March 20, 2018
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‘Popular’ songs may make you tune out

By Emmet Meara, Special to the News

What is your favorite song?

Anybody who is anybody has a favorite song. I would call it a flat-footed tie between “Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett, “Hold on, I’m Comin’” by Sam and Dave or possibly Aretha’s “Chain of Fools.” When I once sang that tune at the top of my lungs, Blue Eyes decided I wasn’t the biggest jerk she ever met.

Go figure.

But according to Billboard Magazine, the most popular song of all time is “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. I don’t know how much weight you should give any of this since Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” finished in the top 10, ahead of any of the Beatles and the Stones.

But I digress.

Chubby Checker, apparently forgetting that he stole the song, lock, stock and half-note from Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, told The AP, “I’m glad they’ve finally recognized it.”

Hold on to your rock ’n’ roll hat. He compared “The Twist” (also named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll) to the creation of the telephone as a groundbreaking moment because he said it was the first time people were dancing “apart to the beat.”

“Anyplace on the planet, when someone has a song that has a beat, they’re on the floor dancing apart to the beat, and before Chubby Checker, it wasn’t here, and I think that has a lot to do with me being on the charts,” he said.

I always loved “The Twist” because I learned the dance very early from one Bobby Berman, who was always three steps ahead of everyone else when it came to music and dancing. When those Boston coeds wanted to learn the dance, I provided in-home lessons. They were very grateful and I enjoyed a brief interlude of popularity.

For your jukebox information, Santana’s “Smooth,” featuring Rob Thomas, is the No. 2 most popular, followed by Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” Leann Rimes’ “How Do I Live” and “The Macarena” by Los Del Rio.

The Beatles did make the top 10, coming it at No. 8 with “Hey Jude.” But Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” and Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” are ahead of that hit.

Debby Boone?

Rounding out the top 10: Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” at No. 9 and Toni Braxton’s “Un-break My Heart” at No. 10.

The Billboard Hot 100 chart measures airplay and sales information (and more recently digital downloads) in determining the nation’s most popular songs. To determine the most popular song of the Hot 100 era, Billboard used a formula to determine the top song — not always relying on weeks at No. 1 since the data was reported differently in its early days.

Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at Billboard Magazine, admitted to The AP that — no dope — the list might not jibe with some fans’ personal thoughts of the most popular songs of the past 50 years.

You think?

“This is simply a chronicle of how each of these songs performed in their era on the Hot 100. We’re not saying these are the most memorable songs of your life. That would be something that’s almost impossible to determine,” said Mayfield. “Everyone has a subjective frame of reference.”

Checker’s “The Twist” spent a total of only three weeks at the top of the charts, but did so twice in two separate runs more than a year apart. “It’s the only song that was ever No. 1 in two different chart runs,” Mayfield said.

Checker said he was gratified that Billboard noted the popularity of “The Twist,” but lamented that both the song and his career have been at times overlooked.

“My music is less played that any performer that has been a No. 1 chart man on the planet,” said Checker, who also had hits with “Pony Time,” “The Fly” and “Let’s Twist Again,” which earned him a Grammy. “I don’t get the respect that Rod Stewart gets, or the Rolling Stones, or Frankie Valli. … But I have to deal with it.”

Think of how Hank Ballard feels.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at

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