The 1950s belong to the copla, chanson, jazz, fado, and Latin rhythms. It’s the decade of the wig, the birth of rock, record labels; the era of pop culture, youth, and their causeless rebellion. It’s a memory of Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, Elvis Presley and film noir. Welcome to the best 1950s music. Because between the Cold War and the fear of atomic bombs, there was also the beginning of one type of cinema, the end of another, and a new form of cultural consumption. A time that greatly influenced today’s music, despite seeming to have aged worse than the subsequent 60s. In this post, we will talk about some great singers of the 50s, but above all, we will share a Spotify playlist with 151 tracks, including 100 songs in English and a distribution of the other 51 songs among Romance languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, or French, for example.
This list of 151 songs from the 50s is ordered by 1950s bands name and separated by years and languages. In this way, the evolution and contrasts between continents and countries (as well as influences) can be perceived more strongly. On the other hand, the release years of some songs may not correspond exactly to the actual release date. It’s not always easy to find all the information on the subject through conventional channels (and often they even contradict each other, so one tends to choose what seems most logical).
We have selected a compendium of classics in all languages, with many lyrics for all audiences and tons of anecdotes that refer to the 1950s music hits, all gathered in this article, but continue year by year separately until the end of the decade. Then, at that time, we will talk about the following decades. Meanwhile, we leave you with the first great songs of the 50s in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and for all audiences, from nostalgics to researchers from all musical nooks and crannies.
The best 1950s songs list and the greatest singers and bands
In addition to leaving here the playlist with the best songs of the 50s, in the following lines, we will talk about 10 singers of the 50s and their greatest hits. Songs full of nostalgia and feeling, cult, and idiosyncratic beyond specific moments or passing fads. Eternal some, others less so, but always remembered, perhaps even more now, sixty years after they emerged, resurfacing time and again.
We hope you enjoy the selection of songs and, above all, that it helps you discover or rediscover old melodies that, despite all the time that has passed, remain as valid as they were then. Or, on the contrary, they are so outdated that they have a unique and very pleasant charm. A guilty pleasure that includes everything from hilarious lyrics for 1950s music in many different languages to authentic flashes of genuine and unrepeatable quality in English. Either way, we trust that you will find a pleasant read and an even more enjoyable listen, and we invite you to visit any of the other lists available on the web.
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1950)
These two people who look like two adorable grandparents are Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, two of the most important musicians in the entire history of music (and not just jazz) and in 1950 both collaborated on the version of Dream A Little Dream Of Me that has survived until today with numerous versions.
Louis Prima & Keely Smith – The Bigger The Figure (1951)
The King of Swing in one of his wildest and craziest forms of his career, including lyrics. And we’re talking about one of the most charismatic characters in The Jungle Book. In fact, if we listen to his greatest hits, we will see that he always showed an inimitable personality beyond the popular 50s songs, although in The Bigger The Figure his energy was even greater than we were used to.
Gene Kelly – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
Singin’ In The Rain is a cinema and music classic of the 50s. Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of the seventh art, and the lyrics are right up there with it. So well-known that it hardly needs an introduction.
Amália Rodrigues – Uma Casa Portuguesa (1953)
Amália Rodrigues was an absolutely incredible singer. In fact, this statement is probably an understatement of the reality of her voice, but it serves as a good starting point for an empty page. She still has one of the most beautiful voices we have ever heard. So warm that in “Uma Casa Portuguesa” one would not believe that she did not burn the ground around her when she sang.
Muddy Waters – (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man (1954)
Sometimes it happens that the beginning of a blues song sounds, and the first thing you think is: “it’s (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man!”, and then it turns out that it’s not, because Muddy Waters really composed one of the greatest anthems in music history. As well as the lyrical content to say it’s cooler than what is used now.
Black music being imitated by whites doesn’t surprise anyone anymore, especially when we talk about 1950s rock and roll, where blues started being called rock when white singers began singing it.
Antonio Molina – Soy Minero (1955)
The great classic by Antonio Molina that still stands alive as a classic of 1950s music in Spanish, “Soy Minero” entered history with lyrics that, without over-speaking, talk about the work and vital conflict of miners and their courage in facing the risk of an accident or disease leading directly to death. Perhaps that’s why they are one of the most united groups in fighting for their rights, even having their own Statute beyond the Workers’ Statute.
Nat King Cole – Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (1956)
Nat King Cole is the king. One of the greatest. He regained worldwide notoriety thanks to Wong Kar-Wai’s film “In the Mood for Love,” but he’s always been a legend. Maybe it’s a cover, of course, not the original, but it’s undoubtedly the most original version of all the existing ones. That accent, that instrumentation, and the arrangements make this “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” the most original and recurrent to listen to and also one of the most important 1950s love songs even today.
Buddy Holly – Everyday (1957)
Two years before his tragic death (the day the music died), Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin) sang two of the most immortal songs of the decade. One, “Peggy Sue,” a clear example of what the 50s were. The other, “Everyday,” an example of what pop music should be, regardless of the era. So much so that we can still hear some chords of that melody in movies and TV series. A clear sign of its popular influence and the positive taste it leaves after only the two minutes it lasts.
Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me (1958)
Frank Sinatra is another of the great music legends, beyond his genre, ahead of Bing Crosby or Dean Martin, for example, despite the class of both. Probably because nobody was capable of singing like him, with charisma that went beyond vocal skills.
João Gilberto – Desafinado (1959)
Brazilian singer João Gilberto is considered (along with Tom Jobin) one of the creators of bossa nova, so much so that in Brazil he is known as the father of bossa nova or the Myth. His biggest hit is “Garota de Ipanema,” which brought Astrud Gilberto, then João’s wife, to fame and has been covered countless times.
In the song “Desafinado,” Gilberto sings a rebuke, with a slow and relaxing rhythm with touches of jazz, directed at a loved one who criticizes him for singing out of tune, to which he responds that those who are out of tune also have a heart and suffer from these attacks.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.