Saturday, March 8, 1980

50 years ago: “Happy Days Are Here Again” goes to #1

Happy Days Are Here Again

Ben Selvin

Writer(s): Milton Ager, Jack Yellen (see lyrics here)

First Charted: March 1, 1930

Peak: 12 US, 11 GA, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Happy Days” was originally written for the movie Chasing Rainbows and sung by Charles King and Bessie Love. JA It accompanied a scene where World War I soldiers learn the war has ended. TY Unfortunately, the song was cut from the film. When movie producer Irving Thalberg heard the song played at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, he wanted to know why such a great song wasn’t in the movies. When he found out it had been cut from one of his own films, he immediately had it put back. Unfortunately, the movie was a failure. RCG

However, the “bright and tuneful” RCG song which urged everyone to “sing a song of cheer again” found life beyond the film. The publishers took it to George Olsen, whose orchestra played it at the Pennsylvania Hotel Ballroom in Manhattan a few days after the October 1929 stock market crash. RCG Jack Yellen, the song’s lyricist, recalled the dining room being populated with “gloom-stricken diners.” Olsen directed his singers to “sing it for the corpses” and, according to Yellen, “after a couple of choruses, the corpses joined in…[and] before the night was over, the hotel lobby resounded with what had become the theme song of ruined stock speculators as they leaped from hotel windows.” SS

The song became an unofficial anthem for the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt used it in his 1932 Presidential campaign and it was adopted by the Democratic party SB as their “unofficial theme song for years to come,” WK being used again in campaigns by Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. RCG

Three versions of the song charted in 1930. Ben Selvin and Benny Meroff each took it to the top; Leo Reisman’s orchestra, with a vocal from Lou Levin, hit #3. Judy Garland adopted the song as an allegory of her life. RCG The song has been featured on more than 70 commercially-released albums and in more than 80 films. WK Some of the notable recordings were by Mitch Miller and Barbra Streisand. WK


  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 69.
  • RCG The Old Songs (1900-1929)
  • SB
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 364.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 47.

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First posted 3/8/2016; last updated 7/25/2022.

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