Every music artist dreams of releasing a song that is so well-received by the music-loving public that it goes to number one in their country’s music charts and goes on to become famous for years to come. For the majority of artists, this never happens, such is the nature of the beast. Some song, however, become timeless, global hits that go on to sell tens of millions of copies and write them into the history books.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling music single of all-time with more than 50 million copies sold since its release in 1942. The song was listed as the best-selling ever in the first edition of the Guinness Book of Records in 1955 and still retains the title more than 50 years later. The song was written by Irving Berlin and it reminisces about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. Various accounts about how Berlin wrote the song mean we may never know the full truth to how the song was written. One of the more popular tales is that Berlin penned the song while staying at the La Quinta Hotel where he stayed up all night writing before telling his secretary:
“Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written – heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”
Coming in at second place is the 1997 global hit “Candle in the Wind 1997 / Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John, which has sold an impressive 33 million copies. John first released a version of the song in 1973 and then released an adapted version on September 13, 1997 as a tribute single to the late Diana Princess of Wales. All proceeds from the single’s sale went to charities set up in by or in the memory of Diana.
The 1997 version became John’s fourth UK number one single and it became the best-selling single in UK Chart history before becoming John’s ninth U.S. number one single. Most of the lyrics of the 1997 version were adapted to suit the circumstances of Diana’s life and death, whereas the original was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe.
Amazingly, Bill Crosby not only has the best-selling single of all-time, he also has the third, too. Crosby sang “Silent Night” in 1935 and the Christmas song has since sold a staggering 30 million copies. The original song was first performed on December 24, 1818. It was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber to the lyrics by Joseph Mohr in Oberndorf bei Salzburg in Austria. Silent Night was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. Rounding out the current top 10 are Mungo Jerry “In the Summertime” (30 million copies), Bill Haley & His Comets “Rock Around the Clock” (25 million), Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” (20 millions), Elvis Presley “It’s Now or Never” (20 million), USA for Africa “We Are the World” (20 million), The Ink Spots “If I Didn’t Care” (19 million), and Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” (18 million).