27 Best Songs From 1980

Everyone has a preferred decade of music, but most people recognize that the 1980s were a pretty great time.

A list of the best songs from 1980 is long, but here are the top ones.

“Call Me” by Blondie

Song Year: 1980

As the main theme song for the 1980 Richard Gere film “American Gigolo,” “Call Me” had a broad audience from the start— the movie earned more than $50 million (1980 dollars) at the box office.

New Wave band Blondie recorded the song in bi-coastal sessions, but Debby Harry’s vocals were the only thing from the sessions to make it on the record. Since it scored Blondie a number-one hit, everyone in the band decided not to be mad about it.

“Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

Song Year: 1980

The talks about making the 1980 film Xanadu must have gone like this:

“Let’s have some roller skates. People like skating.”

“And dancing. Let’s make it about a guy opening a dance club. And the muse of dance.”


It’s an odd film, but it’s a musical, so that’s okay. The theme song, “Magic,” was a global hit. Gen Xers didn’t really have Songs of the Summer in the 80s, but that doesn’t mean that “Magic” wasn’t the Song of the Summer in 1980.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police

Song Year: 1980

Fact 1: Sting was an English teacher before joining The Police.

Fact 2: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is about a teacher obsessed with a student.

Fact 3: It’s not autobiographical.

Since the narrator gets caught having an affair with the student, one would think we’d have heard about it if Sting had told a true story about his pre-Police life.

It became the biggest-selling single of 1980 in the UK.

“Against the Wind” by Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band

Song Year: 1980

The idea of running against the wind came from Bob Seger’s teenage days as a cross-country runner. He uses the concept as a symbol of aging to great effect in this bittersweet song about getting older.

“Against the Wind” spent nearly 20 weeks on the Billboard charts in 1980, and more than half of that time, the song was in the Top 40. It was the title track from the band’s 11th album.

“Fame” by Irene Cara

Song Year: 1980

Not many singers have their debut single go to number one before winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but that’s what Irene Cara enjoyed with “Fame,” the theme song for the eponymous film that swept the nation.

The film followed fictional students at the real New York’s Fiorello LaGuardia High. Cara starred in the film, and the movie won two Oscars and eventually spun off a television series and a remake in 2009.

“You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC

Song Year: 1980

When AC/DC frontman Bon Scott died in early 1980, many feared the worst for the band— that the Australian rockers would fade away, but then along came Brian Johnson.

“You Shook Me All Night Long” was the band’s first single with their new singer, and it ended up being a doozy. The song’s primal, hard-rocking nature and dizzying guitar solo made it a staple— so much so that it’s a rare night when the band doesn’t play it during a set.

“You May Be Right” by Billy Joel

Song Year: 1980

While the Brits didn’t care much for “You May Be Right” (it failed to chart there despite previous success for Billy Joel over there), US listeners loved it.

From Glass Houses, an album Joel used to shake things up in his career and his sound, “You May Be Right,” has a honky-tonk feel and relies heavily on a Rolling Stones-style guitar riff.

It wasn’t permanent, as he’s still one of the two piano giants of rock music, but it was something he tried, and it worked.

“Sailing” by Christopher Cross

Song Year: 1980

For a soft piece of music (and perhaps the granddaddy of all yacht rock), “Sailing” has lived a remarkably long and varied life. After the song brought Christopher Cross four Grammys and a slot at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, it went on to make appearances in some of the seemingly strangest places: Family Guy and Cobra Kai.

Not bad for a soft-rock song that everyone’s dad loves.

“Any Way You Want It” by Journey

Song Year: 1980

“Any Way You Want It” aside, Journey is a band whose “Greatest Hits” album spent more than 500 weeks on the album charts. That’s nearly ten years, and these guys know how to write great hit songs.

“Any Way You Want It” came relatively early in Journey’s run of fantastic music-making, and though it didn’t crack the Top 20, it was a Top 40 hit in 1980 and 1981. It further cemented singer Steve Perry’s reputation as the Man with the Golden Voice.

“I Will Follow” by U2

Song Year: 1980

For many members of Generation X, “I Will Follow” was the first thing they heard from U2. The band that would go on to world domination was, at one point, a collection of Irish kids who were just trying to rock.

The song, written from the perspective of U2 frontman Bono’s mother, who died when he was 14, is one of very few U2 songs to get played on every single tour the group has ever taken.

It was the opening track on the band’s debut album, Boy, it went to number 20 in the US, and its anthemic nature makes it perfect for live performances.

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