Every Black #1 of the 60s, 70s, and 80s

To celebrate Black History Month on my blog, I’m going to be looking at music charts and doing one of my favourite things, an analysis! This time of how many songs on the charts were by Black musicians and make infographics and writing my observations down and providing a list of songs, which will be compiled into a playlist at the end.

Obviously, ethnicity isn’t just black and white and focusing only on one group obviously doesn’t tell the whole story and it’s certainly not the extent of diversity (if you read my blog, I talk about musicians from all ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, sexual orientations, and with disabilities too), but I thought this would be interesting to do and look at the trends in music while we’re at it and see the differences between the American and British charts. I’m a big numbers/statistics geek and I love looking at infographics. If that sounds like something interesting, keep on reading!

Why?

Why am I only looking at #1s? Two reasons. First one is going to sound silly and we’ll get that out of the way. I’m not paid enough to look at the complete charts for every week for two countries (Donations are very much appreciated though, thank you!). And there isn’t enough time because I want to talk about other things. There’s 52 weeks in a year and multiply that by 30 and that’s 1,560 weeks I need to look at. If it’s a top 40, that’s over 2,000 songs a year I need to look at. If it’s a top 100, over 5,000! That’s tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of songs I need to look at if I were being complete.

The other reason is more of a practical one, time is a filter. The best and most memorable songs will be remembered, while the more trendy/novelty stuff that didn’t age well goes forgotten. The real test to see if a song is timeless is do Millennials and Zoomers know it? Heck, there’s a lot of stuff from my own late 90s/early 2000s childhood that I forgot about. Plenty of washed up/has been musicians from that time period. Those ones that you might think about one day and go, “Whatever happened to them?”

When I was a DJ in university, I spent a lot of time looking at 60s and 70s charts and there were a lot of songs that I didn’t know and I wouldn’t even be sure about my parents remembering, especially when you look at the bottom half of the charts. I know that classic rock radio stations only play a tiny amount of the classic rock that’s out there so it’s not a good representation. However, just because a record makes it to #1 doesn’t mean it’s the best or most remembered one. Famously, The Who’s “My Generation” was kept out of the top spot by The Seekers’ “The Carnival Is Over”. The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” was kept out of the top spot by The Singing Nun’s “Dominique”. Which songs do the general public remember more?

Think of looking at chart toppers as a slice of the cake and an idea of what was popular at the time – what everyone was talking about. Obviously it doesn’t cover everything because there are different alternative subcultures and scenes, but it tells us a lot about what average people liked to listen to and what was dominant and who were the very biggest musicians of the decade. If eras were a person, who would that person be? I definitely noticed some interesting patterns. Also cool to see the occasional novelty song or one hit wonder taking the top spot in the chart. For the most part, these #1s are all pretty much remembered today (except for maybe stuff from the early 60s because by now radio stations forgot that was a time that existed), so that’s why I decided to focus on the #1s.

Why the US and the UK? These are the countries where most of my readers are from and most of the acts on the musicĀ  charts are from these countries. These are also the two biggest English speaking music markets, so it makes sense to look at the US and the UK because of their cultural significance in the classic rock era. I’m American and I have a big interest in British music, so makes sense to me on a personal level too. America had two pop charts: Billboard andĀ Cashbox. We’re only looking atĀ Billboard because that’s still around and that’s the better known one.

How?

Wikipedia was my best friend in compiling this list (seriously, all researchers use Wikipedia, they just may not be open about it, but I’m an honest person). I looked through the list of #1s for Billboard and Official Charts on there and made my list. From there, I made a spreadsheet and put all the songs in there year by year. Because music charts don’t honour the calendar, there’s often spillover from the previous year because a lot of music was released in the previous year. From there, I look at how many black performers reached #1 and then for a bit of extra fun I look and see if there are any songs written by black musicians (but not necessarily performed by black musicians) that reached #1. Mixed race groups or duets with black musicians will also count and I’ll note them. If the songwriters are also black, I’ll also list their names. If the song is written by a black songwriter, I’ll note it. They’ll all be listed here, decade by decade for both countries.

I’ll be making some fun infographics about this and they’ll be in their own section. I’ll be looking at who got #1s, how long they were #1 on the charts, and what years had the most black #1s.

The US: The ultimate accomplishment: Having the #1 record in the world’s biggest music market

Not a surprising finding, but the US had more black musicians reaching the top of the charts. Considering more of the most popular black musicians are American (Although not all! There are many popular black musicians from the Caribbean and Europe too), that makes sense. What I’ll do is list the songs and musicians in a bullet point list by decade and then show you some infographics.

1960s:

  1. “The Twist” – Chubby Checker (written by Hank Ballard) – Was a hit in 1960 and 1962
  2. “Save the Last Dance For Me” – The Drifters
  3. “Georgia On My Mind” – Ray Charles
  4. “Stay” – Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs (written by Maurice Williams)
  5. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” – The Shirelles
  6. “Pony Time” – Chubby Checker (written by Don Covay)
  7. “Blue Moon” – The Marcels
  8. “Mother-In-Law” – Ernie K-Doe (written by Allen Toussaint)
  9. “Quarter to Three” – Gary U.S. Bonds (co-written by Gary U.S. Bonds)
  10. “Tossin’ and Turnin'” – Bobby Lewis
  11. “Hit The Road Jack” – Ray Charles (written by Percy Mayfield)
  12. “Please Mr Postman” – The Marvelettes (written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, and Robert Bateman)
  13. “Peppermint Twist” – Joey Dee and the Starlighters (Mixed group, song co-written by Henry Glover)
  14. “Duke of Earl” – Gene Chandler (written by Gene Chandler)
  15. “Soldier Boy” – The Shirelles (written by Luther Dixon)
  16. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” – Ray Charles
  17. “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva
  18. “He’s a Rebel” – The Crystals
  19. “Our Day Will Come” – Ruby & The Romantics
  20. “He’s So Fine” – The Chiffons (written by Ronnie Mack)
  21. “If You Wanna Be Happy” – Jimmy Soul (based on a song by Trinidadian musician Roaring Lion, Rafael de LĆ©on)
  22. “Easier Said Than Done” – The EssexĀ 
  23. “So Much In Love” – The Tymes (written by George Williams and Bill Jackson)
  24. “Fingertips” – Stevie Wonder (written by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby)
  25. “Hello, Dolly!” – Louis Armstrong
  26. “My Guy” – Mary Wells (written by Smokey Robinson)
  27. “Chapel of Love” – The Dixie CupsĀ 
  28. “Where Did Our Love Go?” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  29. “Baby Love” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  30. “Come See About Me” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  31. “My Girl” – The Temptations (written by Smokey Robinson and Ronnie White)
  32. “Stop! In The Name of Love” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  33. “Back In My Arms Again” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  34. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – Four Tops (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  35. “I Hear a Symphony” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  36. “When a Man Loves a Woman” – Percy Sledge (written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright)
  37. “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  38. “Reach Out I’ll Be There” – Four Tops (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  39. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  40. “Love is Here and Now You’re Gone” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  41. “The Happening” – The Supremes (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  42. “Respect” – Aretha Franklin (written by Otis Redding)
  43. “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’ – Otis Redding (co-written by Otis Redding)
  44. “Tighten Up” – Archie Bell & The Drells (written by Archie Bell and Billy Butler)
  45. “Grazing in the Grass” – Hugh Masekela (written by Hugh Masekela)
  46. “Love Child” – The Supremes (co-written by Frank Wilson)
  47. “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
  48. “Everyday People” – Sly & The Family Stone (written by Sly Stone, Mixed group)
  49. “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” – The 5th Dimension
  50. “Get Back” – The Beatles with Billy Preston (Billy Preston is considered by a lot of people to be The Fifth Beatle)
  51. “I Can’t Get Next To You” – The Temptations (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
  52. “Wedding Bell Blues” – The 5th Dimension
  53. “Someday We’ll Be Together” – The Supremes (written by Johnny Bristol, Jackey Beavers, and Harvey Fuqua)

1970s:

  1. “I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5 (co-written by Berry Gordy and Freddie Perren)
  2. “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” – Sly & The Family Stone (written by Sly Stone, Mixed group)
  3. “ABC” – The Jackson 5 (co-written by Berry Gordy and Freddie Perren)
  4. “The Love You Save” – The Jackson 5 (co-written by Berry Gordy and Freddie Perren)
  5. “War” – Edwin Starr (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
  6. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Diana Ross (written by Ashford & Simpson)
  7. “I’ll Be There” – The Jackson 5 (written by Berry Gordy, Bob West, Willie Hutch, and Hal Davis)
  8. “The Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (written by Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder)
  9. “Knock Three Times” – Dawn (Mixed group)
  10. “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” – The Temptations (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
  11. “Want Ads” – Honey Cone (written by Greg Perry, Barney Perkins, and General Norman Johnson)
  12. “Theme From Shaft” – Isaac Hayes (written by Isaac Hayes)
  13. “Family Affair” – Sly & The Family Stone (written by Sly Stone, Mixed group)
  14. “Let’s Stay Together” – Al Green (written by Al Green, Willie Mitchell, and Al Jackson Jr)
  15. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – Roberta Flack
  16. “Oh Girl” – The Chi-Lites (written by Eugene Record)
  17. “I’ll Take You There” – The Staple Singers (written by Al Bell)
  18. “The Candy Man” – Sammy Davis Jr
  19. “Lean On Me” – Bill Withers (written by Bill Withers)
  20. “Ben” – Michael Jackson
  21. “My Ding-a-Ling” – Chuck Berry (written by Dave Bartholomew)
  22. “I Can See Clearly Now” – Johnny Nash (written by Johnny Nash)
  23. “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” – The Temptations (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
  24. “Me and Mrs Jones” – Billy Paul (written by Gamble & Huff and Cary Gilbert)
  25. “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  26. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” – Roberta FlackĀ 
  27. “Love Train” – The O’Jays (written by Gamble & Huff)
  28. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” – Dawn (Mixed group)
  29. “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  30. “Will It Go Round in Circles” – Billy Preston (written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher)
  31. “Touch Me In The Morning” – Diana Ross
  32. “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin Gaye (written by Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend)
  33. “Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight & The Pips
  34. “Keep On Truckin” – Eddie Kendricks (written by Leonard Caston Jr, Anita Poree, and Frank Wilson)
  35. “Show and Tell” – Al Wilson
  36. “Love’s Theme” – Love Unlimited Orchestra (written by Barry White)
  37. “TSOP” – MFSB (written by Gamble & Huff)
  38. “Rock the Boat” – The Hues Corporation (written by Waldo Holmes)
  39. “Rock Your Baby” – George McCrae
  40. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” – Roberta Flack (written by Gene McDaniels)
  41. “You’re Having My Baby” – Paul Anka and Odia CoatesĀ 
  42. “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” – Barry White (written by Barry White)
  43. “Nothing From Nothing” – Billy Preston (written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher)
  44. “Then Came You” – Dionne Warwick and The SpinnersĀ 
  45. “You Haven’t Done Nothing” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  46. “Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas (written by Carl Douglas)
  47. “Fire” – Ohio Players (written by the Ohio Players)
  48. “Lady Marmalade” – Labelle
  49. “Lovin’ You” – Minnie Riperton (co-written by Minnie Riperton)
  50. “He Don’t Love You Like I Love You” – Dawn (Written by Jerry Butler, Calvin Carter, and Curtis Mayfield; Mixed group)
  51. “Shining Star” – Earth, Wind, & Fire (Written by Maurice White, Larry Dunn, and Philip Bailey)
  52. “The Hustle – Van McCoy (written by Van McCoy)
  53. “Get Down Tonight” – KC & The Sunshine Band (Mixed group)
  54. “That’s The Way (I Like It)” – KC & The Sunshine Band (Mixed group)
  55. “Let’s Do It Again” – The Staple Singers (written by Curtis Mayfield)
  56. “Theme From Mahogany” – Diana Ross
  57. “Love Rollercoaster” – Ohio Players (written by Ohio Players)
  58. “Theme From SWAT” – Rhythm Heritage (Mixed group)
  59. “Love Machine” – The Miracles (written by William Griffin and Warren Moore)
  60. “Disco Lady’ – Johnnie Taylor (written by Harvey Scales, Albert Vance, and Don Davis”
  61. “Boogie Fever” – The Sylvers (written by Freddie Perren and Kenneth St Lewis)
  62. “Love Hangover” – Diana Ross (co-written by Marilyn McLeod)
  63. “Kiss and Say Goodbye” – The Manhattans (written by Winifred Lovett)
  64. “Shake Your Booty” – KC & The Sunshine Band (Mixed group)
  65. “You Don’t Have to be a Star” – Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr (written by James Dean and John Glover)
  66. “I Wish” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  67. “Car Wash” – Rose Royce (written by Norman Whitfield)
  68. “Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston (written by Gamble & Huff and Cary Gilbert)
  69. “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  70. “I’m Your Boogie Man” – KC & The Sunshine Band (Mixed group)
  71. “Got to Give It Up” – Marvin Gaye (written by Marvin Gaye)
  72. “Best of My Love” – The Emotions (written by Maurice White and Al McKay)
  73. “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” – Johnny Mathis and Deniece WilliamsĀ 
  74. “Three Times a Lady” – The Commodores (written by Lionel Richie)
  75. “Boogie Oogie Oogie” – A Taste of Honey (written by Janice-Marie Johnson and Perry Kibble)
  76. “MacArthur Park” – Donna Summer
  77. “Le Freak” – Chic (written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers)
  78. “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor (co-written by Freddie Perren)
  79. “Knock on Wood” – Amii Stewart (co-written by Eddie Floyd)
  80. “Reunited” – Peaches & Herb (co-written by Freddie Perren)
  81. “Hot Stuff” – Donna SummerĀ 
  82. “Ring My Bell” – Anita Ward (written by Frederick Knight)
  83. “Bad Girls” – Donna Summer (co-written by Donna Summer)
  84. “Good Times” – Chic (written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers)
  85. “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  86. “Still” – The Commodores (written by Lionel Richie)
  87. “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” – Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer

1980s:

  1. “Please Don’t Go” – KC & The Sunshine Band (Mixed group)
  2. “Rock With You” – Michael JacksonĀ 
  3. “Funkytown” – Lipps Inc (Mixed group)
  4. “Upside Down” – Diana Ross (written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers)
  5. “Celebration” – Kool & The Gang (written by Kool & The Gang)
  6. “Endless Love” – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (written by Lionel Richie)
  7. “Ebony and Ivory” – Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder
  8. “Truly” – Lionel Richie (written by Lionel Richie)
  9. “Baby Come To Me” – Patti Austin & James Ingram
  10. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  11. “Beat It” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  12. “Flashdance… What a Feeling” – Irene Cara (co-written by Irene Cara)
  13. “All Night Long (All Night)” – Lionel Richie (written by Lionel Richie)
  14. “Say Say Say” – Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (co-written by Michael Jackson)
  15. “Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club (Mixed group, co-written by Mikey Craig)
  16. “Hello” – Lionel Richie (written by Lionel Richie)
  17. “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” – Deniece WilliamsĀ 
  18. “When Doves Cry” – Prince (written by Prince)
  19. “Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr (written by Ray Parker Jr)
  20. “What’s Love Got to Do With It” – Tina Turner
  21. “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince (written by Prince)
  22. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  23. “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)” – Billy Ocean (written by Billy Ocean and Keith Diamond)
  24. “We Are The World” – USA For Africa (Mixed group, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie)
  25. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds (Mixed group)
  26. “Oh Sheila” – Ready for the World (written by Melvin Riley Jr, Gordon Strozier, and Gerald Valentine)
  27. “Saving All My Love For You” – Whitney HoustonĀ 
  28. “Part-Time Lover” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  29. “Say You, Say Me” – Lionel Richie (written by Lionel Richie)
  30. “That’s What Friends Are For” – Dionne and FriendsĀ 
  31. “How Will I Know” – Whitney Houston (co-written by Narada Michael Walden)
  32. “Kiss” – Prince (written by Prince)
  33. “Greatest Love of All” – Whitney Houston
  34. “On My Own” – Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
  35. “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” – Billy Ocean (written by Billy Ocean, Wayne Brathwaite, and Barry Eastmond)
  36. “When I Think of You” – Janet Jackson (written by James Harris III, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson)
  37. “Lean On Me” – Club Nouveau (written by Bill Withers)
  38. “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” – Aretha Franklin and George Michael
  39. “Always” – Atlantic Starr (written by Wayne Lewis and Vanessa Stone)
  40. “Head to Toe” – Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (written by Curt Bedeau, Gerry Charles, Hugh L Clarke, Brian George, Lucien George, and Paul George)
  41. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – Whitney Houston
  42. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett (written by Michael Jackson)
  43. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” – Whitney Houston
  44. “Lost in Emotion” – Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (written by Curt Bedeau, Gerry Charles, Hugh L Clarke, Brian George, Lucien George, and Paul George)
  45. “Bad” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  46. “So Emotional” – Whitney HoustonĀ 
  47. “The Way You Make Me Feel” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  48. “Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson (co-written by Siedah Garrett)
  49. “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” – Billy Ocean (co-written by Billy Ocean)
  50. “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” – Whitney Houston (co-written by Chuck Jackson)
  51. “Wishing Well” – Terence Trent D’Arby (co-written by Terence Trent D’Arby)
  52. “Dirty Diana” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  53. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns ‘N’ Roses (Mixed group, co-written by Slash)
  54. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” – Bobby McFerrin (written by Bobby McFerrin)
  55. “Red Red Wine” – UB40 (Mixed group)
  56. “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley” – Will to Power (Mixed group)
  57. “My Prerogative” – Bobby Brown (written by Bobby Brown)
  58. “She Drives Me Crazy” – Fine Young Cannibals (Mixed group, co-written by Roland Gift)
  59. “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” – Milli Vanilli* (co-written by Brad Howell)
  60. “Good Thing” – Fine Young Cannibals (co-written by Roland Gift)
  61. “Batdance” – Prince (written by Prince)
  62. “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” –Ā Milli Vanilli*
  63. “Miss You Much” – Janet Jackson (written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, and Terry Lewis)
  64. “Blame It On The Rain” –Ā Milli Vanilli*

*Milli Vanilli are a complicated case because the faces of the singing duo aren’t the voices, but it turns out that the vocalists who provided the voices were black.

Grand total black #1s in the US from 1960-1989: 204

The UK: Yes it’s number one, it’s Top of the Pops!

1960s:

  1. “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes At Me For?” – Emile Ford and the Checkmates
  2. “Good Timin'” – Jimmy Jones
  3. “Blue Moon” – The Marcels
  4. “Reach For The Stars/Climb Ev’ry Mountain” – Shirley Bassey
  5. “Moon River” – Danny Williams
  6. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” – Ray Charles
  7. “Reach Out I’ll Be There” – Four Tops (written by Holland-Dozier-Holland)
  8. “Baby Now That I’ve Found You” – The Foundations (Mixed group)
  9. “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
  10. “Baby Come Back” – The Equals (Mixed group, written by Eddy Grant)
  11. “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
  12. “Israelites” – Desmond Dekker & The Aces (co-written by Desmond Dekker)
  13. “Get Back” – The Beatles with Billy Preston (Billy Preston is considered in by a lot of people to be The Fifth Beatle)

1970s:

  1. “The Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (written by Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder)
  2. “Band of Gold” – Freda Payne (written by Edythe Wayne and Ron Dunbar)
  3. “Voodoo Child” – Jimi Hendrix Experience (Mixed group, written by Jimi Hendrix)
  4. “Double Barrel” – Dave & Ansel Collins (written by Winston Riley)
  5. “Knock Three Times” – Dawn (Mixed group)
  6. “I’m Still Waiting” – Diana RossĀ 
  7. “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” – The Tams
  8. “My Ding-a-Ling” – Chuck Berry (written by Dave Bartholomew)
  9. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” – Dawn (Mixed group)
  10. “Rock Your Baby” – George McCrae
  11. “When Will I See You Again – The Three Degrees
  12. “Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas (written by Carl Douglas)
  13. “Sad Sweet Dreamer” – Sweet Sensation
  14. “Everything I Own” – Ken Boothe
  15. “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” – Barry White (co-written by Barry White)
  16. “Ms Grace” – The Tymes
  17. “Tears On My Pillow” – Johnny Nash (written by Ernie Smith)
  18. “Can’t Give You Anything But My Love” – The Stylistics
  19. “You To Me Are Everything” – The Real Thing
  20. “Under the Moon of Love” – Showaddywaddy (Mixed group)
  21. “When a Child is Born” – Johnny Mathis
  22. “Free” – Deniece Williams (written by Deniece Williams, Hank Redd, Nathan Watts, Susaye Greene)
  23. “Show You The Way to Go” – The Jacksons (written by Gamble & Huff)
  24. “So You Win Again” – Hot Chocolate
  25. “I Feel Love” – Donna Summer (co-written by Donna Summer)
  26. “Float On” – The Floaters (written by Marvin Willis and James Mitchell)
  27. “Uptown Top Ranking” – Althea & Donna (written by Althea & Donna and Errol Thompson)
  28. “Rivers of Babylon” – Boney M (written by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton)
  29. “Three Times a Lady” – The Commodores (written by Lionel Richie)
  30. “Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord” – Boney M (co-written by Jester Hairston)
  31. “YMCA” – The Village People (Mixed group, co-written by Victor Willis)
  32. “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor (co-written by Freddie Perren)
  33. “Ring My Bell” – Anita Ward (written by Frederick Knight)

1980s:

  1. “Too Much Too Young EP” – The Specials (Mixed group, multiple tracks written by black songwriters)
  2. “Working My Way Back to You” – The Detroit SpinnersĀ 
  3. “Use It Up and Wear It Out” – Odyssey
  4. “There’s No one Quite Like Grandma – St Winifred’s School Choir (Mixed group)
  5. “Being With You” – Smokey Robinson (written by Smokey Robinson)
  6. “One Day In Your Life” – Michael Jackson (written by Sam Brown III and RenĆ©e Armand)
  7. “Ghost Town” – The Specials (Mixed group)
  8. “Ebony and Ivory” – Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder
  9. “Fame” – Irene Cara
  10. “Pass the Dutchie” – Musical Youth (written by Jacki Mittoo, Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson, and Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson)
  11. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” – Culture Club (Mixed group, co-written by Mikey Craig)
  12. “I Don’t Wanna Dance” – Eddy GrantĀ (written by Eddy Grant)
  13. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson (written by Michael Jackson)
  14. “Candy Girl” – New Edition (written by Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun)
  15. “Give It Up” – KC & The Sunshine Band (Mixed group)
  16. “Red Red Wine” – UB40 (Mixed group)
  17. “Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club (Mixed group, co-written by Mikey Craig)
  18. “Hello” – Lionel Richie (written by Lionel Richie)
  19. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” – Stevie Wonder (written by Stevie Wonder)
  20. “I Feel For You” – Chaka Khan (written by Prince)
  21. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Band Aid (Mixed group)
  22. “Easy Lover” – Philip Bailey & Phil Collins (co-written by Philip Bailey and Nathan East)
  23. “We Are The World” – USA For Africa (Mixed group, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie)
  24. “Move Closer” – Phyllis Nelson (written by Phyllis Nelson)
  25. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – The Crowd (Mixed group)
  26. “Frankie” – Sister Sledge
  27. “I Got You Babe” – UB40 & Chrissie Hynde (Mixed group)
  28. “Saving All My Love For You” – Whitney Houston
  29. “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” – Billy Ocean (co-written by Billy Ocean)
  30. “Chain Reaction” – Diana Ross
  31. “I Want to Wake Up With You” – Boris Gardiner
  32. “Reet Petite” – Jackie Wilson (written by Berry Gordy, Billy Davis, and Gwen Gordy Fuqua)
  33. “Jack Your Body” – Steve Hurley (written by Steve Hurley)
  34. “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” – Aretha Franklin and George Michael
  35. “Stand By Me” – Ben E. King (co-written by Ben E. King)
  36. “Respectable” – Mel and Kim
  37. “Let It Be” – Ferry Aid (Mixed group)
  38. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – Whitney Houston
  39. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett (written by Michael Jackson)
  40. “Pump Up The Volume” – MARRS (Mixed group)
  41. “Don’t Turn Around” – Aswad
  42. “Theme From S-Express” – S’Express (Mixed group)
  43. “The Only Way Is Up” – Yazz and the Plastic Population (written by George Jackson and Johnny Henderson)
  44. “One Moment in Time” – Whitney Houston
  45. “Belfast Child” – Simple Minds (Mixed group)
  46. “Ferry Cross The Mersey” – The Christians, Holly Johnson, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden, and Stock Aitken Waterman (Mixed group)
  47. “Back to Life” – Soul II Soul (written by Soul II Soul)
  48. “Ride on Time” – Black BoxĀ (Mixed group)

Grand total black #1s in the UK from 1960-1989: 94

Bonus: #1 songs written/performed by black musicians and performed by non-black musicians

  • “Michael” is an African-American spiritual, was covered by The Highwaymen in the early 60s
  • “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was written by South African Solomon Linda
  • “Brother Louie” was originally by Hot Chocolate and covered by Stories in the early 70s
  • Eric Clapton covered Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff”
  • The Carpenters covered “Please Mr Postman”
  • Blondie covered The Paragons’ “The Tide is High”
  • In the late 80s, Kim Wilde covered “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
  • Phil Collins wrote “Two Hearts” with Lamont Dozier
  • “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” was first performed by The Exciters and later covered by Manfred Mann
  • The Spencer Davis Group’s “Keep On Running” was written by Jackie Edwards
  • Soft Cell famously covered Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love”
  • In 1986, The Communards covered “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, originally by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes

Infographics:

The biggest years for black #1s in the US were the 70s and early 80s, while in the UK it was the late 80s and to a lesser extent the mid 70s.

Highest percentages in the US were in the late 60s and early 70s, plus 1979, 1983, and 1984. In the UK, it was the early 70s, late 70s, and mid-80s.

A lot of correlation with the previous charts and no real surprises with this one.

Differences? Observations?

Now that I’ve listed the number ones, let’s talk about some things I noticed while collecting the data and analysing it. For me, it’s not enough to just show you the numbers and a list of songs. I want to educate and talk about the charts as a whole in the classic rock era.

Surprising and interesting findings

There were definitely some names that I was shocked that weren’t on the list like James Brown, Sam Cooke (although he did get a #1 in the 50s), Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Sam & Dave, The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Bob Marley, Tavares, and Parliament-Funkadelic. I was also surprised that Booker T. & The MGs didn’t have a #1 with “Green Onions” (it did reach #3 on the Billboard charts though) – that one to me is a classic. Could be my biases speaking as I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and disco thanks to my dad. Another weird thing I found is that Jimi Hendrix never reached #1 in the US, his birth country.

Of course, this list isn’t an all inclusive list of the most influential musicians of the classic rock era. These are just some of the musicians with the biggest successes. It is a known fact that throughout modern popular music history, the charts have been segregated in the US. In addition to a mainstream pop chart, Billboard also has an R&B chart and that’s where a lot of the black musicians’ music would chart. It would have to take crossover popularity with white audiences to make it on the pop chart.

As I expected, the UK’s list has a lot more musicians of Caribbean descent. I was expecting more Motown #1s in the 60s in the UK because I always thought of the UK as a big market for 60s soul and R&B (and in the 70s there was the Northern Soul subculture), but I guess it had the British Invasion to compete with and that was tough competition. I was somewhat surprised that for a few years in the UK in the 60s, there were no black musicians who reached the top spot in the charts. But I’m guessing with the beat music explosion in the mid 60s, the British had home turf advantage and some British Invasion bands got number 1 in their home country, but not in the US. Home turf advantage is real! Likewise, I saw more American acts on the American charts in the late 60s than on the British charts in the late 60s.

There were more multiracial groups than I expected and I didn’t know some of these bands had black and white band members.

Trends: Who was on the list, genres, and eras

Holland-Dozier-Holland were really a powerhouse and wrote so many hits. Celebrate them like we celebrate Bob Dylan, Lennon & McCartney, and Brian Wilson. It’s a real talent to write so many #1 hits. Whitfield-Strong got a lot of hits too. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Lionel Richie wrote pretty much all their own hits too.

Looking at America in the early 60s (1960-1963), you saw more early rock and roll and some R&B acts on the charts: both male and female groups, but more male groups overall. Musicians who got #1s in the early 60s didn’t reach the top of the charts later since the 60s was a decade of change. By 1964, you saw a takeover from the British Invasion, but Motown was a powerhouse during this time and you saw The Supremes show up over and over again as well as other acts like the Temptations and Four Tops. Generally speaking, don’t be an American rock band in the early 60s hoping to make it. There’s a little thing called The British Invasion coming and it’s incredible how British Invasion acts took over the charts in 1964 and 1965. I was expecting the British Invasion to be dominant for longer, but I guess that’s my bias speaking and I prefer the British side of music in the 60s to the American side of music in the 60s. It wasn’t until 1966 that we finally see a lot more American rock bands making it big, but this time the American acts were new names. The music scene had already moved on and trends changed. However, R&B acts were really popular in the 60s and they were some of the most successful American acts of the decade.

By 1966 and 1967, American rock music was finding its way back to the top of the charts and it clearly was inspired by the British Invasion. In the late 60s, you saw some psychedelic soul with Sly & The Family Stone and the 5th Dimension, this music had an optimistic, cheerful sound.

1970 was the year of the Jackson 5. Solo musicians like Edwin Starr and Diana Ross had success too. In the early 70s, psychedelic soul turned into straight soul and some funk with musicians like Al Green, The Chi-Lites, The Staple Singers, The O’Jays, Billy Preston, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and more topping the charts. 1974 was the year that disco really started to appear on the charts and it was initially black musicians performing disco, like MFSB, The Hues Corporation, George McCrae, The Ohio Players, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Van McCoy. Like with any kind of music pioneered by black musicians, white musicians later tried their hand at it and you saw multiracial group KC & The Sunshine Band on the charts and later ABBA and The Bee Gees making their own disco music, but there were black musicians still topping the charts with disco like Thelma Houston, The Emotions, Marvin Gaye, Donna Summer, and Chic. If the late 70s belonged to any musician, I’d have to say it’s the Bee Gees, or rather the Gibb family as a whole. Movies like Grease andĀ Saturday Night Fever really influenced the music tastes and charts, at least in the US.

Once we reach 1982, disco is dead for sure and rock and roll has taken over again (although in 1980 and 1981 you did see rock and roll chart toppers), but not for long as things get poppier and synth-driven as time passes. 1983 and 1984 were the years that belonged to Michael Jackson and Prince, who had just released Thriller andĀ Purple Rain, respectively. Both incredibly iconic albums. Then, by 1985 you have Whitney Houston, I have to say the 80s were successful years for her. 1987 rolls around and Michael Jackson is back with Bad.

Britain followed America in a lot of musical trends, but I noticed some differences. Of course, being the UK, they’re gonna have a lot more British acts that Americans aren’t as familiar with like Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Adam Faith, and Helen Shapiro. There were multiracial music groups before Sly & The Family Stone in the US, but in the UK, there were The Foundations and The Equals, both of whom had hits before Sly & The Family Stone.

Where the two countries really diverge can be seen in the early 70s. In the US, the charts had poppier music and more soul music. Meanwhile in Britain, glam rock took over big time starting in 1971 with artists like T Rex, Slade, Sweet, Wizzard, Suzi Quatro, Mud, and Alvin Stardust. I knew that glam rock was much more of a British thing, but I didn’t think about the fact that it wasn’t that dominant in the US, although I’m sure there were Americans who loved glam rock. It really took over and I couldn’t believe it. Maybe it was even bigger of a takeover than the British Invasion charts wise? Of course other kinds of music existed like prog rock, but that certainly wasn’t chart friendly due to the long song lengths, and you also had hard rock, but whatever tops the charts and wins the awards is gonna be lowest common denominator music, not necessarily the most technically proficient and groundbreaking music, no shade to any poppy music, but simple sells. Complicated sci-fi/fantasy themed epics with multiple movements aren’t conducive to radio airplay. That’s more like a bathroom/smoke break song.

Then, in 1976, glam rock was on the decline for disco and poppy music. In the 80s, things get a bit different in the UK. You see some ska, which was bigger in the UK than in the US. Britain loves a good charity record and they’re really into that and those really took off in the 80s, that was the era of the charity single. Another thing that British people seem to love is throwbacks (the Northern Soul scene confirms this), while Americans seem to be all about what’s new. I wasn’t expecting to see “Reet Petite” or “Stand By Me” topping the charts decades after they were released. Now it wasn’t random. In 1986, a claymation music video for “Reet Petite” was made for some BBC programme. Saddest part is that Jackie Wilson didn’t get to see that song top the charts – but he was alive to have heard “Jackie Wilson Said” – both Van Morrison’s and Dexys’ versions. As for “Stand By Me”, that reached #1 on the UK charts because of the movie of the same name using the song in the soundtrack and a corresponding music video with Ben E. King and actors Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix. These aren’t the only examples of throwbacks. After John Lennon was killed, “Imagine” reached the top of the charts in early 1981. Covers of “Ferry Cross The Mersey” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that reached the top of the charts in the 80s married two of Britain’s loves: charity records and throwbacks.

In conclusion

This was a fun little experiment and I definitely learnt a lot of things, even just looking at the most mainstream songs. I certainly didn’t recognise everything and I’m someone whose special interest is the classic rock era.

I’ll leave you with a playlist of all the songs mentioned above.

Shoutout to my friend Patrick for supporting the blog!

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