For many Americans, music is often associated with memories. Songs from the past can evoke powerful personal emotions and trigger vivid memories. The music of Woodstock can send one hurtling down memory lane, back to the 1960s; disco triggers recollection of the 1970s; and any number of new wave hits can take one back to the 1980s.
The music we associate with different periods is generally the most popular popular music of its respective time. Often this music can be distilled to a single song.
To identify the most popular song the year you were born, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Billboard’s top-ranked singles on the Hot 100 going back to 1960. The year’s most popular song is the one that spent the most time in the No. 1 position that year.
The 1960s began with some runoff from the popular musical styles of the 1950s. The most popular song in 1960 was the instrumental version of “Theme from ‘A Summer Place’” by Percy Faith and his orchestra. Music fans soon moved on to listening to more rock music, including The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The top songs of the 1970s and 1980s featured a wide variety of musical styles, each of which encapsulates the feel of its year. In 1978, the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” was a fitting summation of the age of disco. And there’s perhaps no song better to kick off the 1980s than Blondie’s enduring new wave hit “Call Me,” which sat at No. 1 for six weeks.
Tastes continued to change in the 1990s, shifting more towards R&B. This is evidenced by the inclusion of two Boyz II Men songs, as well as singles by Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and
Brandy & Monica in that decade. This trend largely continued throughout the aughts, yet expanding to include more rap and dance music. Artists include Nelly, 50 Cent, and Soulja Boy.