50 Years On- Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart Top 100

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

99  ALL NIGHT LONG (ALL NIGHT)  Lionel Richie

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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