Monday, June 16, 2008

In Loving Memory

On "American Top Forty" for June 18, 1977, Casey Kasem noted that Stevie Wonder's recent Number One hit "Sir Duke" was the first tribute record ever to make it all the way to the top spot. Casey was apparently referring to overt tributes, and not something like Barry McGuire's Dylan tribute, "Eve of Destruction," which went to Number One in September 1965.

It would be a while before another explicit tribute song would hit the top of the chart, and, surprisingly enough, it would be much longer before a tribute to a rock star made it all the way. The chronology of Number One tribute records goes something like this:

"Sir Duke," Stevie Wonder, hit Number One on May 21, 1977

"Bette Davis Eyes," Kim Carnes, hit Number One on May 16, 1981

"Rock Me Amadeus," Falco, hit Number One on March 29, 1986

"Black Velvet," Alannah Myles, hit Number One on March 24, 1990

"I'll Be Missing You," Puff Daddy and Faith Evans, hit Number One on June 14, 1997

"Candle in the Wind 1997," Elton John, hit Number One on October 11, 1997

Did I miss any? No, "When Smokey Sings" did not go to Number One; it was ABC's biggest hit, but it topped out at Number Five in the fall of 1987.


Gavin said...

Leaving aside covers that are clearly tributes, songs for rock stars who weren't active yet ("Brandy"), and songs not actually about the rock stars in their title ("Ringo," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"):

"American Pie" hit #1 in 1972, paying tribute to the most rock stars ever simultaneously, but especially Holly, Valens and Bopper.

T. Nawrocki said...

You are undoubtedly right. The only reason I can think of why Casey would have seen things differently is that Stevie's song mentions Ellington in the title, while McLean's song doesn't. But otherwise, there's little to differentiate the two.