35 Popular Songs From The 1930s (Greatest Hits)

Sometimes it’s cool to go back and listen to songs from a certain decade because the style of music and topics can be interesting when you compare it to the present day. If you’ve been looking for 35 popular songs from the 1930s, then keep reading to see what made our list.

1. Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland 

Judy Garland tops our list with her hit song Over The Rainbow, a classic song from the 1930s written for  The Wizard of Oz. This song became the one song that Judy was known for and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. For more than 30 years, Judy sang this song and stuck with the same tune she had for the movie because she wanted the message and the character Dorothy to stay the same. 

2. In The Mood – Glenn Miller 

Glenn Miller - In the Mood (Audio)

Next up is a jazz classic, In The Mood by Glenn Miller, and in 1983 this classic was put into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It also was put into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, and NPR said this recording was one of the most important works of the 20th century. Several artists have covered this song through the years, including Jerry Lee Lewis. 

3. Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller & his orchestra

Glenn Miller & His Orchestra - Moonlight Serenade (Audio)

Another Glenn Miller song that was popular in the 30s was Moonlight Serenade, a swing ballad that was a hit as soon as it was released in 1939. It was known as Miller’s signature song, and in 1991 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

4. Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday 

Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra - Strange Fruit (Audio)

Next is Billie Holiday with her song Strange Fruit which was released in 1939. This song was controversial because it talked about blacks being lynched, and it was a protest against this practice and compared lynching to fruit trees. This song was significant in the Civil Rights Movement, and in 1978, this version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and named by the RIAA as one of the top songs of the century. 

5. Sing Sing Sing – Benny Goodman 

Up next is Benny Goodman with the song Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing), which was released in 1937. This song is a notable part of the swing and big band time period, and it was one of the songs that would remind you of New Orleans. In 1982 the Benny Goodman version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

6. God Bless America – Kate Smith 

Next is Kate Smith, known as the First Lady of Radio, a well-known singer who released multiple albums during the 30s and 40s. She had a radio broadcast where she first performed her rendition of God Bless America in 1938. The version she sang happened on Armistice Day, and it was such a hit that it became her signature song.  

7. Mood Indigo – Duke Ellington 

In 1930, Duke Ellington wrote a song called Dreamy Blues for a radio broadcast, but Irving Mills decided to rename it to Mood Indigo and put lyrics to it. The song became a standard in jazz and was one of the several Duke Ellington songs that became a hit in the 30s. You can hear Mood Indigo in movies such as Harlem Nights, White Men Can’t Jump, Paris Blues, and Up In The Air. It’s also in television shows such as The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire

8. the Wabash Cannonball – Roy Acuff 

Roy Acuff - The Wabash Cannonball (Live)

Next up is Roy Acuff with his version of the folk song The Wabash Cannonball, recorded in 1936, and his version of this song has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. That’s a rarity, and there are less than 40 singles to have reached that milestone. The song was originally recorded in 1929 by the Carter Family, but the Roy Acuff version has had the most success. 

9. Pennies From Heaven – Bing Crosby 

Pennies from Heaven

Bing Crosby recorded Pennies From Heaven in 1936. This pop song was written for the movie Pennies From Heaven. This version of the song topped the Billboard charts for over 10 weeks, and in 2004, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

10. Cheek To Cheek – Fred Astaire 

Next on our list is Fred Astaire with the song Cheek to Cheek, which Irving Berlin wrote for Astaire, who was starring in Berlin’s musical. This song is sung when Astaire is dancing with his co-star, and it became a huge hit and landed on Your Hit Parade in the number one position for five weeks! In 1935, Cheek to Cheek was the number one song, and in 2000 was put in the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

11. If I Didn’t Care – the Ink Spots 

The Ink Spots released If I Didn’t Care in 1939. It was one of the biggest songs of the decade, and it’s a love song that multiple artists covered over the years. The Ink Spots version was special, and the most popular version due to the 20s and 30s sounds you hear in it, including the high-pitched vocals that have the crooning sound. Their version was put into the National Recording Registry thanks to the Library of Congress believing it was historically and culturally significant. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame. 

12. Can The Circle Be Unbroken – The Carter Family 

Can the Circle Be Unbroken

Can The Circle Be Unbroken by the Carter Family was one of the earliest pioneers of country music. This gospel song is upbeat and talks about heaven, love, and unity. The Carter Family had such instrumental and vocal skills that they led the way for folk and country songs to make it into mainstream culture. 

13. Silent Night – Bing Crosby 

Bing Crosby’s rendition of Silent Night Holy Night was released in 1935 and became his best-selling song of the decade. His voice was perfect for this song, and people looked to his soothing voice for comfort that better things would come.

14. The Way You Look Tonight – Fred Astaire 

The Way You Look Tonight

If you’ve watched old movies, then you might know The Way You Look Tonight from the movie Swing TimeIt was performed by Fred Astaire and was released in 1936. In Swing Time, Astaire sings this song to his co-star when she’s shampooing her hair. The Way You Look Tonight won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. 

15. Minnie The Moocher – Cab Calloway 

Cab Calloway - Minnie the Moocher

Cab Calloway released Minnie The Moocher in 1931, which is a scat song about a girl who wants higher-class men but can’t seem to get them. This song was Calloway’s biggest song; he even sang some of it on Sesame Street during the 80s.

16. Cross road Blues – Robert Johnson 

Robert Johnson - Robert Johnson's Cross Road Blues (Official Video)

Robert Johnson, one of the biggest blues artists, released Crossroads Blues in 1936. He was one of the founding musicians that brought blues out into the open. Had it not been for him and other similar musicians, we wouldn’t have rock and roll later on. Crossroads Blues remains one of his biggest hits, one of that decade’s most popular blues songs. 

17. I Can’t Get Started – Bunny Berigan & his orchestra

I Can't Get Started

In 1937, Bunny Berigan chose I Can’t Get Started as his theme song after performing it in 1936 when it came out. He ended up changing the arrangement for the song before he recorded his version. The version Bunny came up with was very popular and later ended up in the Grammy Hall Of Fame. 

18. One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie

Count Basie’s One O’Clock Jump has a lot of saxophone in it and became one of the biggest songs of the 30s. This song quickly became the signature song of the Count Basie Orchestra, and it was recorded by Count several times over the next 20 years. It was named one of the Songs of the Century and put into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

19. Stormy Weather – Ethel Waters

Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All The Time) (78rpm Version)

In 1933, Ethel Waters released Stormy Weather, and she first sang this song at a nightclub called the Cotton Club in Harlem. It wasn’t until later that year that she recorded and released the song, which became one of the decade’s biggest songs. 

20. Body and Soul – Coleman Hawkins

Next is Coleman Hawkins with the song Body and Soul, which was recorded in 1939 and became the most influential and popular version. This version was one of the first times that bebop was used since it differed from swing music and Hawkins’s improvisation in the song. His version is in the Library of Congress and National Recording Registry. 

21. All Or Nothing at all – Frank Sinatra 

All or Nothing at All

We all know the next artist because he’s one of the biggest names in the business, and it’s Frank Sinatra with the song All Or Nothing. This 1939 classic is what brought attention to Sinatra and showed off not only his talents but his charm and good looks. Sinatra was a huge sensation in the 30s, and with All Or Nothing, we can see what made him so famous.

22. I’m In The Mood For Love – Louis Armstrong

I'm In The Mood For Love

Louis Armstrong recorded a version of I’m In The Mood For Love in 1935, the year the song was published. The song was featured in Every Night at Eight and became one of the most popular songs that Louis Armstrong performed. 

23. It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie – Fats Waller 

It's A Sin to Tell A Lie

Attention all jazz fans, It’s a Sin To Tell A Lie was one of the biggest dance songs of the 30s. It’s the version by Fats Waller that became one of the biggest songs of the decade. He released the song first on Victor 25342 and then again on Victor 20-1595

24. Stein Song – Rudy Vallee 

Stein Song (University of Maine)

The Stein Song is the song of the University of Maine, and when Rudy Valee heard it while he attended school, he recorded a version of it with a quicker tempo and changed a couple of words. The 1930 version by Valee became a number-one hit and the only college song to top the charts.

25. Tea For Two – Art Tatum 

Art Tatum is thought to be one of the greatest piano players in jazz, and one of his earliest songs was an improvised version of Tea For Two. There are several modulations in this song, so it’s no wonder he loved it so much, and it’s one of his classic masterpieces. 

26. Don’t Be That Way – Benny Goodman 

Next on our list is Benny Goodman with Don’t Be That Way which he first recorded live in 1938. It’s one of the famous songs featured in the Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert and was one of the biggest songs of that time. 

27. Begin The Beguine – Artie Shaw 

Begin The Beguine - (From "Jubilee")

If you like bandleaders, check out Begin the Beguine by Artie Shaw from 1938 because Artie was known as one of the biggest bandleaders of the decade. This song has notes that are upbeat and will make you want to dance, and it’s very important to the dance scene during the 30s. 

28. A-Tisket, A-Tasket – Ella Fitzgerald feat. Chick Webb & his Orchestra 

A-Tisket, A-Tasket (feat. Chick Webb and His Orchestra)

Up next is a take on the nursery rhyme A Tisket, A Tasket, which was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald in 1938. The song was incredibly successful and is one of the songs that has become a standard in jazz

29. Heartaches – John Klemmer

We have to include John Klemmer and his version of Heartaches, which was originally released in 1931. Ted Weems and his version of Heartaches from 1947 was a quicker-tempo version of the original, and it was one of the top-selling singles of the 40s, but this is where it all began. 

30. Roll ‘Em Pete – Pete Johnson and Joe Turner 

Pete Johnson and Joe Turner - Roll 'Em Pete (1938)

If you like Blues, then Roll ‘Em Pete by Pete Johnson is worth checking out. This song was released in 1938, and it’s one of the earliest signs of what would become rock and roll later on. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame. 

31. Cherokee – Charlie Barnet 

The Indian love song Cherokee by Charlie Barnet makes our list, and his version was recorded in 1939. It made it onto the pop charts at number 15, and he re-recorded it in 1958 in Hi-Fi stereo. Several artists before Charlie and after have recorded a version of this song, but this is a classic 30s hit. Cherokee has been used in several movies, including Jasper in a Jam, Jam Session, and Racing With the Moon. It was also used in television shows such as Hogan’s Heroes.

32. Woodchopper’s Ball – Woody Herman

Woodchopper's Ball

Also now classified as a jazz standard is Woodchopper’s Ball by Woody Herman from 1939. Woody’s biggest song sold a million records, becoming the most famous composition for Woody. In 2002, Woody’s version entered the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

33. Puttin’ On The Ritz – Harry Richman and Earl Burtnett 

Puttin' On The Ritz

Puttin’ On The Ritz has to be on our list because this iconic song was recorded by Harry Richman and Earl Burtnett in 1930. Irving Berlin wrote this song for the musical Puttin’ On The Ritz. Interestingly, this was the first song featured in a film with an interracial musical ensemble singing it, so it was historical. Inspired by the Ritz Hotel in London, the song’s name is slang for dressing fashionably. 

34. Marie – Tommy Dorsey 

Next on our list is Marie by Tommy Dorsey, which was released in 1937 and became one of the biggest hits for Tommy. It was written by Irving Berlin. This is a laid-back song that has become one of the jazz standards and includes both saxophones and trumpets. 

35. It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) – Duke Ellington 

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) (1990 Remaster)

In 1931, It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) was recorded by Duke Ellington and has become a jazz standard. The song is legendary, and in 2008, the version Duke recorded made it into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

Recommended Next:

Best 1920s songs

Best 1940s songs

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