Ten Foreign-Language Hits


According to at least one of my readers, Americans don’t speak English, but that’s not what I’m talking about…


But seriously… There have been a few songs in languages other than English (American or otherwise) that have charted in the US over the years. I gathered ten of them into a playlist, which you can see below.

Here are the songs and a little about them:

  1. Dominique – The Singing Nun (French): Jeanine Deckers, also Sister Luc-Gabrielle, OP, “Soeur Sourire” (“Sister Smile”), or The Singing Nun, was a Belgian Dominican nun who was encouraged by her superior to record an album of her songs, of which “Dominique” was one. It reached #1 on the Hot 100 in 1963-64. I had the album at one time. It was popular among Catholic schoolkids everywhere.
  2. Ue O Muite Aroukou (“Sukiyaki”) – Ryu Sakamoto (Japanese): I featured this almost exactly one year ago in my Battle of the Bands for November 1. This is a beautiful song whose lyrics tell the story of a young man walking and trying not to cry over a lost love. It was named “Sukiyaki” by record executives because they felt American recordbuyers wouldn’t be able to pronounce the Japanese name. The song reached #1 on the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts in 1963.
  3. Guantanamera – The Sandpipers (Spanish): The music for this was written by Joséito Fernández, and the words of a José Martí poem were added to make the official version. It is Cuba’s best-known patriotic song. The Sandpipers’ arrangement was written by Pete Seeger. It reached #9 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1966.
  4. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens (Spanish): This is a folk song from the Mexican state of Veracruz. Valens’ version reached #22 on the Hot 100 in 1958. The cover by Los Lobos, part of the soundtrack for the Valens biopic La Bamba, reached #1 on the Hot 100 in 1987.
  5. 99 Luftballons – Nena (German): This German anti-war song was from Nena’s first album in 1983. When the German version proved popular, it was re-recorded in English with lyrics by Kevin McAlea. The German version reached #2 on the Hot 100.
  6. Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare) – Domenico Modugno (Italian): Written by Modugno and Franco Migliacci, this spent five non-consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100 in August and September 1958 and was Billboard‘s #1 single for the year. It’s been covered by a lot of singers, including Dean Martin, Al Martino, and Jerry Vale; my favorite cover is by the Gipsy Kings.
  7. Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba (Xhosa): This is the South African singer’s signature song. It was released in the US in 1967 and reached #12 on the Hot 100.
  8. Seemann, Deine Heimat ist das Meer (Sailor, Your Home Is The Sea) – Lolita (German): The US version featured a verse read in English by the singer. This reached #5 on the Hot 100 in 1959, the most successful German-language song until “99 Luftballons.”
  9. Eres Tú – Mocedades (Spanish): This was popular in 1974, the year I graduated high school and started college. Mocedades is a Spanish band and the vocal is done by Amaya Uranga. It reached #9 on the Hot 100 and is still heard on “lite rawk” stations.
  10. Gangnam Style – PSY (Korean): The video for this one has been watched 2,435,937,379 times on YouTube (the last time I looked), and you have to admit, it’s catchy. It debuted on the Hot 100 at #64 the week of September 22, 2012. It rose to #11 the following week, and to #2 the week after that, where it peaked.

That’s your Thursday Ten for October 22, 2015.


Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

13 thoughts on “Ten Foreign-Language Hits”

  1. I can actually say I’ve heard of half of these songs. As for my favourite, I’d have to go with the Nena version. I was toying with the idea of using the song on my BOTB and utilizing both the English and the German version. I’ve heard both version on the radio.


    1. I was 2 in 1958, so I don’t remember the original. I remember a good number of the covers, though; my folks had the Jerry Vale album it was on, and I’m sure Dean Martin did it on its show. By far, my favorite cover is the Gipsy Kings version. The link takes you to it.


  2. Out of that list, I still listen to a good half on a regular basis. I have had trouble finding the German version of “99 Luftballoons” on mp3 , though. Every time, the person/store has the English version. Which I like, but I WANT the German version.


  3. Hee. Now, I actually got into Gangnam Style due to a parody vid that my husband and daughter were laughing at, called, if I recall rightly, Gundam Style (i.e., the anime Gundam Wing and its spin offs matched to the music). Then there was the Klingon parody… oh, just lots. So I looked up the actual video and got hooked. I now have way way way too much k-pop in my collection, including more PSY and the awesome Big Bang with their over the top video “Fantastic Baby”.


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