Americans are said to have a deleterious sugar addiction. When it comes to number one songs on the “Billboard Hot 100” chart with food or drink mentioned in the title, the sugar rush is quite apparent.
Sugar and spice and everything nice for the sweet tooth
“Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. The opening lines to “Sugar, Sugar” are: “Sugar, ah, honey, honey, You are my candy girl.” This is probably as sugary and sappy as it gets. The “Archie” comic book moved to TV as a Saturday morning animated show. There was no actual group “The Archies” other than in cartoon format. Jeff Barry and Andy Kim wrote “Sugar, Sugar” and Ron Dante sang it. Dante had sung demo records for many of the songwriters who worked out of the famous Brill Building. “Sugar, Sugar” is a definitive bubblegum record. It spent four weeks at number one and was the number one single of 1969, according to “Billboard.” Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead would be proud, not to mention Big Moose.
“Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs. Spending five weeks at number one, “Sugar Shack” was the number one single for the year 1963.
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops. There is sugar, pie and honey in the title of the Four Tops signature song that went to number one for two weeks in 1965. No song ever defined “the Motown sound” better than this one. The Four Tops performed together for over 40 years without any change to their original lineup, an unprecedented accomplishment for a group having a number one song.
“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones. The Stones always courted controversy because it moved records off the shelves. They thrived under the adage that any publicity is good publicity. So “Brown Sugar,” a number one hit from the spring of 1971, was right up their alley. It was excoriated as being racist and sexist, and was also dubbed as a song that referred to Mexican heroin.
“American Woman”/”No Sugar Tonight” by The Guess Who. “American Woman” was actually the number one hit for this Canadian rock group in 1970. “No Sugar Tonight” was the B side and a minor hit by comparison. However, starting in the fall of 1969, two-sided hits were both listed together as number one. That meant “No Sugar Tonight” was also counted as a number one song.
“Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro. This tearjerker was number one for five weeks in 1968. Get out the tissues.
“Honey” by Mariah Carey. A completely different song than the Goldsboro chart topper, “Honey” by Mariah Carey was number one for three weeks in 1997. Just as rock stars couldn’t resist going disco in the 1970s, great singers like Mariah Carey couldn’t resist the temptation of hip hop in the 1990s. “Honey” definitely had her moving toward adding rap on some of her songs.
“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy didn’t like this song at first and didn’t want to record it. It was a song from the children’s musical “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” a 1971 motion picture. Sammy ended up pleased with the song that became the biggest pop hit of his career. First gaining airplay on adult contemporary and easy listening stations, “The Candy Man” topped the “Billboard Hot 100” for three weeks in June 1972.
“Candy Shop” by 50 Cent featuring Olivia. A number one song from 2005.
“American Pie” by Don McLean. People have spent decades trying to interpret the lyrics and clues in this eight-and-a-half minute song that spent four weeks at number one in the winter of 1972. One thing for sure was the references to Buddy Holly and the plane crash that took his life on February 3, 1959. McLean explained that Holly was the last person he idolized as a kid, and that “American Pie” summed up the music of the 1960s and his own youth. The song also has clear references to the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. But many other of the esoteric allusions still stump listeners. The song ends with an elegy to the ’60s that may have been one of the first claims that rock and roll was dead.
“Lollipop” by Lil Wayne featuring Static Major. A number one hit in 2008.
Water, please. Follow the drinking gourd, wine, women and song
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond. The first number one hit for Neil Diamond came as a writer when he penned “I’m A Believer” for the Monkees. His first chart topper as a singer came in the fall of 1970 with “Cracklin’ Rosie,” a song about a bottle of wine that will keep a man company in the absence of a woman. The first song Diamond wrote about wine was “Red, Red Wine,” which UB40 later took to number one.
“Tequila” by The Champs. “Tequila” was an instrumental song that spent five weeks at number one in 1958.
“Brandy, (You’re A Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. This number one hit from 1972 was the only song by Looking Glass to make the top 30. It was about Brandy, a girl from a harbor town who tends bar and serves whiskey and wine to sailors when they stop at port. She falls for one of the sailors but he can’t stay with her because “his life, his lover, and his lady are the sea.” A great storytelling song.
“Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers. This song started out as a B side, but radio stations flipped the single over and it started getting the bulk of the airplay. Eventually it became the Doobie Brothers first number one song in 1975.
“(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” by Andy Gibb. The Bee Gees had nine number one hits, and their kid brother Andy had three on his own before his untimely death at age 30. All of his number one hits were written by the eldest brother Barry, sometimes with help from one or more of the other brothers.
“Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes. This was the last number one song of the 1970s. As Holmes described to “Billboard,” the song is about a man so bored with his girlfriend that he answers an ad placed in the personal columns by a woman who likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. The man also places an ad, and when the two “strangers” meet it turns out to be the man and his girlfriend. They were both bored with each other and answered each other’s ad, but will hopefully now see each other in a new light.
“Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. In 1990 this became the first rap song to reach number one on the “Billboard Hot 100” chart.
Other foods and confections
“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds. They were criticized for sounding too much like the Jackson Five. But rather than saying it was a rip off, better to recognize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. “One Bad Apple” was number one for five weeks and touched off Osmondmania that lasted from 1971-74.
“Lady Marmalade” by LaBelle, later by Pink, Lil’ Kim, Christina Aguilera and Mya. “Lady Marmalade” is one of the few songs to go to number one by different artists. The first time in 1975 was by the group LaBelle, led by Patti LaBelle. Then 26 years later, a collection of superstars united to return the song to number one. Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink strutted their stuff and had a number one hit for five weeks in 2001.
“Peppermint Twist – Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters. Taking advantage of the twist craze, a house band at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City recorded its own twist song, “Peppermint Twist – Part 1.” The song spent three weeks at number one in the winter of 1962. Joey Dee was instrumental in the development of other musical groups. The trio that became the Ronettes was part of Joey Dee’s revue at the Peppermint Lounge. And the unit that would become the Young Rascals served as his house band when he opened a club of his own.
“Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto. This was the most misnamed song of the rock era. The real title is “Ue O Muite Arukou,” which roughly translates to “I Look Up When I Walk.” British and American DJs couldn’t pronounce the Japanese title, so they made up a title that most people in the English-speaking world would recognize. “Newsweek” said it was the equivalent of releasing “Moon River” in Japan under the title “Beef Stew.” “Sukiyaki” became the second record sung in a foreign language to top the chart in the rock era.
“Incense and Peppermints” by Strawberry Alarm Clock. Although it’s the “peppermints” that get them on the list, Strawberry Alarm Clock could also be there by virtue of their group’s name. “Incense and Peppermints” fit in well with 1967, the year of psychedelic sounds and the Summer of Love.
“Grease” by Frankie Valli. This is a tough one. You wouldn’t want to eat grease, but because food is cooked in it, we do consume it as food, so it has to make the list. Valli got to sing the title track to the film “Grease.” The album sold over 24 million copies, one of the best-selling movie soundtracks ever. Valli, with his distinctive falsetto, enjoyed four number one hits as the lead singer of the Four Seasons and two more as a solo artist, including “Grease,” a number one song for two weeks in 1978. He certainly anchored “The Jersey Boys.”
“Cream” by Prince and the New Power Generation. With sugar being so prominent, let’s have a little cream for the coffee. This song by Prince and the New Power Generation was number one for a couple weeks in the fall of 1991.
Related articles: Signature Songs, Billboard Smash Hits That Were Cover Versions
Body Parts in the Titles of Number One Songs, a Head to Toe Look
“Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 1995
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003