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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Top 40 Songs of the 1940s

While blues dip and come back with a vengeance, and Hank Williams gives hillbilly a little ferocity, big band is at all time high, especially with crooners put in the spot light (ick! Gross!).  Most importantly from this decade, is I swear there’s a rock and roll song, oh, and Nat King Cole starts a nice little genre called rhythm and blues. 

40.  Feudin and Fightin – Dorothy Shay (1947) – (Showtune)

It’s dark, I like that, but it’s still just so skippy.  There’s guns, and grandma and grandma bending               over and getting shot.  Not sure why, and don’t know if I like the song enough to find out. 

39.  New San Antonio Rose – Bob Willis and His Playboys (1940) – (Show Tune/Hillbilly)

This is probably most accurately described as southwestern mexibilly.  Still sounds like a showtune to me. 

38.  Call It a Stormy Monday – T-Bone Walker (1947) – (Blues)

The blues seem to start getting a little boring, or maybe it’s just because this song isn’t a thrill a minute.  I think I’m ranking it because the guy goes by T-Bone.

37.  Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief – Betty Hutton (1946) – (Show Tune)

I’m torn here, because this song isn’t anything I’d enjoy listening to outside of my curiosity with music’s history, but, she constantly says “engine” instead of “Indian”, and I’m always a fan of hearing things that aren’t politically correct nowadays, especially when they’re twice removed from being politically correct.  Sometimes you can just back your way into my lists. 

36.  You Can’t Be True, Dear – Ken Griffin (1948) – (Piano Jazz)

It’s all about the organ. 

35.  Cool Water – Sons of Pioneers (1941) – (Hillbilly)

I’m not sure if I’m down with the multi-part harmony or not, but the way this song remains in my head, it has to be better than I think.

34.  Take Me Back to Tulsa – Bob Willis and His Playboys (1941) – (Show Tune)

This is a pretty relaxed song, better than San Antonio Rose, if you’re having a Bob Willis and His Playboys bar argument.  Something tells me you’re not.

33.  Too Fat Polka – Arthur Godfrey (1947) – (Show Tune)

This song probably set fat people back at least 6 decades thus far.  It is unbelievable how offensive this song is.  It’s hysterical though.

32.  Foggy Mountain Breakdown – Flatt & Scrugs (1949) – (Hillbilly)

To label this one, I used thee ole, “It’s probably hillbilly if the song could have appeared in Deliverance” method.

31.  I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder – Eddy Howard (1947) – (Ballad)

I really like the quietness of the song.  It’s very relaxing. 

30.  Midnight Special – Leadbelly (1940) – (Folk)

I’m so satisfied calling music in between blues and hillbilly, folk. 

29.  Mule Skinner Blues – Bill Monroe (1940) – (Hillbilly)

Allegedly the founder of bluegrass.  Granted this is a Jimmie Rodgers cover anyway, but it’s still hillbilly to me.

28.  Lost Highway – Hank Williams (1949) – (Country)

I really came into the 40s thinking Hank Williams was going to dominate, and he’s sort of let me down.

27.  Koko – Charlie Parker (1945) – (Jazz)
26.  Move Up a Little Higher – Mahalia Jackson (1947) – (Rhythm & Blues)

Long before TLC, En Vogue, Diana Ross and Terrell Owens, you had Mahalia Jackson creating the label, “diva.”

25.  Golden Earrings – Peggy Lee (1946) – (Ballad/Showtune)

It’s nice to find rare dark songs back in this period.  However, if you do find them, they’re usually part of a movie or something, as this is.

24.  Walking the Floor Over You – Ernest Tubb (1941) – (Hillbilly)

The first honky tonk song!  Sorry, but I’m not going to give honky tonk its own category. 

23.  Worried Life Blues – Big Maceo (1941) – (Blues)

The piano and guitar together is pretty nice, but it’s still not much more evolution to what 30s blues was doing. 

22.  Love Sick Blues – Hank Williams (1949) – (Country)

He does yodel a bit, which makes me wanna continue the hillbilly name calling, even though Hank was the first one to start crying how offensive the term “hillbilly” was.  Too bad he didn’t embrace it like N.W.A. embraced the “N” word.  He could’ve been real gangsta.   

21.  Nature Boy – Nat King Cole (1947) – (Rhythm & Blues)

A little sappy, but it’s a pretty good ballad.  Good enough to not be considered a ballad. 

20.  Solo Flight – Charlie Christian (1941) – (Jazz)

Electric guitar! It’s all coming together in 1941

19.  Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe (1947) – (Hillbilly)

Sadly, Hank Williams is coming soon in the chain, which means I can no longer call this genre “hillbilly” because even from beyond the grave Hank could whoop my ass.   

18.  Ornithology – Charlie Parker (1946) – (Jazz)

Here we have jamming!  This song really helps shape jazz. 

17.  Manhattan Serenade – Tommy Dorsey (1942) – (Jazz)

I naturally had to include this because of its appearance in the Godfather. 

16.  Driftin Blues – Charles Brown (1945) – (Blues)

Piano, and a little bit of a back beat.  It’s pretty nice.  Rock ’n roll, we’re getting there.    

15.  Groovin High – Dizzy Gillespie (1945) – (Jazz)
Great arrangement.  Really good jazz. 

14.  Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter (1943) – (Hillbilly)

This is a great song.  Guns in old timey songs are good thing for some reason. 

13.  Crawlin King Snake – John Lee Hooker (1948) – (Blues)

A Zach classic.  One of the few songs from this era I’ve known for decades because the Doors covered it.   

12.  ‘Round Midnight – (1946) – (Jazz)
This is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. 

11.  Take the “A” Train – Duke Ellington (1941) – (Jazz)

Obviously, one of the most popular jazz (oxymoron alert!) songs of all-time, but this list is more of a rock ’n roll thang. 

10.  Manteca – Dizzy Gillespie (1947) – (Jazz)

This is very borderline between jazz and big band, and sometimes I’m not sure of the difference.  Then, I see I have the artist labeled as “Dizzy Gillespie” and I’ve always considered him a jazz musician so it’s easier for me to label.  If it was “D-Gill’s Arkestra” or something, it may have been more difficult.

9.  I Can’t Be Satisfied – Muddy Waters (1948) – (Blues)

Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker added more balls to the blues.   

8.  I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams (1949) – (Country)

A beautiful country ballad.    

7.  Little Maggie – Stanley Brothers (1947) – (Bluegrass)

Between hillbilly, country, folk and even the blues, it’s kind of hard to tell when bluegrass begins, and how it differentiates itself.  Anyways, this sounds like definitive bluegrass. 

6.  Get Your Kicks on Route 66 – Nat King Cole (1946) – (Rhythm and Blues)

This is a very important song for rock's history.  It HAS been covered by Depeche Mode ... sheesh.     

5.  Move It On Over – Hank Williams (1947) – (Country)

All kidding aside about hillbilly versus country, Hank Williams brings a little bit of swagger to the genre, thus deserving the label change.  He also says “Shove It” in this song, and judging by the laughs of the audience, it may be a bit controversial at the time. 

4.  Boogie Chillin – John Lee Hooker (1948) – (Blues)

Blues was getting kind of stale in the late 40s, but then a couple guys came out of nowhere and brought it to a new level.   This is the beginning of phase 3 blues.  You had Blind Lemon, then Robert Johnson, now you got John Lee, and Muddy. 

3.  You Are My Sunshine – Jimmie Davis (1940) – (Hillbilly)

A perfectly written pop song. 

2.  This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie (1947) – (Folk)

It has to be tough when you write a song in response to hearing an American anthem all the time (God Bless America in this case) and your song becomes an American anthem.  You’d think Bruce Springsteen would’ve learned something before he wrote “Born in the USA”. 

1.  Caldonia – Louis Jordan (1945) – (Rock’n Roll)

C’mon, this is the first rock ’n roll song.   He’s taking a big band groove, letting it roll, and adding some blues to it.  He also shouts, which is so rock ‘n roll baby.  Now that I’ve found my first rock ‘n roll song, I can either stop, or keep tracing the genres of music from the 1950s to the present day.  I’ll go with the latter.  


  1. wow,i really like this songs.thanks for sharing this 40 songs.i want some more songs from 1940.
    - notorious

  2. find this version ?