Popular Songs of 1953

Les Paul and Mary Ford photo
Les Paul and Mary Ford

1. Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams
2. That’s Amore – Dean Martin
3. Vaya Con Dios – Les Paul & Mary Ford
4. Song From Moulin Rouge – Percy Faith
5. Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes – Perry Como
6. I’m Walking Behind You – Eddie Fisher
7. Crying In The Chapel – The Orioles
8. I Believe – Frankie Laine
9. The Doggie In The Window – Patti Page
10. Stranger In Paradise – Tony Bennett
11. Dragnet – Ray Anthony & His Orchestra
12. You Belong To Me – Jo Stafford
13. St. George and the Dragonette – Stan Freberg
14. Til I Waltz Again with You – Teresa Brewer
15. You You You – Ames Brothers
16. April In Portugal – Les Baxter
17. Changing Partners – Patti Page
18. Eh! Cumpari – Julius LaRosa
19. The Gang That Sang “Heart Of My Heart” – The Four Aces
20. Rags To Riches – Tony Bennett
21. No Other Love – Perry Como
22. Hound Dog – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton
23. I’ve Got The World On A String – Frank Sinatra
24. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – The Four Lads
25. Ricochet – Teresa Brewer
26. (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean – Ruth Brown
27. Have You Heard – Joni James
28. Pretend – Nat King Cole
29. Shake A Hand – Faye Adams
30. Side By Side – Kay Starr
31. Your Cheatin’ Heart – Joni James
32. South Of The Border – Frank Sinatra
33. Outside of Heaven – Eddie Fisher
34. Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo – Leslie Caron & Mel Ferrer
35. The Typewriter – Leroy Anderson & His Orchestra
36. Half a Photograph – Kay Starr
37. The Jones Boy – The Mills Brothers
38. The Clock – Johnny Ace
39. Crazy Man Crazy – Bill Haley & His Comets
40. Good Lovin’ – The Clovers

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.

Most importantly, the list is weighted by lasting popularity and a particular recording’s impact on the course and future of popular song. For example, Stan Freberg’s St. George and the Dragonette out-charted and out-sold quite a few of the songs listed higher (it reached #1 on the Billboard charts), but it is largely forgotten today. It is only listed as high as it is because it was a spoken word comedy recording, breaking new ground for that genre.

Commentary…a quick study of the list reveals two entries for Your Cheatin’ Heart. Incredibly, Joni James’ version outsold Hank Williams’ original in 1953. Over time, of course, the original has taken on a life of its own, and James version is virtually unremembered. But the lesson to be learned in this is a lesson in the music of the 1940s and 50s. It is well-documented that white deejays and white record companies promoted white “covers” over original recordings by black artists. Pat Boone is oft-mentioned in this regard; his recordings of Long Tall Sally and Tutti-Frutti left Little Richard wondering what went wrong. In years since, of course, Boone’s versions have become novelties while Penniman’s originals receive airplay.

The point is, as the Joni James/Hank Williams parallel proves, is that it wasn’t so much a “racial” prejudice as it was a “sound” prejudice. Country songs and r & b songs were simply too raw for mainstream white audiences — or so they thought.

What we also see here is perennial chart topper Perry Como doing so with his first #1 song to feature an extremely rapid tempo. What’s important about that, you ask? By 1953 Como was much older than the other top crooners of the day, such as Eddie Fisher and Tony Bennett. Como also had a few years on Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. Like today, pop music was a young man’s game in the early 1950s; even Sinatra found hits harder and harder to come by. Now age 42, Como wanted very much to appeal to a young audience, even recording a minor hit duet with Fisher the year prior (Como was known to claim that Fisher had no sense of timing, and we won’t disagree). He knew that a younger, more energetic sound was on the horizon, and the success of Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes proved it.

America was in a good mood in ’53, or at least wanted to be. Along with Freberg’s comedy success, novelty tunes such as Eh! Cumpari and Istanbul (Not Constantinople) were huge hits, and are still known today via movie soundtracks. Even Patti Page’s How Much is that Doggie in the Window put a lighthearted spin on a somewhat wistful subject. Another popular novelty tune was The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson & His Orchestra, which was played well into the 1970s. Today it would probably have to be renamed “the keyboard.”

Chart Movements

Over time the editors review each of these lists, and evaluate changes in popularity as certain songs enjoy a resurgence in popularity for whatever reason. Since the original publication of this list, two songs that have swapped are Your Cheatin’ Heart by Hank Williams, and That’s Amore by Dean Martin.