Tue | Feb 25, 2020

The Music Diaries | Eleven top selling songs of all time

Published:Sunday | January 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind' comes in at a distant number 2.
Celine Dion.
Whitney Houston
Mariah Carey

The 11 bestselling singles of all time sold between 16 and 50 million copies.

1. Leading the pack is the Ivin Berlin composition White Christmas. After more than 75 years, it remains unchallenged with sales of over 50 million copies worldwide.

It was released before the pop/rock singles-chart era, and was listed in the first-ever Guinness Book of World Records published in 1955 as the world's bestselling single record. The book states that the double A-side charity single Candle In The Wind/Something About The Way You Look Tonight by Elton John in 1997 is the biggest-selling single since the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) singles charts began in the 1950s. With sales of 35 million copies worldwide, it remains a distant second.

White Christmas, backed by The Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and his orchestra, was first released in 1942 on a DECCA record label. Advantageously poised, through its reappearance each Christmas, it created history when it made the US charts every Christmas for 21 years, becoming the first single with three separate runs (1942, 1945 and 1946) at the top of the US charts. It is also the most-recorded Christmas song with over 500 versions appearing in various languages and countries, some of which topped their respective charts. The song attained another first, when the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records lists it as selling 100 million copies when all the versions are calculated.

2. Elton John's Candle In The Wind was special as it honoured the lives of two prominent women. The original version done in 1973 was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, while the version that really mattered - a rewritten version - was a tribute to the late Diana Princess of Wales.

It sang in part:

"And it seems to me you lived your life

Like a candle in the wind

Never fading with the sunset

When the rain set in."

3. Bing Crosby again appeared on the list in third position with the Christmas carol - Silent Night - done in 1935. It sold over 30 million copies. Crosby had 24 popular singles in 1939 alone, and when Silent Night is added to that batch - as his biggest seller of the 1930s - it made him look like a genius.

4. Bill Haley and The Comets, placed Rock 'n' Roll in the spotlight in 1954 with sales of 25 million for Rock Around The Clock. It was, arguably, the most influential Rock 'n' Roll song of the '50s, as it propelled the genre into the mainstream and became the anthem of choice for rebellious teens.

5. In 1992, Whitney Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love you was not only the biggest-selling single of the year, selling over 20 million copies, but it also became the main feature in her acting debut - The Bodyguard. The single spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the US charts.

6. The opening lines from Elvis Presley's 20 million selling ballad single, It's Now Or Never, says,

"It's now or never

Come hold me tight

Kiss me my darling

Be mine tonight."

Recorded April 3, 1960 in Nashville Tennessee, the recording created several firsts. It entered the UK singles charts at No. 1, a very rare occurrence; It spent five weeks at No. 1 on the US charts; It peaked at No. 1 in Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands and Norway.

7. We Are The World by USA for Africa in 1985 also sold 20 million. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, and featuring a roster of international pop superstars, the recording was geared primarily to relieve famine in Africa. It raised over $63 million for the venture.

8. The Ink Spots a 1930s and 1940s black vocal quartet from the United States - was one of the earliest exponents of the doo-wop genre. They paved the way for the coming of Rhythm and Blues (R&B) in the 1940s with the recording - If I Didn't Care, which sold an estimated 19 million copies since its release in 1939.

9. Despite disco music's dominance in the USA, surprisingly, it was from Spain that the biggest-selling disco song came, when the duo Baccara (Spanish girls Mayte Mateos and Maria Mendiola) released Yes Sir, I Can Boogie in April 1977. It has so far sold 18 million copies, making it the ninth biggest-selling single of all time.

10. Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On in 1997 the theme song from the blockbuster movie The Titanic, sold 18 million copies and is Dion's biggest hit. It became a massive No. 1 hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada and several European countries.

11. Maria Carey's 1994 single All I Want For Christmas Is You benefited from the song being a popular radio choice at Christmas. It became the biggest-selling modern-day Christmas song, with global sales of over 16 million copies. The song remains Carey's biggest international success.