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30 Best Songs of the 1930s (Most Popular)

May 22, 2023
songs of the 1930s

Are you looking for the best songs of the 1930s?

The 30s brought us incredible swing and big band music, not to mention the jazz standards!

This article walks you through the best music of the 1930s, from stars like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Louis Armstrong.

1. “King Porter Stomp” by Benny Goodman

“King Porter Stomp” was originally written by Jelly Roll Morton in 1923, and is stated to be a large influence in the development of jazz.

It became a hit when Benny Goodman and his orchestra recorded their version in 1935.

It quickly became a standard hit during the swing era, with Goodman’s version featuring Bunny Berigan who was a highly popular trumpeter at the time. 

2. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” by Fats Waller

“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” was popularized by jazz musician Fats Waller when he recorded it in 1935.

The music was composed by Fred E. Ahlert, with lyrics by Joe Young.

It is a song from the Harlem Renaissance and debuted in the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehaving.

It was recorded multiple times by various artists, making it one of the best songs of the 1930s.

3. “Over The Rainbow” by Judy Garland

“Over The Rainbow” is a well-known ballad, sung by Judy Garland for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

It was composed by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg wrote the lyrics. 

It is known to be Garland’s signature song and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

“Over The Rainbow” was also named the best song of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America!

4. “God Bless America” by Kate Smith

“God Bless America” is a song that was originally written by Irving Berlin during the first world war.

It became popular when it was recorded by Kate Smith in 1938, and quickly became known as her signature song.

She sang it on her radio show on an Armistice Day podcast, when she wanted to record it as a “peace song”.

The song is an important piece of American history and is still used extensively today.

5. “In The Mood” by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra

“In The Mood” was written and recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in 1939. It is based on “Tar Paper Stomp” by Wingy Malone, and quickly became a big-band era jazz standard.

It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1983, and in 1999 National Public Radio named it one of “The 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century”.

It is known as the best-selling swing instrumental.

6. “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” by Louis Prima

“Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” was composed and written by Louis Prima in 1936, and it was first recorded by Prima with the New Orleans Gang.

It has been recorded by Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman, with the latter being the most famous.

It has been included in twenty-nine films, four theatre productions, twenty television episodes, and three video games. 

7. “Silent Night” by Bing Crosby With Victor Young and His Orchestra

“Silent Night” was written by Franz Gruber, John Freeman Young, and Joseph Mohr in the 1800s.

Bing Crosby teamed up with Victor Young and His Orchestra to release their version in 1935, and it became a largely popular 1930s song.

8. “Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson

“Cross Road Blues”, which is also called “Crossroads”, is a blues song that was recorded in 1936 by Robert Johnson.

His version of the song begins with the protagonist begging God for mercy while kneeling at a crossroads.

This refers to Johnson selling his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical talent.

It was coined as the third-best guitar song of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine, and also one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

9. “Moonlight Serenade” by Glenn Miller

“Moonlight Serenade” was composed by Glenn Miller in 1939, with lyrics by Mitchell Parish.

It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and became an immediate hit, and is an ode to what people call “the Miller sound”.

It stayed at number three on the United States Billboard charts for fifteen weeks upon its release and landed at number five on the Year-End charts.

It also reached number thirteen in the United Kingdom.

10. “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington

“Mood Indigo” is a jazz standard hit by Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, released in 1930 with lyrics by Irving Mills.

It has appeared in several films and also on television.

It was the first tune that Ellington wrote for microphone transmission, and he said of the song “The next day wads of mail came in raving about the new tune, so Irving Mills put a lyric to it.”

11. “One O’Clock Jump” by Count Basie

Count Basie composed the 12-bar blues instrumental, jazz standard song “One O’Clock Jump” in 1937.

It was released as a single but was re-released as part of his album of the same title in 1957.

It is a showing of Basie’s early style, which featured riffs.

He used the hit to close their concerts for the next fifty years and was later listed as one of the Songs of the Century and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

12. “The Wabash Cannonball” by Roy Acuff

“The Great Rock Island Route” was popularized as “The Wabash Cannonball” by Roy Acuff in 1936.

They are less than forty singles to ever sell over ten million physical copies around the world, and this is one of them.

It is the oldest song on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

It has been covered by countless other artists throughout the decades.

13. “Can The Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)” by the Carter Family

“Can The Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)” is a country/Gospel/Amerian Folk version of the hymn “Can The Circle Be Unbroken?”, written by A. P. Carter in 1935.

It was popularized by the Carter Family, as well as being recorded by countless other artists.

Lyrically, it mourns the protagonist’s mother and details her death and her funeral. 

14. “Body and Soul” by Coleman Hawkins

“Body and Soul” is a jazz standard written in 1930 by Johnny Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton.

The most famous version is by Coleman Hawkins, which he released in 1939.

It has been coined one of the “early tremors of bebop”, and it was entered into the National Recording Registry in 2004 by the Library of Congress.

It differs from traditional swing cliches and is thus known as one of the best songs of the 1930s.

15. “I’m In The Mood For Love” by Frances Langford

“I’m In The Mood For Love” is a song written for Frances Langford by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. Langford first sang it in the film Every Night at Eight in 1935.

It is now known as her signature song.

Bob Hope called her song a “show-stopper”, and it has since been covered by artists such as Little Jack Little, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Luther. 

16. “A Tisket a Tasket” by Ella Fitzgerald

A Tisket a Tasket” is a take by Ella Fitzgerald on the nineteenth-century nursery rhyme of the same name.

She released it in 1938, and it has since become a jazz standard that has been covered by many other artists.

17. “All or Nothing at All” by Frank Sinatra

“All or Nothing at All” was released in 1939 by the Harry James Orchestra, with vocals by Frank Sinatra.

It was composed the same year by Arthur Altman and Jack Lawrence. 

Sinatra’s version topped the United States Billboard charts four years later, staying for twenty-one weeks and selling over one million copies.

18. “Pennies from Heaven” by Bing Crosby

“Pennies from Heaven” was first released by Bing Crosby and the Georgie Stoll Orchestra in 1936 on the film of the same name.

It was originally written by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke.

Several other versions of the song proved popular, including ones by Billie Holiday and Doris Day. Crosby’s version topped the charts for ten weeks and has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

19. “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” by Bing Crosby

“Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” was initially written in 1932 by Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney, based on a Russian-Jewish lullaby.

It is one of the most well-known songs of the Great Depression, popularised by Bing Crosby in late 1932. 

It details the darkest themes of the economic collapse, contributing to its popularity at the time.

20. “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” by Fats Waller

“It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” is a traditional pop song popularised by Fats Waller.

It was originally written in 1936 by Billy Mayhew and has since been covered by many different artists throughout the 1930s and beyond.

21. “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” by Billie Holiday

“What a Little Moonlight Can Do” was written by Harry M. Woods in 1934 for the movie Road House, but became popular when Billie Holiday recorded it in 1935.

There are tens of other covers, too!

22. “My Reverie” by Glenn Miller

“My Reverie” was written in 1938 by Larry Clinton.

It is based on an 1890 piano tune by Claude Debussy, and there have been lots of popular versions throughout the decades.

The most popular is Glenn Miller’s rendition, which reached number eleven in the charts.

23. “And The Angels Sing” by Benny Goodman

“And The Angels Sing” is a popular song of the 1930s, released by Benny Goodman with Martha Tilton and Ziggy Elman.

It was recorded in 1939 in New York and soon became a top hit.

The 1943 film of the same name was based on the popular song, although it never actually featured in it.

24. “All of Me” by Louis Armstrong

“All of Me” is a jazz standard written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simmons in 1931.

There have been many popular covers of it, including a notable version by Louis Armstrong that reached number one.

25. “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” by Tommy Dorsey

“I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” is a recording by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, first performed in 1932.

Dorsey himself played the trumpet when his Orchestra performed their rendition.

It has been featured in three films, including the Oscar-winning The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

The song is considered to have a swing or fox-trot tempo.

26. “Stompin’ At The Savoy” by Benny Goodman

“Stompin’ At The Savoy” was originally written by Edgar Sampson, but is more commonly credited to Benny Goodman.

Although the song was written in 1933, Goodman didn’t release his rendition until 1936.

His version was released as an instrumental, and lyrics were added later.

27. “Back In The Saddle Again” by Gene Autry

Cowboy entertainer Gene Autry released his song “Back In The Saddle Again” in 1939.

It soon became his signature song and most well-known tune.

The song was co-written by Autry and Ray Whitley, and the title was used for his Biography in 1976.

It was chosen number five on the Top 100 Western Songs of all time by the Western Writers of America and was performed a lot on television.

It became Autry’s second Gold certified record and it was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

28. “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” by the Sons of the Pioneers

“Tumbling Tumbleweeds” is a Western song, written in 1934 by Bob Nolan who was one of the founding members of the Sons of the Pioneers.

It is one of the group’s signature songs and has been chosen as one of the Top 100 Western Songs of All Time.

It has been featured in ten popular films, including the 1935 Western film of the same name.

The film starred Gene Autry and was a huge hit, further helping the popularity of the song.

29. “These Foolish Things” by Benny Goodman

“These Foolish Things”, released by Benny Goodman in 1936, was his version of the song “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey.

The song has been covered many times, but Goodman’s is certainly the most popular.

30. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” by Irving Berlin

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” was originally recorded by Irving Berlin in 1937, and was covered by lots of other artists in the 1930s.

Artists include Ray Noble, Red Norvo, Billie Holliday, and His Orchestra.

It debuted in the musical On the Avenue, sung by Dick Powell and Alice Faye in 1937.

Best Songs of the 1930s – Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed taking a walk through the 1930s to find out the best swing hits and jazz standards of the decade.

These are some of the most covered songs ever and were the beginning of a new type of music.

There’s something in this list for everyone, so these hits are definitely worth checking out.

You may also like: Best Jazz Songs of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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