For a band or solo artist, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts can be a dream come true. It means that you’ve truly made it, and it’s an accomplishment that’s rightfully worth celebrating. But for some artists, one hit single is just a drop in the bucket. We’ve rounded up the 40 artists who have had the most No. 1 hit singles. (Here are the most popular hit singles of the 21st century.)
Surprisingly, some of the most legendary musical acts in history have never made No. 1 on the Billboard chart at all. Believe it or not, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, The Backstreet Boys, Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, and Bob Dylan are among those who have never had the honor. (These, though, are the artists with the most hit albums.)
On the other side of the coin, some truly obscure acts have been graced with the coveted top spot. These include such one-hit wonders as Mark Dinning (“Teen Angel,” 1960), The Stories (“Brother Louie,” 1973), and Right Said Fred (the timeless classic “I’m Too Sexy,” 1992).
To determine the artists with the most No. 1 hits, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on the Billboard Hot 100 going back to August 1958, when the chart debuted. In cases where artists had the same number of No. 1 hits, the one who spent more overall weeks in the No. 1 position was given the higher rank. (Note that some of Elvis Presley’s career predates the first Hot 100 chart, meaning that such hits as “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Jailhouse Rock” are not included in Presley’s tally.)
The top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 is more than just a listing of who’s selling the most records at any given time. It’s a reflection of the era, a glimpse into where popular culture stands, and a time capsule of sorts into the history of popular music. To have five or more songs hit No. 1 means that an artist has truly staked his or her claim in music and pop culture history, as a scroll through this countdown will definitely make clear.