AT40 Turns 45: A Look Back at the American Top 40

This Saturday, the United States of America turns 239 years young. What’s a Fourth of July celebration without food, fireworks and a little funky music?

Another American institution celebrating its birthday on Independence Day is the American Top 40 radio countdown program. 45 years ago, way back in 1970, legendary DJ Casey Kasem took to the airwaves, ranking America’s chart-topping radio hits. Since then, the show has survived a few new hosts, an evolving radio landscape and ever-changing musical styles. Let’s take a look back over the years…

Did you know?

  • The original Casey Kasem-hosted show only lasted until 1988. Shadoe Stevens took over from 1988-1995, upon which the show was cancelled. AT40 was relaunched in 1998 with Kasem, who continued hosting until his retirement in 2004, when he passed the headphones to Ryan Seacrest.
  • The first song ever played on AT40 was “The End of Our Road” by Marvin Gaye, which peaked at #40.
  • AT40’s first #1 song was “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night.
  • The first AT40 Top 10 included both Elvis Presley (“The Wonder of You”) and The Beatles (“The Long and Winding Road”).
  • Casey Kasem’s final #1 song in 2004 was “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. This was also Ryan Seacrest’s first #1 song.
  • The youngest artist to chart on AT40 is Willow Smith, whose “Whip My Hair” debuted at #35, while she was age 10. (She was 9 when the song was recorded.)
  • The oldest artist to chart on AT40 is Louis Armstrong. “What a Wonderful World” entered at #32 in 1988, at which time Armstrong would have been 86 (it was recorded when he was 66).
  • The longest-charting song on AT40 is Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” which stayed on the charts for 72 weeks from 2010-2011.
  • The current #1 hit, “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, matched Katy Perry’s “Roar” by taking just five weeks to get to #1—the quickest of any song in the 21st century.

Best of the Decades

  • #1 song of the 1970s: “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone
  • #1 song of the 1980s: “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John
  • #1 song of the 1990s: “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis (My personal JAM!)
  • #1 song of the 2000s: “Yeah!” by Usher featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon

Need some tunes for the holiday weekend? Search Spotify for a handy AT40 playlist to keep the grooves flowing all weekend long!