To commemorate the…
50th anniversary of Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary Chart
we’re counting down the Top 100 Songs in the entire history of one of Billboard’s signature (and smoothest) surveys.
Some of the genre’s earliest giants infuse the list, including Elton John, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder, while relatively newer artists that continue to keep AC a top-rated radio format likewise appear, including Natasha Bedingfield, Enrique Iglesias and Matchbox Twenty.
Celebrate the gentle sounds of the AC chart’s first five decades, as some of the biggest ballads – and biggest hits of the entire rock era – fill the ranking.
The 50th anniversary Adult Contemporary songs chart is based on actual performance on the weekly Adult Contemporary chart since its inception in the July 17, 1961, issue of Billboard. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower rankings on the chart earning less. Due to various changes in chart rules, chart length and in methodology throughout the years – including the implementation in 1993 of monitored airplay data from Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems – songs had varying reigns at No. 1 and on the chart. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from all 50 years, earlier time frames were each weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates from those years.
From “Moon River” to “Islands in the Stream,” the countdown begins.
100 CHARIOTS OF FIRE – TITLES Vangelis
98 THIS IS THE TIME Billy Joel
97 THE CANDY MAN Sammy Davis, Jr. With The Mike Curb Congregation
96 YOUR WILDEST DREAMS The Moody Blues
95 YOU’RE THE INSPIRATION Chicago
94 YOU AND I Eddie Rabbitt & Crystal Gayle
93 WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL Boy Meets Girl
92 JUST THE WAY YOU ARE Billy Joel (1978)
What better example to showcase the AC circle of life? Before Bruno Mars spent 20 weeks at No. 1 with his song of the same name (the longest reign for an artist’s first AC chart entry), Joel made this ballad the first of his eight AC No. 1s. He pulled four of those leaders from his 1983 album “An Innocent Man”: “Tell Her About It,” the title cut, “The Longest Time” and “Leave a Tender Moment Alone.”
Billy Joel – Just The Way You Are
91 MOON RIVER Henry Mancini
90 MAGIC Olivia Newton-John
89 JUST WHEN I NEEDED YOU MOST Randy Vanwarmer
88 LOVE IS FOREVER Billy Ocean
87 MUSKRAT LOVE Captain & Tennille
86 HELLO Lionel Richie (1984)
Like Billy Joel (see No. 92), Richie also released an album that yielded four AC No. 1s. 1983’s “Can’t Slow Down” generated the format leaders “All Night Long (All Night),” this song, which ruled for six weeks, “Stuck on You” and “Penny Lover.” Richie has tallied 11 solo No. 1s following one, “Three Times a Lady” (1976), as frontman of the Commodores.
85 ISLANDS IN THE STREAM Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
84 HEARTBREAKER Dionne Warwick
83 HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU Michael Bolton
82 WIND BENEATH MY WINGS Bette Midler
81 WORDS GET IN THE WAY Miami Sound Machine
80 IF YOU ASKED ME TO Celine Dion (1992)
As the youngest of 14 children, Dion has long since figured out how to get attention. She’s fought her way to the upper echelon of AC divas with 11 No. 1s. “If You Asked Me To,” first a No. 11 AC hit for Patti LaBelle in 1989, was Dion’s first format leader, and the first of her three AC No. 1s written by songwriting icon Diane Warren; follow-up “Nothing But My Broken Heart” reigned later in 1992 and “Because You Loved Me” ruled in 1996.
79 (I’VE HAD) THE TIME OF MY LIFE Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
78 HEY, SOUL SISTER Train
77 BABY BABY Amy Grant
76 FOREVER AND FOR ALWAYS Shania Twain
75 DON’T WANNA LOSE YOU Gloria Estefan
74 LOST IN LOVE Air Supply
73 THE NEXT TIME I FALL Peter Cetera With Amy Grant
72 I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVE YOU Stevie Wonder
71 THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM (THE QUEST) Jack Jones
70 SEPARATE LIVES (THEME FROM WHITE NIGHTS) Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
69 YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL James Blunt
68 AGAINST ALL ODDS (TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOW) Phil Collins
67 MY CUP RUNNETH OVER Ed Ames (1967)
“The Boston Baritone” epitomizes AC’s early days, when the chart sported the names “Easy Listening,” “Middle-Road Singles” and “Pop-Standard Singles.” Ames’ first of three No. 1s, this song from the off-Broadway musical “I Do, I Do” is based on Psalms 23:5.
66 SAY YOU, SAY ME Lionel Richie
65 STUCK ON YOU Lionel Richie
64 THE WAY IT IS Bruce Hornsby & The Range
63 WOMAN IN LOVE Barbra Streisand
62 UNWRITTEN Natasha Bedingfield
61 RIGHT HERE WAITING Richard Marx
60 IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME BY NOW Simply Red
59 YOU’LL BE IN MY HEART Phil Collins
58 SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST Vanessa Williams
57 EVERYTIME YOU GO AWAY Paul Young
56 TWO HEARTS Phil Collins
55 THE ROSE Bette Midler
54 SOMETIMES LOVE JUST AIN’T ENOUGH Patty Smyth
53 THE ONE Elton John (1992)
Billboard’s all-time AC king boasts the marks for most AC No. 1s (16), top 10s (38) and charted titles (68). John scored four No. 1s in the ’70s, five in the ’80s and seven in the ’90s, including this summer smash (complete with seagull sound effects) that led for six weeks in 1992.
52 RESTLESS HEART Peter Cetera
51 I DON’T HAVE THE HEART James Ingram
50 YOU’RE ONLY LONELY J.D.Souther
49 HOLD ON MY HEART Genesis
48 THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro, His Orchestra And Chorus
47 MORNING DANCE Spyro Gyra
46 SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT Anne Murray
45 ALWAYS ON MY MIND Willie Nelson
44 I HOPE YOU DANCE Lee Ann Womack (2001)
The story songs and organic arrangements of country music have long made the format a natural fit at AC. Nelson’s song at No. 45 reached No. 2 in 1982, while Womack’s ruled for 11 weeks in 2001. (The singers paired up for “Mendocino County Line,” a No. 22 Country Songs hit in 2002).
43 WHEN SHE CRIES Restless Heart
42 THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR Dionne & Friends
41 LOVE TAKES TIME Mariah Carey
For more of the way we were, musically, follow the countdown as we enter the Top 40.
40 FOREVER IN LOVE Kenny G
39 BREAKAWAY Kelly Clarkson
38 CAN’T WE TRY Dan Hill Duet With Vonda Shepard
37 IF EVER YOU’RE IN MY ARMS AGAIN Peabo Bryson
36 HARD TO SAY I’M SORRY Chicago
35 EVERGREEN (LOVE THEME FROM “A STAR IS BORN”) Barbra Streisand (1977)
Here are two reasons why Streisand is Billboard’s top female artist of the AC chart’s first 50 years. The song at No. 35 spent six weeks at No. 1 in 1977, while the ballad at No. 34 reigned for two weeks in 1974. Both recordings won Grammy Awards for song of the year.
34 THE WAY WE WERE Barbra Streisand
33 WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME? Chicago
32 CRAZY LOVE Poco
31 RISE Herb Alpert
30 LET ME LOVE YOU TONIGHT Pure Prairie League
29 (EVERYTHING I DO) I DO IT FOR YOU Bryan Adams
28 YOU AND ME Lifehouse
27 SUPERMAN (IT’S NOT EASY) Five For Fighting
26 STRANGER ON THE SHORE Mr. Acker Bilk
25 IF YOU’RE GONE matchbox twenty
24 SECOND CHANCE Thirty Eight Special (1989)
Throughout the AC chart’s history, acts best known for their crunchy guitar licks have graced the survey once softening their sound. Lifehouse at No. 28 fits the bill, as do these Southern rockers. After scoring pop and rock smashes with “Hold on Loosely” and “Caught Up in You,” Thirty Eight Special (with then-new lead singer Max Carl) earned the top AC song of 1989 with this musical plea for forgiveness.
Music video by 38 Special performing Second Chance. (C) 1989 A&M Records
23 CHERISH Kool & The Gang
22 DON’T KNOW MUCH Linda Ronstadt Featuring Aaron Neville
21 I KNEW I LOVED YOU Savage Garden
Ready for the No. 1 AC song of all-time? The countdown wraps with the biggest hit of the Adult Contemporary chart’s first 50 years.
20 HOME Michael Buble
19 THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL Charlie Rich
18 SOMEWHERE OUT THERE (FROM “AN AMERICAN TAIL”) Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram
17 A WHOLE NEW WORLD Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle
16 NEVER GONNA LET YOU GO Sergio Mendes
15 LOVE IS Vanessa Williams/Brian McKnight
14 AFTER THE LOVIN’ Engelbert Humperdinck
13 HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE Bee Gees (1977)
While they’re now an AC staple, some of the Bee Gees’ songs were deemed too uptempo to crash the chart’s upper reaches as currents, including “You Should Be Dancing,” which peaked at No. 25, and “Stayin’ Alive” (No. 28). This ballad, however, became the group’s first AC No. 1, where it stayed for six weeks in 1977.
12 BAD DAY Daniel Powter
11 LOVE IS BLUE Paul Mauriat
10 LONELY NO MORE Rob Thomas
9 HERO Enrique Iglesias
8 CHANGE THE WORLD Eric Clapton
7 YOU NEEDED ME Anne Murray
6 HELLO DOLLY! Louis Armstrong And The All Stars
5 BORN FREE Roger Williams
4 HEAVEN Los Lonely Boys
3 DRIFT AWAY Uncle Kracker Featuring Dobie Gray
2 LEAD ME ON Maxine Nightingale
1 TRULY MADLY DEEPLY Savage Garden (1998)
“I’m completely overwhelmed to be honest. I feel incredibly proud. That song changed my life and apparently continues to do so!,” says Darren Hayes, formerly one-half of pop duo Savage Garden, who claims Billboard’s top all-time Adult Contemporary title with its 1998 No. 1 “Truly Madly Deeply.” The song spent 11 weeks at No. 1 and a staggering 123 weeks on the chart.
Music video by Savage Garden performing Truly Madly Deeply. (C) 1997 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
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- Nicole Richie and Joel Madden Got Married Thanks to Rev Run and an Elephant! (popsugar.com)
- Billy Joel Songs (mademan.com)
- Dion And His Runaround Sue Were Number One 50 Years Ago (blogcritics.org)
- Song of the Day – Dean Martin – “Memories Are Made of This” (joetroiano.wordpress.com)
- Rod Stewart – “Maggie May” the #1 Hits (joetroiano.wordpress.com)
- Just The Way You Are – Billy Joel (freemusicsheets.wordpress.com)
- Enrique Iglesias Biography (mademan.com)
- Barbra Joan Streisand – Barbara Joan Streisand (einflussreicheleute.wordpress.com)