Top 10 Decade Defining Songs: 1950s

Script written by Sean Harris. Hitch up your skirts and loosen your neckties! It’s time to let your hair down and let your dancing speed up! For this list, we’ve looked at a combination of the 1950s’ most commercially successful songs, as well as the most influential records and the tracks that best reflect the period. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining songs of the 1950s. Special thanks to our users Jack Morris, Awesome One, Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez, neeljoshi, Kenneth Gibson, Gary Jordan and Oliver Swen for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Hitch up your skirts and loosen your neckties! It’s time to let your hair down and let your dancing speed up! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining songs of the 1950s.

For this list, we’ve looked at a combination of the decade’s most commercially successful songs, as well as the most influential records and the tracks that best reflect the period.

#10: “Blueberry Hill” (1956)
Fats Domino

We begin with a song that was originally written in the 1940s and had been covered by the great Louis Armstrong before it really hit the big time. The 1956 Fats Domino version was so successful; it generated quite the ‘domino effect’. Elvis later recorded it as well as Led Zeppelin and Elton John. But it’s Domino that had the smooth sound, catchy hook and carefree rhythm that set a standard for the fifties and beyond.

#9: “Summertime Blues” (1958)
Eddie Cochran

A classic example of revolutionary rockabilly music, “Summertime Blues” sees Eddie Cochran combine a southern bluegrass style with the modern rock sound. It’s simple, fairly straightforward, and downright effective! A big hit with teenage fans – who were an emerging, strong demographic for pop music back then – the track was written in response to the upbeat summer songs that were popular at the time, highlighting instead the season’s hardship. Almost anti-authority, its message was fresh and fun!

#8: “Peggy Sue” (1957)
Buddy Holly

The standout track of an iconic, tragically short career, “Peggy Sue” underwent a name-change before she commandeered the radio airwaves. Originally titled “Cindy Lou”, the love interest was altered to fall in line with Crickets drummer Jerry Allison’s girlfriend at the time. A tune that can be split exactly down the middle, Holly’s guitar really takes center stage at the midway point, but the love-struck lyrics continue throughout. It’s effortlessly cool, and eternally played!

#7: “Tutti Frutti” (1955)
Little Richard

Released late in ‘55, this was a track that altered the entire music industry; its fast pace and raunchy lyrics frightened and fascinated listeners enough to pay attention. Richard had originally sung, “Tutti Frutti, good booty,” but cleaned it up for a conservative market – however, he refused to drop an otherwise anarchic vocal character! He sang in a manner that people dared not speak, and unsurprisingly, the public loved it! And they loved Little Richard too.

#6: “Great Balls of Fire” (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis

Having been raised in a religious household, Jerry Lee Lewis had understandable concerns about recording this rock ‘n’ roll classic. The title can be seen as blasphemous, and the sexual innuendo was consistent and controversial. We’re glad he stepped outside his comfort-zone though, because “Great Balls of Fire” scorched onto the charts, and has yet to burn out of our memories. It thrilled a fifties audience like little had before it; it lived up to its lyrics and quickly became great.

#5: “La Bamba” (1958)
Ritchie Valens

That a track sung entirely in Spanish should make our top ten is a testament to the effect it had over the fifties music that followed it. Ritchie Valens was 17 when he recorded this version of a traditional Mexican folk song, realizing the fun and frenzied sound that rock music had become. He’d be one of three musicians, including Buddy Holly and J. P. Richardson that would die in a plane crash the following year – a huge and horrible loss for music!

#4: “I Walk the Line” (1956)
Johnny Cash
Fresh from success with “Folsom Prison Blues,” this number was Cash’s promise of loyalty to a new wife. He knew he’d be on the road a lot, and he wanted to reassure her that he’d be good! That they would eventually divorce amid affair speculation is beside the point – the toe-tapping rhythms and resonant vocal tones are as good now as they were then! The girls screamed, the guys sang, and Cash walked the line to super-stardom!

#3: “Rock Around the Clock” (1954)
Bill Haley & His Comets

At the time of this song’s release, the rock ‘n’ roll style of music was so little known that the record sleeve described it as a ‘novelty foxtrot’. It turned out to be no gimmick though, and has since become known as one of the first rock songs ever! Following its inclusion in the movie “Blackboard Jungle,” it topped the American charts and became one of the biggest-selling singles of the ‘50s in the UK, as Haley and his Comets rocked around the clock, and through all of time!

#2: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
Elvis Presley

A track from his movie of the same name, “Jailhouse Rock” enjoyed worldwide success, and, along with the earlier “Hound Dog,” quickly became a flag-bearer for the rock revolution. Elvis was a performer perhaps unrivalled in history; he had a raw voice, a cheeky charm, and dance moves that made you blush. Affectionately dubbed ‘The King’, Elvis and his “Jailhouse Rock” marked the beginnings of his rise to the throne. For many, he was the face of the fifties, and this bluesy, blistering number was its soundtrack!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “What’d I Say (Part 1 & 2)” (1959) Ray Charles
- “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (1958) The Everly Brothers
- “Mack the Knife” (1959) Bobby Darin
- “Who Do You Love?” (1957) Bo Diddley
- “Only You (And You Alone)” (1955) The Platters

#1: “Johnny B. Goode” (1958)
Chuck Berry

Autobiographical and overflowing with attitude, “Johnny B. Goode” perfectly captures the mood of the decade. Released in 1958, Berry had about five years of music behind him, and translated it all into this simple, uplifting story. Johnny was a kind of dream – he was a ‘sky’s the limit’ superhero. The record is racy, relatable, and liberating. It’s leg kicks and jumping up and down, it’s an increase of heart rate, a release of emotion, and an everlasting legacy!

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite fifties song? For more toe-tapping Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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