Taking Peaks, Part 4: Nos. 25-1
Taking Peaks, Part 4: Nos. 25-1

Clearly, the most popular songs at any given time scale the upper ranks of the Billboard Hot 100. Still, America's singles chart of record for 51 years sports a history filled with well-loved classics that peaked at every position, from No. 1 all the way down to No. 100.

For renowned titles that stopped in the chart's lower rungs, perhaps they were not huge hits originally, but gained steam over time. Or, they were popular at particular formats such as country, R&B or rock, but did not cross over to complete mainstream success.

Each Tuesday throughout January, Chart Beat is combing through the Hot 100 peak position-by-position, highlighting songs that live on in iPods, movies, TV and/or radio, no matter how high they ultimately climbed on the survey.

Certainly, it's great to be No. 1. But, the Hot 100's rich archives reveal winners at every number.

And now, on with the countdown.

Part 1: Nos. 100-76
Part 2: Nos. 75-51
Part 3: Nos. 50-26

No. 25
"Piano Man," Billy Joel (1974)

With this fictional story song drawn from real life experience, Billy Joel made the first of his 42 Hot 100 entries to date, 33 of which have reached the top 40, including 13 top 10s and three No. 1s: "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" (1980), "Tell Her About It" (1983) and "We Didn't Start the Fire" (1989). "I've always referred to my songs, or the music that I've written, as my children," Joel says. "And these songs grew up. These kids - I'm very proud of them."

Honorable Mentions:
"Try a Little Tenderness," Otis Redding (1967)
"Macho Man," Village People (1978)
"Rainbow Connection," Kermit (Jim Henson) (1979)
"Hey Jealousy," Gin Blossoms (1993)
"Come to My Window," Melissa Etheridge (1994)

No. 24
"Big Yellow Taxi," Joni Mitchell (1975)

Mitchell's signature song reached No. 67 upon its initial release in 1970, the same year that a cover by the Neighborhood climbed to No. 29. "I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii," says Mitchell. "I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart, this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song."

Honorable Mentions:
"Sister Mary Elephant (Shudd-Up!)," Cheech & Chong (1974)
"Only the Good Die Young," Billy Joel (1978)
"One Way or Another," Blondie (1979)
"Under the Milky Way," the Church (1988)
"I'm Already There," Lonestar (2001)

No. 23
"Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen (1976)

With this track's entrance on the Sept. 20, 1975, Hot 100, the Boss was off and running on a career that has produced an Academy Award, 19 Grammy Awards and U.S. album sales of 64 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Among male artists, only Garth Brooks (128 million), Billy Joel (79.5), Elton John (70), Michael Jackson (69.5) and George Strait (68.5) rank higher.

Honorable Mentions:
"Mustang Sally," Wilson Pickett (1966)
"Forget Me Nots," Patrice Rushen (1982)
"You Can Call Me Al," Paul Simon (1987)
"Fields of Gold," Sting (1993)
"Just a Girl," No Doubt (1996)

No. 22
"La Bamba," Ritchie Valens (1959)

The early rock and roll classic peaked on the Hot 100 dated Feb. 7, 1959 - just four days after the Music Died, when Valens, a true pioneer of Latin rock, Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson were killed in an Iowa plane crash. "Donna" would become the fallen teen idol's biggest hit (No. 2) later that month. 28 years later, "La Bamba" would reach No. 1 as covered by Los Lobos, whose version accompanied the successful Valens biopic starring Lou Diamond Phillips.

Honorable Mentions:
"Peaceful Easy Feeling," Eagles (1973)
"FM (No Static at All)," Steely Dan (1978)
"Two Tickets to Paradise," Eddie Money (1978)
"Ain't Nobody," Chaka Khan & Rufus (1983)
"Dreams," Van Halen (1986)

No. 21
"Theme From the Dukes of Hazzard," Waylon Jennings (1980)

The TV theme song that preceded such axioms from Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane before each inevitable splash into Hazzard Pond after a foiled hot pursuit of the General Lee: "That put a quiver in my liver." The CBS series that ran from 1979 to 1985, at its heart, promoted down home values. Credited as the program's "Balladeer," Jennings summed up on the final episode, "So, you see, that's the way it goes in Hazzard, where the Dukes will even help out their enemy when the chips are down. That's plum typical of the Dukes of Hazzard. Too bad it ain't the same everywhere else, huh?"

Honorable Mentions:
"Werewolves of London," Warren Zevon (1978)
"We're Not Gonna Take It," Twisted Sister (1984)
"Criminal," Fiona Apple (1997)
"Beautiful Day," U2 (2001)
"Let's Get It Started," the Black Eyed Peas (2004)

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