Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: As you know, everyone and their brother published a millennium list of the top everything from soup to nuts. Most of the lists are not of interest to me, though two I read did pique my curiosity.

Both were supposedly of the most played, or performed, songs of the 20th Century. Yet, they disagree completely on every song.

I can understand some variance here and there, but how is they could not agree on one single title? Please sort this out for my fledgling flea brain.
—Jolene Henderson, Southern, Conn.

DEAR JOLENE: The answer is really quite simple. You read the lists from each of the two major music performance companies of the past century — ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated).

Since most songwriters published their works in conjunction with one or the other of these competing companies, they could not both have the same songs on their list of top tunes. Yet, between the two, you clearly have the 20 most popular songs of the past 100 years.

Before BMI set up shop, in 1940, ASCAP dominated the field, and you will see that reflected by the vintage songs on their list. Only “Moon River” and “Hello Dolly” are from the 1960s, the rest written between 1924 and 1942.

The second half of the century saw BMI take the lead, especially in the '60s. Amazingly, all of their Top 10 first became popular during that decade.

It is also interesting to see that no one of the combined 20 tunes is from the 1950s.

For those who missed what I feel are two of the truly interesting lists, here they are along with the year of first publication:

The ASCAP Top 10:
1. “Happy Birthday to You” (1935).
2. “Tea for Two” (1924).
3. “Moon River” (1961).
4. “Over the Rainbow” (1939).
5. “White Christmas” (1942).
6. “Hello, Dolly!” (1964).
7. “As Time Goes By” (1931).
8. “Blue Moon” (1934).
9. “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924).
10. “Night and Day” (1932).

The BMI Top 10:
1. “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'” (1965).
2. “Never My Love” (1967).
3. “Yesterday” (1965).
4. “Stand By Me” (1961).
5. “Can't Take My Eyes Off of You” (1967).
6. “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay” (1967).
7. “Mrs. Robinson” (1968).
8. “Baby, I Need Your Loving” (1964).
9. “Rhythm of the Rain” (1963).
10. “Georgia on My Mind” (1960).

For more information on the top songs of the century, visit both companies web sites: and

DEAR JERRY: Someone told me that in 1961 there were four versions of the same song that all made it to the top 30 at approximately the same time. At this time I can't remember what they said the song was. Can remind me?
—Wayne Gregory, York, Pa. (

DEAR WAYNE: The song in question came from the British-made film, “Circus of Horrors.” And hough it lacks any real connection to the film plot, the song is the beautiful “Look for a Star.”

The recording heard in “Circus of Horrors” is by Garry Mills (Imperial 5674), making its release the original. Three cover versions also charted, one of which is by an artist with a name so incredibly similar to Mills that it caused considerable confusion: Garry Miles (Liberty 55261). Another fine vocal is by Deane Hawley (Dore 554), and there is a hit instrumental rendition by Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra (Dot 16106).

The movie as well as the recordings came out in 1960, not '61.

IZ ZAT SO? Mention of the “Look for a Star” feat, calls to mind the only rock era song to have been a Top 10 hit by four different artists — only one of which is a cover version.

The tune turning this amazing trick is “Only You (And You Alone),” a Top 10 hit by four different performers: Tony Williams and the Platters (1955), a cover version by the Hilltoppers (1955), and remakes by Franck Pourcel and His French Fiddles (1960) and Ringo Starr (1975).

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