Broadway’s best show tunes are not just heard on the stage. There are some songs that really stand out, permeating pop culture, touching a nerve, and inspiring even the shyest to belt the lyrics. From the 1930s to the ’50s, Broadway shows were one of the main sources for major pop singers’ repertories. Crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett would warble their own versions of top tunes from current shows and all of America would listen to them on the airwaves. In the 1960s, though, Broadway took a backseat to rock groups as teenagers dominated record sales. The Beatles recorded a memorable version of “Till There Was You” from The Music Man and Louis Armstrong’s Dixieland spin on “Hello, Dolly” was a hit, but the theater was no longer a major player in the record industry. Today the trend is changing with songs from and Wicked seeping into the mainstream through TV shows like Glee and American Idol.
Here are our picks for the most memorable show tunes of all time. Listen as you read, and check out the full playlist at the end. Want to hear more top tunes? See — and listen to — our picks for Broadway’s new classic show tunes.
“On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady
Ironically this gorgeous melody was not sung by either Henry Higgins or Eliza Doolittle, the show’s leads. It went to the supporting character Freddy Enysford-Hill who sings it outside Eliza’s window after he has met her at the Ascot races. In a show full of hit tunes, this one stood out and climbed the charts in versions by such pop male songsters as Vic Damone, Eddie Fisher, and Andy Williams not long after the show opened in 1956.