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This Was the Top Song the Year You Were Born

This Was the Top Song the Year You Were Born

The soundtrack to your life

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Each year, a number of new songs are crowned as the hits of that time because of their catchiness, message or another “it” factor listeners can’t get enough of. Some songs become tied to a particular year in which they top the charts, soundtracking everything from workouts and parties to road trips and births. 

Since 1946, Billboard Magazine has published year-end charts to denote the top song of each year as determined by its performance on the charts. While there are dozens of Billboard charts in a variety of genres, we took a look at the year-end chart for all pop music retail sales to see which songs dominated pop culture for the year you were born.

1946: ‘Prisoner of Love,’ Perry Como

1946: “Prisoner of Love,” Perry Como

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Originally sung by Russ Columbo, the 1946 version of “Prisoner of Love” was sung by Perry Como, also known as “Mr. C.” The song was Billboard’s top retail single of the year and was later featured on the soundtrack of the 1980 film “Raging Bull.”

1947: ‘Near You,’ Francis Craig

1947: “Near You,” Francis Craig

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Francis Craig sang and wrote the music for “Near You,” the top popular retail record seller of 1947. Multiple other versions of the song also charted that same year, including ones performed by the Andrews Sisters, Elliot Lawrence, Larry Green and Alvino Rey.

1948: ‘Twelfth Street Rag,’ Pee Wee Hunt

1948: “Twelfth Street Rag,” Pee Wee Hunt

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The composition for Euday L. Bowman’s “Twelfth Street Rag” was first published in 1914, with Bowman taking more than 15 years to write the ragtime song down after first composing it. Multiple musicians have played and recorded it in the years since, but it was jazz musician Pee Wee Hunt’s 1948 version of the song that sold more than 3 million copies when released.

1949: ‘Riders in the Sky,’ Vaughn Monroe

1949: “Riders in the Sky,” Vaughn Monroe

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Named the best Western song of all time by members of the Western Writers of America, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend” was written in 1948 by Stan Jones. While multiple versions of the song charted the next year, the most successful was by singer, trumpeter and big band leader Vaughn Monroe.

1950: ‘Goodnight, Irene,’ Gordon Jenkins and the Weavers

1950: “Goodnight, Irene,” Gordon Jenkins and the Weavers

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First recorded in the 1930s by folk and blues musician Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, “Goodnight, Irene” is a traditional folk song about a man’s romantic woes. The Weavers recorded their own version in 1950 with the help of composer Gordon Jenkins, and the song topped the retail sales charts for the year.

1951: ‘Too Young,’ Nat King Cole

1951: “Too Young,” Nat King Cole

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Legendary jazz singer and pianist Nat King Cole released “Too Young” in 1951, and the hit became the best-selling and most popular song of the year. Cole later stated that of all of his songs, “Too Young” was one of his three favorites. 

1952: ‘Blue Tango,’ Leroy Anderson

1952: “Blue Tango,” Leroy Anderson

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Composer Leroy Anderson wrote the instrumental “Blue Tango” as an orchestra piece in 1951, but the song was published and became a hit in 1952. Later that year, a version with lyrics added by Mitchell Parish was also recorded.

1953: ‘Song From Moulin Rouge,' Percy Faith

1953: “Song From Moulin Rouge,” Percy Faith

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Called “It’s April Again” in the 1952 film “Moulin Rouge,” the Percy Faith version of the “Song From Moulin Rouge” was the best-selling song of 1953.

1954: ‘Little Things Mean a Lot,’ Kitty Kallen

1954: “Little Things Mean a Lot,” Kitty Kallen

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Big band singer Kitty Kallen was named “most popular singer” by both Billboard and Variety after her rendition of “Little Things Mean a Lot” topped the charts and became the best-selling popular record of 1954. 

1955: ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,’ Pérez Prado

1955: “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” Pérez Prado

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Cuban bandleader and “King of the Mambo” Pérez Prado’s recording of “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” is an adaption of the French song “Cerisiers Roses et Pommiers Blancs.” Prado’s version became one of the biggest instrumental hits of all time and was the best-selling record of 1955.

1956: ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ Elvis Presley

1956: “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley’s first No. 1 hit, “Heartbreak Hotel,” was released in January 1956. Rolling Stone ranked the song, which inspired the music of John Lennon, Keith Richards and more, at No. 45 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

1957: ‘All Shook Up,’ Elvis Presley

1957: “All Shook Up,” Elvis Presley

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The very next year, Presley topped the year-end charts again with “All Shook Up.” The song was originally written by Otis Blackwell, who also penned other hit songs for Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

1958: ‘Volare (Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu),’ Domenico Modugno

1958: “Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu (Volare),” Domenico Modugno

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More commonly known as “Volare,” the Italian hit song “Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu” was performed by Domenico Modugno, Italy’s first internationally renowned pop star. The song’s international popularity came after it won third place in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest. It remains one of the most popular Eurovision songs of all time, as well as the only foreign-language recording to win record of the year or song of the year at the Grammy Awards, which it did at the first-ever Grammys in 1959.

1959: ‘The Battle of New Orleans,’ Johnny Horton

1959: “The Battle of New Orleans,” Johnny Horton

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Folk singer Jimmy Driftwood wrote the novelty song “The Battle of New Orleans” during his time as a school principal in Arkansas in an attempt to garner more interest in history among his students. Sadly, Johnny Horton, who sang the song, was killed in a car accident in 1960, just one year after he reached chart-topping success.

1960: “Theme from ‘A Summer Place,”’ Percy Faith

1960: “Theme from ‘A Summer Place,’” Percy Faith

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A cover of the instrumental theme of the 1959 Sandra Dee film “A Summer Place” by Percy Faith and his orchestra topped the charts in 1960. Faith’s version of the song went on to win a Grammy award for record of the year in 1960.

1961: ‘Tossin’ and Turnin’,’ Bobby Lewis

1961: “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” Bobby Lewis

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Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’” is a classic R&B hit and the best-selling record of 1961. Billboard ranked it as the 36th biggest song of all time to chart on its Hot 100 in 2018, the chart’s 60th anniversary.

1962: ‘Stranger on the Shore,’ Mr. Acker Bilk

1962: “Stranger on the Shore,” Mr. Acker Bilk

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Acker Bilk’s clarinet instrumental “Stranger on the Shore” was originally named “Jenny,” after Bilk’s daughter, before it was used as the theme for “Stranger on the Shore,” a BBC children’s TV show. The hit single was the first British song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 100, but its popularity literally skyrocketed in May 1969 when the Apollo 10 crew took the track with them on a cassette tape that they played on their mission around the moon.

1963: ‘Sugar Shack,’ Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs

1963: “Sugar Shack,” Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs

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Recorded by New Mexico-based rock ‘n’ roll group Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, “Sugar Shack” was written by the band’s Texas-raised frontman Keith McCormack, who came up with the lyrics over breakfast one day. 

1964: ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ The Beatles

1964: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” The Beatles

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Beatlemania broke out in America with 1964’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The first of the Beatles’ record 20 No. 1s, the song was deemed the 48th biggest hit of all time on the Billboard Hot 100.

1965: ‘Wooly Bully,’ Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs

1965: “Wooly Bully,” Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs

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“Wooly Bully” was named the No. 1 record of 1965 by Billboard, despite never actually reaching the top spot on a weekly Hot 100 chart. The novelty song topped iconic songs from that year, such as “My Girl” by The Temptations and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.

1966: ‘The Ballad of the Green Berets,’ Sgt. Barry Sadler

1966: “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” Sgt. Barry Sandler

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Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, an active-duty Green Beret who served in Vietnam, wrote “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” which went on to sell more than 2 million copies. Billboard’s original 1966 year-end chart placed the song at No.10 behind The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” but a revised chart had the song holding the top spot as the biggest-selling single of the year. 

1967: ‘To Sir, With Love,’ Lulu

1967: “To Sir With Love,” Lulu

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The theme song for the British film of the same name starring Sidney Poitier, “To Sir, With Love” was performed by Scottish singer Lulu, who made her acting debut in the film. Despite being on the album’s B-side, “To Sir, With Love” became the biggest song of 1967.

1968: ‘Hey Jude,’ the Beatles

1968: “Hey Jude,” The Beatles

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“Hey Jude” was originally written by Paul McCartney as “Hey Jules,” to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian in the wake of his parents’ divorce and his father’s relationship with Yoko Ono. The song became the band’s biggest U.S. single after spending nine weeks at No. 1. Rolling Stone placed it at No. 8 on its 2003 list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” the highest ranking of any Beatles song.

1969: ‘Sugar, Sugar,’ The Archies

1969: “Sugar, Sugar,” The Archies

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Featured in “The Archie Show,” an animated TV series based on the Archie comics, the show’s fictional animated band, The Archies, released “Sugar, Sugar,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

1970: ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ Simon & Garfunkel

1970: “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon & Garfunkel

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“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel not only topped the charts but also took home five Grammy Awards in 1971, including record of the year and song of the year. The song has been covered by many artists, including Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley and Waylon Jennings. On Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” it was ranked at No. 48.

1971: ‘Joy to the World,’ Three Dog Night

1971: “Joy to the World,” Three Dog Night

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“Joy to the World,” which features the famous opening lyric “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” was the top song of 1971. In the 1960s and 1970s, Three Dog Night released 21 consecutive Top 40 hits.

1972: ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,’ Roberta Flack

1972: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Roberta Flack

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First written in 1957 by British folk singer Ewan MacColl, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” has been covered by many artists including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. However, it was Roberta Flack’s 1972 version that made the song an international hit. After being featured in the movie “Play Misty For Me,” it won a Grammy for both record of the year and song of the year. 

1973: ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,’ Tony Orlando and Dawn

1973: “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree,” Tony Orlando and Dawn

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The inspiration for “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” the top pop single of 1968, comes from the practice of wearing or putting up a yellow ribbon as a symbol that a loved one in the military or in jail would be welcomed home when they return. Songwriters Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown initially offered the song to Ringo Starr, whose team rejected it.

1974: ‘The Way We Were,’ Barbra Streisand

1974: “The Way We Were,” Barbra Streisand

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“The Way We Were,” the theme song for the 1973 romance film of the same name starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, topped the year’s charts and won the Oscar for best original song at the 1974 Academy Awards. 

1975: ‘Love Will Keep Us Together,’ Captain & Tennille

1975: “Love Will Keep Us Together,” Captain & Tennille

“Love Will Keep Us Together” was the top single of the year and went on to win the 1976 Grammy for record of the year. After topping the charts, singers Captain & Tennille were given their own variety show.

1976: ‘Silly Love Songs,’ Wings

1976: “Silly Love Songs,” Wings

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Former Beatle Paul McCartney formed Wings with his wife Linda, and in 1976, the band released its chart-topper “Silly Love Songs.” Co-written by the husband and wife duo, the song was a response to his former bandmate John Lennon and other critics who had criticized McCartney for writing only “silly love songs.”

1977: ‘Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),’ Rod Stewart

1977: “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” Rod Stewart

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British rock icon Rod Stewart created quite a bit of controversy with his chart-topper “Tonight’s the Night,” and the song was even banned by some radio stations due to its suggestive lyrics. The song features a spoken part in French that is performed by Stewart’s then-girlfriend, actress and former Bond girl Britt Ekland.

1978: ‘Shadow Dancing,’ Andy Gibb

1978: “Shadow Dancing,” Andy Gibb

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English singer-songwriter Andy Gibb wrote “Shadow Dancing” with the help of his older brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin, better known as the Bee Gees. The song’s success made Gibb the first artist in the history of the Hot 100 chart to have their first three pop singles reach No. 1. 

1979: ‘My Sharona,’ The Knack

1979: “My Sharona,” The Knack

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The Knack’s debut single “My Sharona” was written by lead singer Doug Fieger about his future girlfriend Sharona Alperin, the inspiration of many songs by Fieger. After some fame from being the subject of the song, the real Sharona became a real estate agent in Los Angeles, according to NPR.

1980: ‘Call Me,’ Blondie

1980: “Call Me,” Blondie

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New wave band Blondie’s lead singer Debbie Harry worked with Italian producer and “Father of Disco” Giorgio Moroder to write “Call Me” as the theme for the 1980 film “American Gigolo.” Blondie had previously hit No. 1 a year earlier with “Heart Of Glass.”

1981: ‘Bette Davis Eyes,’ Kim Carnes

1981: “Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes

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“Bette Davis Eyes” was originally released by Jackie DeShannon in 1974, but Kim Carnes’ 1981 cover was what made it a hit. The song was later listed as the 17th-best song on Billboard’s 60th anniversary Hot 100 chart. At the 1982 Grammy Awards, Carnes won record of the year for the song and DeShannon and co-writer Donna Weiss won for song of the year. 

1982: ‘Physical,’ Olivia Newton-John

1982: “Physical,” Olivia Newton-John

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When Australian singer Olivia Newton-John agreed to record “Physical,” she left behind her squeaky-clean persona for a more suggestive one. The song topped the Hot 100 for 10 straight weeks.

1983: ‘Every Breath You Take,’ The Police

1983: “Every Breath You Take,” The Police

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Despite popular belief, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” is not meant to be a romantic song. It’s actually written from the point of view of a possessive and jilted lover. “Every Breath You Take” became the band’s only No. 1 hit in America. The song also scored the No. 31 spot on Billboard’s 60th anniversary chart of all-time top hits.

1984: ‘When Doves Cry,’ Prince

1984: “When Doves Cry,” Prince

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Prince’s first No. 1 single in America came from his sixth studio album, “Purple Rain.” “When Doves Cry” was written as the theme for the film of the same name. The iconic Prince song made Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, coming in at No. 52.

1985: ‘Careless Whisper,’ Wham!

1985: “Careless Whisper,” Wham!

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George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley made up one of the most successful 1980s pop acts, Wham!, which had multiple major hits in 1985, including “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and the top song of the year, “Careless Whisper.” The song went on to top the charts in 25 countries. 

1986: ‘That’s What Friends Are For,’ Dionne & Friends

1986: “That’s What Friends Are For,” Dionne & Friends

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Rod Stewart was the first to record “That’s What Friends Are For” in 1982, but the song gained far more popularity when it was recorded in 1985 by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight — credited as Dionne & Friends — to raise money for AIDS research. The song won a Grammy for song of the year, while Dionne & Friends was awarded the Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal.

1987: ‘Walk Like An Egyptian,’ The Bangles

1987: “Walk Like An Egyptian,” The Bangles

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After being turned down by Toni Basil, “Walk Like an Egyptian” was recorded by rock band The Bangles and released on their 1986 album “Different Light.” It became the most popular song of the year and sold more than 1 million copies.

1988: ‘Faith,’ George Michael

1988: “Faith,” George Michael

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The title track of George Michael’s 1987 debut solo album, “Faith” is one of Michael’s most famous songs. Michael wrote, produced and arranged the track, which became the biggest-selling song of the year.

1989: ‘Look Away,’ Chicago

1989: “Look Away,” Chicago

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Chicago ended the ‘80s with a top hit about a lost love. “Look Away” was the band’s final No. 1 single and its first not sung by former frontman Peter Cetera.

1990: ‘Hold On,’ Wilson Phillips

1990: “Hold On,” Wilson Phillips

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“Hold On” kicked off the ‘90s as the lead single from the self-titled debut album by Wilson Phillips, a pop-rock group that consisted of Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Chynna Philips, daughter of John and Michelle Philips of The Mamas & The Papas.

1991: ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,’ Bryan Adams

1991: “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” Bryan Adams

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Bryan Adams spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 with “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” the top song of 1991, which was recorded for the soundtrack of "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves." The track won a Grammy the next year for best song written specifically for a motion picture or television.

1992: ‘End of the Road,’ Boyz II Men

1992: “End of the Road,” Boyz II Men

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R&B group Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” spent a record 13 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1992. Released on the soundtrack album of the Eddie Murphy film “Boomerang,” the song won two Grammy Awards in 1993 for best R&B song and best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal.

1993: ‘I Will Always Love You,’ Whitney Houston

1993: “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston

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Originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973, “I Will Always Love You” was released by Whitney Houston for her film debut in 1992’s “The Bodyguard.” The song spent 14 weeks at No. 1 from  November 1992 through March 1993, guaranteeing its spot as song of the year. The song won record of the year and best female pop vocal performance at the 1994 Grammy Awards, and was later listed at No. 65 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Songs” list, as well as No. 6 on Billboard’s “Top 50 Love Songs of All Time.”

1994: ‘The Sign,’ Ace of Base

1994: “The Sign,” Ace of Base

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Swedish pop group Ace of Base’s American record label decided to add a new lead single to the group’s 1993 album release: “The Sign.” The song, which ended up sharing its title with the North American version of the album, became an international hit, mixing Eurodance and reggae. It became the best-selling song of the year and was later listed on Rolling Stone’s list of “50 Best Songs of the Nineties.”

1995: ‘Gangsta’s Paradise,’ Coolio featuring L.V.

1995: “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Coolio featuring L.V.

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Sampling Stevie Wonder’s song “Pastime Paradise” as its hook, “Gangsta’s Paradise” was first released on the soundtrack of the film “Dangerous Minds” and spent five weeks at No. 1 on its way to becoming the top song of 1995. It went on to top the charts in countries around the world as well as win a Grammy Award for best rap solo performance. 

1996: ‘Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),’ Los del Río

1996: “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” Los del Río

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In the late 1990s, the world was taken over by a dance craze that’s still popular at weddings, sports games and parties to this day: the Macarena. The song that accompanied the famous dance was first released in 1993 by Spanish pop duo Los del Río, but it was the 1996 remix by the Bayside Boys that added English lyrics and made the song a worldwide hit. “Macarena” was later named the greatest one-hit wonder of all time by VH1 in 2002. 

1997: ‘Candle in the Wind 1997,’ Elton John

1997: “Candle in the Wind 1997,” Elton John

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Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin first wrote and recorded “Candle in the Wind” in 1973 in honor of Marilyn Monroe, who had died 11 years prior. When Elton John’s good friend Princess Diana died in a car crash in 1997, the song was re-written and re-recorded in her memory, with global proceeds from sales of the track going toward the late princess’s favorite charities. At the 40th Grammy Awards in 1998, Elton John won the award for best male pop vocal performance for the song, which he has only ever publicly performed at Diana’s funeral.

1998: ‘Too Close,’ Next

1998: “Too Close,” Next

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R&B group Next is best known for the second single off its debut album “Rated Next”: “Too Close.” The racy song later got ranked as the No. 16 Billboard Hot 100 single of the ‘90s.

1999: ‘Believe,’ Cher

1999: “Believe,” Cher

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Cher became the oldest female artist ever to top the Billboard Hot 100 with her hit song “Believe,” the top song of 1999. Taking on more of a dance sound in contrast to her previous pop-rock music, “Believe” won Cher a Grammy for best dance recording.

2000: ‘Breathe,’ Faith Hill

2000: “Breathe,” Faith Hill

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Faith Hill’s “Breathe” was the first Hot 100 No. 1 single of the year to also claim a No. 1 hit on the country chart since 1966 and Sgt. Barry Sadler’s "The Ballad Of The Green Berets.” The country-pop track managed to win Hill a best female country vocal performance award along with the best country album award at the 2000 Grammys.

2001: ‘Hanging by a Moment,’ Lifehouse

2001: “Hanging by a Moment,” Lifehouse

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“Hanging by a Moment” is one of a few songs to have topped the year-end charts despite never peaking on the weekly Hot 100 charts. Lifehouse lead singer Jason Wade claims he wrote the song in just 15 minutes. Billboard gave the song the No. 58 spot on its list of the “Best Choruses of the 21st Century.”

2002: ‘How You Remind Me,’ Nickelback

2002: “How You Remind Me,” Nickelback

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“How You Remind Me” was named the top song of 2002 by Billboard, beating out Ashanti’s “Foolish” and Nelly’s club anthem “Hot in Here.” Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger says he wrote the song, which propelled the band to stardom, after an argument with a girlfriend. 

2003: ‘In da Club,’ 50 Cent

2003: “In da Club,” 50 Cent

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Rapper 50 Cent shot to fame in 2003 with “In da Club,” the first single off his debut album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” It was nominated for best rap song and best male rap solo performance at the 46th Grammy Awards, where it lost to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.

2004: ‘Yeah!,’ Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris

2004: “Yeah!,” Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris

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Usher owned the Hot 100 in 2004, with “Yeah!” spending 12 weeks at the No. 1 spot. His song “Burn” then took the top spot for eight weeks. With this 20-week run, Usher had the longest consecutive run at No. 1 in the history of the Hot 100. “Yeah!,” which featured Lil Jon and Ludacris, went on to win best rap/sung collaboration at the 2005 Grammy Awards.

2005: ‘We Belong Together,’ Mariah Carey

2005: “We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey

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Mariah Carey’s ballad “We Belong Together” from her 10th studio album “The Emancipation of Mimi” spent 14 weeks atop the charts. Carey received eight Grammy nominations in 2006, four of which were for “We Belong Together.” The song won the award for best R&B song and best female R&B vocal performance.