Chart Beat

Late country legend Johnny Cash earns a career high debut and this week marks the return of such veteran artists as Diana Ross, Bette Midler and Kate Bush.

THE LEGEND GROWS: More than 46 years after making his first appearance on the Billboard album chart, Johnny Cash rewrites chart history by coming up with the highest-debuting title of his career.

"The Legend of Johnny Cash" (Legacy/Columbia/American/Island), the 41st album by the Man in Black to chart, enters The Billboard 200 at No. 11. That makes this new set the third highest-charting album of Cash's career. The only two LPs to chart higher were "Johnny Cash at San Quentin" (No. 1 for four weeks in 1969) and "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" (No. 6 in 1970). Pushed down to fourth place is "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" (No. 13 in 1968).

On the Top Country Albums list, "The Legend of Johnny Cash" bows at No. 3 and is the 75th Cash album to chart. It is the highest-ranking album by the late country veteran since "American IV: The Man Comes Around" peaked at No. 2 the week of Sept. 27, 2003. Of Cash's 75 chart entries on the country tally, 19 have peaked inside the top three. Of these 19, nine have achieved pole position, six have reached the runner-up spot and four have gone to No. 3.

Since Cash appeared on the very first country album chart, published the week of Jan. 11, 1964, he once again holds the record for the longest chart span, which now stretches to 41 years and 10 months. Cash has to share that record with George Jones, who also appeared on that very first country album chart. Jones slips to No. 34 this week with "Hits I Missed... And One I Didn't" (Bandit).

ROSS RETURNS: It's been a little more than nine years since Diana Ross has appeared on a Billboard singles chart. She was last on the Adult Contemporary list in May 1996 with "Voice of the Heart," which peaked at No. 28.

This week, Ross returns to the AC tally, paired with Rod Stewart on a George and Ira Gershwin tune, "I've Got a Crush on You" from Stewart's J Records set "Thanks for the Memory... The Great American Songbook Vol. IV."

The Gershwins wrote "I've Got a Crush on You" in 1930. That means Ross has charted on the AC list with songs from seven consecutive decades. In 1973, Ross peaked at No. 8 with "Good Morning Heartache," a 1940s song popularized by Billie Holiday. The track was from the soundtrack to "Lady Sings the Blues," the Holiday biopic that starred Ross.

In 1981, Diana spent three weeks at No. 2 with the 1950s song first recorded by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." Ross didn't make her debut on the AC tally until 1970, but after she did, she charted with two 1960s songs: a remake of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and a cover of the Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There."

Ross also charted with original songs throughout the 1970s as well as the 1980s and the 1990s.

Should "I've Got a Crush on You" show up on The Billboard Hot 100, it would be Ross' first appearance on this chart since 1986, when she went to No. 66 with "Chain Reaction." It's unlikely the duet with Stewart will cross over to the Hot 100, since none of Stewart's "Great American Songbook" tracks have done so. Stewart last appeared on the Hot 100 in 1998 with "Ooh La La."

Stewart has done well on the AC list with his "Songbook" singles. "I've Got a Crush on You" is his eighth chart entry from his "Songbook" CDs. Here is a recap of how they have performed:

• "These Foolish Things," No. 13 (2003)
• "They Can't Take That Away from Me," No. 27 (2003)
• "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," No. 17 (2004) [Rod Stewart & Cher]
• "Time After Time," No. 21 (2004)
• "Baby, It's Cold Outside," No. 2 (2004) [Rod Stewart featuring Dolly Parton]
• "What a Wonderful World," No. 13 (2005) [Rod Stewart featuring Stevie Wonder]
• "Blue Moon," No. 23 (2005) [Rod Stewart featuring Eric Clapton]
• "I've Got a Crush on You, No. 33 to date (2005) [Rod Stewart featuring Diana Ross]

Stewart is the fifth male to be paired with Ross on an AC chart entry. The ex-Supreme has also collaborated with Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias.

BETTE GETS THE 'FEVER': Looks like no one is going to say "Is That All There Is?" after they hear the new Bette Midler album, a tribute to Peggy Lee. The Columbia CD is Midler's first top 10 album in almost 15 years.

"Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook" enters The Billboard 200 at No. 10. It is the follow-up to "Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook," No. 14 in October 2003. Midler was last in the top 10 in January 1991 with "Some People's Lives," which peaked at No. 6. Midler made her debut on the Billboard album chart the week of Dec. 9, 1972, with "The Divine Miss M."

The new release gives her a chart span of 32 years and 11 months. "The Peggy Lee Songbook" is the fifth highest-charting album out of Midler's 20 appearances on The Billboard 200. Her most successful title is "Beaches," the soundtrack that spent three weeks at No. 2 in 1989.

'MOUNTAIN' ALMOST BIG AS 'HILL': It's been 11 years since Kate Bush appeared on the U.K. singles chart, so her latest release may be a case of absence making British hearts grow fonder. Her new single, "King of the Mountain" (EMI), debuts at No. 4. That's her highest rank since "Running Up That Hill" peaked at No. 3 in 1985.

"King of the Mountain" is instantly Kate's third highest-charting song. Her very first U.K. single, "Wuthering Heights," remains her only No. 1 hit. "Heights" debuted the week of Feb. 11, 1978, so Bush's chart span expands to 27 years and nine months.

"Mountain" is the first single from Bush's new album, "Aerial," due for a Nov. 8 U.S. release by Columbia. If "Aerial" debuts at No. 27 or anywhere north of there, it will become Kate's highest-charting set in America. That record is held by her last album to chart; "The Red Shoes" peaked at No. 28 in November 1993.

RAISING THEM UP: Irish boy band Westlife continues its winning ways on the U.K. singles chart, where the group's version of the popular copyright "You Raise Me Up" (S) debuts at No. 1. It's the 13th chart-topper for Westlife, and the 18th top five hit, the outfit's entire output.

"You Raise Me Up" was a No. 1 hit on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart for Josh Groban in the spring of 2004. The song was composed by Brendan Graham from Ireland and Rolf Lovland from Norway and originally recorded by Lovland's duo Secret Garden, with vocals by Brian Kennedy.

Westlife is now alone in fourth place among acts with the most No. 1 singles in the United Kingdom. Elvis Presley leads with 20, followed by the Beatles with 17. Cliff Richard is in third place with 14, followed by Westlife with their 13. Cliff's backing band, the Shadows, fall to fifth place with 12 No. 1s.