Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Biggest Hits of All Time*

* Well, not of the entire 15-billion-year history of the universe. That would be silly. For the purpose of this blog post, "all time" means from 1940 to the present, which is a more generous definition than most pop culture blogs would ever use. I've never even seen Billboard magazine attempt it. So there.


I've always been fascinated by the pop music charts. Beginning on the Sunday afternoon in 1985 when I discovered Casey Kasem's American Top 40, I've always wanted to learn more about music popularity. It's part music appreciation, part sociology, and part geeking out in the world of statistics. So to those who enjoy sports statistics, hey, this is my version of that.

Many people know me as an Episcopal priest trying to figure out how the Church can be the Church during a pandemic and quarantine when we can't get together in person to worship. That truly gives me joy. But when it gets to be too much to deal with, I can always take refuge in my pop music collection and hobbies.

To that end, for the first time ever, I have just calculated the biggest hits of all time (1940-2020).

What are my criteria? Well ... it's complicated. It starts with the week-by-week Billboard pop music charts that go all the way back to 1940, collected in massive, decade-by-decade spreadsheets with all sorts of formulas in them. And I should note that I have calculated my own weekly charts for the years 1944-1958 and 1991-2020, using Billboard data but re-jiggering each weekly chart to produce something that, in my belief, better reflects the actual popularity of songs. I can do this because nobody's paying me to do it or will hold me to any standards other than my own. So take or leave this, and if you're curious about the differences, we can talk.

The other thing to take into account is the fact that at different times in history, the charts have worked differently. Sometimes (like in the mid- to late 1960s), hit songs have come and gone in a flash, becoming enduring classics despite not having stuck around long enough to rack up a ton of points. At other times (like 2020), the charts move at a glacial pace, with the biggest hits hanging around on the chart for a year or more. I have had to weight the songs from different eras so that they all match up somehow. This is also reflected here.

So, bearing in mind the sheer arbitrariness of this whole project, and bearing in mind that I'll change my methods again in the future ... I want to share my joy with you.

Here are the TOP 100 SONGS OF ALL TIME ...

100. We Found Love - Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris (2012)

99. Lose Yourself - Eminem (2003)

98. Sugar, Sugar - The Archies (1969)

97. Rolling In The Deep - Adele (2011)

96. I'll Never Smile Again - Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (Vocal Frank Sinatra & Pied Pipers) (1940)

95. Another One Bites The Dust - Queen (1980)

94. Little Things Mean a Lot - Kitty Kallen (1954)

93. Hanging By A Moment - Lifehouse (2001)

92. The Ballad Of The Green Berets - S/Sgt. Barry Sadler (1966)

91. Radioactive - Imagine Dragons (2013)

90. I Can't Stop Loving You - Ray Charles (1962)

89. At The Hop - Danny & The Juniors (1958)

88. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures) - The 5th Dimension (1969)

87. Sugar Shack - Jimmy Gilmer (1963)

86. (We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock - Bill Haley & His Comets (1955)

85. Like A Virgin - Madonna (1985)

84. Perfect - Ed Sheeran (2018)

83. Flashdance...What A Feeling - Irene Cara (1983)

82. Silly Love Songs - Wings (1976)

81. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack (1972)

80. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head - B.J. Thomas (1970)

79. Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley (1956)

78. Joy To The World - Three Dog Night (1971)

77. Old Town Road - Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus (2019)

76. Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell (2013)

75. Just The Way You Are - Bruno Mars (2010)

74. Alone Again (Naturally) - Gilbert O'Sullivan (1972)

73. Big Girls Don't Cry - The Four Seasons (1963)

72. TiK ToK - Ke$ha (2010)

71. Buttons and Bows - Dinah Shore (1948)

70. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell (1975)

69. The Way We Were - Barbra Streisand (1974)

68. How Deep Is Your Love - Bee Gees (1978)

67. The Battle Of New Orleans - Johnny Horton (1959)

66. Run It! - Chris Brown (2006)

65. Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White - Perez Prado & His Orchestra (1955)

64. Torn - Natalie Imbruglia (1998)

63. There Are Such Things - Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (Vocal Frank Sinatra & Pied Pipers) (1943)

62. Say You, Say Me - Lionel Richie (1986)

61. Twelfth Street Rag - Pee Wee Hunt & His Orchestra (1948)

60. On Bended Knee - Boyz II Men (1995)

59. Every Breath You Take - The Police (1983)

58. That's What Friends Are For - Dionne & Friends (1986)

57. Apologize - Timbaland featuring OneRepublic (2008)

56. Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie (2007)

55. You Were Meant For Me - Jewel (1997)

54. Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock (2011)

53. Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye featuring Kimbra (2012)

52. I Just Want To Be Your Everything - Andy Gibb (1977)

51. Don't Be Cruel - Elvis Presley (1956)

50. Iris - Goo Goo Dolls (1998)

49. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston (1993)

48. Low - Flo Rida featuring T-Pain (2008)

47. The Gypsy - The Ink Spots (1946)

46. The Sign - Ace Of Base (1994)

45. Because of You - Tony Bennett (1951)

44. Girls Like You - Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B (2018)

43. You You You - The Ames Brothers (1953)

42. To Each His Own - Eddy Howard & His Orchestra (1946)

41. It's All In The Game - Tommy Edwards (1958)

40. Le Freak - Chic (1979)

39. Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend) - Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra (1949)

38. I'm A Believer - The Monkees (1967)

37. Physical - Olivia Newton-John (1982)

36. Goodnight Irene - Gordon Jenkins & the Weavers (1950)

35. Heartaches - Ted Weems & His Orchestra (1947)

34. Say Say Say - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (1984)

33. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams (1991)

32. Endless Love - Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981)

31. Mona Lisa - Nat King Cole (Les Baxter & His Orchestra) (1950)

30. Cry - Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (1952)

29. Despacito - Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee & Justin Bieber (2017)

28. Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes (1981)

27. Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You) - Les Paul & Mary Ford (1953)

26. Piano Concerto In B Flat - Freddy Martin & His Orchestra (1941)

25. The Theme From A Summer Place - Percy Faith (1960)

24. Sentimental Journey - Les Brown & His Orchestra (Vocal Doris Day) (1945)

23. How You Remind Me - Nickelback (2002)

22. I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas (2009)

21. Circles - Post Malone (2020)

20. Tossin' And Turnin' - Bobby Lewis (1961)

19. I Want To Hold Your Hand - The Beatles (1964)

18. Yeah! - Usher featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon (2004)

17. Chattanooga Choo Choo - Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (1942)

16. We Belong Together - Mariah Carey (2005)

15. I've Heard That Song Before - Harry James & His Orchestra (1943)

14. Shape of You - Ed Sheeran (2017)

13. Frenesi - Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (1941)

12. Uptown Funk! - Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars (2015)

11. Closer - The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey (2016)

10. Smooth - Santana featuring Rob Thomas (2000)

9. You Light Up My Life - Debby Boone (1977)

8. Near You - Francis Craig & His Orchestra (1947)

7. End Of The Road - Boyz II Men (1992)

6. Paper Doll - The Mills Brothers (1944)

5. Mack The Knife - Bobby Darin (1959)

4. Hey Jude - The Beatles (1968)

3. In the Mood - Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (1940)

2. White Christmas - Bing Crosby (1942)

1. The Twist - Chubby Checker (1962)

Incidentally, "The Twist" is the only song in history to have hit #1, dropped off the chart, and returned later to hit #1 again. This happened in 1960 and 1962.

"White Christmas," on the other hand, was a #1 smash during the Christmas season of 1942 and kept coming back year by year for a long time. The recent effect of streaming music on the charts has given "White Christmas" another lease on life, with it returning to the weekly charts at Christmastime each year again.

The top two songs were well ahead of #3, and they were very close to each other in points. If streaming music continues to affect Christmas music on the charts, it might not take too many years for "White Christmas" to overtake "The Twist." That is, unless some other stunningly huge hit comes along first to displace them both!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

On Baptism and Communion

In the Episcopal Church right now there's a lively debate about whether people who are not baptized should receive Holy Communion. There are very good arguments on both sides. In my life I’ve waffled back and forth on the question. Here are my current thoughts.

First, I will never refuse Communion from anyone who comes to me with hands outstretched. Period.

Next, I imagine a series of concentric circles called “Ways that Holy Communion makes sense.” The further you go toward the center, the more the whole thing hangs together.

At the center are baptized people. For us, Communion is a weekly reminder of the vows of baptism that we have either undertaken, or that were made on our behalf when we were little and that we can adopt as adults anytime we like. In this case, Communion is a refueling for a journey we have accepted.

At the next ring out are the unbaptized who are actively seeking Christ. They want to know more about Jesus and learn all they can. For them, Communion is like a promise, a spurring on toward deeper things. That may well lead to a conversation with other Christians about baptism.

Many others are at the third ring out: hungry for something, but not sure what. In that case, hey, we have food. Come and be fed, because nobody should be turned away. At this level we cannot let it be perceived to be about jumping through hoops, or gatekeeping, or some notion of theological correctness. It’s about feeding people who are hungry -- surprise guests for supper.

These days, the only people I ask to fast from Communion are those who are actively seeking baptism, have entered that process officially, and will find value in holding off in order to be hungry for the big feast after they’re baptized.

(There are also hypothetical situations in which a person who is being actively destructive to the faith community could be unseated from the table, at least for a time. Thankfully, there’s nobody like that in my church right now.)

If this feels squishy, it’s because I’ve come to understand Holy Communion as so mystical that I can’t possibly know enough about how God works to proclaim with confidence who should not receive. And I most certainly understand God’s love to be so huge and all-encompassing that I can see my notions of liturgical correctness as well-meant rules that are sometimes made to be broken.

Last week at my mother-in-law’s Roman Catholic funeral service, I was given the opportunity to receive Holy Communion. The priest probably saw it as “squishy” that I, a non-Catholic, might receive God’s grace in this way. But I really, really needed it. It meant so much to me, and I’m grateful to the priest for allowing it.

Monday, September 2, 2019

A Paraphrase of the Book of Job

I wrote this piece ten years ago in preparation for a sermon called "I've Never Been Job." I still like it, and recently I shared it with a couple of my godchildren, who got a kick out of it. This inspired me to give to my 11-year-old goddaughter, for her birthday, the promise of a paraphrase of whatever book of the Bible intrigues her next. (I hope she doesn't pick 2 Chronicles or Jude.)

Carved wooden figure of Job.
Probably from Germany, 1750–1850 CE.
The Wellcome Collection, London
© 2009 by Josh Hosler

The Characters

Narrator: One day, Satan made a dare to God. He said, “That Job is a really good man. But I bet I can make Job curse your name.” God said, “OK, you’re on. Give it a shot.” That day, all of Job’s possessions were destroyed, and every last one of his children was killed. But Job wouldn’t curse God’s name. The next day, Job became covered with painful sores that wouldn’t go away. His wife said, “Just curse God’s name. Then maybe God will kill you and your suffering will end.” But Job had too much integrity for that. He refused to curse God’s name. Three friends came to sit with him for an entire week in silence. And after a week, Job spoke.

Job (in tears): What’s the point of life? I wish God would kill me now and get it over with.

Eliphaz (there, there): Suffering happens to all of us, but it’ll all come out in the wash. You may suffer for a little while now, but it’s just to remind you that God is in charge. Ultimately, you’ll be happy again because you’re a good person, and all the bad people will suffer eternal torment. We all get what we deserve in the long run.

Job (bursting out): Eliphaz, you’re no help at all! My experience alone is enough to prove you wrong. You call this “a little bit of suffering, just for now”? I have nothing left to be happy about, and I never will. And as for you, God: Leave me alone! Even if I’d done something to deserve punishment, this would be way too extreme. Why are you picking on me?

Bildad (reasoning): Look, Job, God doesn’t make mistakes. If it’s not your fault, then your children must have done something so bad that God punished them with death. Stick with God and trust God’s plan for your life. Eventually, you’ll get over this suffering and be happy again.

Job (impatiently): Shut up! I’ve heard all this before. Yes, yes, God is so far beyond our understanding, blah blah blah. How does this help me? I’m only human, so there’s nothing I can say to change God’s plans. Believe me: I’m innocent, and so were my children. Yet despite that, my life is ruined. Look, God, didn’t you love me once? You gave me a wonderful life, but I should have known there was a catch. Now comes the suffering. So why was I born at all? I insist—just kill me now.

Zophar (shocked): Be careful how you talk, Job! You think you know everything about God. But the truth is that, compared with God, you’re like a little worm. So get that chip off your shoulder. All of God’s gifts are undeserved, but if you stay faithful, everything will be all right. Only bad people will suffer forever.

Job (frustrated): Zophar, it sounds to me like you think you know everything. I wish you and these other two so-called friends would quit ridiculing me. God holds all the cards—not me, and certainly not you! In fact, I’ve had it with all three of you. Shut up and let me pray. OK, God: First, stop punishing me. Second, answer me directly. What have I done to deserve all this? You don’t know what it’s like to be human. Our tiny little lives may seem like nothing to you, but they’re very important to us. Is there anything for us after death? Is there any resurrection? That’s all I want to know.

Eliphaz (scandalized): Job, you’re trivializing religion and bordering on blasphemy. Do you think you’re the first person who’s ever suffered? Aren’t God’s promises in the Bible enough for you? You can’t deal with God on your own terms. That’s sinful, and God will punish you more if you keep on like this.

Job (desperately): Shut up! You should be comforting me, not blaming me. You don’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes. When I talk about my pain, it hurts. When I stay silent, it hurts. It all hurts, and I can’t make it stop! Then you come along and make it worse. Isn’t there anybody on earth or in heaven who will take my side—some attorney to clear my name? It’s only been a week, but everyone’s talking about me behind my back, and I’m sick of it. My only hope is in death. Death and I can be buried together, and you three can attend the funeral.

Bildad (the voice of reason): Job, we’re doing our best, and you don’t even appreciate it. Here’s the most important thing to remember: Bad people get punished. Don’t become one of them.

Job (angrily): I told you I haven’t done anything wrong! God is angry with me for no reason. Nobody understands me anymore; even my wife can’t stand my company! I’m the victim, yet everybody hates me. Can’t I even count on my friends to stick up for me? Quit trying to make me be good; I’ve told you I’m innocent. Worry about your own souls for a change, and be good to me.

Zophar (Sunday school teacher): Don’t you know the story of Adam and Eve, and original sin? We’re all tainted by sin. Not one of us is good—only God. Just pray that God will save you—it’s your only hope.

Job (irritably): Just listen for a minute; later, you can mock me all you want. I’m not complaining to you. I’m complaining to God, but God isn’t talking back. Why do people get away with murder? And all these powerful corporate executives make a living off other people’s suffering, but they never get punished. You might say, ‘Well, God will punish their children instead.’ But that makes no sense; they’re the ones who sinned, not their children. You keep insisting it’ll all come out fairly in the end. But how can anyone know that for sure? Look at all the genocidal dictators who died in comfort and peace and were given fancy funerals where people gave lying speeches about how wonderful they were.

Eliphaz (activist): But you keep drawing a distinction between bad people and good people. From God’s perspective, that distinction is meaningless. Besides, you lived a comfortable life for all those years when other people were starving in the street. That means you’re guilty! You were part of a corrupt system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. And what did you do to change the system? You’d better submit to God’s will for your life and stop talking—it’s the only way God will save you now.

Job (determined): Whatever. I’m not budging. If I could, I’d bring a lawsuit against God. I’d put him on trial for crimes against humanity.  An impartial judge would clearly find me blameless. But where is the impartial judge? God will do what God will do, and I’m helpless! And I know I’m not the only one who has suffered … so why does God let so much suffering continue throughout the world? Murderers, sexual predators, burglars—they’re constantly committing crimes and not getting caught. They deserve this kind of suffering. But will it ever happen? From all I’ve seen, God’s disciplinary track record is not encouraging.

Bildad (supreme intellectual): God’s plan is perfect—you just can’t see it all yet! Even the imperfections are part of the picture, and we’ll all understand someday.

Job (sarcastically): Oh, thanks. Thanks a lot, O tremendously wise one. You’re so helpful. Now everything is fixed … look, don’t presume to speak as if you understand God’s plan any better than I do. What would you have to say for yourself if God really started talking? God has ruined my life, but I’m not going to compromise my integrity by telling myself comforting lies. Until God gives all the wicked people what they deserve, and takes back all the punishment that I don’t deserve, I won’t be satisfied. But that’s not how it works. Bad people prosper, and good people suffer, and it’s not fair. I suppose God is the path to wisdom, but … I don’t see how to get hold of that wisdom. Oh, how I miss my old life! What I wouldn’t give to have it back again, and the children I’ve lost! I did my very best—really I did. God, to whatever degree I deserve punishment, let me have it. But it can’t have been this bad. It really can’t.

Elihu (popping in from out of nowhere): OK, look. All of you are older than I am, and that’s why I haven’t said anything up to now. I figured the four of you would arrive at some kernel of wisdom eventually. But what have you proved with all your blustering? Nothing. None of us is any wiser than we were before all this happened. You three supposed friends, you’re all total frauds! Now it’s my turn, and I have a lot to say. Job, please hear me out and try to prove me wrong. You say you’ve done nothing wrong and that God is silent to your accusations. But God always answers in one way or another, even if the answer is silence. Or the answer might be pain and suffering. Or the answer might be … well, anything. Your best bet is to just keep praying. All our ancient stories come to this same point. Second: God is, by definition, good. God is not capable of evil. Ergo, you’ve got nothing to complain about. Why don’t you just apologize for having sinned? Confess, even if you don’t know what you’re confessing. You’ve gotten too big for your britches, Job.

Zophar: Who is this guy, and where did he come from?

Bildad: I have no idea.

Elihu (not hearing them, undaunted, building through self-assurance to a state of ecstasy): Third: What does it matter to God whether you’ve sinned? God is so great that you can’t possibly hurt him by your actions. God is not dependent on your actions. Fourth: It’s easy to pray when things are going badly. But do you remember to pray when things are going well? All the time that we’re going along with our happy lives, we forget to talk to God. So why should God rush to answer you when you finally pick up the phone and call? Look, Job. God keeps track of every one of us. Somehow God is in charge of everything, yet he still has time to take care of the smallest things. Frankly, this blows me away. Everything about God is so beautiful! All of this wonderful life is a miracle! Praise God! Praise God!


God (fed up): OK, I’ve had enough of this.

Zophar (in awe): It’s the LORD!

God (commanding): Job, stand up straight!  It’s time for me to cross-examine you. Where were you when I created the earth? Do you know your way around the cosmos? Would you know how to run it? Would the creatures I have made obey your commands? Can you provide enough food for all the animals on earth? I could go on and on, and I do for four chapters … but for now, let me just say: Will you try to make me a sinner so you can remain a saint? Silence!

Job (completely humbled): I’m speechless. I thought I understood you before. But I’d only heard about you—now that I’ve seen the real thing, well … I talk too much. I will shut up.

God: As for you three, beat it! At least Job was being honest. You were all telling sweet-sounding lies. Go home and pray for your souls.

Narrator: And they did. And immediately, God gave Job double the fortune he’d had before. Job and his wife had ten more children, and Job lived to the age of 140 in happiness and comfort. The end.

Some of the language in this paraphrase comes from Eugene Peterson’s The Message Remix (TH1NK Books, 2003).