At the beginning of 1983, we lost Karen Carpenter, who is considered one of the best female singers of her generation. Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys died in a drowning accident. However, 1983 gave us some of the best music ever. It was the year where rock started to meet dance music, which faced a huge backlash just four years earlier.
Choosing the five best songs of the year is a difficult one, especially because there were so many groundbreaking hits. Let’s give it a try…
5. David Bowie, “Let’s Dance”
“Let’s Dance” was the first single of the album of the same name, which was produced by Nile Rogers. By June of 1983, it was the No. 1 song on Billboard‘s Hot 100. It would be the last time David Bowie would top the Hot 100 in the United States.
“Let’s Dance,” perhaps Bowie’s best single ever, is part funk, part pop, and part disco. According to Rolling Stone, David Bowie’s 1983 hit originally sounded different, but was reworked with Nile Rogers to sound more commercial.
4. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
Thriller had already been released to major success in December of 1982 before “Billie Jean” became the second single in the winter of ’83. The song took Michael Jackson and the album Thriller into the stratosphere. It would be one of three No. 1 hits off the album and spent seven weeks at No. 1 during spring of 1983.
According to Songfacts, “Billie Jean” is about a girl who claimed that Jackson was the father of her child and stalked him. Michael Jackson had a major feeling that “Billie Jean” would be a huge hit while recording it. It ends up he was 100 percent correct. A year and a half later, Madonna released her single “Like a Virgin,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. Many said that the bass line in the song is very similar to “Billie Jean.” Madonna never denied this and even mixed the two songs up in concert.
3. Irene Cara, “Flashdance…What A Feeling”
If you were alive in the late spring and early summer of 1983, it’s quite likely that you hummed this song. If not, you heard it on the radio almost every time it was turned on. It was the go-to dance hit (though it starts off slow) of 1983, and spent six weeks at No. 1.
The megahit, written and produced by Georgio Moroder, was the title track of the movie of the same name, which was often referred to as the “Rocky” of dance films. The song was nominated for Record of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards.
2. Prince, “1999”
“1999,” the title track from Prince’s breakthrough album, was originally released as the first single in late 1982. It didn’t make much of an impact, but Warner Brothers re-released it in the summer of 1983 after “Little Red Corvette” became a huge hit. The song peaked just outside of the top 10, but is still considered one of Prince’s best songs.
According to Rolling Stone, Prince recorded the song without rest and turned downed food because he felt eating would make him sleepy. The opening verse was originally recorded in a three-part harmony. The song made a comeback 16 years later as the new millennium closed in.
1. Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 mega-hit, written and produced by Jim Steinman, went mainstream around the same time another Steinman-penned song, “Making Love Out of Nothing At All,” by Air Supply topped the charts. This No. 1 hit of 1983 is an emotional powerhouse that touched the hearts of many music listeners.
Bonnie Tyler had previous hits in the United States, such as “It’s a Heartache,” but “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was the first (and only) time she would top the Billboard charts. According to Songfacts, this 1983 hit debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. — the first time a female artist had ever done so.
[Featured Image by Alastair Grant/AP Images]