Earlier this year, I had the hallway leading to our upstairs offices painted (finally), but was perplexed as to what to do with the spot at the very top of the stairs. Once upon a time, a banner hung in that spot with the name of the company, ‘Cutting Edge Entertainment’. After giving the stairwell it’s much needed facelift, I felt it was somehow redundant to put the company name there. I mean, if you were inside, you surely knew where you were already. So the swath of wall at the top of the stair remained blank…
And then it hit me. Hello. It was perfectly simple, and simply perfect. Within a week the word ‘hello’ was prominently displayed at the entrance to our offices, greeting anyone and everyone that came through the door. Friends, customers, clients, colleagues and even employees are now welcomed by a warm ‘hello’ on each and every visit.
As a DJ Company, I thought it would be really cool if a snippet of a song played reciting the word ‘hello’ every time the door opened. I meticulously compiled a list of thirteen songs to be edited and arranged to play randomly, triggered by a sensor on the front door. I was reminded that – for the folks who work here regularly – it would get very old very quickly. Reluctantly, I acquiesced to their collective counter reckoning, and scrapped the idea… for now.
And that is how this list of tunes came about.
This playlist includes ten songs with ‘hello’ in the title, eight of which lyrics actually begin with the word ‘hello’ (can you guess the two that don’t?). The last three songs do not have the word ‘hello’ in the title, but whose lyrics do begin with the word. Additionally, these last three all have something to do with a telephone, two of which even have the word ‘telephone’ in the title, a device on which the word ‘hello’ is so often used.
“Hello” by Adele
Released late in 2015, this ‘hello song’ raced up the charts in just about every country in the world (except Japan and Portugal), landing at the number one spot. Adele’s ‘Hello’ got some serious airplay throughout the following year and earned her a Grammy Award or two… or five. This melancholy tune broke all sorts of records, including digital sales, selling over a million copies the week of its release and was pretty much the song the radio stations played the heck out of in 2015/2016. Additionally, t just ain’t healthy to call a person 1,000 times… Get the hint.
“Hello” by Lionel Richie
In 1984 – thirty one years before Adele’s ‘Hello’, and four years before she was born – Lionel Richie released ‘Hello’. This ‘hello song’ was just as melancholy, charted equally high, and the phrase “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” remains culturally embedded even today. While some would suggest that the theme’s in the two ‘hellos’ are similar, or perhaps equally depressing. While Lionel Richie has a brilliant catalogue of tunes aside from this like “All Night Long” and “You Are” during his solo career, then “Sail On” and “Easy” while with the Commodores, somehow this is widely regarded as his signature song.
“Hello Again” by The Cars
Peaking at number twenty on the Billboard Top 40 in 1984 (the same year as Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’), Ric Ocasek and The Cars ‘Hello Again’ is a textbook example of the early 80s sound. As a pseudo-Cars fan, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge that this is probably true of all Cars songs, which – when listened to in a greatest hits compilation – sound remarkably similar. At least this “hello song” is upbeat and fun, and unlike many of the songs on this list doesn’t evoke despair.
“Hello Again” by Neil Diamond
The year was 1981, this song reached number six on the Billboard Top 40, and the haunting piano at the opening and later accompanying strings give fair warning that this isn’t exactly a “happy hello”. The lyrics suggest that “they’ve been through it all and you love me just the same”, but then why aren’t they together? Pleading for a hello, Neil Diamond’s voice seems despondent and hopeless. If not for decades of separation I’d guess he was returning Adele’s call.
“Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren
Kill me now. Number five in 1973, Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” was likely written with the intent to drive people going through a breakup to the brink of suicide. Perhaps Todd Rundgren, Lionel Richie, Adele and Neil Diamond are all involved in some conspiracy to make all hello songs cause depression and despair to the listener. Kidding aside, this is a great tune and a 70s classic.
“Hello I Love You” by The Doors
On a list of hello songs chock full of tear jerkers, leave it The Doors and the oft morose Jim Morrison to drop a hello song that seems upbeat in comparison. “Hello I Love You” was The Doors second #1 hit, peaking in 1968. While certainly one of the group’s less gloomy tunes, “Hello I Love You” is a bundle of sunshine on this list.
“Hello Stranger” by Barbra Lewis
With it’s Larry Ferrari sounding keyboard at the intro (and inside joke for my fellow Philadelphia natives), this was considered R&B in 1963. While Barbra Lewis was far from a one-hit-wonder, this is unquestionably her most memorable and recognizable tune. While the melody suggests a melancholy theme, the lyrics say otherwise. “Hello Stranger” borders on torch song, with an almost sultry sounding Barbra Lewis singing of a reunion with hints of a romantic twist. This pop R&B hit reached #3 on the Billboard Top 40 the year of its release.
“Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson
Almost twenty years before the Bradys were America’s TV family, there were the Nelsons; Ozzie, Harriet, David and of course, Ricky. Within five years of playing himself on ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’, Ricky Nelson was a bonafide teen idol with a #2 hit. Thirteen years later, he was still charting hits like this hello song to a young lady name Mary Lou. “Hello Mary Lou” reached #9 on the Billboard Top 40, and was one of thirty five Top 40 hits for the youngest Nelson.
“Hello Dolly” by Louis Armstrong
There are just too many great things to mention about this joyous hello song, but it may have been author and musicologist Fred Bronson who said it best, (and I paraphrase): “If you were asked to select the artist most unlikely to usher The Beatles out of the number one position after they had three consecutive records that held the top spot for a combined 14 weeks, it’s unlikely you’d guess a 63 year old trumpeter who had never before had a #1 single in his entire career”. Louis Satchmo Pops Armstrong was perhaps the greatest genius in American popular music ever… period. “Hello Dolly” reached #1 on May 9 of 1964.
“Hello Goodbye” by The Beatles
The last song on this hello song list is by a band that needs no introduction, and that said, it’s no surprise that in a seemingly endless catalog of hit songs that The Beatles released a hello song. “Hello, Goodbye” topped the charts at #1 on the Billboard Top 40 and was certified gold in 1967, while it’s more widely known B-side “I Am The Walrus” never broke the Top 40 making it the lowest chart ranking tune of all The Beatles B-sides.
While compiling this list, I came across a few tunes which – while they didn’t have the word ‘hello’ in the title, they did open up with the first word of the song being hello. Interestingly enough, while these three songs spanned decades, they all used the word hello in relation to a telephone.
“Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper
This is one of my father’s favorite songs which he introduced me to at a young age. This tune is a whole lot of fun, and rightfully placed at a #6 chart position in 1958. Jiles Perry Richardson, a.k.a. “The Big Bopper” also wrote hit songs for other artists, but sadly was killed in a plane crash in 1959 along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. The song opens with an old-fashioned phone ring, and then an excited “Hello Baby!”, and is by far one of the most upbeat numbers on this list.
“Telephone Line” by the Electric Light Orchestra
Once again a sad hello song, this one opens with a very 70s sounding dial sound followed by a ring and then a desperate “hello”. Regardless, it was one of my favorite tunes as a kid and remains my favorite Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) tune to this day. Penned by ELO front man Jeff Lynne, it’s a Beatles inspired song, as Jeff Lynne was a huge fan of the Fab Four, perhaps even more so than me. This tune peaked at #7 in 1977.
“Telephone” by Lady Gaga (ft. Beyonce)
Unlike other phone oriented hello songs on this list, Lady G flips it and instead of being the caller, she is the one called and is essentially saying “leave me alone, stop calling”. The digital distortion in the song mimics the distortion experienced on mobile cell phones in the digital age. Due to tremendous digital sales, “Telephone” landed a peak #3 chart position in early 2010.
Of the twelve total tracks on this list, there are quite a few uses of the hello song by I was surprised at how many were sad or melancholy, which helped lend to my decision to scrap them as a collection of welcome songs to a DJ Company. Alas, no song list is lost entirely when it can be re-purposed. Music is awesome regardless. I hope you enjoyed listening to the hello songs of tunes as much as I had fun compiling them.
Sources: The Billboard Book of Top 40 [Pop] Hits and The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B Hits by Joel Whitburn and Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson.