[EDITOR'S NOTE: A recent Examiner.com column took a look at the 10 youngest recording artists to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Magazine's pop music charts in the U.S., and this column examines the 10 oldest performers to reach No. 1. To read the article about the 10 youngest chart-toppers, click here.].
A list containing the recording artists who became the oldest to emerge with a No. 1 record on the Billboard Magazine's pop music charts contains a wide variety of performances by musicians who are, for the most part, familiar names to many American oldies music fans.
The list of "old-timers" with No. 1 hits -- with all performers being at least 46 years of age -- includes such big names as Louie Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Cher and Dean Martin.
However, unlike the Top 10 list of youngest artists, which consisted entirely of vocalists, two of the top three on this listing are Lawrence Welk and Morris Stoloff, who took well-known instrumentals to the top of the charts.
Holding down the No. 1 and No. 10 positions, respectively, are two of the first black entertainers to gain significant popularity and acclaim with American white audiences, Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr.
The column only considers U.S. pop music chart singles, and the list includes hit songs that were popular as early as the year 1956 and as recently as 1999. And whereas "youngest Top 10" only contained one recording after 1972 -- that being "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany in 1987 -- the "oldest Top 10" contains three songs later than 1972.
Here's the summary of top-rated singles by the 10 oldest recording artists with a top-rated U.S. charter, and to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title.
- 1. "HELLO DOLLY" (Louis Armstrong, 62 years, 279 days old, 1964): "Satchmo" came into this world in New Orleans on Aug. 4, 1901, and by the end of the '20s, he was already the most-acclaimed black musician in the world. With this recording -- in which the famed trumpeter-singer performed the title song from the Broadway musical starring Carol Channing -- Armstrong knocked The Beatles out of the No. 1 spot after The Fab Four had topped the U.S. charts for more than three consecutive months. The charismatic performer died a of heart attack in 1971 at age 69.
- 2. "CALCUTTA" (Lawrence Welk, 57 years, 339 days old, 1961): The accordionist-bandleader, who became famous for his "champagne music" and a long-running TV musical show (1955-82), was born in Strasburg, N.D., on March 11, 1903. This song, which was written in Germany in 1958, featured Frank Scott on harpsichord and spent 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Welk died of pneumonia at the age of 89 on June 17, 1992.
- 3. " THEME FROM MOONGLOW / PICNIC" (Morris Stoloff, 57 years, 305 days old, 1956): This composer-conductor-violinist was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 1, 1898. At age 17, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist, and in 1936, he became musical director for Columbia Pictures, where he won three Academy Awards. This top-rated single paired the swing era tune "Moonglow" with the love theme from the major film "Picnic", which starred William Holden and Kim Novak. Stoloff died on April 16, 1980.
- 4. "BELIEVE" (Cher, 52 years, 297 days old, 1999): The longtime singer-entertainer was born Cherilyn LaPierre in El Centro, Calif., on May 20, 1946. She was a backup singer on Phil Spector-produced hit records such as "Be My Baby" (Ronettes, No. 2, 1963) and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" (Righteous Brothers, No. 1, 1964), and as Bonnie Jo Mason and Cherilyn as a solo artist before becoming famous as half of the husband-wife folk-rock duo Sonny And Cher in 1964. This record was No. 1 in 25 countries, selling more than 11 million copies worldwide.
- 5. "SOMETHIN' STUPID" (Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Frank's age 51 years, 124 years old, 1967): One of the most popular singers of the 20th Century, Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, N.J., on Dec. 12, 1915. He was a boy singer with the Big Bands of Harry James and Tommy Dorsey in the early '40s before launching a solo career in 1942 that netted 40 Top 10 hits in the first dozen years. Even though this was a duo with daughter Nancy, it is considered as his final No. 1 song, a recording that topped the Billboard pop charts for four weeks and the adult contemporary chart for nine weeks. He died at the age of 82 on May 14, 1998.
- 6. "CANDLE IN THE WIND" (Elton John, 50 years, 194 days old, 1997): The legendary British singer was born Reginald Dwight on March 25, 1947. The song -- co-written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin in 1973 in memory of Marilyn Monroe, who had died 11 years previously -- had charted at No. 6 for John in 1987, but a re-written version In 1997, as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, went to No. 1 in many countries. Having sold more than 3 million copies in a single week, it is reportedly the highest-selling single of all time, with more than 30 million worldwide sales.
- 7. "RINGO" (Lorne Greene, 49 years, 295 days old, 1964): This Canadian actor-musician was born in Ottawa on Feb. 12, 1915, and in the early '40s, he was chief newscaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He is probably best known for his role as Ben Cartwright on the long-running TV series "Bonanza." This spoken-word ballad topped the Billboard adult contemporary chart for six weeks, and the singer died of cardiac arrest on Sept. 11, 1987, at the age of 72.
- 8. "THE TIME OF MY LIFE" (Bill Medley, 47 years, 70 days old, 1987): Edging Dean Martin by one day for the No. 8 position on this list, the baritone half of The Righteous Brothers was born on Sept. 19, 1940 in Los Angeles. The song was the love theme from the film "Dirty Dancing" starring Patrick Swayze, and it was No. 1 on the adult contemporary list for four weeks.
- 9. "EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY" (Dean Martin, 47 years, 69 days old, 1964): Born Dino Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio on June 7, 1917, he just missed the No. 8 position on this list by one day. In addition to a longtime singing career, he is also well-known for being part of a comedy team with Jerry Lewis in the late '40s, and for his own TV variety show, which lasted for 10 years, starting in 1965. This song, first recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1957, spent eight weeks atop the Billboard adult contemporary charts. The entertainer died at the age of 78 on Christmas Day 1995.
- 10. "CANDY MAN" (Sammy Davis Jr., 46 years, 185 days old, 1972): One of the first black entertainers to gain widespread acclaim from white audiences, he was born in Harlem on Dec. 8, 1925. in addition to singing and dancing, the ultra-talented performer was also an actor on Broadway, movies and television. He died of throat cancer at the age of 64 on May 15, 1990.
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