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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.