So many iconic musicians topped the charts in the early 40s with tracks that are still popular today, and we wanted to tell you about them. Continue reading below to learn about the 31 best songs from 1943 so that you can add the best of the best to your music playlist.
1. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Bing Crosby
First on the list is I’ll Be Home For Christmas by the crooner himself, Bing Crosby. This song peaked at three on the Billboard chart and stayed on the chart for more than 11 weeks.
As we all know, this is one of the most popular Christmas tracks of all time and it was written originally for the soldiers who were longing to be home for Christmas as a tribute for their sacrifices. To this day, it remains one of the most iconic Christmas songs that everyone can relate to.
2. You’ll Never Know – Dick Haymes
On the list is Dick Haymes with the song You’ll Never Know, which is all about how much someone loves their significant other and goes into detail on the depth of that devotion and feeling of true love. This track is a classic song that resonates with people all over the world because it’s touching and beautiful.
3. Irene – Leadbelly
Irene by Leadbelly is on this list, and the song was originally recorded by him 10 years prior. It didn’t gain attention until he released a new version of the track in 1943, and it quickly became an anthem for people during the war. In the song, a man is thinking about his love, Irene, and is yearning for her, and it’s the yearning for her love that made this track a success and still one of the prettiest folk and blues songs of all time.
4. Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter
Pistol Packin’ Mama by Al Dexter is on our list, and this song is about a woman who carries a gun with her and she isn’t scared to use it if needed. The rhythm is upbeat and the harmonies are perfectly done, which is partially why this track became so popular so quickly. If you haven’t heard Western swing music before, this is a classic and timeless example.
5. Don’t Cry Baby – Erskine Hawkins
Don’t Cry Baby by Erskine Hawkins makes the list, which ended up going to number one on the Harlem Hit Parade chart, and no other version made it to number one for 14 weeks on this chart. It also ended up at number 15 on the Billboard Pop chart, and it’s a song that’s all about pain and losing someone you love. Given how there was a war going on, this became a very popular track and relatable song since most people were dealing with loss at that time.
6. Sunday, Monday Or Always – Bing Crosby
Up next is Bing Crosby with Sunday, Monday Or Always, which was featured in the film Dixie, hitting the Billboard Best Seller chart for 18 weeks and peaking at number one. It’s all about how devoted someone is to saying they will be there for them any day of the week. The song gives you hope and optimism knowing you have someone that’ll be there for you during hard times.
7. Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me – Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington had a hit with Do Nothin’ TIll You Hear From Me, which was originally an instrumental until Al Hibbler added lyrics to the song and then recorded it alongside Ellington. It took a while, but late into 1943 and into 1944, the track hit the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at number one for eight weeks. It also ended up on the Billboard Pop chart in the number six position.
This song is all about warning people not to act on impulse, especially when it comes to their heart and to wait until they have all of the details first before making a decision.
8. Shoo-Shoo Baby – The Andrews Sisters
Shoo-Shoo Baby by The Andrews Sisters is up next, which they performed in the film Three Cheers For The Boys. The harmonies between the sisters are what sets this version apart. The lyrics are talking about how there are bomber planes that are over the enemy lines, and those aboard the planes are hoping to get back home safely. Both soldiers and those back home waiting on them found this song to be entertaining, and it was one of the bigger hits during the war era.
9. As Time Goes By – Rudy Vallee
Rudy Vallee is next with As Time Goes By, which was originally released in 1931, but when the movie Casablanca was released in 1942, RCA Victor re-released Vallee’s version of the song, and it topped the Billboard charts. It is one of those classic tracks that talk about time passing by and how love is everlasting, and it’s one of those songs that still is performed by musicians to this day.
10. Jingle Bells – Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters
Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters make the list with the highly-popular Christmas song Jingle Bells. This version went to number 19 on the Billboard charts and sold more than one million copies. His voice was perfect for this festive track, and The Andrews Sisters had amazing harmonies that contrasted well against his smooth voice. Today, this song is just as beloved and constantly is played at Christmas time and during other winter events.
11. That Old Black Magic – Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller had a smash hit with That Old Black Magic, which hit the Billboard chart where it went to number one and stayed on the chart for more than 14 weeks. It’s a song that talks about the charm of their lover and compares the charm to being put under a spell like it was black magic.
12. Vict’ry Polka – Bing Crosby And The Andrews Sisters
The ever-popular Bing Crosby makes the list with Victory Polka, along with The Andrews Sisters. This song features the harmonies of the sisters, which goes perfectly with Crosby’s smooth vocals, and this is one of the most patriotic tunes of 1943. It’s all about celebrating the end of the war, and it’s a very energetic and happy track that quickly became an anthem celebrating moments of triumph.
13. Solo Flight – Benny Goodman Feat. Charlie Christian
One of the biggest hits of 1943 was the song Solo Flight by Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian. This track hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade and hit 16 on the Billboard Pop chart. It’s one of the most well-known jazz songs, and it also featured guitar playing by Christian, which made it one of the most influential guitar-heavy tunes of the decade.
14. Five Guys Named Moe – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five are on the list with the hit song Five Guys Named Moe, which landed on the Billboard Race Record chart at number three and managed to stay on the chart for over 10 weeks. This is a blues track that offers a lot of saxophone solos, and it is very playful, energetic, and fun to listen to. You’re going to find yourself smiling and wanting to dance to this popular jump-blues hit.
15. They’re Either Too Young or Too Old – Jimmy Dorsey And Kitty Kallen
Next is the song They’re Either Too Young Or Too Old by Jimmy Dorsey, which is a swing track that is all about how hard it is to find a mate during the war. It’s lighthearted, funny, and sweet and one of those songs that were relatable to the younger crowd during the war.
16. In My Arms – Dick Haymes
In My Arms by Dick Haymes is next, and this song went to number seven on the Billboard charts and stayed on the charts for seven weeks. It is a track talking about how someone wishes they were in their lover’s arms and how comforting it would be for them. This song is a timeless piece about wishing for someone’s love and affection, and later on, was famously covered by Jeff Buckley.
17. Velvet Moon – Harry James
Next up is the song Velvet Moon by Harry James, which is a very emotional instrumental track where the trumpet is the star. There is a lot of swing music out there, but this song really shows off the romantic and whimsical side of that style of music. It’s a classic track from the 40s you should check out.
18. Don’t Stop Now – Bunny Banks Trio Featuring Bonnie Davis
Bunny Banks Trio had a hit with Don’t Stop Now, which has Bonnie Davis performing the vocals, and it’s a quick song with a melody you’ll find very catchy. The lyrics of the track talk about not letting anything get in your way and going after your dreams. It’s a fun, inspiring, and playful song telling you to keep moving forward no matter what.
19. Holiday For Strings – David Rose
Next is David Rose with the track Holiday For Strings, which you might know from The Red Skelton Show since this was the theme song. There is a distinct sound in this instrumental because of the pizzicato strings that are used, and it’s one of the most well-known classical music pieces of the 40s.
20. It Started All Over Again – Tommy Dorsey And Frank Sinatra
Next up is Tommy Dorsey with It Started All Over Again, and Frank Sinatra provides the vocals in this song, which is about losing a lover, and the emotional toll it takes when you see that person again. The theme of this track is timeless, and it is a great reminder of the heartache we experience when we see our former lover or significant other with someone else.
21. I Heard You Cried Last Night – Harry James Featuring Helen Forrest
Harry James is on the list with the song I Heard You Cried Last Night, and Helen Forrest provides the vocals on this track. This is one of those romantic songs where there is raw emotion in the vocals, and a trumpet provides a haunting background to her powerful voice. The lyrics describe someone consoling the person they love after finding them crying over someone else, so the theme of unrequited love is what makes this a melancholy yet beautiful ballad.
22. Let’s Get Lost – Vaughn Monroe
Attention all fans of romantic ballads, Let’s Get Lost by Vaughn Monroe makes our list, and this song is a jazz standard that talks about getting lost in love and just disappearing for a while. He released his version of the track shortly after it was featured in the movie Happy Go Lucky earlier in the year.
23. My Heart Tells Me – Glen Gray
Glen Gray had a hit with My Heart Tells Me, which was released as the theme song to the movie Sweet Rosie O’Grady. It was the film that led to him having a successful version of this track, and it went to number one on the National Best Selling Retail Records Billboard chart. The song is all about the feelings and emotions you have when you fall in love with someone, which makes it a timeless classic that is relatable to this day.
24. Star Eyes – Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey makes this list with the song Star Eyes, which is now considered a jazz standard, and it’s one of the biggest tracks of 1943. This song first appeared in the movie I Dood It, and it’s one of those romantic tracks that includes a saxophone and talks about how a lover’s eyes are similar to the stars in the sky at night.
25. I Can’t Stand Losing You – The Ink Spots
Calling all fans of big band music, I Can’t Stand Losing You by The Ink Spots was a hit song that went to number one on the Harlem Hit Parade chart and stayed on the chart for seven weeks. This track is about someone who can’t stand the thought of losing their significant other or lover, and it’s a soulful and beautiful song about love and the emotions that come with it.
26. Ration Blues – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Up next is Ration Blues by Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five, which is a song where he complains about the rationing of products such as gasoline, sugar, and meat during the war. This track was a huge hit with the public because everyone was frustrated with the rations, and it went to number one on the Billboard R&B chart and Country chart, while peaking at 11 on the Billboard Pop chart. It also landed on the Harlem Hit Parade chart for 21 weeks and peaked at number one.
27. Shame and Scandal In The Family – Sir Lancelot
Sir Lancelot is on our list with Shame And Scandal In The Family, which was for the movie I Walked With A Zombie. This version talks about there being a lot of gossip about a family named San Sebastian who lived on the Carribean Island. A man had found out about his daughter being involved in an affair, and the guy she was having the affair with was from a family that was a rival. This is one of those songs that is funny and playful and was one of the many dance hits of 1943.
28. Johnny Zero – The Song Spinners
The Song Spinners had a hit with Johnny Zero, which was inspired by a World War II gunner in the Air Force nicknamed Johnny Zero. The lyrics talk about how a little boy was being made fun of in school when he would fail a test, but then this kid grows up to become a fighter pilot and showed everyone he was actually a smart guy. This song went to number seven on the Billboard charts and is a classic because of the emotional rollercoaster that it puts you through.
29. “Murder”, He Says – Dinah Shore
Dinah Shore makes the list with “Murder”, He Says, which is all about a guy who has less-than-good intentions and is trying to pursue a specific woman. While there is intrigue about this guy, this woman can sense there is a little danger there. She has an amazing and smooth voice that lends itself perfectly to those complicated feelings and situations.
30. If You Please – Bing Crosby
Next is Bing Crosby yet again with the song If You Please, which is about a guy who is dancing in an effort to impress a woman, but she doesn’t care and isn’t paying attention to him. Swing music is known to be charming and witty, and in this track, you can get that feeling and understand why this type of music was so popular in the 40s because it’s funny and upbeat.
31. Down In The Valley – The Andrews Sisters
Lastly, we have The Andrews Sisters with the song Down In The Valley. This track is all about all of the struggles that we go through in life every day, and it’s a little somber and melancholy. There is a folk element to the song since it’s stripped and features the vocals and guitar only, so it’s simple yet powerful.
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.