50 Number One Songs From the Last 50 Years

For more than half a century, the Billboard Hot 100 has been documenting the biggest, most commercially successful hits in the U.S.

The chart—compiled by Billboard magazine using record sales, radio airplay and now digital streaming—first appeared on August 4, 1958, when "Poor Little Fool" by Ricky Nelson took the inaugural top spot.

Since then there have been 1,117 different No.1s.

Below, Newsweek highlights 50 tracks that have come to define the chart in the last five decades. Many of these are included in Billboard's own 100 biggest hits of all-time list.

1. "Me and Bobby McGee" (March 1971)

by Janis Joplin

On this day 50 years ago, the song at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 was the posthumously released track by Janis Joplin. The song was written by American singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Roger Miller.

Janis Joplin had died six months earlier from a drug overdose.

'Pearl' by Janis Joplin
Hulton Deutsch / Getty Images

2. "You're So Vain (January 1973)

by Carly Simon

While the title's subject matter has sparked debate for many years, Carly Simon revealed in 2015 that it is actually about a number of men, one of whom is actor Warren Beatty.

Carly Simon
Portrait of American folk and pop musician Carly Simon in her apartment in New York on September 20, 1983. Brownie Harris/Corbis/Getty Images

3. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" (April 1973)

by Dawn feat. Tony Orlando

The group were apparently ready to split up towards the end of 1972 because of lack of commercial success, before this track reached number one just a few months later.

Tony Orlando and Dawn
Tony Orlando and Dawn (circa 1960) Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

4. "Let's Get it On" (September 1973)

by Marvin Gaye

The Motown legend hit the top of the charts with the title track from his 13th album, which would eventually become one of his most well known tracks.

Marvin Gaye makes a statement
Rob Verhorst / Getty Images

5. "Silly Love Songs" (May 1976)

by Wings

Former Beatle Paul McCartney scored a Billboard Hot 100 top spot in 1976 with his new band. The track was famously an attack he received from John Lennon and music journalists about his songwriting credentials.

(L - R): Jimmy McCulloch, Denny Laine, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Joe English c.1975/1976 GAB Archive/Redferns

6. "Play That Funky Music" (September 1976)

by Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry started out as a rock band in the early '70s, and split up before reforming in 1975. They switched to a more funk sound and released one of the decade's defining songs, which remained the band's only hit.

7. "You Light Up My Life" (October 1977)

by Debby Boone

This track spent more time at number one than any other in the 1970s, spending a total of 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

8. "Staying' Alive" (February 1978)

by Bee Gees

The British trio were one of the most successful acts of the 1970s, with their track "Stayin' Alive" helping to define the disco era after it was in the soundtrack for the move Saturday Night Fever.

18. Bee Gees & Various Artists, “Saturday Night Fever (soundtrack)” (1977), 16 million copies. Get it here. Capitol

9. "Le Freak" (December 1978)

by Chic

Written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the track would go on to see more than four million copies in the U.S.

Nile Rodgers and Chic Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

10. "I Will Survive" (March 1979)

by Gloria Gaynor

Yet another disco classic from the era, the track was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2016 after the Library of Congress deemed it "culturally, historically, or artistically significant."

Photo of Gloria Gaynor on stage 1979. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

11. "My Sharona" (August 1979)

by The Knack

Containing one of the all-time catchy guitar riffs, The Knack's first single was Capitol Records' fastest gold status debut since The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in 1964.

12. "Call Me" (February 1980)

by Blondie

The New Wave band scored their second Billboard Hot 100 with "Call Me," with the track later named No. 1 on Billboard magazine's 1980 year-end chart.

Blondie in 1979
American punk rock band Blondie, 1979. Clockwise from top left, guitarist Chris Stein, singer Debbie Harry, bass player Nigel Harrison, drummer Clem Burke, guitarist Frank Infante and keyboard player Jimmy Destri. Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images)/Getty

13. "Another One Bites The Dust" (October 1980)

by Queen

While Freddie Mercury and Brian May wrote most of Queen's records, bassist John Deacon is credited as the sole songwriter for this track, which scored the British group their second number one hit.

Queen bassist John Deacon, left, Freddie Mercury, center, and guitarist Brian May. QPL

14. "Lady" (November 1980)

by Kenny Rogers

This Lionel Richie-written track is a rare appearance by a country singer in the 1980s. Kenny Rogers' song, which spent six week on top of the Billboard Hot 100, and also topped the pop, R&B and country charts.

Kenny Rogers
American country singer Kenny Rogers sings on stage during a concert on November 8, 1981 at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images

15. "Bette Davis Eyes" (May 1981)

by Kim Carnes

The track was actually written in and composed by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon in 1974, but did not become a hit until it was recorded by Kim Carnes and went on to spend nine non-consecutive weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100.

16. "Endless Love" - (August 1981)

by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie

Billboard named this song the greatest duet of all time in 2011. As well as spending nine weeks at number one, it spent more than half a year in the charts and at the time became the most successful Motown single of all time and biggest hit from a soundtrack.

17. "Physical" (November 1981)

by Olivia Newton-John

Although certainly tame by today's standards, this Olivia Newton-John track was banned from being played on certain radio stations due to its risqué lyrics.

Despite, or maybe because, of this the track was an instant smash, spending 10 weeks at number one (the most of any single in the 1980s) and becoming certified platinum.

#4. 'Physical' by Olivia Newton-John
Keystone/Hulton Archive / Getty Images

18. "Eye of the Tiger" - (July 1982)

by Survivor

This song reached number one after being used as the main track for the boxing movie, Rocky III. Sylvester Stallone was keen on using Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" until his brother played him an album by Survivor.

19. "Billie Jean" (March 1983)

by Michael Jackson

One of two number one singles from Michael Jackson enormously successful album Thriller, along with "Beat It."

The album Thriller saw a total of seven top-ten singles appear on the Billboard Hot 100, cementing Michael Jackson's place as the biggest star on the planet.

 Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson performs in concert circa 1983. Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

20."Flashdance...What a Feeling" (May 1983)

by Irene Cara

This track taken from the film Flashdance also won the Oscar for Best Original Song, defeating "Maniac" from the same movie.

21. "Every Breath You Take" (July 1983)

by The Police

Despite often being mistaken for a cute love song, the group's lead singer Sting described the "nasty little song" as being about "jealousy and surveillance and ownership." The song still went on to spend eight weeks at number one.

22. "All Night Long (All Night)" (November 1983)

by Lionel Ritchie

This smash hit from the former Commodores singer reached number one on three Billboard charts (pop, R&B and adult contemporary.)

Ritchie later admitted that the lyrics "Tom bo li de say di moi ya, yeah jumbo jumbo" lyrics in the track are gibberish, and are not translated from any traditional African dialect.

Lionel Richie On Stage
Lionel Richie performing on stage at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois, October 1, 1983. Paul Natkin/Getty

23. "Nothing Compares 2 U" (April 1990)

by Sinead O'Connor

The haunting track which spent four weeks at the top of the charts was originally written by Prince and was named by Billboard named as the "#1 World Single" at the magazine's first award ceremony in 1990.

Sinead O'Connor performs onstage
Sinead O'Conner performs onstage during the WOMAD Concert Tour at Marcus Ampitheater on September 3, 1993 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Paul Natkin/Getty Images

24. "I Will Always Love You" - (November 1992)

by Whitney Houston

One of a number of smash hit ballads which dominated the 1990s charts, Whitney Houston's version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" featured in the soundtrack for the film The Bodyguard and spent 14 weeks at number one.

Whitney Houston in 2004
Whitney Houston performs during the 2004 World Music Awards in Las Vegas, September 15, 2004. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

25. "I'll Make Love to You" (August 1994)

by Boyz II Men

Another ballad which spent 14 weeks at the top of the charts was track from the R&B group Boys II Men. At the time, it held the record with Whitney Houston for the most weeks at number one. The band would go on to break their own record performing with Mariah Carey.

Boys II Men with Bill Clinton
President Clinton shakes hands with Boyz II Men at a health care rally in New Jersey's Liberty State Park, in August 1994 Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Getty

26. "Gangsta's Paradise" (September 1995)

by Coolio featuring L.V.

The track from the movie Dangerous Minds reworks Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise." Coolio is said to have removed some "vulgarities" that were in the original version in order to please Wonder. It went on to spend three weeks at number one.

27. "One Sweet Day" (December 1995)

by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

One of the biggest singles of all time, this song spent a whopping 16 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100, a record which lasted more than 20 years but has since been surpassed twice.

28."Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" (August 1996)

by Los Del Rio

The song was not only a worldwide smash, but spawned a popular dance craze too. The track is a remix of an entirely Spanish version, which then included English vocals and helped it spend 14 weeks at number one.

29. "Wannabe" (January 1997)

by Spice Girls

The song which helped make the British pop group one of the defining bands of 1990s, the track spent four weeks at number one and was an instant smash hit across the world.

British all-girl singing group the Spice Girls at the Brit Awards, where they won in the Best Video and Best Single categories, 24th February 1997. Dave Benett/Getty Images

30. "Candle in the Wind 1997"(October 1997)

by Elton John

Originally written about Marilyn Monroe, Elton John performed the track with new lyrics at Princess Diana's funeral. The track sold more than 33 million copies, making it the biggest best-selling single since the UK and U.S. singles charts began in the 1950s. B

Bing Crosby's White Christmas is believed to be the overall biggest selling song ever, selling more than 50 million copies in a pre-chart era.

Sir Elton John sings 'Candle in the Wind' at the funeral if Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997 in London, England. Anwar Hussein

31. "Truly, Madly, Deeply" (January 1998)

by Savage Garden

The track form the Australian pop duo helped propel them to worldwide superstardom. It spent two weeks at number one in 1998 and was named the 36th second most successful song of all time by Billboard in 2018.

#17. 'Truly Madly Deeply' by Savage Garden
Chris Martinez / Getty Images

32. "...Baby One More Time" (February 1999)

by Britney Spears

The debut single from the teen icon is one of the best-selling singles of all time, with more than ten million copies sold.

The video for "...Baby One More Time" was also voted by Billboard to be the best of the 1990s.

Britney Spears, “...Baby One More Time” (1999) Jive

33. "Smooth" (October 1999)

by Santana feat Rob Thomas

The smash hit featuring the Matchbox Twenty vocalist spent a total of 12 weeks at number one, making it the final number one hit of the 1990s and the first number one of the 2000s. In 2018, Billboard listed "Smooth" as the second most successful song of all time, just behind "The Twist" by Chubby Checker.

34. "Independent Women Part 1" (November 2000)

by Destiny's Child

This track was the first time the girl group topped the chart as a three-piece consisting of Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams. It also appeared on the soundtrack to the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie's Angels.

35. "How You Remind Me" - (December 2001)

by Nickelback

Rock music climbed back to the top of the Hot 100 chart with this track from the Canadian group. The song was named the number-one most played song on U.S. radio of the 2000s by Nielsen Soundscan, estimated to have aired more than 1.2 million times between 2001 and 2009.

Photo of Nickelback; Cold Live at the Chapel, Nickelback - 20th October 2001. Martin Philbey/Redferns

36. "Dilemma" (August 2002)

by Nelly Featuring Kelly Rowland

The track that samples Patti LaBelle's 1983 song "Love, Need and Want You", spent 10 non-consecutive weeks at number, replacing Nelly's previous single "Hot in Herre."

37. "Crazy in Love" (July 2003)

by Beyonce

The first solo record from Beyonce Knowles was declared it the greatest song of the 2000s by VH1. It managed to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 before it was physically released in the stores due to its airplay alone.

JAY-Z joins Beyonce on stage for 'Crazy In Love' at the "Chime For Change: The Sound Of Change Live" Concert at Twickenham Stadium on June 1, 2013 in London, England. Yosra El-Essawy/Chime For Change/Getty Images

38. "Hey Ya" (December 2003)

by Outkast

The single from the Grammy-award record Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is specifically performed by Andre 3000, as the hip hop duo essentially released two solo efforts as one double album for their fifth release.

Big Boi (left) and Andre 3000 of Oukast pose with their six Grammys backstage in the Pressroom at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 8, 2004. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

39. "Yeah!" (February 2004)

by Usher feat. Lil John and Ludacris

One of the defining pop songs of the decade, "Yeah!" spent 12 consecutive weeks at number, and was only pumped off the top by Usher's follow-up single "Burn".
"Yeah!" also subsequently topping the year-end chart on the Hot 100.

Usher performs with Lil Jon (left) and Ludacris (right) at a concert during "The Truth Tour 2004" on October 13, 2004 at Madison Square Garden, in New York City Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

40. "Bleeding Love" (April 2008)

by Leona Lewis

After being voted the winner of the third series of the British reality singing competition The X Factor, Leona Lewis' single was a smash across the world, resulting in it becoming the best-selling single of 2008.

41. "I Gotta Feeling" (July 2009)

by The Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas were inescapable during the later part of the 2000s. Their single "Boom Boom Pow" was number one for 12 weeks and was immediately succeeded by "I Gotta Feeling," which spent 14 weeks at the top of the charts.
The combined 26-week reign is the longest for any artist in Hot 100 history.

The Black Eyed Peas at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

42. "We Found Love" (November 2011)

by Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris

The dance track featuring the Barbadian singer and the Scottish DJ spent 10 weeks at number one in 2011 and also surpassed "Umbrella" to become Rihanna's longest running number one single.

43. "Blurred Lines" (August 2013)

by Robin Thicke feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams

Despite receiving criticism due to its questionable lyrics and video featuring Emily Ratajkowski, Robin Thicke's track spent 12 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

44. "Happy" (March 2014)

by Pharrell Williams

Whether you wanted to or not, the song from Pharrell William could be heard absolutely everywhere in 2014 and beyond. The catchy song peaked at the top of the charts April and stayed there for 10 weeks.

Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams performs in concert during 2019 ESSENCE Festival at Louisiana Superdome on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Paras Griffin/Getty Images

45. "Uptown Funk" (January 2015)

by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

This massive hit is both the most successful song by British-American producer Mark Ronson and singer Bruno Mars, with the 11-time platinum certified song spending 14 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and seven weeks on the top of the UK Singles Chart.

46. "Hello" (November 2015)

by Adele

The lead single from the British singer's third album 25, "Hello" stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 consecutive weeks and was also the first song to sell more than a million digital copies in a week.

Recording artist Adele performs onstage during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

47."Shape of You" (January 2017)

by Ed Sheeran

The worldwide smash from Ed Sheeran was only ever released as a digital download, but it still became the best selling song of 2017 and the first song to hit 2 billion streams on Spotify.

Ed Sheeran performs on day 2 of Latitude Festival at Henham Park Estate on July 17, 2015 in Southwold, England Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

48. "Despacito" (May 2017)

by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber

As well as becoming a massive hit single despite almost being sung in Spanish, the video for the single was at one time the most watched in YouTube's history and currently has more than 7.2 billion views.

"Despacito" was also the first Spanish-language song to reach one billion streams on Spotify.

49. "God's Plan" (January 2018)

by Drake

One of the most successful artists of all time, this 2018 single from Canadian rapper Drake is the one that has spent the longest at the top at the chart, spending 11 weeks there.

50. "Old Town Road" (April 2019)

by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus

The track which currently holds the record for longest time spent at the top of the Billboard chart with 19 consecutive weeks is also one of the shortest number one records ever, clocking in at just one minute and 53 seconds.

Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X perform onstage at the 2019 BET Awards on June 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Composite of hitmakers