Theatre tunes account for 24 percent, or six of the 25 most-performed songs and musical works in the Twentieth Century, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Heading ASCAP's list is a familiar song, even though it is not a pop tune or a Broadway melody. Instead, the most-performed song of the century is Mildred J. Hill and Patty Hill's timeless "Happy Birthday to You," which ASCAP estimates has been performed hundreds of millions of times this century.
The country's first music rights licensing organization, ASCAP was founded in 1914. ASCAP licenses the works of composers and lyricists, as does Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) and the Nashville-based SESAC. The organization's charter members included Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern and Victor Herbert.
ASCAP's director of musical theatre, Michael A. Kerker told Playbill On Line that the song "Blue Moon," by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart was a unique collaboration for the team. "'Blue Moon' was the only song they wrote that was not from a musical or a movie," Kerker said.
The most-performed ASCAP songs for the century are: "As Time Goes By" (Herman Hupfeld)
"Blue Moon" (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart)
"The Christmas Song" (Mel Torme, Robert Wells)
"Happy Birthday to You" (Mildred J. Hill, Patty Hill)
"Hello, Dolly!" from 1964's Hello, Dolly! (Jerry Herman)
"I Could Have Danced All Night" from 1956's My Fair Lady (Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner)
"I Got Rhythm" from 1930's Girl Crazy (George & Ira Gershwin)
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (Douglass Cross, George C. Corey, Jr.)
"I Only Have Eyes for You" (Harry Warren, Al Dubin)
"Misty" (Erroll Garner, Johnny Burke)
"Moon River" (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer)
"Night and Day" from 1932's The Gay Divorce (Cole Porter)
"Over the Rainbow" (Harold Arlen, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg)
"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David)
"Rhapsody in Blue" (George Gershwin)
"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" (J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
"Stardust" (Hoagy Carmichael, Mitchell Parish)
"Sweet Georgia Brown" (Ben Bernie, Kenneth Casey, Maceo Pinkard)
"Tea for Two" from 1925's No, No, Nannette (Irving Caesar, Vincent Youmans)
"That Old Black Magic" (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer)
"Theme from the Three Penny Opera (Mack the Knife)" (by Kurt Weill, Bertold Brecht, Marc Blitzstein, 1928)
"Unchained Melody" (Alex North, Hy Zaret)
"The Way We Were" (Marvin Hamlisch, Alan & Marilyn Bergman)
"White Christmas" (Irving Berlin)
"Winter Wonderland" (Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith)
-- By Murdoch McBride