Home To Me” is about infidelity, the bulk of it describes a guy who loses his woman. He doesn’t initially make much of losing her, but starts to ardently miss her and will do practically anything to win her back.
Accolades: Peaked at No. 13 on Billboard‘s Pop Singles chart, No. 2 on the top Black Singles; RR/HoF induction.
88. I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty)
“I Won’t Back Down” debuted in 1989 as the first single from Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever. In an interview with Mojo magazine, Petty explained: “At the session George Harrison sang and played the guitar. I had a terrible cold that day, and George went to the store and bought a ginger root, boiled it and had me stick my head in the pot to get the ginger steam to open up my sinuses, and then I ran in and did the take.” And due to the nature of the lyrics and overall upbeat feeling of the song, the song was played heavily on American radio after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, as well as after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Meaning of the Song:The overall theme–set to a mid-tempo beat–seems to point promote defiance against forces of general difficulty and oppression, hence:
- Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
- in a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
- but I’ll stand my ground, and I won’t back down
Accolades: Peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 12, on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks at No. 1 for five weeks; Canada’s RPM Top Singles, No. 5.
89. Snow (Hey Oh) (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Oscar–winning 2006 double album, Stadium Arcadium, “Snow (Hey Oh)” released as the follow-up single to “Tell Me Baby”. Per lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis: “It’s about the repeated failure to start your life anew and how difficult it can be to get rid off old ways of thinking, and destructive ideas we become so attached to.”
Meaning of the Song: In vocalist Anthony Kiedis’ words, ‘Snow’ is about “surviving, starting fresh. I’ve made a mess of everything, but I have a blank slate—a canvas of snow—and I get to start over.” However, its long been rumored that “Snow” is really about cocaine and heroin (both white, powdery substances that resemble snow), which lead singer Anthony Kiedis was known to use.
Accolades: Peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, remaining there for five straight weeks; peaked at No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart; became the band’s record breaking 11th No. 1 Modern Rock single in the U.S.; the band’s third consecutive chart-topping Modern Rock single from Stadium Arcadium.
90. Drops Of Jupiter (Train)
“Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” debuted in February of 2001 as the lead single to the album Drops of Jupiter. And it came not a second too soon, as musical authorities generally agree that Train was on the verge of becoming a one-hit-wonder (with “Meet Virginia” in 1999) before “Drops” released. Train also performed the song at the 2002 Grammys, which included a cello prelude and full orchestra integration. When the group won the award for Best Rock Song, lead vocalist Patrick Monahan thanked his deceased mother.
Meaning of the Song: Monahan stipulated that “Drops of Jupiter” was inspired by his mother’s battle with lung cancer and her passing (who died of lung cancer), and that the first lines “came to him in a dream.” The song itself is about a man pondering whether a woman’s journey to find herself still leaves room for him, whom she had left behind. Monahan also maintained about ‘Drops’ that “it was an obvious connection between me and my mother. ‘Drops of Jupiter’ was as much about me being on a voyage and trying to find out who I am. The best thing we can do about loss of love is find ourselves through it.”
Accolades: Peaked within the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart; charted in the Top 40 for 29 weeks, after it finally made the Adult Contemporary chart in its 49th week; has spent over 100 weeks on the Adult Contemporary charts, and is still charting on the Recurrents chart; has sold over 1,000,000 downloads; certified Gold by the RIAA; hit the top 50 of the Digital Downloads charts five years after its release due to Ace Young singing it on the fifth season of American Idol; nominated for five Grammys, won two for “Best Rock Song” and “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)”.