You’ve seen the lists of the best songs. But this one is a bit different. This is a list of songs that stayed at No.1 for the longest time. All the songs were taken from Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart Achievements. And some songs will surprise you. We’re going to go through the list and give you some unknown facts about each song so that you can have something to add at your next social event.
We’re going to begin from the shortest-running and get to the record-breaking longest-running songs at #1 at the end.
The date “Billie Jean” reached No.1 was on March 5, 1983. There are quite a few unknown facts about Michael Jackson’s hit single. Did you know that He performed his first moonwalk when he sang the song on the TV show Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever? And here’s another crazy fact about the song’s origin…
Michael Jackson said he came up with the idea while driving his Rolls-Royce down a highway. He was so absorbed by the song that he didn’t even notice his car had caught fire! A guy passing on a motorcycle warned him and essentially saved his life.
The date that Marvin Gaye’s song reached No.1 was December 14, 1968. The song was originally written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966. But it was Gaye’s version that got the attention of radio DJs. But the original writer of the song, Barrett Strong explained his reason for writing the song.
Strong got the idea for the song when he was living in Chicago. He heard lots of people using the phrase “I heard it through the grapevine.” He said, “Nobody wrote a song about it, so I sat at a piano and came up with the bass line.”
The next is a song was played by one famous group but written by a different famous musician.
“I’m a Believer” started at No.1 on December 31, 1966. The Monkees sang the song but did not play any instruments. The producers used session musicians because they weren’t convinced The Monkees could play like a real band. This became a huge point of disagreement, as the group fought to play their own songs.
Another fun fact: Neil Diamond wrote this song. He also did a version of the song that was released on his 1967 album Just For You. The Monkees version, however, benefited from exposure on their television series.
On February 1, 1964, the song reached No.1. This was the first Beatles song to catch on in America. The Beatles were ecstatic when they found out they were number 1 in America. They actually came to America for the first time in February 1964, a week after the song hit #1.
Becoming a success in the US was, and still is, a big deal for British bands. There are many groups that are huge in the UK that never catch on in America. A little about the origin of the song: John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote this in Jane Asher’s basement. Asher was an actress who became Paul’s first high-profile girlfriend.
The next song was a bit hit in 1961. Can you guess it?
The song hit #1 on July 10th, 1961. On the original hit single version, Lewis starts the song by singing “I couldn’t sleep at all last night,” and it appears this way on most oldies compilations. But not all releases of this song are the same.
On many releases, the song has a prelude where Lewis sings “Baby…Baby…you did something to me,” which is then followed by a musical cue into the first verse. Lewis usually sings this prelude when he performs the song live.
“Night Fever” started its 8-week run on March 18, 1978. Remember the movie Saturday Night Fever? In 1977, The Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood was making a film about the New York disco scene. The title at the time was supposed to be “Saturday Night,” so he asked the Bee Gees to write a song with the same name.
But the Bee Gees thought it was a dumb title. And they already wrote a song called “Night Fever.” They convinced Stigwood to use that song and change the film’s title to Saturday Night Fever. The movie became a classic, of course.
The next song is by Rod Stewart. Can you guess which song?
Stewart’s song started its number 1 run on November 13, 1976. If you remember, there is a French lyrical part at the end of the song. That part was sung by Stewart’s girlfriend at the time, the Swedish actress Britt Ekland.
Stewart confessed that when he was going out with Ekland, he got her drunk in order to sing the French part of the song. It was the only way he could get her to do it because apparently, she didn’t want to.
The famous song was at No.1 starting on July 9, 1983. Here’s a fun fact: Sting wrote this at the same desk in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels.
Sting also knew the song would be the band’s biggest hit when he wrote it. He went on to say: “‘Every Breath You Take’ is an archetypal song. If you have a major chord followed by a relative minor, you’re not original.”
Next, Lionel Richie did a duo with a famous Diva. Try to guess who…
“Endless Love” hit number 1 on August 15, 1981. The song was a clear success, but getting it to happen took some time and effort. Getting the singers together to record this song was a challenge.
Ross and Richie met at a recording studio in Reno, Nevada in the early morning of May 8, 1981 after Ross’ concert in the nearby Lake Tahoe. Richie came in from Los Angeles. The session began around 3:30 a.m. and within two hours, they had their vocals on tape.
The song was number 1 on May 16, 1981, but its 9-week run was interrupted by “Stars on 45 Medley” by Stars on 45 for one week. And then Carnes’ song went back to being No. 1 again.
After this song became a hit single, Bette Davis wrote letters to Carnes and the songwriters to say she was a fan of the song and thank them for making her “a part of modern history.” Rumors have it that one of the main reasons the she loved the song was that her granddaughter thought her grandmother was “cool” for having a hit song written about her.
Which Beatles song do you think is next?
This song reached number one on September 28, 1968. Paul McCartney originally wrote this as “Hey Jules,” which was meant to comfort John Lennon’s 5-year-old son Julian as his parents were getting a divorce. He later changed it to “Jude” which was inspired by the character “Jud” in musical Oklahoma!
Another fact: This was the Beatles’ longest single, running 7:11 in length. At that time, it was the longest song ever released as a single. It was the first long song to get a lot of airplay. Radio stations preferred short ones so they could play more of them.
On February 22, 1960, the song started its 9-week run and #1. This song was written by Austrian film composer Max Steiner, who also wrote the score for Casablanca. And everyone knows of the movie Casablanca.
It’s an instrumental song about summer romance which was part of the score for the 1959 movie A Summer Place. It went on to win the 1960 Grammy for “Record of the Year”, which made it the first movie theme to win the award.
The next song was based on a German play from 1928. Bonus points if you can guess which song…
Bobby Darin’s hit single reached number 1 on October 5, 1959. Darin wanted to perform this song after he saw a production of the 1928 German play The Threepenny Opera in Greenwich Village in 1958. The original lyrics were far more graphic, involving a murder. For American audiences, the translation was more ambiguous, reflective of the conservative 1950s.
McDonald’s used this song in the latter part of the ’80s to promote their dinner specials as “Mac Tonight.” But, of course, they skipped the parts about killing a guy and dumping his body in the water.
This song started at number 1 on October 15, 1977. This song is really a cover version of Kasey Cisyk’s original song which was made for a movie by the same title. It actually isn’t so much a love song, though.
Although it was written as a love song, Boone interpreted it as inspirational and proclaimed that it was God who “lit up her life.” Fun fact: this tidbit of information was later mentioned when the song appeared in The Simpsons episode “I Married Marge.”
November 21, 1981, was the date “Physical” hit number one. In real life, Olivia’s self-image was a lot more modest than what she portrays in the song, and she was concerned about how she would be perceived. Her managers talked her into recording it, however, because they knew they had a huge hit on their hands.
Some radio stations in conservative communities refused to play this song because of its disguised sexual content. But it only added to the song’s popularity.
Can you guess the next song? It’s by the talented Santana.
“Maria Maria” reached number 1 on April 8, 2000. It won the 2000 Grammy for “Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal”. That same year, Santana won an impressive eight Grammys, including “Album of the Year”.
“Maria” is the main character in the play West Side Story and the play is mentioned in the lyrics. Fun fact: In 2007, Carlos Santana opened a chain of music-themed Mexican restaurants in Northern California. He called them “Maria Maria”. As you may guess, they’re named after the song.
“Foolish” started its 10-week run on April 20, 2002. In 2009, it was the 19th most successful song of the 2000s on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of the Decade. Ashanti didn’t make it to such fame, but she managed to make a dent by reaching 10 weeks as number one.
Unlike many R&B artists, Ashanti wrote the song herself, as she did with all of her songs at the time. She felt that singing her own material allows her to inflict more emotion into her work.
The next song is from the same year. Remember Nelly?
On August 17, 2002, Nelly’s song came to reach number 1. The chorus is based on Patti LaBelle’s 1983 song, “Love, Need And Want You.” LaBelle is even in the music video. Nelly heard a tune written by his friend Bam and wanted to include it on his album.
When the song was almost finished, Bam put on the Patti LaBelle album and started humming one of the tracks, “Love, Need And Want You.” Nelly didn’t know of the song but liked it and insisted they use the “I love you” hook.
On September 17, 2005, the song hit number 1 and stayed there for 10 weeks. The song has hooks from the 1954 Ray Charles song “I Got a Woman.” But Charles’ version is quite contrary to the idea of a “gold digger.”
In fact, Charles sings about a woman who is good to him and supportive, so much so that she gives him money when he needs it. Jamie Foxx appears on the intro to “Gold Digger” where he channels Ray Charles and changes the lyrics to “She takes my money when I’m in need.” In 2004, Foxx won an Oscar for playing Ray Charles in the movie Ray.
Next, Beyonce. But which song? Hmm….
Beyonce’s hit started at number 1 on December 16, 2006. It was written by R&B singer-songwriter, NeYo. He wrote the lyrics for this girl power anthem as he was inspired by his aunt and her unfaithful lover.
He described how his aunt had a successful career and was very generous with her boyfriend until he cheated on her. He explained: “I remember him coming to the house, and him looking in the closet and going, ‘Where’s my this, where’s my that?’ and she said, ‘Oh, in the box to the left of the closet. Everything you own is in that box and everything I bought is over here.'”
“Low” started its 10-week run at number one on January 5, 2008. When this reached the top of the American Hot 100, it got the record for the shortest song title to top the chart. The other five three-letter titled songs were: “Why” by Frankie Avalon (1959), “ABC” by The Jackson 5 (1970), “War” by Edwin Starr (1970), “Ben” by Michael Jackson (1972) and “Bad” also by Michael Jackson (1987).
The lyric in the chorus “Apple Bottom jeans” refers to a women’s clothing line designed by the rapper Nelly. There’s a lot of product placement in this song, mentioning brands: Reeboks, the Cadillac Maybach, Patron tequila, and Hennessy cognac.
Can you guess the next song? It’s by Rihanna…
Rihanna’s song was at number 1 for 10 weeks starting on November 12, 2011. We have some interesting info about the song’s music video. Part of it was shot in a field in the Northern Irish town of Bangor on September 2011. The farmer who owned the land was shocked, however.
He couldn’t believe his eyes when he spotted the Bajan beauty half naked when he was walking to his tractor. He told BBC News: “I thought it was inappropriate. I requested them to stop and they did. I had my conversation with Rihanna and I hope she understands where I’m coming from. We shook hands.” So after being asked to leave, Rihanna continued to shoot the promo in Belfast.
“Happy” came to number one on March 8, 2014.
Many songs are written by teams of writers, but this one was entirely composed by Pharrell Williams, who was the N.E.R.D lead vocalist and Neptunes producer. He wrote and recorded the song for the soundtrack of the movie Despicable Me 2.
Williams needed to make it catchy. And for it to be an “earworm”, repetition is key. The title is repeated 56 times and over 62% of the song is the memorable chorus which is about 20% more chorus time than most hits.
This song was also ranked as one of the Top 50 Songs ever recorded. If you want to take a look, go ahead.
Can you guess the next artist? We can tell you that the title is a common way to introduce yourself.
November 14, 2015, was the date Adele’s famous song hit number 1. Here’s something to note about the song’s music video. The clip shows Adele using an old-fashioned flip-phone. Fans were wondering why the star didn’t have a smartphone. The video’s director had something to say about that.
“It drives me crazy,” he said. “I could see the GIFs on Twitter. I’m like, ‘guys, get over it. It doesn’t matter.’ But the real explanation is that I never like filming modern phones or cars. They’re so implanted in our lives that when you see them in movies you’re reminded you’re in reality.”
April 23, 2016, was when Drake’s hit got to number one and stayed there for 10 weeks. “One Dance” reached number one in 15 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This meant that it became Drake’s first number 1 single in all 15 countries as the lead artist.
Drake and his team were unsure whether “One Dance” would be received well or not considering it was a drastic change from his previous work. Luckily, they were pleased with the results.
The next song is also by Drake. Can you think of which one?
This Drake song started its number 1 run on July 21, 2018. Let’s go over some interesting facts about Drake. Drake’s real name is Aubrey Drake Graham. In 2016, Drake was the world’s most popular recording artist.
He was the voice of Ethan, a teen mammoth from the animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift. Oh, and Drake’s uncle Larry Graham played bass for Prince, who was also responsible for introducing Prince to the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
May 21, 1994 , was when the song started at #1. This was originally a country song by John Michael Montgomery, which topped the Country chart for four weeks in February 1994. But All-4-One turned it into an R&B song with a group vocal, which brought it to the top of the Hot 100 in May 1994, where it stayed for an amazing 11 weeks.
“I Swear” was actually a last-minute addition to the album. The song went to #1 in America on the chart dated May 21, 1994. It was a definite rise up since the group was playing gigs at Disneyland at the time.
Toni Braxton’s hit single reached number one on December 7, 1996. Diane Warren wrote the song, as she wrote many R&B songs in those days. She explained that she knew the song was a winner when she came up with the title and started to work on it, but Braxton felt differently.
Warren said how “Toni Braxton hated that song. She didn’t want to do it. And then after she had a hit with it she told me she didn’t want another one of those.” Based on chart performance, it’s Warren’s most successful song in the US as a songwriter.
Remember Puff Daddy? He’s next. Can you guess the tune that lasted 11 weeks at No.1?
On June 14, 1997, the hit song started its 11-week count at number 1. It’s not much of a surprise that this song was a tribute to the late Notorious BIG. Faith Evans was his wife and Puff Daddy was his closest friend.
The song has a hook from “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, which turns out was one of Diddy’s favorite songs. But he didn’t sort out the legal issues until after the song was released. Sting was granted a writers credit, though. And received substantial royalties. Sting even performed the song with Puff Daddy and his crew at the MTV Video Music Awards, where he sang the chorus.
This song started at No.1 on November 18, 2000. Beyoncé came up with the song after having an argument with her then boyfriend. She said to herself, “I don’t need a man, I’m independent.” So she went into a studio on her own and recorded vocals for the first version of this song.
A team of producers put the track together using a sample from the Peabody’s Improbable History theme song. “Independent Women” was later featured in the movie Charlie’s Angels.
February 3, 2018, is when “God’s Plan” started at #1. And it’s his third song on this list. Here’s something not everyone knows about Drake. He first received recognition for his role as Jimmy Brooks on the television series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Drake has stated before that Kanye West, Jay-Z, Aaliyah and his mentor Lil Wayne are his biggest influences. And he’s also written songs for artists such as Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx.
“Smooth” hit No.1 on October 23, 1999. Rob Thomas sang lead on this, but that wasn’t the original plan. He never wrote a song for someone else before, and was excited to write for Santana. And many of the lyrics are Thomas’ ode to his wife.
When they finished the song, Thomas suggested George Michael for the lead vocals, one of his musical heroes. Arista Records ended up asking Thomas to do the vocals, and when he did, it was in Michael’s style.
Try to guess the Eminem song that comes next…
Eminem’s hit rose to number 1 on November 9, 2002. This song was made for and was featured in Eminem’s first movie, 8 Mile. It was based on his real life.
The song won an Oscar for “Best Song From A Movie” but Eminem didn’t perform at the Oscars because they wanted him to sing the “radio-friendly” version. But he wanted to sing it as it was written and let the censors edit the language. So this was the first winning song not performed on The Oscars since it has been televised.
“Yeah!” rose to number 1 on February 28, 2004 ,and lasted 12 weeks. Some stuff about Usher that not everyone knows: he debuted as an actor in the series Moesha, and he later got a role in 1998’s The Faculty. He went on to act in several more roles after that.
Did you know that Usher was part of a group called the NuBeginnings before he went solo as an R&B artist? He recorded 10 songs with the group.
On April 18, 2009, the song started at number 1. Will.i.am has stated that this song was influenced by all the electro sounds he heard when he was in nightclubs in Sydney, Australia. He said: “I heard all this club music when I was filming Wolverine in Australia.”
This was the first US #1 for the group. Fergie spoke about the song’s music clip: “The concept of the video is the Peas’ birth into the digital afterlife. So the transformation is us going into a sort of birth or cocoon and coming out the other end as forms of energy. It’s a parallel to the music industry. Now everything is downloaded.”
The next song was also up for 12 weeks, featuring Pharrell. You’ve probably heard it…
“Blurred Lines started at no.1 on June 22, 2013. This was the first single from Robin Thicke’s sixth album. When Thicke went into the studio with Pharrell, he wanted to create a track that had the fun vibe of his favorite song of all time, Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”
Within an hour, the two artists came up with “Blurred Lines.” Thicke spoke of the song: “One of the first things Pharrell did was go, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ and then we started having such a great time. We were dancing around the studio like old men. We were doing our old men barbecue dances.”
The song started on April 25, 2015, its 12-week course. This track was recorded by Wiz for the Furious 7 soundtrack. It plays at the end of the film. Amazingly, this song actually softened Wiz Khalifa’s divorce at the time.
His former wife, Amber Rose, filed for divorce on September 24, 2014, stating “irreconcilable differences.” They were going through a bitter custody battle over their son, which ended up being resolved after she heard this song. After Rose heard the tune, she called Khalifa and they agreed to work together as parents.
“Closer” hit #1 on September 3, 2016. The Chainsmokers tweeted on the song’s release: “This song is dedicated to anyone that hooked up with their EX and right after remember all the reasons why they broke up.” Andrew Taggart, one half of the duo, “had all his ex-girls at Syracuse in mind when he wrote this.”
In terms of inspiration, “Closer” was inspired by listening to a Blink-182 song on repeat. Taggart said: “We were listening to ‘I Miss You’ and had just started playing it in our sets when we wrote this song. A lot of the inspiration for the songwriting comes from bands like Blink-182 and Taking Back Sunday.”
What’s your favorite Ed Sheeran song? Maybe it’s the next one…
Ed Sheeran’s huge hit started at number 1 on January 28, 2017. The song was written at a writing camp and with Rihanna in mind. Sheeran and the other songwriters included a reference to Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, so they decided not to send the song to Rihanna.
Sheeran said: “I started writing lyrics like ‘putting Van the Man on the juke box’ and thought ‘she’s not really going to sing that.’ We decided halfway through that this would work for me.”
On August 15, 1992, this song started a 13-week run at #1. This song was written for the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang. Babyface was a co-writer and he was going to sing it himself but he decided Boyz II Men would do a better job, so it was offered to them. The group flew to Philadelphia and they laid down all the vocals in just three hours.
Co-writer Daryl Simmons said of the story of the song: “At the time, Kenny (Babyface) had been through a divorce, and I was going through a divorce. So here we go with this concept, thinking about [how things were at] the end of the road. That’s how the concept came along. So we know this is sad…we know it’s just a sad story. So we hit on it…’Damn, I think we got something.'”
Next, a famous hit by a female duo…
Their song hit #1 on June 6, 1998. The song was inspired by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson’s 1982 duet “The Girl Is Mine,” as well as by The Jerry Springer Show, where love triangles were a common theme.
In real life, however, there was no boy that Brandy and Monica were fighting over. It was completely made up. The song just exploited the rumor that Brandy and Monica were in a feud. “We didn’t even know each other,” Monica said in 1998.
Houston’s classic song started at number 1 on November 8, 1992 and stayed for 14 weeks. Dolly Parton wrote the original song in 1974 which also went to #1 on the Country chart that year. Her version was a country ballad.
Houston’s recording had a more extravagant production and became a pop, soul, and adult contemporary hit. This meant that radio stations of many different formats played the song, giving it a huge audience.
Next, Boyz II Men make another appearance. Try to guess the song.
Boyz II Men hit number 1 again on August 27, 1994, with “I’ll Make Love to You.” Babyface, again a co-writer and producer, said how “‘I’ll Make Love To You’ was kind of the follow up to ‘End Of The Road.’”
He continued: “I think I wrote it in an apartment here in LA. Once I finished it, the hard part is like when you do one big song like ‘End Of The Road,’ it’s tough to try to outdo it but it was something that was in that line. When I first submitted it, I think the guys liked it but then at one point, the record was voted off their album. At the last minute, they voted it back in again.”
The song reached number 1 on August 3, 1996. The song was originally released on a label in Spain in 1993, where it did okay. The next year, an American label bought the song and set out to make “Macarena” a hit in America.
The new label marketed the song as an English language version to dance clubs and cruise ships, and then released it as a single in 1995. It was a minor hit until the summer of 1996 when the Macarena dance craze hit America.
Elton John’s classic hit reached number one on October 11, 1997. This song was made as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe who died of a drug overdose in 1962. The “candle in the wind” represents her short yet lively existence.
The opening line, “Goodbye Norma Jean,” refers to Monroe’s birth name, Norma Jean Mortenson. Apparently, when Elton got the lyrics, he had no trouble writing the music. He said how he understood the stress caused by constant media attention, and felt Monroe must have been in terrible pain her whole life.
Can you try to get the next song right? The singer is one with an extremely powerful voice.
June 4, 2005, was when Mariah Carey’s song hit number 1. The song was completed in just one day. Jermaine Dupri, the producer, said how “Mariah came to the studio at 10 p.m. and we worked through the morning until she got on another plane at 9 A.M.”
“There was this one line that they had a space for and she said, “Come up with a line, Jermaine.” I came up with the line, but I was so tired that I didn’t want to put the line down. But she was like, ‘No, I need this song finished right now.’ It was so crazy, because her energy about the song was almost felt like she knew it was going to become what it did.”
“I Gotta Feeling” started at #1 on July 11, 2009. The group refers to the song as a “college anthem for people looking forward to escaping life’s pressures by going out and having a ball.” The song samples the David Guetta song “Love Is Gone”. Guetta also co-produced this track.
Guetta said of the song’s story: “Will, at the time, was embracing the electronic music from Europe. Other artists have taken sounds from us and incorporated it a little bit. But what I respect a lot about him and the band is that he fully immersed himself in the culture.”
The next song is ranked as #3. Go ahead, try to guess!
The hit single hit number 1 on January 17, 2015, and lasted 14 weeks. The song took over a half a year to complete because Mark Ronson spent a lot of time traveling across the states. Ronson noted that “It was six or seven months of chasing Bruno around on tour.”
The song was very stressful for Ronson. He recalls: “The plan was for me to record my guitar part by lunch. Lunchtime comes around and I still haven’t nailed the part. We go out and in the stress of finishing this song I fainted in the restaurant. I threw up three times. Jeff had to carry me back to the studio.” But, of course they got it in the end – on take 82.
Mariah Carey’s unforgettable hit single began a 16-week run at number 1 on December 2, 1995. Mariah Carey wrote this with Boyz II Men. She said that she wrote a song that was identical to a song Boyz II Men had written. So she and the group decided to make a song that combined the two songs.
The song was originally inspired by the death of David Cole who was the co-writer and co-producer of C+C Music Factory. Mariah Carey wanted to write a song that would let everyone know the pain she was feeling.
Ok, next is #1. Drumroll please….
Bieber’s catchy hit reached number 1 on May 27, 2017, and stayed for a record-breaking 16 weeks. First, there were two remixes of the song: a solo pop version and a salsa version. A month later, another remix was released and this one was featuring Justin Bieber. The Canadian pop star sings in both English and Spanish on the track. It was the first time Bieber sung in Spanish.
A Colombian production duo made the remix. Getting Bieber’s vocal to work was a challenge. The producers said: “He approached the song in a completely different way. His first verse was completely different to what any Latin artist would do. It was very impressive and very cool for all of us to witness his voice doing what he does and the fact that his approach to American melodies and American songs worked so well for a track that wasn’t conceived for the Latin market.”
Lil Nas X, the breakthrough rapper’s song “Old Town Road” has broken the Billboard record that was set by Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” for most weeks at No. 1. Lil Nas X accomplished the feat this week when his country-trap track spent its 17th week on top of the Hot 100 chart.
Carey and Boyz II Men’s duet first set the record in 1996, and the only song to come close to breaking it was “Despacito,” which tied the 16-week record in 2017. Congrats to Lil Nas X!