Very few songs stand the test of time, and even some of the biggest hits are completely forgotten about after a few years. Although the release of some of these singles pre-date the existence of a music chart, their estimated worldwide sales make them some of the most successful (and instantly recognisable) singles of all time.
10 Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Few modern songs achieve the status of iconic Christmas tune, but Mariah Carey’s 1994 single has managed to be much more than just another singer’s attempt at scoring a one-off December hit. The festive single is always a popular radio choice during the winter months, and this inevitably leads to a significant boost in sales each year.
9 Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”
Originally recorded in 1974 by country icon Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You” was covered by Whitney Houston in 1992 and featured in the hit movie The Bodyguard (which also served as Houston’s acting debut). The single was a huge hit and spent 14 weeks at number one in the US charts, and it was the biggest selling single of the year. Even though Dolly Parton’s original was the first song to top the US charts on two separate occasions (in 1974 and again following a re-release in 1982), the song is most popularly attributed to Houston.
8 Celine Dion – “My Heart Will Go On”
Another huge movie ballad success, Celine Dion’s love theme for Titanic was an international hit in 1997. Selling more than 15 million copies worldwide and spending weeks at the top of the charts, the single is still Dion’s biggest hit to date.
7 Baccara – “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”
Disco fever was a huge phenomenon in the United States during the late 1970s, and funky beats reined the charts for almost a decade. However, in quite a surprising twist, the biggest disco song of all-time didn’t originate from a US artist and it didn’t even chart in the country. Infusing traditional Spanish flamenco with disco music, “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” was a huge hit across Europe and sold an estimated 18 million copies.
6 The Ink Spots – “If I Didn’t Care”
Bill Kenny, lead singer of The Ink Spots, is widely credited as being the ‘Godfather’ of the ‘doo-wop’ genre in the United States, and the band’s mainstream success paved the way for many R & B bands in the 1940s. Although they failed to nab the number one spot in the US charts, their single “If I Didn’t Care” has sold an estimated 19 million copies since its original release in 1939.
5 USA for Africa – “We Are the World”
Written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones, “We Are the World” was a 1985 charity single for African famine relief which was largely inspired by the efforts of Band-Aid. An all-star roster of international pop superstars appeared on the track, including Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen. The single raised more than $63 million for humanitarian aid and sold an estimated 20 million copies worldwide.
4 Bill Haley & His Comets – “Rock Around the Clock”
Arguably one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time, Bill Haley & His Comets scored a series of hit singles during the 1950s. However, the band’s success and legacy is largely attributed to just one song: “Rock Around the Clock”. Selling more than 25 million copies since its release, the single helped propel rock and roll into the mainstream and became the anthem of choice for rebellious teens in the 1950s.
3 Bing Crosby – “Silent Night”
First recorded in 1935, Bing Crosby’s version of the popular Christmas carol “Silent Night” was his best-selling song of the 1930s. This is no small feat for an artist who had 24 popular singles released in 1939 alone, but “Silent Night” still endures to this day as a definitive Christmas classic.
2 Elton John – “Candle in the Wind 1997″/”Something About the Way You Look Tonight”
First released in 1973 and originally written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, Elton John re-recorded “Candle in the Wind” following the death of Princess Diana. Elton John vowed never to sing the song live again following his performance at the funeral of Diana in 1997, but the song was an international success and sold more than 33 million copies worldwide.
1 Bing Crosby – “White Christmas”
It perhaps comes as no surprise to hear that the number one best-selling single of all time is one of the oldest songs on this list, and that it is also another Christmas classic. “White Christmas” has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and still enjoys chart success every year during the holidays. Bing Crosby’s perennial tune was first released in 1942 and it was repeatedly released by record label Decca, making its yearly appearance on the music charts an annual tradition.