Popular Songs of 1943

The Mills Brothers publicity photo circa 1940s

1. Paper Doll – Mills Brothers
2. Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ – Bing Crosby
3. As Time Goes By – Rudy Vallee
4. Oklahoma! – Alfred Drake
5. I’ve Heard That Song Before – Harry James with Helen Forrest
6. Sentimental Lady – Duke Ellington
7. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore – The Ink Spots
8. That Old Black Magic – Glenn Miller
9. Stormy Weather – Lena Horne
10. Taking a Chance on Love – Benny Goodman
11. Sunday, Monday or Always – Bing Crosby
12. Comin In on a Wing and a Prayer – The Song Spinners
13. There Are Such Things – Tommy Dorsey
14. You’ll Never Know – Dick Haymes
15. Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter & His Troops
16. I Had The Craziest Dream – Harry James
17. In the Blue of the Evening – Tommy Dorsey
18. Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart – Judy Garland
19. Boogie Woogie – Tommy Dorsey
20. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home to – Dinah Shore
21. Two O’Clock Jump – Harry James
22. Juke Box Saturday Night – Glenn Miller
23. When The Lights Go On Again (All Over The World) – Vaughn Monroe
24. People Will Say We’re in Love – Bing Crosby
25. Praise The Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser
26. You’ll Never Know – Frank Sinatra
27. Artistry In Rhythm – Stan Kenton
28. There’s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere – Jimmy Wakely
29. Don’t Cry, Baby – Erskine Hawkins
30. Perdido – Duke Ellington
31. People Will Say We’re in Love – Frank Sinatra
32. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore – Duke Ellington
33. Let’s Get Lost – Vaughn Monroe
34. Mister Five By Five – Harry James
35. Moonlight Becomes You – Bing Crosby
36. All for You – King Cole Trio
37. Why Don’t You Do Right – by Benny Goodman
38. I’m Old Fashioned – Fred Astaire
39. Brazil – Xavier Cugat
40. Shoo-Shoo Baby – Ella Mae Morse

You may notice that the list above doesn’t quite agree with “Top 40” or other lists you’ve seen; that’s because it takes more facts into consideration, along with a few intangibles. For example, Bing Crosby’s Oh! What a Beautiful Morning scores higher on this list than his #1 hit Sunday, Monday or Always. It was obviously a bigger song at the time, yet the song from Oklahoma is a standard known to young and old alike more than 60 years later. As trends change, as old standards are slotted into new movie soundtracks, this list can and will change with those trends. Each of these annual charts are re-evaluated every 6-8 months. For example, a resurgence in Mills Brothers popularity, and the continued popularity of Paper Doll have returned it to its rightful place at the top of 1943.

In 1943 the music may have been “Swing,” but the charts were ruled by Bing. One song not even listed here is White Christmas, which held the top spot for two weeks in January, and then returned to popularity again in December, where it stood at the top of the airplay charts for a while. So why isn’t it listed here? With all but a few exceptions, we only list a recording in one year — Paper Doll was a hit well into 1944, for example — and with the sustained popularity of White Christmas, it could be listed in most of the years from 1942-1955 on PopularSong.org. But as you’ll see below, there’s always an exception…

The news again was the musician’s strike, which began in August 1942. The American Federation of Musicians felt they were being cheated on royalties. The strike forced record companies to record without orchestral backups, hence vocal groups were used to mimic a band sound. It also led the record companies to release earlier recordings that were previously thought to be sub-par, as well as to reissue records from their back catalogue. Some records on the store shelves in 1943 were recordings from as far back as the mid-1920s. One such song, As Time Goes By dated back to the early 1930s, and was re-released to coincide with the popularity of the hit movie Casablanca, which featured the song. So indeed, Rudy Vallee’s recording appears on this PopularSong.org twice.

The strike was to work wonders for The Mills Brothers and The Ink Spots, who could replicate orchestral sounds very well vocally. In the case of the Mills Brothers, one of whom played guitar, the strings added a nice counterpoint to the vocals.

The first company to settle with the union was Decca Records, who happened to have the brothers Dorsey, the brothers Crosby, and the brothers Mills under contract. A quick look at the chart shows that those acts account for a fifth of the songs listed.

The other big story in 1943 was a little Broadway musical called Oklahoma. None of the songs hit the top of the charts, but the sustained popularity of this timeless show puts two of them in the top five. Most of the songs were released in a box set by — surprise — Decca Records. It was Decca Album No. 359 and contained six double-sided 78’s. It was one of the first original soundtracks packaged as a multi-song set, and the recordings are still available today on MCA, scion of the original label.