In America, we tend to make a big deal over 20-year anniversaries, so this is really something: Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating 70 years on the throne. Elizabeth ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI. She was just 25.
Harry Truman was president of the United States at the time. Remarkably, Elizabeth has been queen during the administrations of 14 U.S. presidents. She was on the throne before one of those presidents – Barack Obama – was even born.
As Billboard previously reported, pop stars are giving her a royal salute on June 4. Sir Elton John, Sir Rod Stewart, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Queen (the band), Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys and many more stars are performing for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Concert, which is dubbed “Platinum Party at the Palace.”
While we often lazily refer to Queen Elizabeth II as the queen of England, she’s much more than that. She’s the queen of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms. The U.K. consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The 14 other Commonwealth realms include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica.
Her realm is bigger than you may have realized. Now you know why even the biggest pop stars get spiffed up and stand up straight when they meet the queen.
To mark Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne, we have prepared a list of the 70 biggest hits by U.K. acts in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. We could have included acts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but we wanted to keep the spotlight on the queen’s home turf. (We did include the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown Dependency, because how do you leave out the Bee Gees?)
Elton John and Paul McCartney (outside of The Beatles) each have five songs on the list. Elton’s tally includes a chart-busting collaboration with Kiki Dee and a record on which he shared the artist credit with his band. McCartney’s tally includes collabs with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson and three hits with his second group, Wings.
Adele, The Beatles and Ed Sheeran each have four songs on the list. Adele has more songs on the list than any other female artist. The Beatles have more than any other group. (Alas, their tally does not include “Penny Lane,” with its line “And in his pocket is a portrait of the queen.”)
The oldest song on the list is Mr. Acker Bilk’s instrumental “Stranger on the Shore,” which was the first song by an English act to top the Hot 100. It hit No. 1 in May 1962, three months after Elizabeth marked 10 years on the throne.
Two songs on this list — Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” and Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” — are still riding the Billboard Hot 100 and thus could conceivably move up.
Newton-John’s “Physical” is the highest-ranking song on the list by a female solo artist. The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” is the highest-song on the list by an established group or duo.
The Fine Print: We counted songs on which an artist from the U.K. was the lead or co-lead artist, but not a featured artist. We counted groups that were predominately comprised of musicians from the U.K.
In case you have forgotten your high school geography, Ireland is not part of the U.K., so Sinéad O’Connor and Gilbert O’Sullivan didn’t make the list.
Here are the 70 biggest hits by U.K. acts in the history of the Hot 100 (which dates to Aug. 4, 1958). All acts were born in England unless otherwise noted.
Billboard’s Biggest Hot 100 Hits by British Artists ranking is based on weekly performance on the Hot 100 (through the May 28, 2022-dated chart). The ranking includes songs by artists in lead roles who were born in the U.K. and groups that were nominated by members who were born in the U.K. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates during various periods.