The 1950s was a golden era for music, with the emergence of rock and roll and the birth of some of the most extraordinary musical talents of all time.
The decade saw the rise of legendary artists such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Frank Sinatra, who revolutionized the music industry with their unique styles and sounds.
The era also gave rise to timeless classics that continue to captivate and inspire music lovers today.
This article will examine the best 50s songs, featuring some of the decade’s greatest hits and highlighting the talent and innovation that defined the era.
These songs have stood the test of time and remain integral to today’s musical landscape.
1. “Rockin’ Robin” by Bobby Day
“Rockin’ Robin” is a popular song written by Leon René under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas and initially performed by Bobby Day in 1958.
The song became Day’s biggest hit, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the R&B chart.
The song is an upbeat rock and roll tune that tells the story of a robin who is “rockin'” and “tweetin'” in the treetops.
The lyrics encourage listeners to join the fun and sing with the robin.
The song features catchy hand claps and a memorable chorus, making it a favorite of audiences for decades.
2. “Banana Boat” by Harry Belafonte
“Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” is a traditional Jamaican folk song made famous by the singer Harry Belafonte in 1956.
The song is also sometimes referred to simply as “Day-O.”
The song’s lyrics tell the story of dock workers counting the bananas loaded onto a boat.
The workers are eager for the Day to end so they can go home, hence the refrain of “Day-O.”
The song has a catchy melody and features call-and-response vocals, typical of many Caribbean folk songs.
3. “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry
“Johnny B. Goode” was released as a single in 1958 and became one of Berry’s most famous and enduring hits.
The song was released in 1958 and became one of Berry’s most famous and enduring hits.
The song tells the story of a young, talented guitar player from Louisiana named Johnny B. Goode, who dreams of becoming a star.
Despite his humble beginnings, Johnny’s talent and determination make him a local legend, and he eventually lands a recording contract.
4. “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley
“The Purple People Eater” is a novelty song written and performed by Sheb Wooley, released in 1958.
The song tells the story of a friendly “one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater” who comes to Earth to join a rock and roll band.
The creature’s unique appearance causes a stir, but ultimately everyone comes together to sing and play music.
The song was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States and becoming a classic of the novelty genre.
5. “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra
“Come Fly With Me” was written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and was released in 1958 on Sinatra’s album of the same name.
The song is known for its upbeat tempo, catchy melody, and romantic lyrics, which invite the listener to leave their troubles behind and join Sinatra on a journey of adventure and romance.
Over the years, “Come Fly With Me” has become one of Sinatra’s signature songs and is considered a classic of the Great American Songbook.
Many other artists have covered it, featuring it in numerous films, TV shows, and commercials.
6. “Diana” by Paul Anka
“Diana” was released in 1957 and became an instant hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song is a romantic ballad that tells the story of a young man in love with a girl named Diana.
The lyrics express his adoration, admiration, and desire to be with her.
“Diana” was a breakthrough hit for Anka, who was just 16 years old when he wrote and recorded the song.
It helped to establish him as one of the early rock and roll’s leading voices, and he went on to have many more hits throughout his career.
7. “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash
“I Walk the Line” is a classic country song released in 1956 and became one of Cash’s most famous and enduring hits.
The song features a simple, repetitive melody and a distinctive bassline, played by Cash’s longtime backing musician Marshall Grant.
The lyrics express Cash’s devotion and loyalty to his wife, as he pledges to stay faithful and true to her, even in the face of temptation and hardship.
The song’s title phrase, “I walk the line,” has become a popular idiom meaning maintaining one’s integrity or following a strict moral code.
8. “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin
“That’s Amore” is a popular song originally featured in the 1953 film “The Caddy.”
The song’s lyrics describe the feeling of falling in love in Italy and reference various aspects of Italian culture, such as pizza, mandolins, and the moon over Naples.
The chorus features the memorable phrase, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza, that’s Amore,” which has become a well-known cultural reference.
9. “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
“Why Do Fools Fall in Love” was written by Frankie Lymon, Herman Santiago, and George Goldner and was released in 1956.
The song’s lyrics describe the irresistible attraction of falling in love, despite the potential risks and heartache that come with it.
The song’s enduring popularity has been demonstrated by its frequent use in films, television shows, and advertisements and its numerous covers by other artists.
It has been recognized as one of the most important and influential songs of the rock and roll era and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”
10. “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison
“Ooby Dooby” is a classic rock and roll song written by Wade Moore and Dick Penner and famously performed by American singer-songwriter Roy Orbison.
The song was released in 1956 and became Orbison’s first hit.
The lyrics describe a dance called the “Ooby Dooby,” which involves shaking and moving to the music.
Despite being one of Orbison’s earliest recordings, “Ooby Dooby” has remained a beloved classic of the rock and roll era.
11. “There Goes My Baby” by The Drifters
“There Goes My Baby” is a classic R&B/soul song released in 1959.
The song features a distinctive lead vocal by lead singer Ben E. King and a lush arrangement with strings and backup vocals.
The lyrics tell the story of a man who is heartbroken after his lover leaves him, and he watches her walk away.
“There Goes My Baby” was a major hit for The Drifters, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the R&B chart.
It was one of the first R&B songs to feature a string arrangement, and it helped to usher in a new era of more sophisticated and polished R&B music in the late 1950s.
12. “Little Darlin'” by The Diamonds
“Little Darlin'” features a catchy melody and upbeat rhythm, with a distinctive lead vocal by lead singer Dave Somerville.
The lyrics tell the story of a man who loves his “little darlin'” and wants to be with her forever.
“Little Darlin'” was a major hit for The Diamonds, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the R&B chart.
It has since become a classic of the doo-wop genre and has been covered by many other artists over the years.
13. “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” by The Four Aces
“Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” is a classic love song initially recorded by The Four Aces in 1955.
The song features a lush orchestral arrangement with a sweeping melody and romantic lyrics describing love’s many facets.
The lyrics speak of the joy and wonder of falling in love and the pain and heartache that can come with it.
“Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” was a major hit for The Four Aces, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #2 on the R&B chart.
The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1955 and has since become a beloved classic, covered by many other artists over the years.
14. “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly
“That’ll Be the Day” is a rock and roll song by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison.
It was first recorded by Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes in 1956 and later released by Buddy Holly and the Crickets in 1957.
“That’ll Be the Day” features Holly’s signature vocal style, guitar playing, and the Crickets’ backing vocals and instrumentation.
The lyrics describe a romantic breakup and the singer’s determination to move on and find new love.
15. “Shake, Rattle, & Roll” by Big Joe Turner
“Shake, Rattle and Roll” became a huge hit, reaching number one on the Billboard R&B chart and number 22 on the pop chart.
The song features Turner’s powerful and expressive vocals, backed by a driving rhythm section and a honking saxophone solo.
The lyrics are full of double entendres and sexual innuendo, making the song a staple of early rock and roll.
“Shake, Rattle and Roll” has since become a rock and roll standard and has been covered by numerous artists, including Bill Haley & His Comets, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
16. “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke
“You Send Me” was released in 1957 and became Cooke’s first significant hit, reaching the top of both the R&B and pop charts.
The romantic love song showcases Cooke’s smooth and silky vocals, backed by a simple piano, guitar, bass, and drums arrangement.
The lyrics express the singer’s joy and happiness with his lover and the sense of completeness she brings to his life.
It has been recorded by artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Rod Stewart to The Supremes and featured in numerous films and TV shows.
17. “Shout” by The Isley Brothers
“Shout” is a classic rhythm and blues (R&B) song released in 1959.
“Shout” is known for its infectious, upbeat tempo and call-and-response vocals.
The song also features a memorable saxophone solo and a driving rhythm section.
The song’s popularity was partly fueled by its use in the iconic 1978 film “Animal House,” where it was featured in a memorable scene where the Delta Tau Chi fraternity performs a raucous, impromptu dance to the song.
See also: Best Saxophone Songs
18. “Bye Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers
“Bye Bye Love” is a classic song written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and famously performed by The Everly Brothers.
It was released in 1957 and became the duo’s first major hit, reaching the top 5 on both the pop and country charts.
The lyrics describe the pain of a failed romantic relationship, with the singer lamenting the loss of his love and the struggles of moving on.
“Bye Bye Love” was a breakthrough hit for The Everly Brothers and helped to establish their distinctive sound and style.
The song has since become a rock and roll standard and has been covered by numerous artists, including Simon & Garfunkel, Ray Charles, and George Harrison.
19. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard
“Tutti Frutti” is a classic rock and roll song released in 1955.
Richard wrote the song along with songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie.
“Tutti Frutti” became an instant hit and is considered a landmark recording in rock and roll history.
Its lyrics were groundbreaking for the time, with its sexually suggestive language and its use of African-American slang.
The song’s popularity helped establish Little Richard as a major rock and roll music force.
20. “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley
“Heartbreak Hotel” was written by Mae Boren Axton, Tommy Durden, and Elvis Presley.
The song became Elvis Presley’s first national hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and staying there for seven weeks.
The song’s lyrics describe a man who is so heartbroken that he decides to check into the “Heartbreak Hotel,” a symbolic place where people go to nurse their broken hearts.
The lyrics evoke a sense of loneliness and despair.
The song’s musical style combines blues and rock and rolls with a simple but memorable melody and a distinctive guitar riff.
21. “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins
“Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins is considered one of the first rockabilly records, combining elements of country music and rhythm and blues.
The lyrics describe a man who warns his girlfriend not to step on his blue suede shoes, which are his prized possession.
“Blue Suede Shoes” was covered by many other artists, including Elvis Presley, who recorded his version in 1956.
Presley’s version became even more popular than the original, helping to popularize rock and roll and solidify his status as the King of Rock and Roll.
22. “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens
“La Bamba” is a traditional Mexican folk song adapted and popularized by Ritchie Valens in 1958.
The song features a fast-paced, upbeat rhythm and catchy melody, making it a staple of Latin American music and a classic of the rock and roll era.
Ritchie Valens’ version of “La Bamba” features a rock and roll arrangement with electric guitar, bass, drums, and a prominent trumpet solo.
“La Bamba” lyrics are in Spanish and describe a popular dance in Veracruz, Mexico.
The song’s lively rhythm and celebratory tone have made it a popular choice for weddings, parties, and other festive occasions.
23. “Lady Sings The Blues” by Billie Holiday
Lady Sings the Blues” is a song that was originally written by jazz singer Billie Holiday and Herbie Nichols in 1956.
The song was later used as the title track for Billie Holiday’s 1956 album Lady Sings the Blues.
The song is a slow, bluesy ballad reflecting the struggles and hardships Billie Holiday faced throughout her life.
The lyrics describe a woman who has experienced much pain and heartache but continues to sing despite her suffering.
The song’s emotional depth and raw honesty helped solidify Billie Holiday’s reputation as one of the greatest jazz singers ever.
24. “Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Great Balls Of Fire” is a rock and roll song written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer.
It was first recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957 for the soundtrack of the movie Jamboree.
The song features Lewis’ signature piano playing style, which includes pounding the keys and using his feet to play the bass line.
The lyrics are suggestive and were considered controversial at the time of its release, as they were seen as promoting a sexually-charged image.
Great Balls Of Fire” was a huge commercial success, reaching number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the UK Singles Chart.
25. “Walkin’ After Midnight” by Patsy Cline
“Walkin’ After Midnight” is a classic country song released in 1957.
The song features a catchy melody and simple yet poetic lyrics describing a woman walking alone at night, searching for her lost love.
Cline’s distinctive voice blends country, pop, and blues elements, adding to the song’s melancholic and haunting atmosphere.
The song helped to establish Cline as a significant force in country music and paved the way for her later hits, such as “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.”
26. “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino
“Blueberry Hill” is a classic song originally written by Vincent Rose, Al Lewis, and Larry Stock in 1940.
It was first recorded by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in 1940, and since then, it has been covered by many artists.
One of the most famous versions of “Blueberry Hill” was recorded by Fats Domino in 1956.
Fats Domino was a popular rhythm and blues singer and pianist from New Orleans, Louisiana.
The song’s lyrics tell the story of a man reminiscing about his happy relationship with his partner on Blueberry Hill, where they used to go for walks and enjoy the scenery.
Even though the relationship is over, the man still remembers their time together on Blueberry Hill.
27. “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
“Dream A Little Dream Of Me” is a classic song originally written in 1931 by Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt, and Gus Kahn.
Numerous artists have recorded the song over the years, but one of the most popular and enduring versions is the one performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
The Fitzgerald and Armstrong version was recorded in 1950 and released as a single in 1951.
The lyrics of “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” speak to the longing for someone to share dreams with, to escape the realities of the world and find solace in the dream world.
28. “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets
“Rock Around the Clock” is a classic rock and roll song released in 1954.
The original recording featured Bill Haley on vocals, with a group of musicians called The Comets providing the backing instrumentation.
The song features a driving beat and catchy lyrics that quickly became teenagers’ favorite and helped popularize rock and roll music.
The song was also featured in the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle, which helped to cement its status as a classic rock and roll anthem.
29. “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris
“Little Bitty Pretty One” is a famous rock and roll song written by Bobby Day and recorded by Thurston Harris in 1957.
The song’s lyrics tell the story of a young man who is infatuated with a girl he thinks is a “little bitty pretty one.”
He sings about how she dances and how he wants to be close to her.
“Little Bitty Pretty One” has been covered by many artists, including Jackson 5, Huey Lewis and the News, and Aaron Carter.
30. “Wake Up Little Susie” by The Everly Brothers
“Wake Up Little Susie,” tells the story of two teenagers, Susie and her boyfriend, who fall asleep at a movie theater and wake up in a panic, realizing they missed their curfew.
They worry about what their parents will say and do and try to sneak back home without being caught.
The Everly Brothers were known for their tight vocal harmonies, and “Wake Up Little Susie” is a prime example of their signature sound.
The song’s success helped launch their career and cemented their place in rock and roll history.
31. “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin
“Mack the Knife” is a popular song released in 1959.
The song was written by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Marc Blitzstein and was initially featured in the 1928 German musical “Die Dreigroschenoper” (The Threepenny Opera).
Bobby Darin’s version of the song is known for its jazzy arrangement and upbeat tempo, which belies the dark lyrics about a notorious criminal named Mack the Knife.
The song tells the story of Mack’s criminal exploits and the fear he strikes in the hearts of those who cross his path.
32. “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton
“The Battle of New Orleans” was written by Jimmy Driftwood and released in 1959.
The song tells the story of the Battle of New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815, during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.
The song describes the events leading up to the battle, including the arrival of British troops in New Orleans and the call to arms by General Andrew Jackson.
It also depicts the fierce fighting that took place, as well as the eventual victory of the American forces.
See also: Best Johnny Horton Songs
33. “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson
“Poor Little Fool” is a song written by Sharon Sheeley and first recorded by Ricky Nelson in 1958.
The song became Nelson’s first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The lyrics describe a man who has fallen in love with a girl who is not interested in him, despite his affection and devotion.
The narrator urges the girl to realize she is making a mistake by not returning his love and warns her that she will regret her decision one day.
34. “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters
“Yakety Yak” was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and released in 1958.
The song is about a parent admonishing their teenage son to do his chores and stop wasting time.
The lyrics include humorous admonishments such as “Take out the papers and the trash, or you don’t get no spending cash” and “Don’t talk back.”
The Coasters were known for their humorous and sometimes satirical songs, and “Yakety Yak” is a perfect example of their style.
35. “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley
“Love Me Tender” was written by Ken Darby, based on the Civil War-era tune “Aura Lee.”
The song was released in 1956 and featured in Elvis’s first movie, Love Me Tender.
The song has a slow, romantic melody, and the lyrics express a deep, tender love between two people.
36. “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
“Jailhouse Rock” was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and included in the movie’s soundtrack of the same name, in which Elvis Presley starred.
The song is known for its catchy rock and roll beat, which was one of the defining sounds of the era.
The lyrics tell the story of a young man thrown into jail for a minor offense but becomes a sensation among his fellow inmates for his dance moves.
37. “Got My Mojo Working” by Muddy Waters
“Got My Mojo Working” is a blues song written by Preston “Red” Foster and popularized by Muddy Waters in 1956.
The lyrics are simple but effective, with Waters singing about his “mojo” power and how it helps him attract women.
“Mojo” is a magical charm or spell often associated with African American folk traditions.
38. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams
“Your Cheatin’ Heart” was released in 1953 and became one of Williams’ most well-known and beloved tunes.
The song tells the story of a man whose lover has betrayed him by cheating on him with another man.
The lyrics are filled with heartbreak and sorrow as the narrator expresses his pain and his desire for his lover to return to him.
39. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is a classic song written by Cole Porter in 1936 and performed by many artists over the years, including Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra’s version, released in 1956, is widely considered the definitive rendition of the song.
The song’s lyrics describe a love so strong that it’s like the person is under the singer’s skin, a feeling that is hard to shake.
Sinatra’s smooth, crooning vocals are ideally suited to the romantic nature of the song, and his phrasing and timing are impeccable.
The song is notable for its lush orchestration, which includes strings, brass, and a swinging rhythm section.
40. “In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins
“In the Still of the Night” was recorded in 1956 and has since become one of the most beloved and recognizable songs from the doo-wop era.
The song is known for its hauntingly beautiful melody and romantic lyrics, which describe the beauty of the night and the singer’s love for his partner.
The song features the smooth vocals of lead singer Fred Parris, who sings about the peacefulness and beauty of the night.
The other group members provide backing vocals, adding to the song’s harmony and depth.
Best 50s Songs – Final Thoughts
The music of this decade shaped the music industry and reflected the social, political, and cultural changes that were taking place during that time.
The 40 Best 50s Songs list encompasses some of the most memorable and influential songs that defined the era.
These songs continue to be celebrated and enjoyed by music lovers of all ages, and their influence can still be heard in contemporary music.
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