40. “Black and White” – Three Dog Night
This Three Dog Night song was originally recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956. It was written two years prior by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson, inspired by the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education and the ban of racial segregation in public schools. “Black and White” was later covered by Sammy Davis Jr., the Maytones, and Greyhound before being released by Three Dog Night in 1972 on their album Seven Separate Fools. This recording was the most successful of them all, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts, as well as ranking 63 on the songs of the year in 1972.
39. “All Through The Night” – Cyndi Lauper
Jules Shear wrote and recorded “All Through the Night” in 1983 but it was Cyndi Lauper’s cover released that same year that gave the song its fame. Shear said that he was glad that the song gained popularity with Lauper, who turned his folk-rock song into a pop ballad with Shear on backing vocals. Lauper’s version of the song made it into the top 10 in seven different countries, including number 5 in the United States.
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38. “I Think We’re Alone Now” – Tiffany
Although “I Think We’re Alone Now” was Tiffany’s biggest hit in the 1980s, it was first released by Tommy James and the Shondells in 1967. Written by Ritchie Cordell, Tommy James took the song to number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Cashbox Top 100. Tiffany was later hesitant to release the songs as she felt it was no longer modern enough to be a hit, but the song would reach number 1 in the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada. “I Think We’re Alone Now” remains Tiffany’s most successful and most well-known hit to this day and became a teen anthem in the late 80s.
37. “Till There Was You” – Beatles
“Till There Was You” was written by Meredith Willson for his 1957 musical The Music Man but was first recorded by Nelson Riddle featuring Sue Raney a few weeks before the premier of the musical in November of 1957. American jazz singer Peggy Lee had a minor hit with the song in the United Kingdom, and it was her version of the song that inspired the Beatles to record and release the song off of their 1963 album With the Beatles. The album would reach number 1 in the U.K. and Germany and was certified gold in five different countries. “Till There Was You” helped prove the versatility of the band, showing that they could not only perform hard rock songs, but also ballads.
36. “Unchained Melody” – Righteous Brothers
Originally written by Alex North and Hy Zaret and performed by Todd Duncan, “Unchained Melody” was first used as the theme song to the 1955 prison film Unchained. After Duncan’s release of the song, Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, and Roy Hamilton all took versions of the song into the top 10 of the Billboard charts, but it was the Righteous Brothers’ recording of the song that is the most popular. Bill Medley of the duo later revealed that Phil Spector, the producer of the song, felt the song was a throwaway and therefore placed it as the ‘B’ side to the group’s single “Hung on You,” although “Unchained Melody” proved to be far more popular.
35. “Ooh Baby Baby” – Linda Ronstadt
The Miracles band members Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore wrote this hit song and their band released it in March of 1965. “Ooh Baby Baby,” the Miracles’ most covered song, hit number 16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts but was taken to number 7 in 1979 when Linda Rondstadt released her version of the R&B classic. Her recording of the song also peaked in the top 10 of the charts in Canada and France. Rondstadt would later perform this track and the Miracles’ other 1965 hit, “Tracks of My Tears,” with Smokey Robinson in 1983 for the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.
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34. “Woodstock” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Joni Mitchell received inspiration for this song from her boyfriend at the time, Graham Nash, and what he had experienced at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival. She herself had not attended the festival, as she was performing on The Dick Cavett Show, although David Crosby later said that Mitchell had captured the feeling of Woodstock better than anyone who had attended the festival. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their version of Mitchell’s song as a single off of their 1970 album Déjà Vu, around the same time Mitchell released her third album, Ladies of the Canyon, which featured her original recording of “Woodstock.” Their version of the song reached number 3 on the charts in Canada and number 11 on the U.S. Billboard charts.
33. “Mustang Sally” – Wilson Pickett
This rhythm and blues song was written and recorded by Mack Rice in 1965. He wrote the song as a joke when American jazz, gospel, and pop singer Della Reese stated that she wanted a new Ford Mustang and Aretha Franklin suggested calling the song “Mustang Sally.” Rice’s recording went to number 15 on the R&B charts in the U.S., but the song gained more popularity when Wilson Pickett covered it a year later in 1966. His version of the song reached number 6 on the R&B charts and number 4 in Canada. It is also ranked as number 441 as Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
32. “Ain’t She Sweet” – Beatles
Milton Ager and Jack Yellen wrote “Ain’t She Sweet” for Ager’s daughter Shana in 1927. The song later was seen as characteristic of the Roaring Twenties and was covered by a variety of musicians throughout the years. The Beatles, who had been performing the song since 1957, released a rock and roll arrangement of the song in June of 1964. They had recording the song in June three years prior while in Hamburg, Germany. The recording does not feature Beatle Ringo Starr on the drums, but instead his predecessor, Pete Best. The Beatles recorded the song again in 1969, this time with Starr on drums, which was released on their album Anthology 3.
31. “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go” – Soft Cell
“Tainted Love” was written by songwriter Ed Cobb and first recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964. In 1973, British DJ Richard Searling popularized the song again by playing it Britain’s Northern Soul club scene, prompting Jones to rerecord the song and release it as a single in 1976. English synth-pop duo Soft Cell became aware of “Tainted Love” during this time and recorded their own version, slower than Jones and featuring synthesizers instead of guitars, drums, and horns. They made the song a medley with the Supremes’ 1964 hit “Where Did Our Love Go,” Soft Cell’s version of the song became an international hit, reaching the top of the charts in six countries and peaking at number 8 on the Billboard charts in the U.S.