The beauty of American Top 40 is its simplicity. As Casey said every week, "Three hours once a week with AT40 and you can find out how your favorite songs are doing from coast to coast." The show is a neatly organized package that brings order and clarity to a messy world.Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men is the biggest #1 hit of the past four decades. It logged 16 weeks on top in 1995-1996. Three Dog Night's energetic version of Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)." The first AT40 Special, "The Top 40 Recording Acts Of The Rock Era," aired in May 1971. The show switched from mono to stereo in September 1972. The first "Long Distance Dedication" (I always thought those were schmaltzy) aired in August 1978 (it was Neil Diamond's "Desiree"). The show went from three to four hours in October 1978, to accommodate increasing lengths of pop songs.
Casey was born Kemal Amin Kasem. (I'm glad he changed it. "Kemal's Coast to Coast" just doesn't cut it). He created AT40 with Don Bustany, Tom Rounds and Ron Jacobs, who was the program director at Top 40 powerhouse KHJ in Los Angeles in the mid-'60s.Gary Owens (1995), Wolfman Jack (1999) and Rick Dees (2007).
Pop Quiz: This is a three-parter. What was Casey's sign-off slogan? OK, that one's easy. This one's a little harder. What was the name of Casey's single that bubbled under the Hot 100 in October 1964? And this one's seriously tough: What was the name of the instrumental theme song that aired during the show's heyday? Answers are below the top 40 list.Beyonce (counting a hit with Destiny's Child). Boyz II Men has three songs in the top 40. The Black Eyed Peas, Santana, Usher, Kelly Rowland and 50 Cent each have two. (Again, Rowland's total includes a Destiny's Child hit.) Kris Kross, Los Del Rios, Ashanti (as a lead artist), Flo Rida and Ke$ha. Four more of these songs were the first solo hits by artists who had risen to prominence in groups: Lionel Richie from the Commodores, Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20 and both Kelly Rowland and Beyonce from Destiny's Child.
The Fine Print: AT 40 has based its countdown on various charts through the years. The Hot 100 was AT40's source chart from 1970 to November 1991. Since then, the show has used other, less well-known Billboard charts, a chart from the now defunct industry publication Radio & Records and, currently, the Mediabase chart. I'm sticking with the Hot 100 for this report because that's the chart that has the most meaning in historical terms.
Here are the 40 longest-running #1 hits on Billboard's Hot 100 in the past 40 years. Ties are broken based on weeks in the top 10.Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men, "One Sweet Day," 16 weeks. Carey's 10th #1 hit turned out to be her biggest. The song, which topped the chart in December 1995, was the fourth #1 for Boyz II Men. It's the most successful collaboration of the past 40 years. From Carey's #1 album Daydream. Los Del Rio, "Macarena (bayside boys mix)," 14 weeks. This novelty smash was the Spanish duo's first and only top 10 hit. It hit #1 in August 1996, nearly a year after it first charted. The Bayside Boys, a Miami production team, came up with the remix that turned the song into a smash. It's the longest-running #1 hit of the past 40 years by a duo. From Los Del Rio's album Macarena-Non Stop, which reached #41. Mariah Carey, "We Belong Together," 14 weeks. In June 2005, a full 15 years into her career, this became Carey's 16th #1 hit. The song samples The Deele's 1988 hit "Two Occasions" and Bobby Womack's 1982 release "If You Think You're Lonely Now." From Carey's #1 album The Emancipation Of Mimi. Boyz II Men, "I'll Make Love To You," 14 weeks. Babyface wrote this song, which hit #1 in August 1994. It was the quartet's second #1 hit. From Boyz II Men's #1 album II. The Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling," 14 weeks. French DJ/producer David Guetta co-wrote this smash. In July 2009, it followed the Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" into the #1 spot. These back-to-back mega-hits gave the group 26 consecutive weeks on top. From the Peas' #1 album The E.N.D. Elton John, "Candle In The Wind 1997," 14 weeks. Elton introduced this song, an homage to Marilyn Monroe, in 1973. Bernie Taupin rewrote the lyric after Princess Diana died in a car crash. The song hit #1 in October 1997, just six weeks after her death. It was Elton's eighth #1. It's the longest-running #1 hit of the past 40 years by a male solo artist. From the album Diana Princess Of Wales 1961-1997, which reached #36. Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You," 14 weeks. Houston sang this Dolly Parton song in the movie The Bodyguard. It's the longest-running #1 hit of the past 40 years that was featured in a movie. In November 1992 it became Houston's 10th #1 hit. It later won a Grammy for Record of the Year. From the soundtrack album, which hit #1. Boyz II Men, "End Of The Road," 13 weeks. This song was featured in the Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang. It's the second longest-running #1 hit of the past 40 years that was featured in a movie. In August 1992, it became Boyz II Men's first #1 hit. Babyface co-wrote the song. From the soundtrack album, which reached #4. Brandy & Monica, "The Boy Is Mine," 13 weeks. This is the most successful all-female collaboration of the past 40 years. Brandy was 19 and Monica was 17 in June 1998 when the song reached #1. It was the first #1 for both artists. From Brandy's Never S-a-y Never, which reached #2, and Monica's The Boy Is Mine, which reached #8. Santana featuring Rob Thomas, "Smooth," 12 weeks. In October 1999, 30 years after Santana first cracked the Hot 100 with "Jingo," the group landed its first #1 with this sleek smash. It was also the first hit under his own name for Thomas, who co-wrote the song. "Smooth" later won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. From Santana's #1 album Supernatural. Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, "Yeah!," 12 weeks. This is the longest-running #1 hit of the past 40 years that's a three-way collaboration. In February 2004, the song became Usher's fourth #1, Ludacris' second and Lil Jon's only song to reach the top spot. From Usher's #1 album Confessions. The Black Eyed Peas, "Boom Boom Pow," 12 weeks. In April 2009, this confection became the Peas' first #1 hit. It's the biggest hit of the last 40 years with a repeated word in its title, ahead of Santana's "Maria Maria." From the Peas' #1 album, The E.N.D. Eminem, "Lose Yourself," 12 weeks. In November 2002, this motivational anthem became Eminem's first #1 hit. It stayed on top for 12 weeks, which is still a record for a rap song. It also became the first rap song to win an Oscar. From the 8 Mile soundtrack album, which reached #1. Toni Braxton, "Un-Break My Heart," 12 weeks. Diane Warren wrote this sultry ballad, which featured Shanice Wilson (1992's "I Love Your Smile") on backup vocals. In December 1996, it became Braxton's second #1 hit. From Braxton's album Secrets, which reached #2. All-4-One, "I Swear," 11 weeks. In May 1994, this became the first and only #1 hit for the male vocal group. The group also made the top 10 with "I Can Love You Like That" and a cover of the Tymes' 1963 hit "So Much In Love." From the album All-4-One, which reached #7. Puff Daddy and Faith Evans with 112, "I'll Be Missing You," 11 weeks. This tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. hit #1 in June 1997, just three months after the rapper was shot to death. It was Puff's second #1 and the only one for Evans (Biggie's widow) and 112. The melody is from The Police's 1983 smash "Every Breath You Take." The smash also incorporates a snippet of the hymn "I'll Fly Away." From Puff Daddy & the Family's #1 album No Way Out. Destiny's Child, "Independent Women Part 1," 11 weeks. This smash was featured in the movie Charlie's Angels. In November 2000, it became the trio's third #1 hit. From Destiny's Child's #1 album Survivor. Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, "Low," 10 weeks. This was Flo Rida's first Hot 100 hit, but T-Pain had already amassed 12 chart hits (including two #1's) as either a lead or featured artist. The song hit #1 in January 2008. It was later featured in the movies Step Up 2: The Streets and Tropic Thunder. From Flo Rida's album Mail On Sunday, which reached #4. Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, "Gold Digger," 10 weeks. West and Foxx first teamed in 2003 on Twista's #1 hit "Slow Jamz," on which they were both featured. They re-teamed two years later for this smash, which hit #1 in September 2005. It samples Ray Charles' 1955 classic "I Got A Woman." From West's #1 album Late Registration. Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland, "Dilemma," 10 weeks. In August 2002, this became Nelly's second #1 hit. It was the first hit for Rowland, following a string of hits with Destiny's Child. The smash sampled Patti LaBelle's "Love, Need And Want You." From Nelly's #1 album Nellyville. Santana featuring The Product G&B, "Maria Maria," 10 weeks. When this song hit #1 in April 2000, Carlos Santana was 52, older than any other solo artist or group leader on this list. (Elton John was 50 when his song hit #1). This was Santana's second #1 hit and the only one for The Product G&B. From Santana's #1 album Supernatural. Ashanti, "Foolish," 10 weeks. In April 2002, two months after topping the Hot 100 as a featured artist on Ja Rule's "Always On Time," Ashanti made it back to the top spot on her own with this smash. "Foolish" samples DeBarge's song "Stay With Me." From her #1 album Ashanti. Beyonce, "Irreplaceable," 10 weeks. In December 2006, this song became Beyonce's fourth #1 hit, which equaled the number of #1 hits she had amassed with Destiny's Child. From Beyonce's #1 album B'Day. Olivia Newton-John, "Physical," 10 weeks. Three years after her image-altering performance in Grease, Newton-John landed her biggest hit with this provocative (for its time) song. In November 1981, the smash became Newton-John's fifth #1 hit. From Newton-John's album Physical, which reached #6. Debby Boone, "You Light Up My Life," 10 weeks. This was the first song to log 10 weeks at #1 since Guy Mitchell's "Singing The Blues" in 1956-1957. It was #1 longer than any hit by Debby's father, Pat Boone. The song, from the movie of the same name, hit #1 in October 1977. From Boone's album You Light Up My Life, which reached #6. Mario, "Let Me Love You," 9 weeks. Mario was just 18 in January 2005 when this smash became his first and only #1. He's the youngest male solo artist on the list. The then-little-known Ne-Yo co-wrote the song. Within 15 months, he would have a #1 hit of his own, "So Sick." From Mario's album Turning Point, which reached #13. Ke$ha, "TiK ToK," 9 weeks. Ke$ha was featured on Flo Rida's 2009 smash "Right Round," but her credit was dropped midway through the song's six-week run at #1. That had to hurt. But in January 2010, she hit #1 on her own with a song that wound up spending even longer at #1. From Ke$ha's #1 album Animal. OutKast, "Hey Ya!," 9 weeks. This song first charted in September 2003 as the B-side of "The Way You Move." It quickly became an even bigger hit. "Hey Ya!" reached #1 in December 2003. From OutKast's #1 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. 50 Cent, "In Da Club," 9 weeks. Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo teamed with 50 Cent to co-write this song. In May 2003, it became 50 Cent's first #1 hit. From the rapper's #1 album Get Rich Or Die Tryin.' Beyonce featuring Sean Paul, "Baby Boy," 9 weeks. This was the second single of Beyonce's solo career. It spent one more week at #1 than her first, "Crazy In Love." "Baby Boy," which hit the top spot in October 2003, was also Paul's second #1 hit. From Beyonce's #1 album Dangerously In Love. Kim Carnes, "Bette Davis Eyes," 9 weeks. 1960s pop star Jackie DeShannon co-wrote this song with Donna Weiss. In May 1981, it became Carnes' first and only #1 hit. Screen legend Bette Davis was still alive when the song was a hit. (She died in 1989). The smash won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. From Carnes' #1 album Mistaken Identity. 50 Cent with Olivia, "Candy Shop," 9 weeks. Olivia, who had a 2001 hit with "Bizounce," was featured on this smash, which hit #1 in March 2005. It was 50 Cent's third #1 hit; Olivia's only one. From 50 Cent's #1 album The Massacre. Diana Ross & Lionel Richie, "Endless Love," 9 weeks. This romantic ballad was #1 longer than any other Motown single to that point. Richie wrote it for the movie of the same name starring Brooke Shields. In August 1981, it became Ross' 18th #1 hit, combining her Supremes and solo hits. From the Endless Love soundtrack album, which reached #9. Usher, "Burn," 8 weeks. This song replaced Usher's "Yeah!" at #1 in May 2004. Between them, the two songs held the top spot for 19 straight weeks, before Fantasia's "Believe" snuck in for a week on top. This was Usher's fifth #1 hit. From Usher's #1 album Confessions. Beyonce (featuring Jay-Z), "Crazy In Love," 8 weeks. Beyonce was featured on Jay-Z's 2002 hit "'03 Bonnie & Clyde." Here, he returned the favor. The collaboration worked so well, the two stars got married in April 2008. This hit #1 in July 2003. The horn hook is a sample from the Chi-Lites' 1970 hit "Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)." From Beyonce's #1 album Dangerously In Love. Mariah Carey, "Fantasy," 8 weeks. Carey samples Tom Tom Club's 1982 hit "Genius Of Love" on this smash. In September 1995, it became her ninth #1 hit. From Carey's #1 album Daydream. Mariah Carey, "Dreamlover," 8 weeks. In September 1993, this easygoing shuffle became Carey's seventh #1 hit. From Carey's #1 album Music Box. Janet Jackson, "That's The Way Love Goes," 8 weeks. This song takes the Jackson family crown. It was #1 longer than any other song by Janet and longer than any song by Michael Jackson or the Jackson 5. Janet co-wrote the song with Jimmy Jam Harris and Terry Lewis. In May 1993, it became her sixth #1 hit. From the #1 album janet. The Police, "Every Breath You Take," 8 weeks. Sting won a Grammy for Song of the Year for this writing classic rock ballad. In July 1983, this became the Police's first and only #1 hit. From The Police's #1 album Synchronicity. Kris Kross, "Jump," 8 weeks. Chris Kelly and Chris Smith were both 13 in April 1992 when this song hit #1. That makes them the youngest artists on this list. Jermaine Dupri wrote the song, which was the duo's first and only top 10 hit. From Kris Kross' #1 album Totally Krossed Out.
This list is light on hits from the '70s and '80s and heavy on hits from the '90s and '00s because songs have had longer runs at #1 in recent years. To make up for that, here are all songs from the '70s and '80s that rank among the 10 longest-running #1 hits of those decades, but don't appear on this list.the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" (eight weeks), Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" (eight weeks), Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing" (seven weeks), Chic's "Le Freak" (six weeks), the Knack's "My Sharona" (six weeks), Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (six weeks), Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" (six weeks), Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World" (six weeks) and the Emotions' "Best Of My Love" (five weeks). (I skipped over Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" because it pre-dated the launch of AT40.) Joan Jett & the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (seven weeks), Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder's "Ebony & Ivory" (seven weeks), Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (seven weeks), Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" (six weeks), Irene Cara's "Flashdance...What A Feeling" (six weeks) and Kenny Rogers' "Lady" (six weeks). the Beatles' "And I Love Her.") But only hard-core AT40 fans will remember that the instrumental theme song in the show's glory years was titled "Shuckatoom."
A Personal Note: I worked at AT40 part-time as a production assistant when I was in college. It was a kick to work on the show, which I had started listening to while in high school. Don Bustany, who was the show's executive producer at the time, was also the camera coordinator on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was (and remains) one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Don was kind enough to get me in to a few run-throughs of the show. We had a reunion of the old AT40 crew at Tom Rounds' house in 2001. Casey and Don were there, along with the great team they assembled.
Hat Tip: I adapted this list from one that appears in Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 12th Edition. Here's a link to his site.
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