Top Ten Songs throughout the 20th Century

As you move throughout the exhibit, you will find lists of the top ten songs from each decade of the 20th century. These lists of top songs are found at Their site brings together 500,999 individual chart runs (most representing many weekly chart entries, of course) about the most popular 147,125 songs and 82,516 albums released since the year 1900. This site combines 230 different data sources, 138 song charts and 92 album charts from around the globe.

We wish to acknowledge that popular songs often became so through radio play and sales, and these often depend on what songs radio stations would play or not play. Many radio stations in the southern US would not play music of Black or Latinx artists in the early 20th century, limiting their audience reach. Politics can also limit an artist’s play on certain radio stations as with the Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) in 2003 who spoke out against the Iraq War and ultimately faced boycotts. It continues today with Black country artist Mickey Guyton whose songs from her personal perspective get played on digital platforms but are not played as often on country music radio stations.

Each top ten list is accompanied by a QR code to a Spotify playlist. We hope that you take time to listen to the sounds of the past or simply enjoy the songs of your youth!

 *As a warning to our audience, we would like to point out that several of the early decades feature artists with a history of minstrel performance. We have drawn attention to these artists to acknowledge this racist history and serve as a warning to listeners.*

Top Ten Songs throughout the 20th Century