Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff. Please enjoy.
Halfway through the 20th century, five years after the end of World War II, three years after Wynonie Harris first heard that there was good rocking tonight -- but four years before Elvis got the same message -- 1950 strikes the contemporary listener as a transitional year for popular music. The last before the invention of the Top 40 radio format, the year's biggest hits came from artists like Nat King Cole, whose "Mona Lisa" was featured prominently in the film Captain Carey, U.S.A., and Patti Page, whose "Tennessee Waltz" included four vocal tracks (recorded on four individual acetates that were played back simultaneously) and subsequently became a hit on the pop, country and R&B charts, a rare feat. Meanwhile, local scenes lit up with bluegrass tracks like Bill Monroe's "Uncle Penn" or the Chicago blues of Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone."
In New York, the Yankees swept the Phillies to win the World Series, and Miles Davis finished recording what would become his Birth of the Cool. Broadway lit up with Guys & Dolls, and Harlem went wild for Ruth Brown's "Teardrops from My Eyes," the first big hit released by the upstart Atlantic Records. In the heartland, Hank Williams was king, and the dynamic host and performer Red Foley helped keep the Grand Ole Opry one of the most popular radio shows in the country. All that and much, much more appears here, in our pick of the 50 essential tunes of 1950.