Friday, May 14, 1999

50 years ago: Vaughn Monroe hit #1 with “Riders in the Sky”

Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)

Vaughn Monroe

Writer(s): Stan Jones (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 23, 1949

Peak: 112 US, 12 GA, 12 HP, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.5 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Stan Jones was a forest ranger who wrote songs on the side. SF He wrote this “country and cowboy-style song” WK in the summer of 1948 based on a story he’d heard at 12-years old by an old cowboy friend. WK The following year, the song gave the charts “a rustic, outdoors bias.” TY Vaughn Monroe (#1), Peggy Lee (#2), Bing Crosby (#14), and Burl Ives (#21) all charted with versions of the song on the U.S. pop charts. PM Monroe’s version wasn’t just a #1, but the the biggest pop song of 1949 WHC and the biggest of Monroe’s nine chart toppers. It was also one of three songs of his to sell a million copies. PM

The song serves up a “folk tale” WK of “cowboy hell.” SF A cowboy has a vision of “a herd of red-eyed cows” TY “thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them,” WK “doomed to chase the Devil’s cattle for all eternity.” SF

The song, which is also sometimes known as “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “Ghost Riders,” and “A Cowboy Legend” has been recorded at least 50 times by artists including Johnny Cash, Spike Jones, Frankie Laine, and Marty Robbins. WK Gene Autry sang it in the movie of the same name in 1949. WK Jones recorded it on his own 1957 album Creakin’ Leather. WK Through the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, other versions by the Ramrods, Lawrence Welk, the Baja Marimba Band, the Outlaws, and Duane Eddy also charted. The Ramrods top-40 instrumental-version was the highest charting.

“The melody is based on the song ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home,’” WK and, “according to Robby Krieger, it inspired the classic Doors song ‘Riders on the Storm.’” WK It also inspired the Marvel Comics Western character Ghost Rider who was later renamed Phantom Rider. WK

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Vaughn Monroe
  • SF
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Pages 139-40.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 318-20, 571.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 68.
  • WK

Last updated 9/8/2021.

Saturday, May 8, 1999

Ricky Martin hit #1 with “Livin’ La Vida Loca”

Livin’ La Vida Loca

Ricky Martin

Writer(s): Desmond Child, Robi Rosa (see lyrics here)

Released: March 23, 1999

First Charted: April 9, 1999

Peak: 15 US, 17 RR, 18 AC, 16 A40, 13 UK, 18 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.7 US, 0.78 UK, 8.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.4 radio, 454.8 video, 258.07 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Ricky Martin was born Enrique Martin Morales in 1971 in Puerto Rico. He joined the boy band Menudo in 1984. He went solo five years later and became a regular on a Mexican soap opera. He had two successful Spanish-language albums and then made the leap to American TV on the soap opera General Hospital. He also landed a role on Broadway in Les Miserables. In New York, he met songwriter and producer Robi Rosa, who produced his next album.

Rosa often worked with songwriter Desmond Child, who’d written Kiss’ “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Michael Bolton’s “How Can We Be Lovers,” and Cher’s “Just Like Jesse James.” Rosa and Child wrote “La Copa De La Vida (The Cup of Life)” for Martin’s next album and it became the theme song for the World Cup in Paris. At this point, he wasn’t a household name, but he was a big enough name in Latin music to land a slot performing the song at the 1999 Grammys. His “knock-out performance” BR was one of “just a handful of television performances that could be considered defining moments in an artist’s career.” BR

His first English-language album followed that year. It included another Rosa and Child-penned song – “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” The song combined Latin, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian rhythms with an “arena rock chant” and a piano style associated with salsa music. Child said that Martin reminded him of a Latin Elvis. BR He felt the song title “embodied Ricky’s zest for life and the kind of risk-taking that living a very fast life all over the world…entails.” BR

The song was about “an irrestible, particularly sinister wild woman who lives on the edge, seducing others into her crazy world.” WK It was accompanied by “an energetic and sexy video” KL and was well received by critics such as Billboard’s Chuck Taylor, who called it “electrifying” and “filled with life.” WK Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot called it “the year’s most ubiquitous hit single” WK and Elle magazine named ith the “best ‘90s pop song.” WK Entertainment Tonight’s Liz Calvario called it “part of pop culture history.” WK It hit #1 in 20 countries WK and Martin ended up at the helm of a Latin-pop movement in the U.S. which saw “subsequent chart-toppers by Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, and Santana.” BR


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Ricky Martin
  • FB Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 881.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh. (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits. Pages 484-5.
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 4/16/2022.