Fri | Jan 28, 2022

Revered voices in top 10

Published:Friday | July 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Mariah Carey
Michael Jackson
Harry Belafonte
Desmond Dekker
Ken Boothe
Boris Gardiner
Bing Crosby
Elvis Presley
Millie Small

A top 10 is the cream of the crop in any collection of things. Music lends itself naturally to top-10 rankings, with the record charts being the most widely used measurement.

However, by their very nature, weekly records charts are ephemeral as they show only a particular week's best-sellers. Year-end charts, which round up the top sellers in a specific year, are perhaps the best way to judge the success of a particular song or determine 10 top songs for the year.

Over time, top-10 songs for various years, or the 10 outstanding songs on various topics have been suggested, some of which have been published. The Billboard Hot 100 chart, started in July 1958, is commonly accepted as the most authentic source for determining the popularity of a recording. However, charts were compiled before that by various authorities to reflect the performance of recordings and determine top-10 listings.

In 1993, Russell Ash, Luke Crampton, and Barry Lazell, three noted musicologists, came up with the first all-time top 10 singles listing. It was based primarily on record sales, bearing in mind that global sales were notoriously difficult to calculate, particularly outside the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).


'White Christmas'


Heading their list was Bing Crosby's White Christmas, which had sold 30 million copies at the time. The 1942 recording made the US charts every Christmas for 21 years and remains the world's best-selling single, currently at the 50 million mark.

Having a distinct advantage because of the annual season, no less than half a dozen other Christmas songs have topped the 10-million mark worldwide. They include All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey, 1994), which has sold 14 million; Do You Know It's Christmas (Band Aid, 1984), 11.7 million; Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (Gene Autry, 1949), over 12 million; and a 1940s Christmas collection by Bing Crosby, which went on to sell over 20 million. All were numbered among the 20 best-selling singles up to that listing.

Second on the Ash/Crampton/Lazell list was Bill Haley and the Comets' Rock Around The Clock at 17 million. It was followed by The Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand, a 1963 recording that enjoyed sales of some 12 million. Elvis Presley's trio of It's Now or Never, Hound Dog, and Don't Be Cruel sold 10, nine, and nine million, respectively.

Paul Anka's Diana (May 1957) sold nine million as well, while The Beatles made their second and third appearances in the top-10 singles of all times with Hey Jude and Can't Buy Me Love (eight and seven million, respectively.

The landmark recording We Are The World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and recorded in 1985 by the supergroup USA for Africa, had sales of seven million at the time of the Ash/Crampton/Lazell list but has since topped the 20 million mark. A benefit song instigated by activist and recording star Harry Belafonte for African famine relief, We Are The World brought together some of the most famous singers in the recording business. It was historic in more ways than one as it became the fastest-selling American pop single in history.


J'cans in top 10


With numerous permutations of top-10 listings, dating as far back as 1942, Jamaicans were never to be left out of the phenomenon. With the UK becoming the happy hunting ground for many early Jamaican entertainers, their presence was felt there from the early 1960s when Millie Small's My Boy Lollipop created a musical firestorm all over Europe.

Of the Ash/Crampton/Lazell top 10 reggae singles of all times in the UK, Jamaica had five placings with Israelites by Desmond Dekker and the Aces (1969); Double Barrel by Dave and Ansell Collins (1971); Everything I Own by Ken Boothe (1974); Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna (1978); and I Want To Wake Up With You by Boris Gardiner (1986).

All five songs reached number one on the British charts, a phenomenal achievement for an island with only 2.3 million people in 1986.

The other top reggae positions were occupied by Eddy Grant (I Don't Wanna Dance), Musical Youth (Pass The Dutchie), UB40 (in fourth with Red Red Wine), Aswad (Don't Turn Around), and Johnny Nash (Tears On My Pillow).

Nash, a black American, was perhaps more responsible than anyone else for exposing Jamaica's reggae music to the American public. His efforts secured for him three positions in the top 10 reggae singles of all time in the US with I Can See Clearly Now, Hold Me Tight, and the Bob Marley composition Stir it Up.

Also according to Russell Ash, Luke Crampton, and Barry Lazell, in 1944, Dinah Shore became the first of 10 females to have number-one hits in America. She did so with I'll Walk Alone. Betty Hutton, Peggy Lee, Margaret Whiting, Evelyn Knight, Teresa Brewer, Eileen Burton, Patti Page, Rosemarie Clooney, and Kay Starr were the others.

The first 10 females to have number-one hits in the UK included five Americans: Kay Starr (Come A-long A-love, 1953); Doris Day (Secret Love, 1954), Kitty Kallen (Little Things Mean a Lot, 1954); and Rosemary Clooney (This Ole House, 1954). Jo Stafford was, however, the first of the lot to hit, with You Belong To Me in 1953.

Rated among the top-10 husband and wife duos are Sonny and Cher, Ike and Tina Turner, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Ashford and Simpson, and The Captain and Tennille. Unfortunately, marital harmony in the charts seems to have done nothing for domestic togetherness as many of the marriages ended in divorce.