"I said, 'Listen, I'm going to fool around, so y'all just follow me.'
So I began noodling — just a little riff that floated into my head. It felt good and I kept going. One thing led to another and I found myself singing and wanting the girls to repeat after me. Then I could feel the whole room bouncing and shaking and carrying on something fierce.”-- Ray Charles

"Time" Man of the Year: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Oscar for Best Picture: "Ben Hur"

Oscar for Best Actor: Charlton Heston, "Ben Hur"

Oscar for Best Song: "High Hopes"
-- Frank Sinatra from "A Hole In Your Head"
Emmy for Best Actor in a Continuing Series: Raymond Burr -- "Perry Mason" Emmy for Best Actress in a Continuing Series: Loretta Young -- "The Loretta Young Show"
Grammy for Record of the Year: "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin Oscar for Best Actress: Simone Signoret -- "A Room At The Top" Best Seller -- Fiction: "Exodus"
-- by Leon Uris
"It's Just a Matter of Time" -- by Brook Benton
This might seem a strange selection for the best song of 1959 as the highest it reached on the Billboard chart was #3. But it did make the Cashbox (#24) and G & T (#23) lists of the top 40 for the year, and it was a #1 R & B hit. Brook Benton released the song early in 1959. "Come Softly To Me" by The Fleetwoods and "Venus" by Frankie Avalon kept it out of the top spot. It was Benton's first top forty record -- his best would be "The Boll Weevil Song" (#2) in 1960. "It's Just A Matter of Time" is one of my all-time favorite slow songs. It has a hypnotic rhythm and backing vocals ("boom, boom, boom, boom), soaring strings that Benton wraps his voice around, and memorable lyrics: "Remember in your search for fortune and fame, what goes up must come down." Brook wrote this song, along with many other of his recordings. It was also recorded by country artist Randy Travis in 1989 and I like that version, too.
"Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison
There was lots of competition for best dance song in 1959 with "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin, "Sea Cruise" by Frankie Ford, "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens and "Stagger Lee" by Lloyd Price being strong contenders. "Kansas City" (see "Spotlight Songs" in the "Music" section) was almost Harrison's only hit record. It made it to number one, but he didn't chart again for ten years, finally getting "Let's Work Together" to #32 in 1970. But "Kansas City" alone makes Harrison's career noteworthy as it is one of the most recognizable songs of The Elvis Era.
"I Only Have Eyes For You" by The Flamingos
With "doowop" having a strong presence in popular music in 1959, it's appropriate that the best slow song be from that genre. It only reached #11 in the spring of 1959 -- many others did much better. But the haunting melody and harmony punctuated by "shoo-bop-do-wop" make this a unique recording. The song was written in 1934 for the movie, "Dames." It was ranked as the #73 song on Billboard's end of year chart and Rolling Stone recognized it as #157 on the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" published in 2004.
"What'd I Say" by Ray Charles
Throughout the early 1950's Ray Charles had success on the R & B charts with Atlantic records. "What'd I Say" was his first big breakthrough to the pop charts. The song was at first considered to be too long for a single release, but it was eventually paired down and released as Part 1 and Part 2 on the flip side. It is a classic rock song as it is a prime example of the shout and response that rock and roll took from the blues ("Heeeey.... Hoooo"). Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Darin and Elvis Presley also put versions in the top 40 and has been covered by many others such as The Searchers and Nancy Sinatra. It was a featured song in the movie "Tommy Boy" -- with father (Brian Dennehy) and son (Chris Farley) performing it in the wedding scene. "See the girl with the red dress on, she can do the bird all night long."
"C'mon Everybody" by Eddie Cochran
Eddie Cochran was one of the early stars of rock and roll whose career was cut short. He died in a car crash in England in early 1960. His "Summertime Blues" had been a top ten (#8) record in 1958 but "C'mon Everybody" failed to duplicate that success, reaching only #35 on Billboard. It's driving guitar and tambourine background along with the lyrics that tell the story of a teenage party being held while the parents are gone is classic rock and roll: "the house will be a shakin' from the bare feet on the floor."


"Misty" by Johnny Mathis
Rarely does a "signature" song have such minimal chart success. "Misty" can easily be considered Johnny Mathis's "signature" song -- it is one of the first thought of when you mention the singer, although he had much greater chart success with songs such as "Chances Are" and "The Twelfth of Never." The soft piano background and the evocative lyrics ("I'm as restless as a kitten up a tree") and Johnny Mathis's distinctive voice make it a great recording. But it didn't even reach the top ten, topping out at #12. The song was originally recorded by Errol Garner in 1954. Lloyd Price and Ray Stevens also had top forty recordings of the song. The song played a prominent role in the Clint Eastwood movie, "Play 'Misty' for Me."
"The Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton
Many songs were cross-over hits in 1959. The Browns took "The Three Bells" to #1. Bill Parson's "The All American Boy" reached #2 and "Heartaches by the Number" by Guy Mitchell would be the final #1 of 1959. But Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans" outdid them all, staying in the top spot for six weeks and finishing as the second best song of the year for both G & T and Cashbox. Horton would follow with two more top ten hits in 1960 ("Sink the Bismark" and "North to Alaska"). Johnny Horton died in a car crash in 1960.