19 Best Songs From 1940

Looking for the best songs from 1940? You’re in the right place. With hits from jazz to pop, the iconic songs at the beginning of this decade influenced music for the next ten years and more. Here are some of the classics.

1. “Maybe” by The Ink Spots

“Maybe” by The Ink Spots

Song Year: 1940

“Maybe” was one of the biggest hits of 1940, making it into the top three most-played songs of the year. It’s found a resurgence lately in the Bethesda survival game, Fallout, and many video game lovers are probably familiar with the tune.

The track is by The Ink Spots, a pop group that first hit the music scene in the 1930s. They wrote this melancholy song about missing a lover who is gone.

2. “Five O’Clock Whistle” by Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra

Song Year: 1940

Don’t miss “Five O’Clock Whistle,” a 1940 hit by Ella Fitzgerald. With support from her orchestra, Fitzgerald sings about the end of the workday.

The moderately-paced song has a groovy tune, peppy brass instruments, and Fitzgerald’s signature warm vocals. In the song, she wishes her father would come home and wants his workday to end.

3. “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie feat. Charlie Parker

Song Year: 1940

“A Night in Tunisia” is an instrumental track with a fun beat. It’s by Dizzy Gillespie, a jazz bandleader from South Carolina. Also appearing on the song is Gillespie’s frequent collaborator, trumpet player Charlie Parker.

Both jazz musicians were crucial in developing jazz and bebop in the 1940s, and you can hear them usher in a new age of jazz in this 1940 song.

4. “Round Midnight” by Thelonius Monk

Song Year: 1940

Check out “Round Midnight,” a 1940 song by Thelonius Monk. Monk was a jazz pianist with a background in church organ music. Famous for his improv abilities, the artist worked in the bebop, cool jazz, and hard bop genres.

Monk added many original songs to the jazz standard list, including “Round Midnight.” The piano-heavy track is popular with listeners and jazz players, even today.

5. “Summit Ridge Drive” by Artie Shaw

Song Year: 1940

Clarinet player Artie Shaw wrote this song in the fall of 1940. It became widely popular, staying on the top charts well into 1941.

This arrangement features contributions from the Gramercy Five, a band group frequently associated with Shaw. Although the song is slow and has a relaxed beat, it’s an engaging track with plenty of improv solos from the members.

6. “In The Mood” by Glenn Miller

“In The Mood” by Glenn Miller

Song Year: 1940

Perhaps one of the most influential songs on this list, “In The Mood,” is a big band track that influenced the next generation of music, and other jazz artists issued dozens of remakes in the following years.

The song topped the 1940s music charts in the US, gaining popularity even outside of the jazz scene. Inspiration for the track came from “Tar Paper Stomp,” an earlier 1930 jazz track that didn’t have a copyright.

7. “Only Forever” by Bing Crosby

Song Year: 1940

“Only Forever” is a love song by Bing Crosby, a pop artist from Tacoma, Washington. He wrote the track in 1940, but you can find it on his Legendary Years compilation album.

The song is a slow romantic ballad about how Crosby wants to spend forever with someone. His rich bass voice pairs well with the soft orchestral track, and it’s a great song to slow dance to or listen to on a quiet evening.

8. “Never No Lament” by Duke Ellington

Song Year: 1940

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Duke Ellington, a jazz artist who was wildly popular in the 1940s. The New York-based pianist added many standards to the jazz repertoire, including “Never No Lament” in 1940.

“Never No Lament” uses a classic jazz form called call-and-response. On the chill, groovy track, the alto saxophone plays solo lines, and the orchestra responds with different lines of music.

9. “L’Accordéoniste”

Song Year: 1940

In 1940, Edith Piaf, arguably the most beloved French singer of all time, was hot off the heels of her early success, releasing hit after hit and gaining international attention. She released “L’Accordéoniste” in May 1940, much to the delight of her growing audience.

In her distinctive husky voice, Piaf sings about a love between a girl and an accordion player on “L’Accordéoniste.” The track became her first song to sell a million records.

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