With the hybrid genre of rock and roll fully established as the sound of young America, 1959 is a year when new sounds allow popular music to take massive leaps forward. For example, shot out of a cannon are massive tracks like “What’d I Say,” “Money,” and “Shout,” which herald rhythm and blues as not simply the sound of Black America, but the sound of the future.
1959 is also the year country music begins its great struggle to define itself. The Nashville Sound with its strings, heavenly background vocals, and polished production is about to break through; meanwhile, listeners this year get two different looks at country: “El Paso” showcases a throwback, Western story-song style, and “White Lightning” is a much more modern take on hillbilly drinking. These songs set the stage for the future of white rural music.
After listening, VOTE for the greatest songs of all time! Songs from 1959, plus tunes from 1958, 1957, 1956, and 1955, are up for a shot to make the Hall of Songs! Vote now and come back in 12 days to find out which song or songs get in!
Our 1959 nominees:
- “Peter Gunn” as performed by Ray Anthony
- Written by Henry Mancini; recorded January 1959; released January 1959
- “White Lightning” as performed by George Jones
- Written by J.P. Richardson; recorded December 1958; released February 1959
- “Come Softly to Me” as performed by The Fleetwoods
- Written by Gretchen Christopher, Barbara Ellis, and Gary Troxel; recorded fall 1958; released February 1959
- “Dream Lover” as performed by Bobby Darin
- Written by Bobby Darin; recorded March 1959; released April 1959
- “I Only Have Eyes For You” as performed by The Flamingos
- Written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren; recorded October 1958; released April 1959
- “There Goes My Baby” as performed by The Drifters
- Written by Benjamin Nelson, Lover Patterson, and George Treadwell; recorded March 1959; released April 1959
- “What’d I Say” as performed by Ray Charles
- Written by Ray Charles; recorded February 1959; released June 1959
- “Shout” as performed by The Isley Brothers
- Written by O’Kelly Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley, and Ronald Isley; recorded July 1959; released August 1959
- “Money (That’s What I Want)” as performed by Barrett Strong
- Written by Janie Bradford and Berry Gordy; recorded summer 1959; released August 1959
- “Mack the Knife” as performed by Bobby Darin
- Written by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Marc Blitzstein; recorded December 1958; released August 1959
- “El Paso” as performed by Marty Robbins
- Written by Marty Robbins; recorded April 1959; released October 1959
Listen to the full episode for more, and then vote for the songs that you think are the greatest of all-time. Scroll down or click here to vote. Then, come back on June 13, 2021, for our discussion on 1960.