Are you looking to build a playlist of songs from the 40s but don’t know what tracks you should add to your playlist? Continue reading as we go over the 31 best songs from 1941 that you might want to put onto your playlist right now.
1. Chattanooga Choo-Choo – Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller is on the list with Chattanooga Choo-Choo, which was in the movie Sun Valley Serenade. It was incredibly popular because it was catchy and upbeat and one of the best examples of swing music. The lyrics are about a train that goes to Chattanooga from New York City and all of the things that were seen and heard on this journey. It’s in this song that we get the phrase “Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?” which is still used today.
2. Green Eyes – Jimmy Dorsey
Up next is Jimmy Dorsey with the song Green Eyes, which hit the Billboard charts where it peaked at number one and stayed on the charts for a total of 21 weeks. It’s one of the biggest romantic tracks of 1941, and it’s about a guy who falls for a woman with incredible green eyes. This was one of his biggest hits, and it’s a song that is still played today due to its sweet and charming lyrics and beautiful instruments heard in the background.
3. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters were huge during this time, and their song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy is one of the biggest hits of the decade. It was released for the film Buck Privates and ended up hitting the Billboard Pop Singles chart at number six. This track is all about a guy who is a jazz player and plays the bugle, and he ends up being drafted during World War II. There is a lot of energy in this song, which makes it one of the best swing tracks of the era.
4. Stardust – Artie Shaw
Artie Shaw made a cover of Stardust, and this would become one of the more popular versions of the song to be released. It sold over one million copies, and his clarinet playing set it apart from others, including the version released by Frank Sinatra at the same time. The track itself had already become a standard for the big band era, and it’s a song that has continued to be covered through the years.
5. Take The “A” Train – Duke Ellington
Take The “A” Train was one of Duke Ellington’s signature songs and is one of the most well-known jazz standards of all time. This track is talking about the subway, which ran from Harlem to Brooklyn, dubbed the A Train, and was meant to encourage people to experience what this area had to offer.
6. Daddy – Sammy Kaye
Sammy Kaye makes the list with Daddy, which went to number one on the Billboard charts and stayed in the number one position for eight weeks. This song is about a woman who entices her man to buy her expensive items, thus the term “Daddy” to reference this man and his ability to buy her what she wants. It became popular because a lot of people, especially during the early 40s, had this desire for someone to shower them with expensive goods and show them affection.
7. The Band Played On – Guy Lombardo
One of the biggest pop standards to be recorded was And The Band Played On, Guy Lombardo is likely the most well-known musician to cover this song. You can find the track in the movie The Strawberry Blonde, and when the film was released, so was his record. It hit the Billboard Best Seller chart and peaked at number six, with it staying on the charts for four weeks total.
8. Blue Champagne – Jimmy Dorsey
Next is Blue Champagne by Jimmy Dorsey, which hit number one on the Billboard Best Selling Retail Records chart. This song would be his fifth entrance into the number-one position in 1941 alone. A track that is all about love, loss, romance, and heartache allowed it to resonate with a lot of people and become a classic ballad that is still popular today.
9. Elmer’s Tune – Glenn Miller
Next is Glenn Miller with Elmer’s Tune, which went to number one on the Billboard Best Selling Retail Records chart and stayed on the chart for more than 20 weeks! This song is about a guy named Elmer, and he is always happy and whistling, so it’s a positive and upbeat track that features catchy lyrics and a lot of instruments such as drums and horns. It became a popular swing song that everyone could dance to and forget all of the worries of the day.
10. Walking The Floor Over You – Ernest Tubb
Calling all fans of the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, Ernest Tubb makes the list with Walking The Floor Over You, which can be found in the film. It originally only had his vocals, an electric guitar, and an acoustic guitar, although later on, he would use his band and record a different version of the song.
The original version was a hit and placed number 23 on the Billboard charts and would sell over a million copies. The Library of Congress selected this track in 2022 as one of the songs to be in the National Recording Registry.
11. It’s A Great Day For The Irish – Judy Garland
On our list next is Judy Garland with the song It’s A Great Day For The Irish, which was written in part because she was one-quarter Irish, and it was to be used in the movie version of Little Nellie Kelly, a Broadway show that had been released 20 years earlier. It was one of her biggest hits and was used to introduce more Americans to the culture of the Irish.
12. God Bless The Child – Billie Holiday
Up next is Billie Holiday with God Bless The Child, which was one of her most well-known tracks, and she would record this song over again repeatedly over her career. This was such a famous track that this version was listed as one of the Songs of the Century and received a Grammy Hall of Fame honor in 1976.
13. There’ll Be Some Changes Made – Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman had a hit with There’ll Be Some Changes Made, which went to number one on the Billboard charts and hit two on the Your Hit Parade chart. The song is all about a guy who is about to start his life over on his own and leave the person he’s with. If you’ve ever left a significant other, then you can relate to the lyrics in this track.
14. Tonight We Love (Piano Concerto In B Flat) – Freddy Martin
Freddy Martin is on our list with Piano Concerto In B Flat (Tonight We Love), which is a song that is an instrumental and contains an entire orchestra and a piano solo that he himself plays. There is a lot of complexity and dramatic changes in this piece, which made it one of the best instrumental arrangements of the decade.
15. I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire – The Ink Spots
Calling all fans of Star Trek: Picard, you may know the song by the Ink Spots called I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire, which appears in season 3 of the show. This was one of the biggest versions of the track, and it is also featured in Fallout games such as Fallout 3, Fallout 76, and Fallout 4. When the song was released in 1941, it went to number four on the Billboard Pop chart.
16. Yours – Jimmy Dorsey
Next up is Jimmy Dorsey with Yours, which hit number one on the Billboard charts and stayed on the charts for 16 weeks altogether. The song is about being faithful to the other person, and it’s a track that is romantic and warm, with a melody that you’d find soothing and honest. This song is one of the biggest love tracks of the decade, and it’s still played today.
17. Do I Worry? – Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey makes the list with the song Do I Worry, which has horns in it that make it an energetic and positive track that shows off what big band music sounded like. It’s one of the best swing songs of the decade because of its charm and melody.
18. I Hear a Rhapsody – Charlie Barnet
I Hear A Rhapsody by Charlie Barnet is one of the jazz standards that was a top 10 hit on the Billboard charts. This song is all about how beautiful music is and how the person in the track can hear the melody of music in his dreams. It was a hit for him and many other artists in 1941, including Jimmy Dorsey.
19. The Last Time I Saw Paris – Tony Martin
Tony Martin released The Last Time I Saw Paris, which is a somber song that reflects on the cities in Europe that were devastated during World War II and the Battle of France. This track is a classic because of its refrain, which is haunting, and it’s a stark reminder about how short life can be and all of the memories we have that are just moments in time.
20. Two In Love – Tommy Dorsey And Frank Sinatra
Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra recorded Two In Love, which is a great song about two people who fell in love, and it’s romantic as well as sweet and charming. The trombone playing by Dorsey and the crooning of Sinatra really set this track apart, and it quickly became one of the jazz ballads that people enjoyed all throughout the 40s.
21. When The Man Is Dead And Gone – Al Bowlly
Al Bowlly is on our list with the song When The Man Is Dead And Gone, which is all about how we will all die at some point and how fleeting life can be. It’s about learning to not take life for granted and make the best out of every day you have. No wonder, it’s a track that still resonates with people today.
22. You And I – Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller had a hit with You And I, which is all about how two people love each other and how everything else in the world is so unpredictable and unknown. This song is romantic and emotional, and there is some vulnerability in the instruments and the lyrics to the track. It’s a beautiful song that captures how crazy it is that we can find love when everything in our lives is so chaotic.
23. Canta, Brasil! – Francisco Alves
Canta, Brasil! makes the list by Francisco Alves, which is all about Brazil and how beautiful the country is with music and culture that is simply stunning. There is a lot of energy in the vocals, and the lyrics go into the history and people that live in the country. If you have a love of Brazil or are from there, then this song is going to help you feel nostalgic about life back home, and it’s a joyful happy track that is still played today.
24. By The Light Of The Silvery Moon – Ray Noble
Ray Noble is on the list with By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, and this jazz song features a catchy melody that is happy and joyful. The track has amazing piano playing by him, and it’s a romantic song that talks about being under the moonlight with someone you love. If you like solos, then this track is going to be right up your alley because numerous solos are in the song featuring all of the lovely instruments including the horns.
25. High On A Windy Hill – Gene Krupa
Next is High On A Windy Hill by Gene Krupa, which hit number two on the Billboard Best Selling Retail Records chart. This song is a classic jazz track that is all about spending time on a hill with someone you love in the evening and feeling the serenity and beauty all around you.
26. Bounce Me Brother With A Solid Four -The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters make the list with Bounce Me Brother With A Solid Four, which is about swing dancing and the song encourages everyone to dance. This track is exciting and upbeat and has a lot of horns in it along with really pretty vocals to make you feel energized and groovy.
27. She Belongs To The Devil – Washboard Sam
Washboard Sam had a hit with She Belongs To The Devil, which is all about a woman who is under the Devil’s power, and she is giving in to temptations and sins because that’s what the devil wants. There are a lot of instruments in the song, including the washboard, hence the name Washboard Sam. This gives the track a lot more rhythm, and the saxophone solo and piano are just amazing aspects of the song that make it haunting and even more mysterious.
28. Cool Water – The Sons Of The Pioneers
Cool Water makes our list, which was by The Sons Of The Pioneers, and when it was released, it went to number two on the Billboard charts. This song is thought of as one of the best Western tracks of all time with it being number three on the Western Writers of America list of Top 100 of all time. When you listen to the song, you can figure out that it’s talking about a guy who is traveling with his mule, and he is seeing mirages because he has no water and is hallucinating.
29. Yes, Indeed! – Tommy Dorsey
Up next is Tommy Dorsey with the hit song Yes, Indeed! which hit four on the Billboard charts, and it’s one of the top swing jazz tracks of the decade. This song is upbeat and very catchy, and it’s all about how exciting it is when you’re in love. Bunny Berigan has a trumpet solo in the track, and it’s considered one of the top jazz standards that multiple musicians have since covered.
30. “V” Stands For Victory – Joe Loss & His Band
Joe Loss & His Band makes our list with the hit “V” Stands For Victory, which was a World War II type of song that was supposed to help inspire patriotism and the British forces loved this track. There is a rhythm in this song meant for marching, and it features an optimistic and hopeful tone, so it was a rallying cry for the soldiers and stayed popular well after the war was over.
31. Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy) – Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey had a hit with Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy), which was originally in Spanish, and it’s a song that is a great example of big band music. There is a huge Latin sound in the track with drums, strings, and horns, and it’s infectious and catchy. The song is about a guy who is just enamored with a flower, and he talks about how much he loves this poppy flower.
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.