Songs are the language of the heart that transcends all other languages and unites all races and cultures in the world. Some songs may last a few years and eventually drown into the millions of songs created everyday. However, there are songs that like the mythological Phoenix, would rise above the ashes and transform again to rekindle in the hearts of millions. These hits are like diamonds that last forever.
Here is a list of the top 10 songs that until now are generating revenue through royalty.
10 Mel Torme – “The Christmas Song” (1944)
In 1944, Bob Wells and Mel Torme, who is also known as The Velvet Fog, composed the song in an effort to keep cool in the blistering California heat. A lot of irony is taken into account in the composition of the song because Mel Torme (who wrote the rest of the lyrics) was Jewish and he was able to finish the song in just 45 minutes on a hot and sunny day. Nat King Cole first sang the song in 1946 and became a hit in both the R&B and the pop charts. The duo has an estimated earnings of $19 million.
9 Roy Orbison & Bill Dees – “Oh Pretty Woman” (1964)
Who would forget the box office movie of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, Pretty Woman? The song was already a hit 25 years before the movie was made but the impact of the film made its popularity last longer in the music scene. In fact, it may have even magnified it to reach the new generation of listeners. The song was released way back in August 1964 and was sung by Roy Orbison. It was awarded a Gold Record by RIAA and topped the British Singles Charts for 3 weeks. The song has an estimated earnings of $19.75 million.
8 Sting – “Every Breath You Take” (1983)
"Every Breath You Take" is a song fueled by and was written in the context of obsession, jealousy, and lost love. Yet, it became a top hit because people thought it was a gentle love song. Sting wrote the song in the middle of the night in just under 30 minutes. In 1984, Sting won Song of the Year in the Grammy Awards and Police won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. In 1997, P. Diddy re-popularized his own version of the song to give tribute to Notorious BIG. However, he did not ask for permission, which allowed Sting to demand 100% of the publishing royalty of the remix. The song earned an estimated amount of $20.5 million.
7 Haven Gillespie & Fred J Coots – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (1934)
In November 1934, people listened to Eddie Cantor’s radio show and heard an unfamiliar Christmas melody back then. Little did they know that the song would be an instant hit the following day with orders of 100,000 copies of sheet music and more than 400,000 copies sold by Christmas. The song was first played by banjoist Harry Reser and his band on October 24, 1934 and features Tom Stacks on vocals. The song was performed and recorded by many contemporaneous artists like Justin Beiber, Mariah Carey, and a rock version by Bruce Springsteen. The single has estimated earnings of $25 million.
6 Ben E King, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller – “Stand By Me” (1961)
"Stand By Me" is a song inspired by a spiritual song “Lord Stand By Me” and lines that were taken from Psalms 46:2–3. The single has over 400 recorded versions. The trio managed to finish the song together after a Spanish Harlem recording session. The song was first sung by Ben E. King which rose to number 1 on the R&B Charts. The song was re-popularized by an American drama movie by Rob Reiner in 1986. It was also featured in Levi’s Jean commercial. In addition, it was included in the Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Times. The song has an estimated earnings of $27 million.
5 Alex North & Hy Zaret – “Unchained Melody” (1955)
This song was intended for an unpopular prison film called Unchained in 1955. It was first sung by Todd Duncan for the said film and is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th Century, covered by over 650 various artists with 500 different languages. The most popular version of the song was by the Righteous Brothers, which was featured in the movie Ghost starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The song topped the charts and is still being used in television shows like Glee and American Idol. The song has an estimated earnings of $27.5 million.
4 John Lennon and Paul McCartney – “Yesterday” (1965)
The hit single "Yesterday" has been a smash hit since 1965 by one of the most popular bands, The Beatles. The song was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As for the story on how the song came to be, Paul McCartney dreamt of the melody and upon waking up, played it on the piano so as not to forget the tune. He then asked if he unconsciously stole the melody of someone else’s tune but after weeks of searching, no one claimed ownership and he decided to create lyrics with John Lennon. The song has an estimated earnings of $30 million.
3 Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Specter – “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” (1964)
Husband and wife tandem Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote the song with then record producer Phil Specter who is now a convicted murderer. The song was originally sung by The Righteous Brothers, which became a hit single on both the U.S. and UK charts. The song was in the Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Times and has an estimated earnings of $32 million.
2 Irving Berlin – “White Christmas” (1940)
This Irving Berlin song was reminiscent of what was Christmas back then. The Guinness Book of World Records awarded the best-selling tune of all time to Bill Crosby’s version of this song with estimated sales of more than $50 million worldwide. The story goes that when Berlin wrote the song, he was staying at the La Quinta Hotel in warm California. He told his secretary to grab a pen because he claimed to have written the best song ever. As he had predicted, the song has an estimated earnings of $36 million.
1 Hill Sisters – “Happy Birthday” (1893)
The tune where the song "Happy Birthday" was based from was composed by the Hill Sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill, way back in 1893. Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal while Mildred Hill was a composer and pianist and together they composed the tune to “Good Morning to All” which was an easy note for children to follow. It was then incorporated with the Happy Birthday print in 1912. This was how the most popular song in the world was created. It is the most recognized song in the English language and is translated into 18 different languages. It has an estimated earnings of $50 million.
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