Swing music and big bands were highly popular during the 30s, but do you know which musicians topped the charts during those times? We’re going to tell you the 31 best songs from 1936 below, so keep reading to find out just what filled the airwaves during that era.
1. A Fine Romance – Fred Astaire
First up on the list is A Fine Romance, which was recorded by Fred Astaire and spent 12 weeks on the Billboard chart with it peaking at number one for five weeks. He sang this song with Ginger Rogers in the movie Swing Time, and he also released a solo version of the track. Both versions were successful and remain classic ballads to this day that people still enjoy listening to.
2. Cross Road Blues – Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson is on the list with Cross Road Blues, which also goes by the name Crossroads. This song contains a slide guitar in acoustic, which gave the track a very blues feeling. The tune traces back to how he believed he had musical talents because he allowed the Devil to take his inner soul. The song is thought of as one of his signature tracks, and it was always a part of his concerts and other performances.
3. Pennies From Heaven – Bing Crosby
The crooner, Bing Crosby, makes our list with Pennies From Heaven, which comes from the movie of the same name, and this song hit the charts where it went to number one for 10 weeks. In 2004, the track went into the Grammy Hall of Fame and has been covered numerous times over the years by artists such as Dean Martin and Doris Day.
4. It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie – Fats Waller
Next is the song It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie, which was one of many hits he had in his career. This track went onto the Billboard charts and stayed on the charts for more than 12 weeks with it peaking at number one for four weeks.
5. Goodnight Irene – Lead Belly
Lead Belly is on the list with Goodnight Irene, which is a folk song that he originally recorded. This track is about a guy who used to be with a woman named Irene and how troubled their relationship was, and his thoughts of suicide after they broke up. The song was put into the Library of Congress and also the Grammy Hall of Fame. If you weren’t aware of him before, Nirvana is famous for covering a lot of his tracks, including hits like Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
6. There’s A Small Hotel – Hal Kemp
Next is There’s A Small Hotel by Hal Kemp, which was a big hit in 1936. This song went to number one on the Billboard chart for two weeks and stayed on the charts for a total of 15 weeks. The track was one of many hits he had in his career, and it’s thought of as one of his signature songs.
7. Alone – Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra
Tommy Dorsey had several big songs in the 30s and one of these hits was Alone, which was one of the most popular versions of this track to be released. Cliff Weston provided the vocals for Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra. This song spent 14 weeks on the Billboard charts with it peaking at number one for six weeks.
8. Until The Real Thing Comes Along – Andy Kirk & His 12 Clouds Of Joy
Up next is Andy Kirk with the song Until The Real Thing Comes Along, which was one of his most well-known tunes. The track went to number two on Hit Parade and remains a classic ballad to this day.
9. The Way You Look Tonight – Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire is on the list again with The Way You Look Tonight, which comes from Swing Time the movie. In this movie, he is singing this song to Ginger Rogers as she is shampooing her hair. At the Academy Awards, this track won in the Best Original Song category and it was one of the most popular tunes of the year.
He recorded the track with Dixie Lee, who was his wife, and it spent 17 weeks on the Billboard charts with it hitting number one for six weeks. It is a jazz standard and was put into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
10. Summertime – Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday makes our list with Summertime, which was one of her many hits in the 30s. This song was written by DuBose Heyward, George Gershwin, and Ira Gershwin. It remains one of the most popular tracks that she released and is an iconic jazz song.
11. Is It True What They Say About Dixie – Jimmy Dorsey
Next on the list is Is It True What They Say About Dixie? Jimmy Dorsey released this song, and it instantly became a hit with it hitting number one on the Billboard charts. This track is in a lot of movies and television shows including Yellowstone and Rules Don’t Apply.
12. Goody Goody – Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman had a hit with Goody Goody, which was first recorded by Ted Wallace. This song was a very popular one for him, and it spent 13 weeks on the Billboard charts with it peaking at number one for six weeks. This tune can be found in the play You Can’t Take It With You and is also in The Muppet Show.
13. Melody From The Sky – Jan Garber and His Orchestra
A Melody From The Sky makes the list by Jan Garber And His Orchestra with vocals by Lee Bennett. This song was written by Louis Alter, and the lyrics were composed by Sydney Mitchell. It was a big hit for Garber and went to number one on the Billboard charts where it stayed for three weeks, with the tune having a total chart run of 11 weeks.
14. When I’m With You – Hal Kemp
Hal Kemp is next with When I’m With You, which hit the Billboard charts where it went to number one for two weeks while spending a total of 13 weeks on the chart. He had a lot of successful tunes in the 30s with this song being one of the most popular. The instruments in this track will take you away and make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time, which is exactly why it’s part of our list.
15. All My Life – Fats Waller
Fats Waller is on the list with All My Life, which was one of his more popular tunes. The original version was released earlier in the year by Phil Regan although when Waller recorded it months later, it became a much bigger deal than the original. He was an interesting musician with his vocal style and that’s what stands out in songs like this because he sang in such a gravel-like manner but it’s not jarring or weird.
16. When Did You Leave Heaven – Guy Lombardo
Spending 15 weeks on the Billboard chart and two weeks at number one is the song When Did You Leave Heaven by Guy Lombardo, This track was one of the many hits he had throughout his career, and it remains one of his signature songs and most popular tunes.
17. Robins And Roses – Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby makes our list again with Robins And Roses, which hit number two on the Billboard charts and is one of the most iconic recordings of this song. The lyrics were written by Edgar Leslie and the composition was by Joe Burke. Pat Boone and Jimmy Dorsey both ended up recording it later on, but Crosby’s original is still the most popular and well-known of them all.
18. The Touch Of Your Lips – Hal Kemp
Hal Kemp is also on the list with The Touch Of Your Lips, and while this song didn’t top the charts, it was one of the biggest tracks of the year. He had a lot of popular songs in his catalog, but this one is very romantic and sweet, which is what made it a hit and it remains a classic to this day.
19. She Shall Have Music – Lud Gluskin
Lud Gluskin had a hit with She Shall Have Music, which was one of his biggest hits. This song will take you back in time and make you feel like you’re living in the jazz and stage and screen era. The instruments and vocals in this track make it the perfect example of what made this genre of music so interesting and well-liked.
20. Glory Of Love – Benny Goodman
Up next is Glory Of Love by Benny Goodman, which was the original version of the song that Billy Hill wrote. This is obviously a love track, and it didn’t take long for this song to hit the Billboard charts. It went to number one for six weeks and spent 15 weeks total on the chart. It was such a good track that multiple artists have gone on to record a version including Rosemary Clooney and Dean Martin.
21. I’ll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs – Eddy Duchin
Speaking of love songs, Eddy Duchin released I’ll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs, which became a popular tune in 1936. This was one of many hits he had even though it did not make it onto the charts in the number one position. It’s one of the classic jazz-pop tracks that’ll get you grooving and moving like no other.
22. What’s The Name Of That Song – Paul Whiteman
Paul Whiteman had a hit with the jazz-pop tune What’s The Name Of That Song? Vocals were performed by Johnny Hauser, and this track was written by Vee Lawnhurst and Tot Seymour. While this song may not be as famous as some of Whiteman’s other tunes, it’s still one of the classic tracks that will make you feel like you’re living in the big band and jazz era.
23. You Turned The Tables On Me – Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman is on the list with You Turned The Tables On Me, which was released for the movie Sing, Baby, Sing. This song featured Helen Ward on vocals, and it quickly went up the charts reaching number three on Your Hit Parade. This track has been covered several times over the years by various artists.
24. Please Believe Me – Wingy Manone & His Orchestra
The jazz and swing song Please Believe Me makes our list and this was by Wingy Manone & His Orchestra. Side A of the recording was Ol’ Man Mose with Please Believe Me being on side B. This was a very popular song in 1936 and remained one of his iconic tracks throughout his career. If you haven’t had a chance to check him out yet, then this is the perfect song to learn more about his style.
25. Moon Over Miami – Eddy Duchin & His Orchestra
Moon Over Miami by Eddy Duchin & His Orchestra spent 11 weeks on the Billboard chart and hit number one for three weeks. While several other recordings were made, his version is the most popular and well-known. This song was later used in the movie of the same name, which came out in 1941.
26. Us On A Bus – Fats Waller
Fats Waller had a hit with Us On A Bus, which remains one of the top jazz songs by him to be released. The track features him on piano and vocals, and it’s one of those songs you’ll instantly fall in love with once you hear it. It was written by Vee Lawnhurst and Tot Seymour and can be found as side A on the record with Christopher Columbus on side B.
27. No Regrets – Tommy Dorsey
No Regrets by Tommy Dorsey makes the list, and it was written by Roy Ingraham and Harry Tobias. Dorsey had multiple hit songs during this decade, but unfortunately, this one never made the Billboard charts. However, it’s one of the tracks that really let his orchestra shine, and you’ll end up immersed in the jazz and swing components of this song.
28. Gloomy Sunday – Hal Kemp
Next is Gloomy Sunday by Hal Kemp and written by Rezso Seress, Sam Lewis, and Laszlo Javor. Interestingly, Sinead O’Connor would go on to record this song years later, and her version remains one of the top renditions. This track was a pretty big hit for Kemp although it never reached the charts. Regardless, when you hear the song, you will get a feel of what made him so special as a band leader and why this track remains a beloved jazz song to this day.
29. Lights Out – Eddy Duchin
Eddy Duchin is on our list again with the song Lights Out, which was written by Billy Hill. The first recording of this track was by Freddy Martin And His Orchestra, but Duchin recorded it a short time later, and it quickly became the favorite.
30. What Will I Tell My Heart? – Andy Kirk
Andy Kirk is on our list with What Will I Tell My Heart? which featured Pha Terrell on vocals. The song was written by Jack Lawrence and Peter Tinturin, and while the tune has been covered many times, Kirk’s original version remains one of the most iconic and beloved.
31. Did You Mean It? – Kay Kyser
Kay Kyser makes the list with Did You Mean It? This track was one of many hits that he would have in his career with his orchestra. This big band song featured Virginia Simms on vocals, and she was one of many vocalists that he would use for his music. When you listen to this track, you can see why he was so popular and why he was known as one of the best band leaders of that era.
From the time she was little, Florence loved listening to music and quickly learned how music can make you happy and feel fulfilled. One of her favorite memories is being in the garage with her dad working on classic cars with the local rock station blaring in the background. Ever since Florence was 3, she loved grunge music and spent hours listening to bands such as Alice in Chains, Mad Season, Soul Asylum, and Soundgarden.
She also enjoys classic rock, modern rock, nu metal, alternative rock, and old 90’s R&B. Her love of music grew as she got older, and used music to help her get through tough times in her life. More often than not, you’ll see Florence with earbuds in while she’s writing, cooking, cleaning, and doing other tasks. She also loves to debate music with her friends such as which lead singer is the best vocalist, the most iconic guitar solos in music, and what songs are really the best of the decade.