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.
For rock 'n' roll, 1955 was a tipping point: Where Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle (notable for a scene in which a classroom of discontent kids smash up a teacher's collection of big band records) shook up moviegoers around the world, the song that opens it, Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock," became one of the biggest hits of the year, certifying a name for the lively rhythm and blues that had been bubbling for years. Beyond Haley, Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley"/"I'm a Man" single, one of the greatest ever, introduced a syncopated beat that would be a staple of the genre for years; Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" would continue to provide inspiration to artists into the new millennium; and Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" was so irresistible that Marty Robbins even scored a hit by covering it for the country charts.
But don't for a second think that rock was the only game in town. Those country charts, for instance, also saw classics from George Jones, Johnny Cash and Kitty Wells, while Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" went on to become a crossover smash. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Perry Como continued crooning hits of their own (Como even experimented with rock 'n' roll himself), and Perez Prado and Tito Rodriguez performed songs popular enough to create the "mambo craze." Enjoy all that and more in our picks of the top 50 songs from 1955.