Top 10 Songs from the ’30s

The 1930s was the decade where pop music genres as we know them today began. From the earliest of country artists like The Carter Family, to the jazzy tunes of Ella Fitzgerald, this decade was one of the most important and prosperous in the music industry. Here, in my Top 10 Tuesday, I’m going to explore some of the songs that defined the era, as well as many to come.

10. All or Nothing At All ~ Frank Sinatra

Although this song didn’t reach success until five years after its release date in 1939, it can’t be denied a place in the history books. Neither can the guy who performed it, spawning many crooners for generations to come. 

9. Stormy Weather ~ Ethel Waters

This 1933 hit is an interesting one, with many artists like Sinatra and Billie Holiday covering the song. It also featured in a film of the same name a few years after the original song was released.

8. Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By) ~ The Carter Family

One of the earliest country hits of the genre’s long lifespan, this song is timeless. Originally a hymn, this version was reworked by A.P. Carter and sung by the whole family. 

7. I’m in the Mood For Love ~ Louis Armstrong

Released in 1935, this song was performed by the one and only Louis Armstrong. With the music written by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, you just can’t go wrong.

6. A Tisket A Tasket ~ Ella Fitzgerald

Based on a popular nursery rhyme, this was arguably the great jazz singer’s breakthrough hit. Released in 1938, this version in particular makes great use of Chick Webb’s Orchestra, not to mention Fitzgerald’s amazing vocal skill set.

5. One O’Clock Jump ~ Count Basie

This 1937 dance number is typical of Basie’s early sound. With improv based on one riff this tune had audiences bopping along with the classic singer. 

4. Minnie the Moocher ~ Cab Calloway

If you’ve seen the first Blues Brothers movie, you’ll recognise the song immediately. Released in 1931, the smooth tune was actually written about ‘hoochie coochie’ Romani belly dancing which at the time was seen as unrespectable. 

3. Crossroad Blues ~ Robert Johnson

This was the song that sparked a famous tale. It was widely believed at the time that Johnson sold his soul to the devil just to become a master of blues guitar, and subsequently wrote this song about the encounter. 

2. Strange Fruit ~ Billie Holiday

Written by a white Jew in New York after seeing horrific pictures of two black men being lynched in a civil rights magazine, it would be disgraceful and historically inaccurate to leave this song out of my top 10. With such a powerful message in a time of inequality and religious extremism of the KKK, this track ruffled quite a few feathers, and rightly so.

1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow ~ Judy Garland

If you don’t know this song then you had a depraved childhood. That’s all I’m saying.


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