Site Owner & Radio Enthusiast
Have you ever wondered what the top most played songs on the radio are of all time?
While most radio channels do their best to keep things fresh with new playlists and chart toppers, some tunes get more than their fair share of air time.
There’s likely to be at least one song you think you’ve heard millions of times when tuning into your favorite broadcast.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say what the most played songs on the radio are of all time because most channels don’t collect and share that data with the public.
Moreover, the frequency with which certain songs are played often varies depending on the radio channel’s format and location.
However, with a bit of research, we’ve pinpointed some of the most commonly played songs on the airwaves to give you an insight into the world’s most-heard tunes. Keep in mind this list is based on available data, so it may miss out on some big hits.
We’re also not covering jingles, radio advertising tunes, and similar songs in this collection.
Let’s dive in! Check out each embed YouTube video as well, which includes some of the official videos as well.
1. “Every Breath You Take” (The Police)
Some radio analysts consider it the most-played radio song of all time. Still, “Every Breath you Take” has more than 15 million plays to its name.
The song, created by the English rock band The Police, was written by Sting and quickly became the biggest Canadian and US hit of 1983.
The song topped the UK singles chart for four weeks and reached the top 10 lists in various other countries too.
Today, this tune is the signature song of The Police. It has even won many accolades, becoming the best-selling single of 1983 and the fifth best-selling single for the entire decade of the 80s.
2. “Brown Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison)
This 1967 hit by Van Morrison, a Northern Irish singer and songwriter, has overtaken the world. “Brown Eyed Girl” was released in 1967 and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it’s still considered Van Morrison’s signature song.
According to some reports, Van Morrison’s hit has been played more than 10 million times by radio stations across the globe. It even earned Morrison special recognition at the Broadcast Music Inc awards.
The song features nostalgic lyrics about a former love. Though it’s often considered romantic, it was initially seen as too “suggestive” to be played on some radio stations in the ’60s.
3. “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'” (The Righteous Brothers)
Once the most-heard radio tune of all time, at least in the United States, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” by the Righteous Brothers has featured on broadcasts more than 15 million times.
Moreover, it was the most-played song on American radio and television in the 20th century.
The record, released in 1964, was immediately a critical and commercial success. It reached number one in the charts throughout the US and UK.
It was also chosen as one of the top songs of the century by RIAA in 2001. The single was even inducted into the National Recording Registry in 2015 as a culturally and historically significant tune.
4. “Yesterday” (The Beatles)
Written by Paul McCartney and performed by The Beatles, “Yesterday” was a huge success when it emerged in 1965.
The tune reached number one in the US charts and captured countless listeners’ hearts throughout the United Kingdom. The melancholy ballad about the end of a relationship was voted the best song of the 20th century by BBC Radio 2 listeners.
Resources suggest this tune had already been played at least seven million times on American radio and television channels by 1999.
However, it is challenging to know how often the song has been played at this point. The tune was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1997 and accompanies a number of well-known Beatles tracks on many radio channels.
5. “Never My Love” (The Association)
Released in 1967, “Never My Love” by The Association is a pop classic written by Dick and Don Addrisi. Though the pair had two top 40 hits as recording artists, few got the same attention as this famous song.
In 1999, the music publishing rights company, Broadcast Music Inc, said it was the second most-played song on television and radio in the 20th century for the United States.
BMI estimated the song had received around 40 years of continuous airplay across broadcasting stations in the 32 years it had been available in 1999.
The tune was also recognized as one of the top 200 greatest songs of the 1960s by Pitchfork magazine.
6. “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks)
Originally performed in a blues style, the song “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks was inspired by Big Bill Broonzy and Lead Belly. Two versions of the song were recorded initially, but the second version was used for the final single.
The tune hit number one on the UK charts and captured the attention of US listeners too. The American Rock band Van Halen even adopted the song to create their own version in 1978.
Estimates suggest the song has appeared on the radio approximately 8 million times over the years, and it’s frequently played alongside other tunes from The Kinks.
7. “Stand by Me” (Ben E. King)
If you haven’t heard the original version of this classic radio hit, then you’ve probably encountered at least one or two covers over the years.
Produced in 1961, “Stand By Me” was written and performed by Ben E. King. The title was derived from a spiritual text called “Stand by Me, Father.”
Over 400 recorded versions of this song have been produced across the years, and experts estimate the song had been played more than seven million times by 1999.
The tune has been named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone. It was also honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.
8. “Layla” (Eric Clapton)
Probably one of the best-known Eric Clapton songs of all time, “Layla” was written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon and produced by Derek and the Dominos in 1970.
According to the writers, the song was inspired by a love story that originated in seventh-century Arabia and Clapton’s secret love for his friend’s wife.
“Layla” became an all-time hit song in no time, winning the Grammy for Best Rock Song in 1993. It was broadcast almost nonstop on the radio, in stores, and on televisions around the globe between 1992 and 1993.
As of 2011, experts suggest “Layla” had achieved more than six million broadcasts on television and radio channels.
9. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (Tears for Fears)
Created by English pop rock band Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was released in 1985.
Music critics praised the tune and ranked it as one of the group’s most significant signature songs. The song even won the Best Single title at the Brit Awards in 1986.
In 2015, 30 years after its release, the tune was honored at the annual BMI Awards in London for surpassing the mark of six million radio air plays. It’s one of the most well-known songs produced by Tears for Fears, alongside their other popular hit, “Shout.”
10. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (Frankie Valli)
Written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is a love song that topped the charts during the ’60s.
Replicated and covered by a host of other creators over the years, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” even became a staple of some significant movie and film soundtracks.
The song was listed on the BMI collection of the most aired tunes on the radio in the 20th century, falling just behind “You’ve Lost that Lovin'” Feelin'” and “Never My Love.”
By 1999, this tune had achieved more than six million broadcasts.
11. “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding)
Recorded by Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper in 1967, “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” was one of the first-ever posthumous singles to top the charts in the US.
The relaxing tune earned the number 3 spot in the UK singles charts in 1967. It was recorded just before Otis Redding met his untimely end during a plane crash in December of the same year.
According to the BMI list of the most-played radio songs of all time in the 20th century, the tune had racked up six million broadcasts by the end of 1999. Today, it still appears on charts worldwide as a popular afternoon song.
12. “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor)
Another fabulous ’80s hit, “Eye of the Tiger” was recorded by an American rock band, Survivor, and released as a single from their third album. It’s also the theme song for the 1982 film Rocky III, released just before the single.
The tune gained excellent airplay and topped the charts worldwide in 1982, and it also held number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks.
Experts suggest this song was played more than 4.5 million times on the radio.
Additionally, it sold more than 4.1 million digital downloads in the United States by 2015. It was certified Platinum by the RIAA in August 1982, signifying sales of over two million vinyl copies.