Best Songs From 1951

1951 witnessed the ratification of the 22nd Amendment, the birth of the coast-to-coast telephone service, and the Treaty of San Francisco.

In the music industry, popular music started replacing swing and big band songs in the charts.

Below you will find some of the best songs from 1951; enjoy!

Too Young by Nat King Cole

Song Year: 1951

If you want to talk talented musicians from this year, Nat King Cole should be at the top of your list.

“Too Young” was penned by writers Sidney Lippman and Sylvia Dee. Nat King Cole’s rendition reached the number 1 spot on the charts. It became the best-selling song of the year.

Cole recorded the song in February 1951. Capitol Records released it in March, and by June it reached the top spot on the Billboard chart. It remained there for five whole weeks.

Nat King Cole confessed that “Too Young” is a favorite song in his impressive discography.

Because of You by Tony Bennett

Song Year: 1951

Here’s another example of good music from 1951. Arthur Hammerstein and Dudley Wilkinson first penned the song in 1940.

In April 1951, a young Tony Bennett recorded it for Columbia Records, accompanying an orchestra conducted by Percy Faith. “Because of You” would become Bennett’s first hit song.

A rendition of the song by a young Donny Osmand became an international hit two decades later in 1972.

Bennett performed “Because of You” at his final concert, 70 years after its initial release, due to its significance in shaping his legendary career.

How High the Moon by Les Paul and Mary Bennet

Song Year: 1951

The earliest known version of “How High the Moon” comes from Benny Goodman & His Orchestra in 1940.

In 1951 Les Paul and Mary Ford recorded their version. It was released in March 1951 and spent 25 weeks on the Billboard charts. For 9 of those weeks, the song was #1.

It reached the #2 spot on the Most-Played Juke Box Rhythm & Blues chart. In 1979 “How High the Moon” earned a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The song features in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the Museum of Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It’s a great example of good music from 1951.

Come-on A My House by Rosemary Clooney

Song Year: 1951

“Come On-a My House” is the brainchild of Pulitzer Prize winner Willian Saroyan and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian. They wrote it during a road trip across New Mexico in 1939.

The song refers to an old Armenian tradition where friends and relatives get invited to share a nice spread of seeds, fruits, nuts, and other food.

Rosemary Clooney performed the song in 1951, and it became a major hit for her. The song went on to top the Billboard charts for six weeks.

Clooney sang “Come On-a My House” in 1953 for the film The Stars Are Singing. Unfortunately, Rosemary Clooney never liked performing the song, but she had to do it to keep from being fired.

Be My Love by Mario Lanza

Song Year: 1951

Sammy Cahn and Nicholas Brodszky wrote “Be My Love” in 1950.

That same year Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson performed the song in the film “The Toast of New Orleans”. It was nominated for an Oscar but lost to the song “Mona Lisa”.

The 1950 recording went on to sell more than a million copies, a first for Lanza.

It sold more than two million copies in total. “Be My Love” was featured on the Billboard charts for an impressive 34-week run, peaking at number 1. It is the epitome of good music from 1951.

Tennessee Waltz by Patti Page

Song Year: 1951

This popular tune is one of the best 50s country songs. It was penned in 1946 by Redd Stewart with music composed by Pee Wee King. Patti Page’s 1951 rendition of the song went on to sell millions of copies.

“Tennesse Waltz” tells a story about a woman introducing her love interest to a friend. The friend proceeds to waltz away with the woman’s sweetheart.

The song was so widely loved that in 1965 it was named the fourth official song of Tennessee.

Jezebel by Frankie Laine

Song Year: 1951

American songwriter Wayne Shanklin originally wrote the song and it was recorded by Frankie Laine in April of 1951. It was released by Columbia Records and reached number 2 on the Billboard charts.

The B-side of the single also became a hit record. “Rose, Rose I Love You” peaked at number 3 on the charts.

The song refers to the biblical tale of Queen Jezebel, an Old Testament villainess.

My Heart Cries For You by Guy Mitchell and Mitch Miller

Song Year: 1951

Percy Faith and Carl Sigman adapted an 18th-century French melody to create “My Heart Cries For You.” The original melody is attributed to none other than the infamous French Queen Marie Antoinette.

Guy Mitchell and the Mitch Miller Orchestra recorded the ballad in 1950 for Columbia Records. It went on to sell more than a million copies. In 1951 it peaked at the number 2 spot on the Billboard chart.

Sweet Violets by Dinah Shore

Song Year: 1951

“Sweet Violets” is a popular song based on a song of the same name that features in Joseph Emmet’s 1882 play Fritz Among the Gypsies.

Dinah Shore and Henri René’s Orchestra & Chorus recorded the song for RCA Victor Records in May of 1951.

The arrangement by Cy Coben and Charles Green helped Dinah’s version peak at number 3 on the Billboard chart.

(It’s No) Sin by Eddy Howard

Song Year: 1951

Chester R. Shull wrote the lyrics and George Hoven wrote the music for this popular 1951 hit.

Eddy Howard recorded a rendition for Mercury Records that reached number 1 on the Billboard charts. It spent 23 weeks on the chart in total.

Around the same time, The Four Aces recorded a version of the song that went on to peak at number 4 and spent a total of 22 weeks on the Billboard charts.

I Get Ideas by Tony Martin

Song Year: 1951

This popular song has been recorded by several musicians, but the most famous rendition comes from the world-renowned singer Tony Martin.

Martin recorded “I Get Ideas” in April of 1951 for RCA Victor Records. The song debuted on the Billboard charts in May and spent 30 weeks there. It went on to peak at number 3.

Other notable renditions of the song come from Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, and Desi Arnaz. Arnaz sang the song during an episode of I Love Lucy in 1955.

Cold, Cold Heart by Tony Bennett

Song Year: 1951

This country-pop song was originally recorded by Hank Williams. Tony Bennett recorded a pop version of the song for Columbia Records in 1951 with a Percy Faith orchestral arrangement.

It landed on the Billboard charts by the summer and spent 27 weeks there, peaking at the number 1 spot.

As recently as 2012, Tony Bennett recorded a new rendition of “Cold, Cold Heart” alongside Vicentico, an Argentinian singer.

On Top of Old Smoky by The Weavers

Song Year: 1951

“On Top of Old Smoky” is a classic American folksong. An early version of the song was recorded by English folklorist Cecil Sharp.

The Weavers recorded a pop version of “On Top of Old Smoky” in February of 1951 that went on to sell more than a million copies. The Weavers were a popular folk-singing group in the 50s and their rendition peaked at number 2 on the Billboard charts.

Moanin’ at Midnight by The Howlin’ Wolf

Song Year: 1951

This Howlin’ Wolf song is considered a blues classic. Recorded in July of 1951 for Chess Records, “Moanin’ at Midnight” was Howlin’ Wolf’s debut single.

It spent time on the Billboard R&B chart and the single’s B-side spawned another hit “How Many More Years.” Ike Turner and Willie Johnson play backing piano and guitar on the track.

The Loveliest Night of the Year by Mario Lanza

The Loveliest Night of the Year by Mario Lanza

Song Year: 1951

Lanza’s second song on the list was first published by Juventino Rosas in 1888 as “Sobre las Olas” (“Over the Waves”). It was a waltz that Irving Aaronson adapted for the film The Great Caruso in 1950.

Lanza recorded his version of the song in 1951 and that rendition peaked at number 3 on the American Billboard charts.

The instrumental versions of “The Loveliest Night of the Year” are associated with animated cartoons, trapeze acts, and magicians on stage.

3 O’Clock Blues by B.B King

Song Year: 1951

“3 O’Clock Blues” was originally recorded by Lowell Fulson in 1946. B.B. King recorded his version in 1951 and it became his first popular hit song. The song helped to heighten King’s profile and launch his career.

King recorded “3 O’Clock Blues in September of 1951 in Memphis. RPM Records released the song n December and it went on to spend 17 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at number 1.

King included a version of the song on his debut album Singin’ the Blues in 1956.

Aba Daba Honeymoon by Debbie Reynolds & Carleton Carpenter

Song Year: 1951

This popular song was originally written in 1914 by Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan. Comic duo Collins & Harlan recorded the first rendition that same year.

A version of the old song featured in the 1950 film Two Weeks with Love, performed by Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter.

They recorded the single in 1950 and it peaked at number 3 on the Billboard charts in 1951.

I’m In the Mood by John Lee Hooker

Song Year: 1951

John Lee Hooker recorded the blues hit “I’m In the Mood” in 1951. It is said to be one of the highest-selling blues records ever released.

Hooker recorded the song in August 1051 in a Detroit studio. He claimed the song was inspired by “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller.

Since Hooker’s recording, the song has been covered by Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, John Hammond Jr., and Jack Bruce.

Train Kept A-Rollin by Tiny Bradshaw

Song Year: 1951

American Jazz musician Tiny Bradshaw released this jump blues hit in 1051. The mid-tempo tune has a boogie-woogie bass line and scat singing. There’s even a saxophone solo by Red Prysock.

Bradshaw based the lyrics on a 1942 song called “Cow-Cow Boogie about a singing cowboy. It is Bradshaw’s best-known hit single.

I Apologize by Billy Eckstine

Song Year: 1951

Ed Nelson, Al Hoffman, and Al Goodhart wrote and published “I Apologize” in 1931.

It has been recorded by several well-known artists, but the most popular version comes from Bill Eckstine. He recorded the tune for MGM Records in 1951 and it spent 19 weeks on the Billboard bestseller charts, peaking at the 8th spot.

Tony Martin and Champ Butler recorded versions of the song that same year and Dinah Washington recorded another version in 1952.

Cry by Johnnie Ray

Song Year: 1951

Churchill Kohlman wrote “Cry” in 1951 and Johnnie Ray recorded it for Columbia Records that same year.

Ray’s rendition reached the top spot on the Billboard charts as did his flip-side single

“The Little White Cloud That Cried.”

Ronnie Dove and Lynn Anderson went on to have hit versions of the song following Ray’s success.

You’re Just In Love by Perry Como & The Fontane Sisters

Song Year: 1951

Irving Berlin first published “You’re Just In Love” in 1950. Ethel Merman and Russell Nype performed the song in a musical comedy Call Me Madam that October.

Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters recorded their version of the song in September of 1950 for RCA Victor. It debuted on the charts in December and remained there for 17 weeks. It peaked at number 5.

Don’t You Lie To Me by Fats Domino

Song Year: 1951

Tampa Red first recorded “Don’t You Lie To Me” in 1940. The song is also referred to as “I Get Evil”. It became a staple song for many blues artists and over time it turned into a blues standard.

Fats Domino recorded his rendition for Imperial Records in 1951. He used Tampa Red lyrics with a full backing band and an accompanying piano.

Another notable legend Chuck Berry went on to record a hit version a decade later in 1961.

The Thing by Phil Harris

Song Year: 1951

Charles Randolph Grean originally wrote this novelty song in 1950. It might come from an English folk song called “The Chandler’s Wife.”

Phill Harris recorded his version of the song for RCA Victor in October of 1950. By November it was on the Billboard charts where it stayed for 14 weeks. It peaked at the number 1 spot. 

Other notable versions were recorded by Danny Kaye, Arthur Godfrey, The Ames Brothers, Ray Charles, and Adam West.

If (They Made me King) by Perry Como

Song Year: 1951

Stanley Damerell, Tolchard Evans, and Robert Hargreaves wrote “If (They Made Me a King)” in 1934.

Perry Como recorded his version of the song in November of 1950 and it would go on to be the most popular rendition, sitting atop the Billboard charts at number 1 for 8 weeks until early 1951.

Other notable artists covered the song around the same time, inducing Dean Martin, Billy Eckstine, and Jo Stafford.

A Kiss To Build a Dream On by Louis Armstrong

Song Year: 1951

Oscar Hammerstein, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby composed the song in 1935. “A Kiss To Build a Dream On” remained unrecorded until Hammerstein adapted the lyrics and Louis Armstrong performed it in 1951.

The song was performed by William Demarest, Mickey Rooney, Kay Brown, Sally Forrest, and Armstrong for the 1951 film The Strip.

“A Kiss To Build a Dream On” was nominated for an Oscar that year but lost to “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.”

Hey, Good Lookin by Hank Williams

Song Year: 1951

Hank Williams wrote and recorded “Hey, Good Lookin” in 1951.

50 years later the legendary song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. CMT named the song number 19 on their 100 Greatest Country Songs list.

Williams first recorded the song in the spring of 1951 at Castle Studio, along with the B-side recording “My Heart Would Know.”

The song has since been covered by several artists, in country music and beyond.

Top Songs From 1951, Final Thoughts

There were lots of big changes happening politically, socially, and globally in 1951. Music was starting to change too and these songs represented the start of a new decade, a new era.

While there are many more popular songs that dominated the airwaves in 1951, these are the cream of the crop.

So listen to the top songs from 1951 and see what the memorable songs of the era sounded like.

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