25 Best 50s Dance Songs

Best 50s Dance Songs

Whether you’re throwing a 1950s-themed party or looking for a trip down memory lane, dance songs from that era stand the test of time.

The 1950s were the decade of origin for family television shows like I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver. The period also featured movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Marylin Monroe and artists such as Jackson Pollack.

It was also an unfortunate time for music fans; a plane carrying several famous musicians and singers, including Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, crashed in 1959, killing everyone on board.

The biggest boom of the 1950s music scene was the rock ‘n roll movement that introduced artists like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Here’s a collection of the best dance songs from the 1950s that celebrate the fun and excitement of the era.

1. “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly & The Crickets

Song year: 1958

This swinging tune references the frustration and heartache that often accompanies falling in love. It features guitar riffs and a steady toe-tapping drumbeat that will get anyone on the dance floor.

The song was recorded for Buddy Holly’s second and final studio record, as almost one year later, he was tragically lost in the plane crash known as “The Day The Music Died.”

2. “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke

Song Year: 1957

If you’re looking for a more romantically centered song to sway to with your loved one, look no further than Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.” This song’s simple lyrics show just how deep love can flourish.

In this song, Cooke tells his sweetheart that “you send me,” perhaps to a place of happiness or joyous euphoria. It’s a classic.

3. “Beyond The Sea” by Bobby Darin

Song Year: 1958

Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” tells us about some faraway love, like two star-crossed lovers meeting at long last after traveling a great distance. He sings that there will be no need to travel again after they finally meet and fall in love.

It features a neat, light cymbal throughout with a flourish of big band energy at the bridge.

4. “Everyday” by Buddy Holly, The Crickets

Song Year: 1958

Another classic Buddy Holly hit is “Everyday,” a hopeful, forward-facing, sweet love song. The narrator is excited by each passing day, looking ahead to the day on which this person’s love will finally be bestowed upon him.

Even though the waiting can get difficult, this song establishes that love is worth the wait.

5. “Cheek To Cheek” by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

Song Year: 1956

This classic love duet by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong references dancing explicitly. Each iconic singer takes a turn singing to their special somebody about finally “finding the happiness [they] seek,” which transcends the blandness or frustrations of everyday life when they are dancing “cheek to cheek.”

6. “Fever” by Peggy Lee

Song Year: 1959

Peggy Lee’s “Fever” begins with a simple, sultry finger-snapping and low bassline. Lee’s voice comes in over the bass with her quintessential understated and beautiful timbre.

The lyrics bring to life pop-cultural love stories like Romeo and Juliet and Pocahontas and John Smith to life. Both stories feature unlikely and ultimately tragic love stories, but they seem to be subject to the same thing: the fever of love.

7. “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers

Song Year: 1958

According to The Everly Brothers, when you are far away from your love, it might be as simple to conjure them up in a daydream or fantasy.

The song itself conjures up a lovely kind of daydream. Picture this song being played at a high school dance in 1958 with all the girls’ dresses twirling around under soft string lights in the school gym.

8. “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris

Song Year: 1957

The introductory beat to “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris is undeniable. Prominently featured in the film Matilda in 1996, the song brings forth a joyful and carefree attitude.

The simple, straightforward rhythm of the song and accompanying humming laid on top will brighten anyone’s day and get them out on the dance floor.

9. “Papa Loves Mambo”  by Perry Como

Song Year: 1954

This is a real dance number. Perry Como’s “Papa Loves Mambo” treats dance as an activity that “papa” and “mama” do together as a form of exercise and as a way to remember the beginnings of their love affair.

The song describes a possibly metaphorical give-and-take, a quickening and slowing down, which can apply to long-term relationships. This song is smart and silly all at once.

10. “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” by Jo Stafford

Song Year: 1952

Originally written and recorded by Hank Williams in 1952 and covered by many artists after that, “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” regales the listener with a near-invitation to come down to the bayou in southern Louisiana for some traditional cuisine and hospitality.

The toe-tapping beat is sure to get anyone on their feet.

11. “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper

Song Year: 1958

This classic dance song comes in the container of a fictional phone call between the narrator and the girl he likes. He describes what he likes in the chorus, and the verses are creative interludes in the conversation.

This alternation between slower, humorous moments of talking and the fast-paced movement of the chorus make it an excellent dance-hall tune.

12. “Shout (Pts. 1 & 2)” by The Isley Brothers

Song Year: 1959

The Isley Brothers capture a love story between two sweethearts who have known each other since childhood. It’s an upbeat and exciting tune that ebbs and flows with its music, tone, and plotline.

At the beginning of the song, the narrator expresses distress over the possibility of his love leaving him. However, in the second part, he rejoices in her decision to stay. This song will have the whole dance floor grooving, singing, and enjoying themselves.

13. “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters

Song Year: 1958

“Yakety Yak” by The Coasters takes a turn from the other songs on this list because it is not a love song. But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less danceable than the others!

The song describes kids who aren’t getting their household chores done. It’s an upbeat plea for the work to be done and for there to be no excuses, or the kids will suffer the consequence of not receiving their chore money.

This might be a good tune to pull out the next time the teenagers in your life are reluctant to take out the trash!

14. “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” by The Hollywood Flames

Song Year: 1957

This easy, upbeat song marries the simple complementary love song and a cool dance clap and saxophone.

Something most of these 1950s dance songs seem to have in common is their simplicity of both tune and subject matter, which in total are much more than the sum of their parts.

15. “A Teenager In Love” by Dion & The Belmonts

“A Teenager In Love” by Dion & The Belmonts

Song Year: 1959

“Each night I ask the stars up above, ‘why must I be a teenager in love?’” captures the frustration and fickleness of being young and in love.

The narrator expresses his fear of losing his love, recognizing just how precious their shared love is and how it sometimes feels as though it could all fall away at the drop of a hat.

16. Do You Wanna Dance by Bobby Freeman

Song Year: 1958

Bobby Freeman brings to life the eternal romantic question of asking a partner to dance. It checks the boxes by mentioning “all night,” “moonlight,” and rhyming dance with romance. What more could we ask for?

With a fun, up-tempo beat, you and your party guests will be able to join Bobby as he and his dance partner swing through the evening.

17. “Lollipop” by The Chordettes

Song Year: 1958

While a more modern and far more racy adaptation of this song was recorded by the rapper Lil’ Wayne in 2008, “Lollipop” by the Chordettes is a mild and forwardly playful song about the narrator and her pet name for her partner. 

This song has been used commercially in soundtracks for both movies and shows, as well as on commercials for products such as DELL Laptops, which depicts a combination of sci-fi and a traditional factory that produces laptops like candy, highlighting the exciting, bright colors available.

18. “Shake, Rattle And Roll” by Bill Haley & His Comets

Song Year: 1954

“Shake, Rattle and Roll” is a song about the narrator’s partner treating them poorly, as they have a heart that is “cold as ice.” Fortunately for the listener, it’s a fast-moving beat that is a blast to dance to!

19. “Volare (Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu)” by Dean Martin

Song Year: 1958

Appearing on the 1958 album, “This Is Dean Martin,” this version of “Volare (Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu)” is originally an Italian language song with both English and Italian parts.

This tune makes it easy to sway your loved one around the dance floor and is a beautiful sentiment to be swept up in. The lyrics feature such poetry as being swept away into the sky as if part of a dream.

20. “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1957

A classic Elvis Presley song, “All Shook Up” relates being in love to acting and thinking wildly. The easy rhythm and guitar underline Presley’s unique voice and singing attitude.

21. “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis

Song Year: 1957

In this classic Jerry Lee Lewis song, the narrator expresses the excitement and thrill of falling in love, repeatedly exclaiming, “goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!”

The song is also known for its energetic piano riffs and was memorably played by Tom Cruise’s best friend and co-pilot in the 1986 film Top Gun.

22. “Come Dance With Me” by Frank Sinatra

Song Year: 1959

The song’s narrator apparently loves to dance and wants his loved one to join in with him. The scene is a large, crowded dance hall with a swingin’ band playing music until late into the night. The narrator invites his dance partner to put on their dancing boots and later alludes to how “cuckoo” he’ll be talking as the love he feels swirls in his head.

Frank Sinatra is a staple of the 1940s–1970s music scene, and this song establishes his sentimental and romantic tendencies. It’s an invitation for both a dance and a lifelong love affair.

23. “Ain’t That A Shame” by Fats Domino

Song Year: 1954

The first one of Fats Domino’s hits to be recorded in Los Angeles rather than his hometown of New Orleans, “Ain’t That A Shame” tells the story of a heartbroken man who blames his cheating girlfriend for their breakup.

The first verse incorporated a simple staccato style that Fats like to use at the beginning of his songs and tells the whole sad story in a few words, “You made…(bomp bomp) me cry (bomp bomp.” You can probably sing the rest of this memorable song by heart.

24. “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets

Song Year: 1954

This best-known rendition of the often-covered song wasn’t without controversy. When it was released in 1954, the American Legion and the Boy Scouts were horrified, and the city of Memphis banned it entirely.

But the first #1 rock ‘n roll song on the U.S. charts is credited to this day for bringing the upstart genre into the mainstream in the States and around the world.

25. “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry

Song Year: 1958

Finally, there can’t be a list of 1950s dance songs without including “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. The classic guitar riffs, flourishes of piano, and relentless drumbeat are quintessential hallmarks of the 1950s-era dance music scene. It is also one of the most iconic and recognizable songs of early rock ‘n roll.

Top 50s Dance Songs, Final Thoughts

Whether you grew up in the 1950s and are looking for a stroll down memory lane or just diving into the music scene of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry for the first time, there is a treasure trove of excitement awaiting you.

During a time marked by Hollywood glamour of the silver screen and the Golden Age of television with family-centered sitcoms, the 1950s was a decade of cultural innovation.

As we saw, most songs centered around the theme of romance, which was addressed in many ways–from the frustration of heartbreak or missed signals to the excitement of having a crush and falling in love for the first time.

What’s more, artists whose musical careers spanned several decades, like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, recorded some of their biggest hits in the 1950s that have stood the test of time and are still popular tunes today.

The music explored in this list includes a bevy of songs that have been recorded and re-recorded for their insatiable listenability and danceability.

Whatever your interest level or knowledge base, the music of the 1950s is an excellent choice to recommend to listeners of all ages.

While you’re here, you may want to check these 60s, 70s, 90s or 2000s dance songs too.

Happy listening and happy dancing!

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