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Looking for love on the Billboard Hot 100: 1969

50 years ago, love songs made up the majority of titles by black artists on the pop charts

Where did the love go? Specifically, what happened to popular black love songs?

The year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts are widely regarded as the best measure of America’s most popular songs. We compiled numbers from the Billboard charts for the last five years (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), and for 10-year intervals over the past 50 years (1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009). These charts show a decrease in love songs by black performers. (To see our story on the reasons behind the change, click here.)

How did we define a love song?

Love songs give voice to humanity’s most powerful emotion, that alchemy of need, companionship and commitment that can include, but also transcends, the physical. Songs that only talk about sex are not counted as love songs. Songs that talk about heartbreak, lost love, etc., are counted as love songs. Our definition of love songs includes those dealing with dysfunctional aspects of love: domestic and emotional abuse, cheating, and other unhealthy or harmful situations. We call these songs “tainted love.”

We recognize the subjective and malleable nature of “black music.” Is the salsa remake “I Like It” by Afro-Latino Cardi B an example of “black music”? What about work by Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny or the Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin? Reasonable people can disagree … but Cardi says “n—a” in the song, so that’s gotta be black music. We include Bruno Mars as making black music because he’s way too fonky.

Songs by white performers that “feature” black artists are not counted as work by black artists on our list. Neither are songs by white artists who perform in a black style (with the non-negotiable exception of Bobby Caldwell). We are analyzing black music. Nothing by Post Malone is black music, even if he has a black artist performing on that particular song. Same for Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris, Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake, etc. We do not count Eminem as producing black music because his fan base is overwhelmingly white. Don’t @ me.


Here are the receipts for 1969, when black love was still big on the charts:

Guide to reading the chart: Black artists are in bold and love songs are all CAPS. On the year-end Billboard Hot 100 for 1969, there were:

36 songs by black artists.

Of that 36, there were 23 LOVE SONGS BY BLACK ARTISTS

There were also 35 LOVE SONGS BY OTHER ARTISTS

  1. SUGAR, SUGAR (The Archies)
  2. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The 5th Dimension)
  3. I CAN’T GET NEXT TO YOU (The Temptations)
  4. Honky Tonk Women (The Rolling Stones)
  5. Everyday People (Sly and the Family Stone)
  6. DIZZY (Tommy Roe)
  7. Hot Fun in the Summertime (Sly and the Family Stone)
  8. I’LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN (Tom Jones)
  9. BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP (The Foundations)
  10. CRIMSON AND CLOVER (Tommy James and the Shondells)

    The 5th Dimension performs on stage in 1968.

    Getty Images

  11. ONE (Three Dog Night)
  12. Crystal Blue Persuasion (Tommy James and the Shondells)
  13. Hair (The Cowsills)
  14. TOO BUSY THINKING ABOUT MY BABY (Marvin Gaye)
  15. LOVE THEME FROM ROMEO AND JULIET (Henry Mancini)
  16. Get Together (The Youngbloods)
  17. Grazing in the Grass (The Friends of Distinction)
  18. SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Elvis Presley)
  19. Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  20. WHAT DOES IT TAKE (TO WIN YOUR LOVE) (Jr. Walker & The All Stars)
  21. It’s Your Thing (The Isley Brothers)
  22. SWEET CAROLINE (Neil Diamond)
  23. JEAN (Oliver)
  24. Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  25. Get Back (The Beatles with Billy Preston)
  26. In the Year 2525 (Zager & Evans)
  27. Spinning Wheel (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
  28. BABY, I LOVE YOU (Andy Kim)
  29. GOING IN CIRCLES (The Friends of Distinction)
  30. HURT SO BAD (The Lettermen)
  31. Green River (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  32. MY CHERIE AMOUR (Stevie Wonder)
  33. Easy to Be Hard (Three Dog Night)
  34. BABY IT’S YOU (Smith)
  35. In the Ghetto (Elvis Presley)
  36. A Boy Named Sue (Johnny Cash)
  37. BABY, BABY DON’T CRY (Smokey Robinson and The Miracles)
  38. ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE (Jerry Butler)
  39. Time of the Season (The Zombies)
  40. WEDDING BELL BLUES (The 5th Dimension)
  41. LITTLE WOMAN (Bobby Sherman)
  42. LOVE (CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY) (Mercy)
  43. Good Morning Starshine (Oliver)
  44. THESE EYES (The Guess Who)
  45. YOU’VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
  46. PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART (Jackie DeShannon)
  47. Do Your Thing (Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band)
  48. WAIT A MILLION YEARS (The Grass Roots)
  49. Touch Me (The Doors)
  50. MORE TODAY THAN YESTERDAY (Spiral Starecase)
  51. I’ve Gotta Be Me (Sammy Davis Jr.)
  52. Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan)
  53. Atlantis (Donovan)
  54. TRACES (Classics IV)
  55. IT’S GETTING BETTER (Cass Elliot)
  56. THIS MAGIC MOMENT (Jay and the Americans)

    Motown’s The Temptations perform during a concert at Madison Square Garden, circa 1969, in New York.

    Photo by Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images

  57. Runaway Child, Running Wild (The Temptations)
  58. Hawaii Five-O (The Ventures)
  59. Galveston (Glen Campbell)
  60. I’M GONNA MAKE YOU MINE (Lou Christie)
  61. Gitarzan (Ray Stevens)
  62. CAN I CHANGE MY MIND (Tyrone Davis)
  63. Time Is Tight (Booker T & the M.G.’s)
  64. THIS GIRL’S IN LOVE WITH YOU (Dionne Warwick)
  65. Color Him Father (The Winstons)
  66. BLACK PEARL (Checkmates Ltd.)
  67. INDIAN GIVER (1910 Fruitgum Co.)
  68. Mother Popcorn (James Brown)
  69. TWENTY-FIVE MILES (Edwin Starr)
  70. THINGS I’D LIKE TO SAY (New Colony Six)
  71. WHEN I DIE (Motherlode)
  72. THAT’S THE WAY LOVE IS (Marvin Gaye)
  73. Everybody’s Talkin’ (Harry Nilsson)
  74. THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN (Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge)
  75. THE CHOKIN’ KIND (Joe Simon)
  76. Smile a Little Smile for Me (The Flying Machine)
  77. Polk Salad Annie (Tony Joe White)
  78. RUBY, DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE TO TOWN (Kenny Rogers and The First Edition)
  79. Games People Play (Joe South)

    The Dells perform on The Hollywood Palace Nov. 1, 1969.

    Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

  80. YOU SHOWED ME (The Turtles)
  81. TRACY (The Cuff Links)
  82. OH, WHAT A NIGHT (The Dells)
  83. SOMETHING (The Beatles)
  84. This Girl Is a Woman Now (Gary Puckett & The Union Gap)
  85. Come Together (The Beatles)
  86. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man (Bob Seger System)
  87. I’M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME (The Supremes & The Temptations)
  88. I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE (Marvin Gaye)
  89. GIMME GIMME GOOD LOVIN’ (Crazy Elephant)
  90. Hang ‘Em High (Booker T & the M.G’s)
  91. YOUR GOOD THING (IS ABOUT TO END) (Lou Rawls)
  92. BABY, I’M FOR REAL (The Originals)
  93. Oh Happy Day (Edwin Hawkins Singers)
  94. LOVE ME TONIGHT (Tom Jones)
  95. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon (Paul Revere & the Raiders)
  96. LAUGHING (The Guess Who)
  97. MY WHOLE WORLD ENDED (THE MOMENT YOU LEFT ME) (David Ruffin)
  98. SOUL DEEP (The Box Tops)
  99. HOOKED ON A FEELING (B.J. Thomas)
  100. Sweet Cream Ladies (tie) (The Box Tops) LET ME (tie) (Paul Revere & the Raiders)

Liner Notes

Source: Chart ranking by Billboard. Categorization by race and subject matter by Jesse Washington and Taylor Thomas for The Undefeated.

Jesse Washington is a senior writer for The Undefeated. You can find him giving dudes the bizness on a basketball court near you.