He’s the superhero that’s been around since 1938 and he hasn’t aged a bit. He’s Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, but better known as the great Superman. With hundreds of comic books displaying his name and several television series and dozens of movies based off of his adventures, he’s one of the most well-known characters today. In addition to all of those media outlets, Superman has been the subject of at least fourteen song titles to make the Billboard Hot 100 since 1958, with a fifteenth on the way in the form of “Waiting For Superman”, the new single by Daughtry. It’s currently a top 20 digital hit and will likely go top 40 nationally. So, which of these heroic hits is the mightiest of them all? Here they are, both the top 40 singles and the more minor Hot 100 entries:
“Sunshine Superman”, Donovan (#1, 1966)
This piece of psychadelic pop was Donovan‘s only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a week there in September 1966. It also reached the top 5 in a number of other countries, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. If you were a fan of pop music in the 90’s, you may remember the song “Legend Of A Cowgirl” by Imani Coppola, a minor top 40 hit in 1997 which sampled “Sunshine”.
“Black Superman – Muhammad Ali”, Johnny Wakelin & The Kinshasa Band (#21, 1975)
English musician Wakelin wrote this as an homage to the boxing champion after seeing the famous Rumble In The Jungle fight in 1974, which pit Ali against George Foreman, with Ali winning. It hit the top ten in his native United Kingdom and just missed the top 20 on the Hot 100 that fall. A followup single about the boxer, “In Zaire”, was also a hit in the U.K., going top 5, but it did not enter Billboard’s charts.
“Superman”, Herbie Mann (#26, 1979)
After over a decade of top 40 misses, flutist Mann finally made the top 40 in 1975 with “Hijack”, which went to #14. As the disco era danced away with the charts, Mann was able to tack on a second entry with this song, originally performed by Celi Bee and the Buzzy Bunch (see below). What originally didn’t make the top 40 its first time out did it for Mann, breaking into the top 30. It was his last hit.
“Superman (It’s Not Easy)”, Five For Fighting (#14, 2001)
After releasing an album in 1997 that went under the radar on EMI, it was singer John Ondrasik’s second album, America Town, that got him noticed in a big way. In the fall of 2001, this song became one of the anthems heard in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and its consistent radio play launched it into the top 15 on the Hot 100. A sixth Five For Fighting album, Bookmarks, came out this past Tuesday.
“Superman”, Eminem (#15, 2003)
After the huge success of 8 Mile‘s “Lose Yourself”, which spent 12 weeks at #1, this single came directly afterwards and was automatically going to be lost in the shadows of that big hit. From his 2002 album The Eminem Show, it ended up missing the top ten after peaking out very early in its run. However, it did go to #10 on the CHR airplay chart. The female vocals on this song are performed by Dina Rae.
“Superman”, Taylor Swift (#26, 2010)
In an era full of digital downloads, we were inevitably going to find an album track on this list that was never released as a single. Such is this case with this entry from Swift from her hit 2010 album, Speak Now. It peaked the week that the album arrived, then quickly descended the survey and fell off after a few weeks. It was the seventh-highest ranking song, regardless of single status, to chart from the release.
Other caped crusaders to hit the top 100:
“Superman”, Dino, Desi and Billy (#94, 1966)
“Superman”, The Ides of March (#64, 1970)
“Superman”, Donna Fargo (#41, 1973)
“Superman”, Celi Bee and the Buzzy Bunch (#41, 1977)
“(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”, The Kinks (#41, 1979)
“I’m Your Superman”, All Sports Band (#93, 1981)
“Superman’s Song”, Crash Test Dummies (#56, 1991)
“Superman’s Dead”, Our Lady Peace (#74, 1997)
All of these acts, save for Bee and her group, had bigger singles rank on the Hot 100. Both of the 90’s entries were bigger hits on Canada, where the two groups formed.
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