Top 10 Best Big Band Songs
List of Greatest Big Band Songs
The roots of big band music date back to the 1930s and '40s when a group of 12 to 25 musicians used to play arranged jazz music.The era was popularly called the Swing Era, and the large ensembles that played this music (often collaborations of more than a dozen musicians) were called big bands.
The Swing Era was known for dancing and swinging around to the music of big band orchestras. Every big band had its own bandleader, lead arranger, and personnel. The band usually reflected the personality of its band leader, each of whom had his or her own style. Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Duke Ellington led some of the most popular big bands of the era.
Here is a list of 100 greatest songs by big bands during the Swing Era. Almost all of the songs included in the list are from the '30s and '40s. The list also includes a few famous songs that big bands covered.
If you find any of your favorite big band songs missing, then let me know in the comments.
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Top 10 Big Band Songs
Below is the list of my top 10 big band songs.
"Chattanooga Choo Choo" by the Glen Miller Orchestra
This classic tells the tale of a man travelling from New York to Chattanooga. Recorded in 1941 for the film Sun Valley Serenade, this song became the world's first certified gold record the following year for selling a record-breaking 1,200,000 copies.
"Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin
This song was originally written in germ on for the musical drama Die Dreigroschenoper. While it was composed by Kurt Weill, and the lyrics were written by Bertolt Brecht, the most famous version is an English version by Bobby Darin.
"I'll Never Smile Again" by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra
This song was originally written by a woman, Ruth Lowe. However, the most successful version—eventually being added to the Grammy Hall of Fame over 40 years after it was recorded—was by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra. The lead singer in this version is Frank Sinatra.
"Stardust" by Nat King Cole
"Stardust" is a famous song covered by many of the star voices of the big band era. It was written in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael, and lyrics were added two years later by Mitchell Parish. Famous covers include ones by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, and Ella Fitzgerald. Perhaps one of the best covers of the song is by Nat King Cole.
"White Christmas" by Bing Crosby
This song, which appears in the classic Christmas film of the same name, is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling single of all time. A perennial favorite, the song was actually written by Irving Berlin.
"Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)" by Billie Holiday
This distinctive Billie Holiday song was written for her by Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez, and James Sherman. It talks about a woman's longing for someone to love her, and the melody perfectly captures that longing.
"Begin the Beguine" by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra
A Beguine is a slow couple's dance in the Caribbean, and this song was written by Cole Porter during a cruise (albeit the cruise was not in the Caribbean, but in the Pacific).
"In the Mood" by Glenn Miller
This song by Glenn Miller was one of the greatest hits of the Swing Era. It has been so influential that NPR includes it on its list of "the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century."
"Take the A Train" by Duke Ellington
This song was Duke Ellington's most famous. It describes how to get to Harlem "in a hurry." And Ellington says the song also came to him in a flash; he says he composed it without thinking, "like writing a letter to a friend."
"Sing Sing Sing" by Benny Goodman
This song, most famously covered by Benny Goodman, was originally written by Luigi "Louis" Prima. Goodman's recording is unusual for its length; most big band songs were limited to the three minutes so that they could fit on one side of a 10-inch record. On the other hand, one record recording of "Sing, Sing, Sing" is roughly nine minutes long!
Shout out loud about your favorite song from Swing Era in the comment section below.