Songs that became popular – again – through movies and TV

Sometimes, popular movies and TV shows can help resurrect songs that were released decades ago and push them back up to the Top 100 charts.

Over Memorial Day weekend 2022, the premiere of Netflix’s “Stranger Things Part 4” helped propel English singer Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill” into the No. 1 spot on iTunes, after the song was heard playing from a main character’s Walkman.

Here are some other songs that received a second shot of fame after being used in popular media:

Ben E. King – “Stand By Me” 

This 1961 song has been covered over 400 times by recording artists including John Lennon, Tracy Chapman, and Florence + the Machine. Although it was a number four pop hit when it was released, the track re-entered the Billboard 100 chart in 1986 when it was featured in the soundtrack of “Stand By Me”, a movie based off of Stephen King’s story “The Body”.

 

Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin’” 

Journey’s 1981 hit “Don’t Stop Believin’’” has never REALLY left the public consciousness – this smash is still a karaoke favorite and a regular feature of classic rock radio stations. But it enjoyed a surge of popularity in 2007 when it was used in the controversial final scene of HBO’s The Sopranos’ series finale. Downloads of the song spiked after the episode aired and prompted Journey to find a new lead singer (former singer Steve Augeri left the band in 2006 due to ongoing vocal problems).

 

Fleetwood Mac – “Dreams”

TikTok has had a hand in making lots of songs reach viral popularity in the past couple of years. “Dreams”, released in 1977, was a huge hit in its own right, topping the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released. In 2020, Idaho resident Nathan Apodaca shared a video of himself longboarding while sipping Ocean Spray and lip syncing along to the track. The clip went viral – and also tripled sales of the song. 

 

Badfinger – “Baby Blue”

“Baby Blue” was Welsh group Badfinger’s last Top 20 single. It was released in the U.S. as a single in 1972. When the song was featured in Breaking Bad’s explosive series finale in 2013, it received a huge dose of popularity. The song was purchased over 5,000 times the night of the broadcast, and it was on the Billboard Digital Songs chart later that month. The song also charted for the first time in England following the finale.

Dick Dale – “Misirlou”

“Misirlou” is an Eastern Mediterranean folk song with a long history of being performed by Greek, Arabic, and Jewish musicians. In 1962, guitarist Dick Dale popularized the song in the West with a surf-rock cover. In 1994, Dale’s version was used in the opening credits of Pulp Fiction. It was featured on the movie’s eclectic soundtrack, which went to #21 on the Billboard 100 that year.

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Queen’s 1975 six-minute “mock opera” dominated the charts in England and took the number one spot in a dozen other countries when it was released – but in the U.S., it never made it past #9. When Wayne’s World came out in 1992, the car scene featuring “Bohemian Rhapsody” helped shoot the track to #2 on the Billboard chart. Queen guitarist Brian May told the BBC in 2015 that “there was a time when we completely owned America, and we would tour there every year. It seemed like we couldn’t go wrong. And then we lost America for various reasons, which are now history. … Freddie [Mercury] had a very dark sense of humor. And he used to say, ‘I suppose I’ll have to die before we get America back.’ And, in a sense, that was what happened. And it was Wayne’s World, which came completely out of nowhere, that made it happen.”

That’s not the only assist the song has had from the silver screen – the 2018 band biopic Bohemian Rhapsody helped it to become the most streamed song from the last century.

The Beatles – “Twist and Shout” 

Director John Hughes put this track by the Fab Four back into the charts with his 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. The teenage protagonist of the film stirs up the crowd at a parade when he jumps on a float to lip sync the 1964 hit – which spent 16 weeks on the charts when it was released, but jumped back onto the Billboard Hot 100 for another seven weeks in 1986 after the film’s release! The resurgence in popularity made “Twist and Shout” the Beatles’ longest charting Top 40 song.

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