Songs of the Century

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"Song of the Century" redirects here. For the Green Day song, see 21st Century Breakdown.

The "Songs of the Century" list is part of an education project by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc. that aims to "promote a better understanding of America’s musical and cultural heritage" in American schools. Hundreds of voters, who included elected officials, people from the music industry and the media, teachers, and students, were asked in 2001 to choose the top 365 songs (not necessarily by Americans) of the 20th century with historical significance in mind. The voters were selected by RIAA, although only about 15% (200) of the 1,300 selected voters responded.[1][2][3]

The list[edit]

The list of the top 25 songs, in the order of votes received. Each song is followed by the name of the artist who made the most notable recording of the song.[4]

Rank Title Artist
1 "Over the Rainbow" Judy Garland
2 "White Christmas" Bing Crosby
3 "This Land Is Your Land" Woody Guthrie
4 "Respect" Aretha Franklin
5 "American Pie" Don McLean
6 "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" The Andrews Sisters
7 West Side Story (Album) Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim
8 "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" Billy Murray
9 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" The Righteous Brothers
10 "The Entertainer" Scott Joplin
11 "In the Mood" Glenn Miller Orchestra
12 "Rock Around the Clock" Bill Haley & His Comets
13 "When the Saints Go Marching In" Louis Armstrong
14 "You Are My Sunshine" Jimmie Davis
15 "Mack the Knife" Bobby Darin
16 "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" The Rolling Stones
17 "Take the "A" Train" Duke Ellington Orchestra
18 "Blueberry Hill" Fats Domino
19 "God Bless America " Kate Smith
20 "The Stars and Stripes Forever" Sousa's Band
21 "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" Marvin Gaye
22 "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" Otis Redding
23 "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" Tony Bennett
24 "Good Vibrations" The Beach Boys
25 "Stand by Me" Ben E. King


These lists have their critics. B. George, director of the ARChive of Contemporary Music, said pop music genres such as electronic dance music, punk rock, and rap were given short shrift. An informal survey of CBS News producers indicated surprise at some of the choices on the list.[1] NPR's Talk of the Nation highlighted songs that were excluded from the RIAA list but were on a similar list produced by NPR the same year. One song that was highlighted was George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue".[5]


  1. ^ a b "Best Songs Of The Century?". CBS News. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "New song list puts 'Rainbow' way up high". CNN. 7 March 2001. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "RIAA, NEA Announce Songs of the Century" (Press release). Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). March 2001. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Songs of the Century". CNN. 7 March 2001. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  5. ^ .Williams, Juan (14 March 2001). "20th Century's Best Songs". Talk of the Nation. Retrieved 9 March 2013.