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This page features year-by-year snapshots of what was happening in the world of Top 40 music in the 1980s. Written by radio and music industry veteran Ed Osborne, each overview highlights the important trends and some of the representative songs and artists that shaped the music landscape and occupied the Top 40 charts that year,
This music impacted our lives in many ways and Top40weekly hopes that you find these commentaries informative and enjoyable.
Table of Contents
- A Year in Music 1980
- A Year in Music 1981
- A Year in Music 1982
- A Year in Music 1983
- A Year in Music 1984
- A Year in Music 1985
- A Year in Music 1986
- A Year in Music 1987
- A Year in Music 1988
- A Year in Music 1989
A Year in Music – 1980
Disco final relinquished its grip on the Hot 100 and was succeeded by New Wave’s Blondie…rock icons Pink Floyd, Queen, Billy Joel (all had chart-topping singles), and Bruce Springsteen (a #5 45)…superstar-in-the-making Michael Jackson with his second platinum-seller…and balladeers Air Supply (two Top 3 records). John Lennon’s first single in over five years was in the Top 10 on its way to #1 when he was tragically shot and killed on December 8. Did you enjoy this 1980 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
As 1980 opened, disco had finally relinquished its grip on the Hot 100 with only two singles in the Top 10: “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross.
The most obvious indicator of disco’s demise was January 5’s #1. After four chart- topping dance discs that made KC and The Sunshine Band the biggest boogie outfit in America, they exchanged their beats for a ballad — “Please Don’t Go” — and had their first hit in two years.
Even the kings of disco Bee Gees only managed one #1 (of sorts) when Barry Gibb co- wrote, co-produced, and sang with Barbra Streisand on “Woman In Love.” Likewise, disco queen Donna Summer reached #5 with “On The Radio,” then abandoned the dance rhythms that had made her successful for a much funkier sound on “The Wanderer,” for which her voice was so heavily processed as to be unrecognizable from the Donna vocals of yore.
Replacing the plethora of disco discs in the Top 40 were rock ’n’ roll singles. Pink Floyd
— which had released the longest-running Billboard chart album in history — had managed only one Hot 100 45 to-date: “Money.” Now their latest soon-to-be multi- platinum album reached #1 as did the 45 “Another Brick In The Wall.”
Another British band, Queen had done a bit better in the singles world. From their seven gold/platinum-selling LPs, six tracks had gone Top 20. Their new long-player became the first one to peak at #1, and it spun off two #1 tracks: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites The Dust.”
New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen also scored his first chart-topping album The River and his first Top 40 45, the #5 “Hungry Heart.” Just across the Hudson River, Bronx native Billy Joel extended to three his string of platinum albums with a second #1 Glass Houses, from which came “You May Be Right” and his first #1 single “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me.”
The Eagles, too, got into the action with their final two Top 10s: “The Long Run” and “I Can’t Tell You Why.”
On the female side, Linda Ronstadt risked losing her mainstream audience by releasing the punk-infused Mad Love and the blistering track “How Do I Make You.” Her daring paid big dividends when the album became her ninth gold/platinum release. “Make You” peaked at #10 and her edgy reworking of the ‘60s oldie “Hurt So Bad” did even better.
Joining Linda in Top 40 Land were rocker Pat Benatar’s in-your-face “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” while new-wavers Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders and Blondie scored with the cocky “Brass In Pocket (I’m Special)” and a pleading “Call Me.”
Among other genres which shared the hit spotlight were country, adult contemporary and singer/songwriter. Representing each were Kenny Rogers, who cemented his
ascent to superstardom with “Lady,” a #1 on the pop, country, and adult charts… Australian duo Air Supply which notched the first two of seven straight Top 5 hits with “Lost In Love” and “All Out Of Love”…and Christopher Cross, who exploded with four Top 20 singles (including “Ride Like The Wind” and “Sailing”), a multiplatinum album, and five Grammy awards.
As for soul…The Spinners and Kool & The Gang made significant showings. The Spinners’ two hits were disco-fied remakes of the ‘60s oldies “Working My Way Back To You” and “Cupid,” coupled with new songs to make up a medley: their final Top 40 entries. Kool & The Gang hadn’t been in the Top 10 in almost six years. They returned in early 1980 with “Ladies Night” and “Too Hot.”
Some rock, some country, some adult contemporary…all seemed back to normal on the Top 40. Yet, for those reading the music tea leaves, there were hints of different things to come. Most significantly, “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang was the first single of the emerging urban street music to break into the Top 40. And there was Devo: an Ohio band that embodied the dehumanizing impact of modern technology by adopting a robotic persona and creating a techno-beat style of music.
Nineteen eighty ended on a profoundly tragic note when John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8. He had gone into music biz retirement in 1975 and became a
self-described “house husband” to wife Yoko and son Sean, who was born that October.
Five years passed before John — his creativity spurred (at least in part) by Paul McCartney’s recent hit “Coming Up” — returned to the studio and recording. “(Just Like) Starting Over,” the first single from his new album, was in the Top 10 when he was killed. It became the final #1 of 1980.
This content is protected by the US and international copyright laws. Reproduction and/or distribution without the written permission of the author is prohibited. -Ed Osborne © 2022
A Year in Music – 1981
The third major event in rock ’n’ roll history (after Elvis in 1956 and The Beatles in ’64) occurred when MTV launched on August 1. Jackie DeShannon had the top record of the year — as the composer of “Bette Davis Eyes” — and John Lennon had his last #1 single…Daryl Hall & John Oates began their rise as the top duo of the ‘80s with two #1s and a #5 hit…Blondie’s two million-sellers made them the most successful of the New Wavers…and country artists had a strong pop crossover year, led by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Did you enjoy this 1981 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
This content is protected by the US and international copyright laws. Reproduction and/or distribution without the written permission of the author is prohibited. -Ed Osborne © 2022
Stay tuned for a complete overview of the year…coming soon.
A Year in Music – 1982
Rock had a big Top 40 comeback led by Joan Jett, The J. Geils Band, John Cougar (Mellencamp), and Steve Miller, all of whom earned gold singles…new sounds that defined the early ‘80s arrived courtesy of the Alan Parsons Project, The Human League, The Cars, and The Go-Gos…Chicago returned to the Top 10 after five years with another Adult Contemporary ballad…and a duet between Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder tied Joan Jett’s seven weeks at #1. Did you enjoy this 1982 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
Nineteen eighty-two was dominated by rock and pop/rock…period. Not since the mid-1960s had that genre so completely shut out other musical styles. Those earlier years also included a healthy dose of soul and r&b records that were significant hits. Not so in ’82.
The only true soul singles to make the pop Top 5 were “That Girl” (Stevie Wonder), “The Other Woman” (Ray Parker, Jr.), and “Let It Whip” (Dazz Band). (We’re not counting “Truly” by Lionel Richie, which was a bigger adult contemporary than R&B hit, nor George Benson’s “Turn Your Love Around,” which — although soulful — hewed closer to jazzy pop.)
Similarly, adult contemporary and country were largely MIA. The former genre was represented by “Ebony And Ivory” (Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder), “Up Where We Belong” (Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes), “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” (Chicago), “Chariots Of Fire” (Vangelis) at #1, plus Top 10s from Bertie Higgins (“Key Largo”) and Air Supply (“Sweet Dreams” and “Even The Nights Are Better”).
Carrying the torch for Nashville were Willie Nelson’s recording of the Grammy-winning song “Always On My Mind,” and three Juice Newton singles, including “Break It To Me Gently,” for which she won a Country Female Vocal Grammy.
And then there was rock.
Of 1982’s chart-topping albums only the Chariots Of Fire soundtrack — with four weeks at #1 — didn’t rock. Likewise, rock owned the Hot 100, with adult contemporary accounting for just six weeks on top (13 if we count “Ebony And Ivory” by Paul and Stevie).
Leading the guitar/bass/drums charge were Joan Jett and John Mellencamp. While touring with her previous band, Joan heard a song by UK band The Arrows and dug it. The Runaways didn’t. After Joan went solo, she recorded “I Love Rock And Roll” with her new band The Blackhearts and scored her first hit: a #1 smash.
Mellencamp notched up his first Top 40 single in 1979. It was billed to “John Cougar,” a name chosen by John’s manager and one that he detested. Two-and-a-half years and a new label later, he released the American Fool LP (still as Cougar) and was rewarded with gold records for “Hurts So Good” and “Jack And Diane.”
Mellencamp was just a teenager when The J. Geils Band came together in 1967. The Boston-based band released 11 albums and placed a like number of 45s on the Hot 100, before Freeze-Frame and “Centerfold” took them to the top.
With their first release dating back to 1972, Daryl Hall and John Oates were also music biz veterans. The duo had reached the heights twice in ’81, and did so two more times in ’82 with “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and “Maneater.” Plus, “Did It In A Minute” became a #5 single.
Alan Parsons began releasing records as an artist in 1976, but he was no stranger to popular music. He worked as an assistant engineer on Abbey Road and Let It Be (The Beatles); as an engineer on Dark Side Of The Moon (Pink Floyd); and as the producer of Year Of The Cat (Al Stewart). After five albums and 13 singles of his own, “Eye In The Sky” became his first and only Top 10 45.
Competing with veteran artists were ones new to the scene, the most successful of which was Men At Work from Australia. The group’s first American 45 — “Who Can It Be Now?” — went to #1, as did their second — “Down Under” — in a dramatically reworked version of the B-side to their second home country single.
Men At Work was just one of the acts to benefit from exposure on the 24/7 music video channel MTV.
All-female rock band The Go-Go’s had cracked the Top 20 in 1981, but then cable TV viewers caught sight of their dynamic performance of single number two and propelled “We Got The Beat” to #2 on the Hot 100.
British band Asia arrived just in time to catch the video wave. Composed of former members of star bands — King Crimson; Yes; Krokus; and Emerson, Lake & Palmer — its debut album stayed on top for nine weeks, and spun off the catchy #4 single “Heat Of The Moment.”
Chicago-based Survivor benefitted from two visual mediums: TV and film. After the lackluster performance of two albums and several singles, actor/screenwriter Sylvester Stallone tagged the band to provide a theme song for his upcoming Rocky III movie: one similar to their 1981 Top 40 record “Poor Man’s Son.” The result was the multi- platinum-selling “Eye Of The Tiger.”
MTV also introduced an eclectic mix of new sounds to contemporary music, often ones that radio hadn’t been playing, which meant broadcasters were often Top 40 followers, not leaders.
Among them were…the rockabilly revivalist Stray Cats (“Rock This Town”), Liverpool new-wavers Flock Of Seagulls (“I Ran (So Far Away)”), synth-poppers Human League (“Don’t You Want Me”), and genre-defying Joe Jackson (“Steppin’ Out”).
The most memorable (some would say, “annoying”) video and song of the year came from actress/choreographer/videographer Toni Basil. First released overseas in 1981, “Mickey” was initially rejected by American record labels. The video, which featured a pig-tailed Toni and real-life cheerleaders, helped propel the ear-worm song to #1.
Rock was now America’s most popular genre, but fans of contemporary music were notoriously fickle. Would their love affair with rock continue, or would they find a new flame to pursue?
This content is protected by the US and international copyright laws. Reproduction and/or distribution without the written permission of the author is prohibited. -Ed Osborne © 2022
A Year in Music – 1983
Michael Jackson’s Thriller album spent 37 weeks at #1 and spun off three smash singles while Synchronicity by The Police accounted for another 17 weeks on top and yielded the #2 single of the year…movies and music made for a good marriage that produced two of the year’s top hits…aided by regular video exposure on MTV, synth pop bands such as Eurhythmics, Culture Club, and Duran Duran scored big on the Hot 100…and Australian imports Men At Work delivered three Top 10 discs. Did you enjoy this 1983 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
On November 30, 1982, 24-year-old Michael Jackson released his masterpiece: Thriller.
It reached #1 on February 26, 1983 and spent 37 weeks on top.
In advance of the album, “The Girl Is Mine” — a duet with Paul McCartney — put out as a single. Given the groundbreaking nature of Thriller, “Girl” was a tame affair: a non- threatening, pretty adult contemporary ballad.
The second single — “Billie Jean” — was something else: a funky mix of r&b and rock with an irresistible bass-driven dance rhythm, underpinning a cautionary tale of an obsessive girl who claims the singer is the father of her child.
It was an instant add at radio and topped the Hot 100 on March 5. Rock-oriented MTV initially resisted airing the video, yet ultimately relented in the face of racial discrimination accusations.
“Billie Jean” spent seven weeks at #1 and “Beat It” gave Jackson (after a one week interruption) another three weeks in the top position. And there were more to come. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Human Nature,” “P.Y.T Pretty Young Thing),” and “Thriller” made it an unprecedented seven Top 10 tracks from one album!
Thriller turned out to timeless; today it’s the all-time, top-selling album worldwide, and second only to the Eagles 1971-1975 greatest hits collection in the US.
The second most-successful LP of 1983 came from UK rock trio The Police. Synchronicity spun off “King Of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take,” the latter of which spent the longest time at #1 (eight weeks), was the #2 single of the year, and won the Song Of The Year Grammy.
The Police were just one of the acts who benefitted greatly from exposure on MTV. As the video channel’s popularity rose, the careers of some existing artists grew while those of new ones took off.
In the first group was David Bowie. Although he had been a constant on the album list for the past decade, his singles track record was less impressive, with only one #1 in 1975 and one #10 in 1976. Attire and performance art had always been important aspects of Bowie’s creative expression, and MTV was tailor-made for the former Ziggy Stardust.
Co-produced by disco-funk maven Nile Rodgers, Let’s Dance — the music and the video — made David a superstar. The title track, “China Girl,” and “Modern Love” were all hits in 1983.
Billy Joel already had five multi-platinum albums and five Top 10 singles to his name when he released An Innocent Man. The album produced six Top 30 hits, all of which were homages to the music and artists of Joel’s youth. The videos for “Tell Her About It,” “Uptown Girl,” “The Longest Time,” and “Keeping The Faith” were joyful affairs that cast
a stylish Joel in colorful nostalgic playlets, and helped boost “Tell Her” and “Uptown” into the Top 10 in ’83.
(Thriller and An Innocent Man were examples of a shift in the LP and singles release philosophy from one in which one or two Top 40 hits were featured on each album, with an eye toward generating some additional dollars, to a model in which an album was milked for as many single tracks as possible before releasing an artist’s next long player.)
Among the new sounds promoted by MTV which became popular were from international acts the Eurythmics (“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”); Culture Club (“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” “Time (Clock Of The Heart),” “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” and “Church Of The Poison Mind,” and Duran Duran (“Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Rio,” “Is There Something I Should Know,” and “Union Of The Snake”).
There were also a number of notable one hit wonders, including England’s Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come On Eileen”), Spandau Ballet (“True”), Eric Dolby (“She Blinded Me With Science”), and Madness (“our House”); plus Guyana-born Eddy Grant (“Electric Avenue”).
Still going strong were Lionel Richie and Daryl Hall & John Oates who added three more Top 10 discs to their resumes.
On the soul side, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Prince — who had landed a gold single for “I Wanna Be Your Lover” in 1979 — broke through with “Little Red Corvette,” a reissue of “1999,” and “Delirious,” on his way to becoming one of the most exciting and innovative artists of the twentieth century.
Capping his Top 10 crossover run was Kenny Rogers with two duets: the first with Sheena Easton performing a cover of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and the second with Dolly Parton singing an original written by the Bee Gees “Islands In The Stream.”
Nineteen eighty-three saw some noteworthy chart events. Sergio Mendes scored his first Top 10 record since 1968 (“Never Gonna Let You Go”)… The Kinks returned to the Top 10 after a 13 year absence (“Come Dancing”)…as did Marvin Gaye after nine years (“Sexual Healing”). For all it was their last hurrah, most tragically for Gaye, who was shot and killed by his father on April 1, 1984.
The year had opened with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s “The Girl Is Mine” holding down the #2 position on the Hot 100. The #1 single at year’s end also featured Jackson and McCartney on a single that appeared on Paul’s current album: “Say Say Say.”
Michael Jackson’s massive success was a harbinger of the 1980s as the decade of the superstars. Some, such as Bruce Springsteen and Van Halen, were around for years before soaring into the stratosphere of popularity. Others were new to the scene,
including Madonna, U2, R.E.M., and Janet Jackson; all of whom peaked for the first time on the Hot 100 in 1983.
For them — to paraphrase a future ‘80s hit — the future was so bright, they had to wear shades.
A Year in Music – 1984
With his Purple Rain album on top for 24 weeks and three gold or platinum singes, Prince was the #1 artist of the year…and twenty-four years after her debut (with husband Ike) on the singles chart, Tina Turner grabbed her first #1 record. Solo female singers Madonna and Cyndi Lauper broke through the music biz glass ceiling, collectively scoring seven Top 10 hits. Top male honors went to Lionel Richie with his four Top 10 pop, R&B, and AC chart singles. Did you enjoy this 1984 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
Nineteen eighty-four opened with four familiar faces at #1 and #2 on the Hot 100: Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, and Daryl Hall and John Oates. Further down the list…at #27 and climbing…was the first chart hit by someone who would rack up 32 Top 10 hits, including 11 #1s, in the 1980s and 1990s.
Madonna Louise Ciccone spent her formative years dancing, acting, modeling, drumming, and singing, before signing with Sire Records. Her debut single — “Everybody” — was a big club hit which paved the way for “Holiday” (#16), followed by “Borderline” (#10), “Lucky Star” (#4), and then her first chart-topping single “Like A Virgin” (written, ironically, by two men). “Virgin” made her a superstar: the second of 16 straight Top 5 45s.
While “Holiday” was climbing the charts, another female star-in-the-making appeared on the Hot 100 at #80, on her way to #2. Thirty-year-old Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper was five years older than Madonna, and pre-solo had recorded with Blue Angel. Like “Virgin,” “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” was written by a man, but Cyndi reworked it into a female-power song.
Her She’s So Unusual album spun off four more hits: “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” “All Through The Night,” and “Money Changes Everything,” making her the top female artist of the year.
But the biggest female success story involved the explosive 44-year-old performer Anna Mae Bullock, who first appeared on vinyl in 1958, had her first Top 30 hit in 1960 with husband Ike Turner, and released her first solo 45 in 1964. Two decades later, Tina topped the Hot 100 with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (yet another female attitude song written by men). It brought home three Grammy awards and its followup “Better Be Good To Me” won one, as well.
Despite Tina’s undeniable success, “What’s Love” was bested in Billboard’s year-end tally by Prince and “When Doves Fly”: the top 45 of 1984. Prince Rogers Nelson was extraordinarily talented in all things music-related: with the film Purple Rain he extended his artistic horizons to acting. For the soundtrack he wrote “When Doves Fly” in one night, and recorded it in two days, playing all the instruments (he reportedly was proficient on 27 different ones), and singing all the vocal parts. At the end of July both film and single were #1 in America; the album did likewise a week later. “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain” brought Prince’s total to three gold singles that year.
One of Prince’s big fans was Jersey-born Bruce Springsteen, who built his way to superstardom gig-by-gig over the years with shows that typically lasted three-to-four hours. His first #1 album came in 1980, his second one in 1984. Born In The U.S.A. was released on June 4 and hit the top four weeks later. The track “Dancing In The Dark” had preceded it and was poised at #2 on the Hot 100 on July 7. Bruce was positioned to have both the #1 album and single, but it was not to be: blocking him that week was Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” That slight shortfall didn’t break Bruce’s stride. Across the rest of 1984, through 1985, and into 1986, BITUSA spun off seven Top 10 singles.
The third artist to leave his musical mark on 1984 was Lionel Richie: overall the most successful male singer of the year with four singles that peaked in the Top 10: “Running With The Night,” “Hello,” “Stuck On You,” and “Penny Lover.” Additionally — unlike his fellow chart stars — they all reached the Top 10 on the adult contemporary and r&b lists, and three topped the AC chart for a total of 15 weeks.
As former lead singer and chief songwriter for The Commodores, Richie and group reached the pop and r&B Top 10 numerous times, but even that success paled in comparison to his solo work. His Can’t Slow Down album — from which the above four singles were taken, along with “All Night Long” from 1983 — sold over 10 million copies and won an Album Of The Year Grammy.
All told, these six artists accounted for 12, or one-third, of the Top 3 singles in 1984.
It was also a year in which pop music and film made for good bedfellows. With the exception of Richie’s “Hello,” there was a string of three consecutive movie-related #1s: “Footloose,” “Against All Odds,” and “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.” Later in the year “Ghostbusters” and “Let’s Go Crazy” would bring the total weeks of chart-topping soundtrack singles to 18.
Other artists who had a good year included Duran Duran (three Top 10s, two of which sold gold), Huey Lewis And The News (three singles that peaked at #6), The Pointer Sisters (three Top 10s), and Van Halen (three Top 15, including a #1).
Looking ahead…George Michael, who was destined to become the fifth most successful chart artist of the decade, scored his first #1 as one half of Wham! with “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go”…and future superstar act Bon Jovi made its top 40 debut with “Runaway.”
Fittingly, Madonna closed out the year with “Like A Virgin” in its first of six weeks at #1. Would a similar superstar scene play out in 1985? If so, would it involve the same artists as 1984? If not, then who would fall and who would rise?
A Year in Music – 1985
Four Top 5 solo and one duet record (three of them went to #1 and three sold gold) earned Phil Collins the year’s top artist award…after five Top 10 records, Huey Lewis & The News scored their first of three career #1s…FM radio, MTV and album stars Dire Straits released a multi-platinum LP that included their only chart-topping single “Money For Nothing”…and the surprise record of the year was a multi-artist, for- charity 45 — “We Are The World” — which sold four times platinum. Did you enjoy this 1985 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
In the years since Elvis Presley exploded onto the pop music scene in 1956, there were a smattering of superstar singers, yet nothing compared to the 1980s. Michael Jackson and the phenomenal success of Thriller in 1983 ushered in a wave of massively popular personalities, among them Prince, Madonna, Lionel Richie, and Bruce Springsteen.
They continued their run of hits in 1985. Prince had two Top 10s (“Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”); Madonna four Top 5s (which included the #2 “Material Girl” and #1 “Crazy For You”); Richie two #1s, each of which spent four weeks on top (“Say You, Say Me” and “We Are The World,” which he wrote with Michael Jackson); and Bruce had four Top 10s (“Born In The U.S.A.,” “I’m On Fire,” “Glory Days,” and “I’m Goin’ Down”).
These singers were joined at the top of the pack by former Genesis drummer and lead singer Phil Collins. While continuing to front the band, he started a solo career in 1981 and promptly reached the Top 20 with “I Missed Again” and “In The Air Tonight,” followed by “You Can’t Hurry Love” in 1983 and “Against All Odds” in 1984 (his first #1).
For his next hit, he teamed up with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey for “Easy Lover”: a #2 gold-selling single in early 1985. Collins then went on a tear, racking up three #1s (“One More Night,” “Sussudio,” and “Separate Lives”) and a #4 (“Don’t Lose My Number”). All this action made Phil the top artist of 1985. As if that weren’t enough, his No Jacket Required album reached #1 and sold 12 million copies.
No Jacket was Billboard’s #2 album of the year, behind the television soundtrack from Miami Vice, which yielded Jan Hammer’s #1 single of the theme, and Eagles member Glen Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” and “You Belong To The City.”
Nineteen eighty-five was a banner year for pop music and movie partnerships as well. The chart-topping singles associated with films were “Heaven” (A Night In Heaven), “Separate Lives” (White Nights), “A View To A Kill” (from the like-titled James Bond movie), “The Power Of Love” (Back To The Future), “St. Elmo’s Fire” (the film’s theme), and the Oscar-winning “Say You, Say Me” (White Nights).
In addition…”Crazy For You” was from Vision Quest, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner was from Mad Max-Beyond Thunderdome, “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper came from The Goonies, and “Rhythm Of The Night” by DeBarge was heard in The Last Dragon. All were Top 10 45s.
Just behind Phil Collins as the second most popular artist that year was Canadian-born Bryan Adams. Bryan had a brief flirtation with the Hot 100 in 1976 as lead singer for the band Sweeney Todd (very brief: one week at #99!), before reaching the Top 10 on his own in 1983. Two years later he took “Run To You” to #6, followed by “Somebody” (#11) “Heaven” (#1), “Summer Of ’69” (#5), and “One Night Love Affair” (#13), all from his multi-platinum Reckless album.
Entering the superstar race in 1985 was 19-year-old Whitney Houston, who hit the ground running with the #3 “You Give Good Love” and then her first (of seven straight) #1s: “Saving All My Love For You.”
The daughter of Cissy Houston and cousin of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, she began singing gospel at age 11, and along the way developed a style that involved singing multiple notes where typically one would suffice. Her stock in trade was also vocal pyrotechnics, sometimes pummeling the song into submission rather than exploring its nuances.
Love it or hate it, her approach proved immensely popular and ushered in an era of “divas.”
On the rock band front, Dire Straits — led by the singing, songwriting, and fluid guitar playing of Mark Knopfler — got a #1 hit. In the seven years since the first release of “Sultans Of Swing,” the band’s albums had generated respectable sales, but just four Hot 100 singles. Brothers In Arms and “Money For Nothing” changed all that. Both the album and the single went to #1.
“Money For Nothing” featured Sting of The Police on backing vocals. All of The Police albums had gone platinum and when Sting went solo in 1985, his The Dream Of The Big Turtles continued that trend. His singles did well, too: the four tracks released off Dreams reached the Top 20, the biggest being “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.”
Other notable events of the year included three hits by synth-pop duo Tears For Fears, two of which — “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “Shout” — went all the way to #1…Wham! featuring George Michael had the top single of the year with “Careless Whisper”……the Scottish band Simple Minds scored two top 3s, including the #1 “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”…and Foreigner finally went all the way with “I Want To Know What Love Is.”
Soul-wise, the year’s winners were Kool & The Gang (“Misled,” “Fresh,” and “Cherish”), Stevie Wonder (“Part-Time Lover”), and Billy Ocean (“Loverboy” and “Suddenly”).
Country experienced a severe crossover drought in ‘85. Of the 51 #1 country singles only three made the pop Hot 100, all by Kenny Rogers, and none peaking higher than #72.
(For you trivia buffs…1985 saw a-ha and Jan Hammer reach #1, the only Norwegian and Czechoslovakia artists ever to do so.)
On the year’s final Hot 100, John Cougar Mellencamp continued carrying the rock torch with “Small Town,” his second #6 single of ’85…while Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” was enjoying its seventh week in the Top 10, the LA band’s second — after “Kyrie” — #1 45.
Divas and rockers, US and international artists: who would win and who would lose in the coming year?
A Year in Music – 1986
Nineteen eighty-six was a terrific year for female singers — solo and otherwise — who occupied the #1 position for 26 weeks. Among them were Whitney Houston with her second and third (of 11) chart-toppers, Madonna (two of 12), Janet Jackson (three gold), and Dionne Warwick (top record of the year)…along with all-female rockers The Bangles and female-led Heart. American acts were overshadowed by international artists, among them the Pet Shop Boys, Peter Gabriel, Berlin, and Billy Ocean. Did you enjoy this 1986 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
Nineteen eighty-six was a banner year for female singers. One half of the Top 10 artists of the year were women, and 27 of the 52 weeks at #1 were held by singles involving women: solo, duo, or group.
Continuing their success of the two preceding years were Madonna with “Live To Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” (both #1s) plus “True Blue” (a #3)…Cyndi Lauper with “True Colors” (#1)…and Whitney Houston with “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love Of All” (both reached #1 on the pop and adult contemporary charts).
Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” was composed by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, whose first #1 was “Like A Virgin.” As the two struggled to finish “True Colors,” Beatles producer George Martin passed on it for Kenny Rogers, as did Anne Murray. Finally, Cyndi agreed to do it: the title track of her second album.
Houston’s “Greatest Love” was from the movie The Greatest, which starred Muhammad Ali. Recorded by George Benson for the soundtrack, the 1977 single reached #2 on the r&b chart and topped out at #24 on the pop Hot 100.
Michael Jackson took a break from releasing records, thus leaving younger sister Janet to carry on the family tradition. Janet had two minor chart hits in 1983; however, her next 45 bombed. She returned with a vengeance in 1986 with three gold discs: “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Nasty,” and the chart-topping “When I Think Of You.” All were co-written by Janet, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis; and produced by the red-hot Jam and Lewis.
(Brother Jermaine Jackson also had a #16 hit with “I Think It’s Love.”)
New on the scene were all-female band the Bangles, who released an album and several singles before striking multi-platinum with Different Light and a single written by Prince: ”Manic Monday.” “Monday” rose to #2, but was unable to go all the way, blocked by Prince’s “Kiss.” After “If She Knew What She Wants” stalled at #29, the Bangles chalked up their own #1: “Walk Like An Egyptian.”
Another breakout group in ’86 was Miami Sound Machine, featuring lead singer Gloria Estefan. Although a smattering of Latin tunes had become popular in the rock ’n’ roll era, MSM was the first act to experience mass market success. The group released its first single in 1977, and over the next seven years put out several Spanish language albums.
In 1985 their English language LP Primitive Love appeared, containing the group’s debut Billboard single “Conga,” along with “Bad Boy” and “Words Get In The Way,” all of which reached the pop Top 10, with “Words” also topping the adult contemporary list.
Other females who hit #1 were Dionne Warwick (& Friends), Heart, Patti LaBelle (and Michael McDonald), Bananarama, Berlin (lead: Terri Nunn), and Amy Grant (with Peter Cetara).
Peter Cetera — who also notched a solo #1 with “Glory Of Love” — was one of several former band lead singers who succeeded on heir own in 1986. Peter Gabriel, lead singer of Genesis before Phil Collins, struck with “Sledgehammer”…Steve Winwood — whose credits included fronting the Spencer David Group, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and Traffic — scored a hit solo single in 1981, then reached #1 and won two Grammies for “Higher Love” in ’86…Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s delivered “Mad About You”…Robert Palmer of The Power Station bested that group’s two Top 10s with the #1 “Addicted To Love” and #2 “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On.”
Two-and-a-half years after Bon Jovi’s only appearance in the Top 40, the New Jersey band returned with the #1 “You Give Love A Bad Name.” Despite media carping about Jon Bon Jovi’s good looks, his songwriting and the band’s solid musicianship made for a potent combination that Top 40 fans couldn’t resist.
On the other side of the rock spectrum — more club than arena — Bruce Hornsby’s jazz-flavored piano style gave his band The Range a unique, melodic sound that set it apart from the usual pop-rock. After their debut single, “Every Little Kiss” stiffed at #72 in mid-1986 (it was remixed and reissued in 1987, and reached #14), “The Way It Is” hit the heights on the Hot 100 and adult contemporary charts.
At year’s end, Janet Jackson’s “Control” stood at #7, on its way to #5 in 1987. It, like her three hits Top 5 hits in 1986, was co-written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Jam and Lewis first hit the pop Top 10 with “Tender Love” by Force M.D.’s in early 1986. That year, in addition to Jackson’s singles, they crafted “Human” for The Human League (#1), and composed Robert Palmer’s #2 45. And that was just the beginning. The team went on to create 41 Billboard Top 10 records.
Although producers had always played a key role in the creation of popular music — from in-house label employees (including Motown’s Holland, Dozier & Holland; Smokey Robinson, and Norman Whitfield) to independents such as Phil Spector, Snuff Garrett, and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff — the success of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis portended a future in which producers would wield ever-increasing power over the process.
Only time would tell if this change was for the better or for the worse with regard to the (subjective) “quality” of the resulting music.
A Year in Music – 1987
International acts made another strong showing, notably Ireland’s U2, England’s George Michael, and Australia’s Crowded House. Bon Jovi and Huey Lewis & The News carried the torch for American rock ’n’ roll…R&B was represented by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s two #1s…pop divas Whitney Houston and Madonna continued their remarkable run of hits…and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack dominated the album chart and delivered the Oscar winning song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.” Did you enjoy this 1987 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
Top 40 radio and rock ’n’ roll were made for each other. When Elvis Presley exploded onto the scene in 1956, the nascent format embraced the new music and its teenage fans soon followed.
By the early 1960s, the dominant Top 40 station in a market could command 20% or more of the listening audience by programming music that included many genres in addition to rock: if a single were popular, Top 40 played it.
The rise in popularity of FM radio in the late ‘60s, the fracturing of popular music into sub-categories, the narrow-casting of stations which targeted a specific demographic rather than striving to appeal to as many people as possible, and other factors eroded the democratic nature of AM Top 40 formats.
By the mid-1980s, country and r&b singles were a relative rarity in the Top 40, and adult contemporary stations were more open to airing records that were previously taboo. Top 40 had become more the province of superstar artists and mainstream sounds: rougher and more experimental records got less airtime.
In 1987, six artists had two #1s apiece, accounting for 12 of the 29 chart-toppers and 22 of the 52 weeks. They were Madonna (“Open Your Heart” and “Who’s That Girl”)… George Michael (“I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” with Aretha Franklin and “Faith”)… U2 (“With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”)…Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam (“Head To Toe” and “Lost In Emotion”)…Whitney Houston (“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”), and…Michael Jackson (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Bad”).
Their were two newcomers to this elite group. One was Dublin band U2, formed in 1976 while the four founding members were teenage schoolmates. In the beginning they had more passion than playing ability, yet with charismatic frontman Bono as a focal point, they came together as a tight unit and built up a devoted following.
Their fourth single made the UK chart and from 1983 onward, they were ever-present in the UK Top 10. Although it took the US four years to get on the U2 bandwagon, America gave them their first two #1s — “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” — both taken from their 10-times-platinum album The Joshua Tree. U2 was now one of the most popular groups in the world
The other newcomer was Lisa Lisa. Lisa Velez had auditioned for Full Force, the producers behind UTFO’s 1984 Top 10 r&b single “Roxanne, Roxanne.” FF were impressed, put together Cult Jam with Lisa front-and-center, and wrote and produced their first album with its gold-selling tracks “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “All Cried Out.” The latter cracked the pop Top 10, followed by a sophomore album and the above- mentioned #1s. Unfortunately, those singles marked Lisa Lisa’s last chart hurrah.
Although we’re hesitant to use the word “only,” 1987 witnessed one such event when two back-to-back #1s were covers of songs by the same original artist. As a young girl,
Tiffany sang country tunes, before switching to pop because she felt the Nashville themes were too adult for a 12-year-old. She was all of 15 when “I Think We’re Alone Now” debuted on the Hot 100.
Billy Idol fronted punk band Generation X, which had several UK chart singles, and was a relatively ancient (compared to Tiffany) 25 when “Mony Mony” was released in 1981. Although it tanked, Billy managed several hits before putting out a live version of “Mony Mony.”
Tiffany and Billy’s singles entered the Hot 100 one week apart. Tiffany reached the top first, followed two weeks later by Billy. The connection? Both songs had been big hits for legendary rocker Tommy James in the 1960s.
These weren’t the only older songs successfully revived in 1987. Club Nouveau sold a million copies of “Lean On Me,” a 1972 #1 written and performed by Bill Withers…Kim Wilde struck with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” originally a chart-topper in 1966 for The Supremes, and…Los Lobos hit with their version of “La Bamba,” the 1959 Ritchie Valens classic. All of these records reached #1 and none of these acts reached the Top 20 again.
Other Top 10 covers included “Respect Yourself” by actor Bruce Willis (originally by The Staple Singers), and “Funky Town” by Australian band Pseudo Echo (a 1980 hit for Lipps, Inc.).
Nineteen eighty-seven was a year in which a band that built a dynasty over 20 years had its last Top 10 single. In 1967, Jefferson Airplane notched two Top 10s; then Jefferson Starship scored one each in 1975 and 1978; and finally Starship delivered four Top 10s, including three #1s in the 1980s. “It’s Not Over (’Til It’s Over)” reached #9 in the summer of ’87: the band’s final Top 10 45.
The surprise movie of the year cost just six million dollars to make and earned over
$214 million at the box office. The soundtrack album was also a smash, staying at #1 for 18 weeks and selling 32 million copies worldwide.
Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers and Jennifer Warnes (who previously hit #1 duetting with Joe Cocker on “Up Where We Belong”) teamed up for the film’s love song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.” It topped the Hot 100, and won a Grammy and an Oscar.
The soundtrack spun off two other hits which peaked in 1988: “She’s Like The Wind” by actor Patrick Swayze and “Hungry Eyes” by former Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen.
The final Top 30 of the year included singles by Whitesnake, Aerosmith, INXS, and Def Leppard. Would this be a brief fling with hard and alternative rock or a more permanent thing?
A Year in Music – 1988
Rockers such as Guns N’ Roses, Cheap Trick, INXS, Def Leppard, and Foreigner had a good year…hit juggernaut Michael Jackson added two more #1s (out of 12 total) to his resume while George Michael notched three (out of 10)…newcomers Rick Astley and Terence Trent D’Arby had their moment in the spotlight, joined by veterans George Harrison and Steve Winwood…and Latin superstar Gloria Estefan stepped out solo with a #1 single. Did you enjoy this 1988 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
At different times in the 30+ years since the emergence of rock ’n’ roll, there were periods in which a specific style or sub-genre of music dominated radio airplay and sales; such as bossa nova, folk, British Invasion, Motown, bubblegum, singer/songwriter, disco, and others.
By contrast, the Top 40 in the latter part of the 1980s was characterized by mainstream pop. Yes, there were outlier singles; however, for the most part, it was a time of fun, radio-friendly records rather than daring, boundary-pushing ones.
Nineteen eighty-eight was a case in point. Looking over the 32 #1 singles, one finds controversial (to say the least), in-your-face Guns N’ Roses the sole artist that threatened the pop status quo. And even — “Sweet Child O’ Mine” — was tame compared to, say, their other 1988 hit single “Welcome To The Jungle.”
The other chart-topping artists included established acts such as the #1 artist of the year George Michael (“Father Father,” “One More Try,” and “Monkey”)…Michael Jackson (“The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man In The Mirror,” and “Dirty Diana”)… Whitney Houston (“So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”)…Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine (“Anything For You”)…Chicago (“Look Away”) and…Phil Collins (“Groovy Kind Of Love”). (Houston and Estefan also had two other Top 10 hits; while Jackson and Collins had one more.)
Apart from those superstars, Def Leppard made the Top 10 three times (“Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and the #1 “Love Bites”)…Billy Ocean delivered his seventh Top 10 and last #1 single (“Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”)…Tiffany scored a #7 45 and her final #1 (“I Saw Him Standing There” and “Could’ve Been”) and…teen idol Debbie Gibson extended her Top 10 streak to four, including her initial #1 (“Foolish Beat”).
The instant success story of 1988 involved England’s Rick Astley. Astley had been one of the choir vocalists on the #1 “Let It Be” Ferry Aid charity record; produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, the team behind “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” by Dead Or Alive and “Venus” by Bananarama.
Rick Astley’s commanding voice and SAW’s melodic, danceable synth-pop arrangements was a match made in music biz heaven. “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever” were #1 hits, while “It Would Take A Strong Strong Man” reached #10. Despite his success and vocal talent, Rick’s association with SAW drew media accusations of him being a mere cog in their hit making machine. Astley chose to move on, returning in 1991 for one last American Top 10: “Cry For Help.”
New York City born Terence Trent D’Arby had an even shorter turn in the spotlight. At age seven he heard The Jackson Five and it changed his world view. During a stint with the Army in Germany, he began singing with a band, and after a discharge landed in London and signed a record deal.
His first single reached the UK Top 10, yet stalled at #68 stateside. His second — “Wishing Well” — went to #4 in England during the summer of 1987, and almost a year later topped the US national chart. “Sign Your Name” then reached #4 here. The music press promptly crowned him the latest of the greatest, and Trent agreed.
He possessed immense hubris, declaring his first album the most “brilliant” debut of any artist in the previous 10 years and “better than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” His fall from grace was rapid: one more Top 30 45 and Trent was history.
Another newcomer was Bobby McFerrin. Although his parents were opera singers, Bobby was enchanted by jazz piano. He started singing in 1977, developing a wordless style involving his whole body: sort of a scat-based performance art. His mass fame came via a piece he’d been working on for several years. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” won three Grammies and was Bobby’s only Hot 100 title: the first a cappella track to hit #1. (The first one on the r&b chart was 1985’s “Caravan Of Love” by Isley, Jasper, Isley.)
Not everyone in 1988 was new on the scene. Session singer/songwriter Richard Marx had two #3 hits under his belt before 1988 brought him a #2 (“Endless Summer Nights”) and a #1 (“Hold On To The Nights”).
English reggae band UB40 was formed in 1978. From 1980 on, they racked up numerous UK hits, including a #1 — “Red, Red Wine”— in 1983. That cover of a 1966 Neil Diamond single climbed to #34 in the US, before going all the way when reissued in 1988.
Illinois rockers Cheap Trick first reached the Top 10 in 1979, then waited nine years for their next entry, when “The Flame” peaked at #1 and followup “Don’t Be Cruel” reached #4.
Yet, the champs in the “waiting for another #1” sweepstakes were The Beach Boys. After “Good Vibrations” in 1966, even a Top 20 hit was a rarity, let alone a chart topper. “Kokomo” — featured in the movie Cocktail along with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — was written by Beach Boy Mike Love, John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, singer Scott McKenzie, and Byrds/Paul Revere The Raiders producer Terry Melcher.
Despite there being no Kokomo off the Florida Keys (it’s a city in Indiana), the catchy tune caught on at adult contemporary radio, followed by mainstream Top 40 stations, and floated to #1: the first one for The Beach Boys in 22 years.
And what about the fate of hard, alternative, and “hair band” rock, which had several successes the year before? Well, Poison joined Guns N’ Roses with a #1, as did INXS and Def Leppard. (In fact, INXS scored four Top 10s in 1988 and Def Leppard had three.) Also placing singles in the Top 10 were Aerosmith, Foreigner, Van Halen, Poison, and White Lion. It was, all in all, a respectable showing.
Year’s end found New Jack Swing — a genre that combined various forms of black music, samples, and drum machine beats — gaining momentum, along with infectious dance music from a choreographer and teen-girl-appeal records from a pioneering boy band. These, and other new sounds, promised to freshen up the Top 40 in the coming year.
A Year in Music – 1989
Female artists stole the show, walking away with seven of the year’s Top 10 singles…former New Edition member Bobby Brown stepped out in style with five huge hits…pop dancer Paula Abdul was the female singer of the year, racking up three #1 singles…her male chart counterparts were Richard Marx and Phil Collins…New Kids On The Block placed six sides in the Top 10, kicking off the boy band craze…and Milli Vanilli exploded with four gold records before it was discovered that they had sung on none of them. Did you enjoy this 1989 Music Through the Years Video above? Then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all of our Top40Weekly videos!
The lead-off #1 of 1989 ushered in a new sound known as new jack swing: an exciting blend of various forms of black music, samples, and electronic drum beats. NJS was the product of superstar producers such as Teddy Riley, L.A. Reid, and Babyface, rather than the artists involved (although some, like Janet Jackson, partnered with their producers as active creative participants).
Bobby Brown benefitted from the vision and talent of all three producers, who gave him the year’s initial chart topper “My Prerogative” and four more Top 10s in 1989: “Roni,” “Every Little Step,” “On Our Own,” and “Rock Wit’cha.” Bobby also won an R&B Vocal Grammy for “Step,” and his Don’t Be Cruel album moved seven million copies.
Brown had originally been a member of r&b “boy band” New Edition when that group notched up eight r&b and one pop Top 10 singles. The group had been assembled by Maurice Starr, who was unceremoniously left behind when NE switched labels. Starr retreated from the music biz. When he returned, it was with a white teen group: New Kids On The Block, named after a song included on their first album.
After their fourth 45 cracked the Hot 100 and went to #10 in 1988, the NKOTB floodgates opened and in 1989 the band sent six sides into the Top 10, including the #1s “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” and “Hangin’ Tough.” All told, tracks by NKOTB spent 69 weeks in the Top 40 and they were the year’s top artist.
Paula Abdul came to fame as a cheerleader and then choreographer for The Los Angeles Lakers basketball cheerleading squad. Among the season ticket holders were some of the Jackson brothers, who asked Paula to create routines for their “Torture” video.
Her Lakers work also caught the eye of an exec at Janet Jackson’s label, and Paula was soon creating choreography for Janet and other high profile artists, as well as for TV and film.
Abdul wanted to record as well and eventually landed a deal with Virgin. Her second single was barely out when a DJ in San Francisco began playing “Straight Up” from her Forever Your Girl album. In response, Virgin released “Straight Up” and redirected its promotional efforts.
“Straight Up” went straight to the top, followed by three more #1s, all from Forever You Girl: the first album by a female with four #1 Billboard singles.
Paula and Janet were just two of the women who reached #1 in 1989. In fact, seven of the year’s Top10 singles were by females. Of the others…Madonna extended her Top 10 streak to 17 by adding “Like A Prayer” (#1), Express Yourself (#2), and “Cherish” (also a #2)…Gloria Estefan (now solo) struck gold with “Don’t Wanna Lose You”… Debbie Gibson scored her second #1 with “Lost In Your Eyes,” Marie Fredriksson of Swedish duo Roxette reached #1 twice with “The Look” and “Listen To Your Heart,” and…actress Martika delivered “Toy Soldiers.”
Then there was Bette Midler. By 1989, Bette was already a show business vet who had starred in several movies, and was a Grammy award winner and Oscar nominee for her recording of “The Rose.”
Crooner Roger Whittaker was the first to record “Wind Beneath My Wings” as the title track for a 1982 album, after which Lou Rawls had a #10 adult contemporary hit with it and a version by Gladys Knight and The Pips reached #23 on that chart (both in 1983). That same year country singer Gary Morris took it to #4.
Next it was Bette’s turn. “Wind” was the musical backdrop to a very touching scene in Midler’s then-current movie Beaches. When released as the second single from the soundtrack, it sold platinum and won two Grammies.
Even with all of this success by women, there was still room for familiar male faces: Phil Collins, Billy Joel, Prince, Bon Jovi, Richard Marx, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and R.E.M. all had bestselling singles.
Among the more unique hit back stories were those of Sheriff and Milli Vanilli. The former was a Canadian quintet. Member and songwriter Arnold Lanni banged out most of “When I’m With You” in just four minutes. It peaked at #61 in 1983, then faded from sight.
Fast forward to 1988. A Phoenix radio DJ began spinning Sheriff’s old single, audience response was strong, and other stations followed suit. In February “When I’m With You” reached #1, but the band had broken up years before and there was no followup.
Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan — AKA Milli Vanilli (Turkish for positive energy) — were one of 1989’s hottest acts. Their debut single “Girl You Know It’s True” made it to #2; “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” and “Blame It On The Rain” were #1 smashes. Then the rumors started. A press announcement in November of 1990 confirmed them: neither had sung on their hits. Fans responded with anger and within days NARAS took back their Best New Artist Grammy.
In the decades to come, rap music would become the most popular form of contemporary music. Since its initial foray into the Top 40 in 1980, this urban street form had made inroads on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles, yet remained MIA on the pop list.
The first rap album to reach #1 was Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys. Although it stayed there for seven weeks in 1987, its lone single success peaked at #7.
The pop breakthrough came in 1989 when Tone Loc landed two platinum-selling rap 45s on the chart: “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina” Few recognized how groundbreaking this was. They’d soon find out.