The Number One Hits Of 1986
|December 21, 1985 – January 17, 1986
Say You, Say Me
Lionel Richie, born on June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, Alabama, is an American singer, songwriter, composer, and record producer. He is one of the most successful and enduring artists in the music industry, with a career spanning over five decades.
Featured in “White Knights,” Say You, Say Me won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
|January 18, 1986 – February 14, 1986
That’s What Friends Are For
Dionne Warwick is an American singer, actress, and television host known for her versatile and emotive voice.
That’s What Friends Are For is a charity single featuring Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder, with proceeds benefiting the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
|February 15, 1986 – February 29, 1986
How Will I Know
Whitney won a total of six Grammy Awards throughout her career, and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.
How Will I Know is an upbeat pop and dance song with a catchy melody, showcasing Whitney Houston’s ability to perform across different music genres.
|March 1, 1986 – March 14, 1986
Mr. Mister is an American rock band. Kyrie was released in 1985 as a single from their second studio album, “Welcome to the Real World.” The song was written by the band’s lead vocalist and bassist Richard Page, keyboardist Steve George, and lyricist John Lang.
The song’s title, “Kyrie,” is derived from the Greek phrase “Kyrie eleison,” which translates to “Lord, have mercy.” This phrase is commonly used in Christian liturgy, particularly in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches.
|March 15, 1986 – March 21, 1986
Starship is an American rock band that originated from the group Jefferson Airplane and later evolved into Jefferson Starship. The band went through a significant lineup change and rebranded as simply “Starship” in 1984. With a more pop-rock-oriented sound, Starship found commercial success throughout the 1980s.
“Sara” is one of Starship’s hit songs, released in 1986 as the second single from their album “Knee Deep in the Hoopla.” Peter Wolf and Ina Wolf wrote the song and became an instant success. “Sara” is a power ballad that showcases the emotional range of lead vocalist Mickey Thomas with its heartfelt lyrics and memorable melody.
|March 22, 1986 – March 28, 1986
Heart is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in the early 1970s by sisters Ann Wilson (lead vocals) and Nancy Wilson (guitar, vocals). The band became famous for their unique blend of hard rock, folk, and acoustic elements and powerful, emotive vocal performances.
These Dreams is one of Heart’s most popular songs, released as a single in 1986 from their self-titled eighth studio album, “Heart.” Written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page, the song showcases the band’s softer, more melodic side, featuring Nancy Wilson on lead vocals instead of her sister Ann. It was their first number-one hit.
|March 29, 1986 – April 18, 1986
Rock Me Amadeus
Falco, born Johann Hölzel, was an Austrian singer, songwriter, and musician who gained international fame in the 1980s. He is widely regarded as a pioneer in the German-language rock and pop music scene, known for his unique style, which combined elements of pop, rock, and new wave music with his distinctive Austrian dialect and witty, often humorous lyrics.
Rock Me Amadeus is one of Falco’s most well-known and successful songs, released in 1985 as a single from his third studio album, “Falco 3.” The song is a tribute to the iconic Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and cleverly fuses elements of classical music with a catchy synth-pop sound. Falco’s rap-like vocal delivery adds a unique and innovative touch to the track.
|April 19, 1986 – May 2, 1986
Prince and the Revolution
The production of “Kiss” is an interesting story. Initially, Prince wrote and composed the song for a band called Mazarati, a funk group formed by Brown Mark, who was the bassist for The Revolution. Prince originally intended “Kiss” to be an acoustic demo, with a slower tempo and minimal instrumentation.
When Mazarati started working on the song, they decided to strip it down even further, removing most of the original instrument tracks and leaving only the drum machine, a catchy guitar riff, and their own backing vocals. They also increased the tempo, giving the song a more upbeat and danceable feel.
Upon hearing Mazarati’s version, Prince was impressed with their changes to the song. He decided to take the track back, add his own lead vocals, and release it as a Prince and the Revolution single. However, he kept Mazarati’s backing vocals on the final recording.
|May 3, 1986 – May 9, 1986
Addicted to Love
Palmer wrote and produced the song with assistance from Bernard Edwards, the bass player of the band Chic. The track features a driving beat, a catchy guitar riff, and a prominent brass section, which helped to create its signature sound.
The production of Addicted to Love involved overdubbing and layering various instruments and vocals, with Palmer playing guitar, keyboards, and drums on the recording. The song’s tight, polished sound was a result of meticulous studio work, which contributed to its success.
The music video for Addicted to Love is iconic and played a significant role in the song’s popularity. Directed by British photographer Terence Donovan, the video features Palmer performing the song backed by a band of female models. The models, dressed in black outfits and wearing bright red lipstick, appear emotionless and robotic, miming the playing of instruments.
The concept for the video was inspired by the work of artist Patrick Nagel, known for his stylized and minimalist illustrations of women. The video’s striking visual style, with the catchy melody and memorable lyrics, helped make Addicted to Love a massive hit. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won the 1986 MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video.
The video’s imagery has been widely parodied and referenced in popular culture since its release, and it remains one of the most recognizable music videos of the 1980s.
|May 10, 1986 – May 16, 1986
Pet Shop Boys
West End Girls
English synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys comprises Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. It was initially released in 1984 but gained massive success with its 1985 re-release, becoming the duo’s first UK No. 1 and US No. 1 hit. The song appears on their debut album, “Please,” released in 1986.
The creation of “West End Girls” began when Neil Tennant, who was working as a journalist for Smash Hits magazine, met producer Bobby Orlando in New York. Tennant asked Orlando if he could produce some tracks for him and Lowe, and Orlando agreed. The initial version of West End Girls was influenced by hip-hop, featuring Tennant’s more rap-oriented vocal delivery and Orlando’s raw, stripped-down production.
The lyrics of West End Girls were inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land,” particularly the line “in the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.” The song’s themes revolve around class and the pressures of urban life, juxtaposing the glamorous and seedy aspects of London’s West End.
After signing with EMI, Pet Shop Boys decided to re-record West End Girls with producer Stephen Hague, who brought a more polished and sophisticated sound to the track. The new version featured lush synth arrangements, a driving bassline, and a catchy, pop-oriented chorus, which helped it become a hit.
The music video for West End Girls was directed by Andy Morahan and Eric Watson, showcasing the duo wandering around various locations in London, including the River Thames and the city’s streets at night. The moody, atmospheric visuals complemented the song’s introspective lyrics and synth-driven sound, contributing to its enduring appeal.
|May 17, 1986 – June 6, 1986
Greatest Love of All
Whitney began her music career singing in the church choir and, as a teenager, started performing as a backup vocalist for various artists, including Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls.
Greatest Love of All is a powerful and inspiring ballad encouraging self-love and self-respect, featuring one of Whitney Houston’s most memorable vocal performances.
|June 7, 1986 – June 13, 1986
Live to Tell
Madonna is also an actress with notable roles in films such as “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Dick Tracy,” and “Evita.”
She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress as Eva Perón in “Evita” (1996).
Live to Tell is a dramatic and emotional ballad featured in the film At Close Range, starring her then-husband Sean Penn.
|June 14, 1986 – July 4, 1986
Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
On My Own
Patti LaBelle is an American singer and actress known for her powerful vocals and dynamic stage presence; Michael McDonald is an American singer-songwriter and keyboardist known for his soulful voice and work with The Doobie Brothers.
On My Own is a poignant duet about the end of a romantic relationship, showcasing the powerful vocal chemistry between the two artists.
|July 5, 1986 – July 11, 1986
There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)
Billy Ocean, born Leslie Sebastian Charles on January 21, 1950, in Fyzabad, Trinidad and Tobago, is a British singer and songwriter. Ocean moved with his family to London, England, when he was ten years old. He later adopted the stage name “Billy Ocean,” inspired by the local football team, “Ocean’s Eleven,” in his neighborhood.
There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) is a heartfelt ballad about the power of music to evoke memories and emotions, showcasing Billy Ocean’s smooth and emotive vocal style.
|July 12, 1986 – July 18, 1986
Holding Back the Years
Simply Red is a British soul and pop band formed in Manchester in 1985. The group was founded by lead singer and frontman Mick Hucknall, along with musicians Fritz McIntyre, Tim Kellett, Tony Bowers, Chris Joyce, and Sylvan Richardson. Hucknall’s love for red and his affiliation with the British Labour Party inspired the band’s name.
Holding Back the Years is one of Simply Red’s most popular songs and a signature hit for the band. It was released in 1985 on their debut album, “Picture Book,” and later re-released as a single in 1986. The song was co-written by Mick Hucknall and Neil Moss, a former bandmate from Hucknall’s previous group, the Frantic Elevators. “Holding Back the Years” is a deeply emotional ballad that reflects themes of childhood, nostalgia, and the passage of time.
The production of Holding Back the Years features a minimalist arrangement focusing on Hucknall’s soulful and emotive vocals. The instrumentation includes a gentle electric piano, subtle guitar work, and a laid-back rhythm section that creates a melancholic atmosphere. The song gradually builds intensity, adding a saxophone solo and string arrangement to the end, providing a richer texture and emotional depth.
|July 19, 1986 – July 25, 1986
The inspiration for “Invisible Touch” reportedly came from a jam session during the album’s recording. The band members were experimenting with various ideas, and a catchy keyboard riff played by Tony Banks caught their attention. The group then built the song around that riff, with Phil Collins contributing the lyrics.
The lyrics of “Invisible Touch” tell the story of a man who falls under the spell of a captivating woman with an “invisible touch” over him. The song explores the complexities of love and relationships, with the “invisible touch” representing the intangible emotional connections between people.
|July 26, 1986 – August 1, 1986
Peter Gabriel is an English singer-songwriter and musician known for his innovative music videos and unique blend of rock, pop, and world music influences.
The “Sledgehammer” music video became a landmark in the art form’s history, winning a record-breaking nine MTV Video Music Awards in 1987, and it is still regarded as one of the most influential and memorable videos of all time. The song’s fusion of soul, funk, rock, and world music, along with its iconic video, helped to cement Peter Gabriel’s status as a groundbreaking solo artist and a pioneer of contemporary music.
|August 2, 1986 – August 15, 1986
Glory of Love
Peter Cetera is an American singer, songwriter, and bassist best known for being a founding member of the rock band Chicago. Born on September 13, 1944, in Chicago, Illinois, Cetera began his music career in the late 1960s as a bassist and vocalist for the band that would later become Chicago. He contributed to numerous hit songs and albums with the group throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1985, Cetera decided to pursue a solo career, leaving Chicago after the release of their 17th album. His solo work includes several successful albums and hit singles, such as Glory of Love (from the “Karate Kid Part II” soundtrack) and The Next Time I Fall (a duet with Amy Grant). Cetera’s smooth vocals and ballad-driven style helped define both his solo career and the sound of Chicago during his tenure with the band.
|August 16, 1986 – August 29, 1986
Papa Don’t Preach
The inspiration for Papa Don’t Preach is from the experiences of songwriter Brian Elliot’s teenage students at his recording studio, who frequently shared stories of family struggles and teenage rebellion. Upon hearing the song, Madonna felt a strong connection to the lyrics and decided to include it on her album, adding her own lyrical elements to the song to make it more personal.
The music video for “Papa Don’t Preach” was directed by James Foley and features Madonna as a young woman dealing with her father’s disapproval of her pregnancy. The video was praised for its storytelling and Madonna’s performance, further cementing her status as a pop icon.
|August 30, 1986 – September 5, 1986
Steve Winwood is an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known for his work with bands like Traffic and Blind Faith.
Higher Love is an uplifting pop-rock song with a catchy chorus and a positive message about the power of love.
|September 6, 1986 – September 12, 1986
Bananarama is a British female pop group known for their catchy melodies and harmonious vocals.
Venus is an energetic and catchy cover of the 1969 hit by the Dutch band Shocking Blue, which became one of Bananarama’s biggest successes.
|September 13, 1986 – September 19, 1986
Take My Breath Away
Berlin is an American new wave band known for blending electronic and pop music influences.
Take My Breath Away is a romantic ballad featured in the film Top Gun, which became one of the band’s most enduring hits.
|September 20, 1986 – October 10, 1986
Huey Lewis and the News
Stuck with You
Throughout his career, Huey Lewis has been recognized for his distinctive voice and charismatic stage presence, earning multiple Grammy Awards and American Music Awards. Despite being diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, a disorder affecting his hearing, in 2018, Lewis has remained active in the music industry, occasionally performing live and releasing new music with his band. Huey Lewis and the News have had 19 top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
|October 11, 1986 – October 24, 1986
When I Think of You
Janet Jackson has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling artists ever.
She has earned numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including five Grammy Awards.
When I Think of You is a catchy and upbeat pop song that showcases Janet Jackson’s energetic dance moves and her ability to craft memorable pop hits.
|October 25, 1986 – November 7, 1986
Born Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper on June 22, 1953, in Astoria, Queens, New York, she began her music career in the 1970s, performing with various cover bands before forming her own band, Blue Angel, in 1978.
True Colors is an emotional and inspiring ballad about self-acceptance and showing one’s true self, featuring Lauper’s emotive vocal performance.
|November 8, 1986 – November 21, 1986
Tom Scholz, the band’s founder, guitarist, keyboardist, and primary songwriter, was an MIT-educated engineer at Polaroid Corporation. In his spare time, Scholz built a home recording studio and started creating demos with the help of drummer Jim Masdea, singer Brad Delp, and guitarist Barry Goudreau.
Amanda is a heartfelt power ballad that became one of the band’s most successful singles, featuring powerful vocals and a memorable guitar solo.
|November 22, 1986 – November 28, 1986
Human is a song from The Human League’s fifth studio album, “Crash” (1986). For this album, the band collaborated with renowned American producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had previously worked with artists like Janet Jackson and Alexander O’Neal. Jam and Lewis were known for their signature R&B and electronic sound, which they brought to The Human League’s music.
The concept behind “Human” deals with the themes of forgiveness, infidelity, and the imperfections of being human. The lyrics express the idea that everyone makes mistakes, and forgiving and moving forward in relationships is essential. The song features a dialogue between male and female vocals, representing a conversation between two partners. Philip Oakey sings the male part, while Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley provide the female vocals.
|November 29, 1986 – December 5, 1986
You Give Love a Bad Name
Jon Bon Jovi, born John Francis Bongiovi Jr. on March 2, 1962, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and actor best known as the founder and frontman of the rock band Bon Jovi. He formed the band in 1983, and they released their self-titled debut album the following year.
You Give Love a Bad Name is a high-energy rock song with a catchy chorus and memorable guitar riffs, which became one of the band’s signature hits.
|December 6, 1986 – December 12, 1986
Peter Cetera and Amy Grant
The Next Time I Fall
Amy Grant is an American singer-songwriter known for her work in contemporary Christian music and successful crossover into pop.
The Next Time I Fall is a romantic duet about the power of love to change and heal, featuring the vocal talents of both Peter Cetera and Amy Grant.
|December 13, 1986 – December 19, 1986
Bruce Hornsby & the Range
The Way It Is
Bruce Hornsby & the Range is an American rock band led by singer-songwriter and pianist Bruce Hornsby, known for their thoughtful lyrics and distinctive piano-driven sound.
The Way It Is is a socially conscious song that addresses issues of social inequality, featuring Hornsby’s signature piano playing and a memorable melody.
|December 20, 1986 – January 16, 1987
Walk Like An Egyptian
The Bangles is an American all-female rock band known for their catchy pop-rock sound and harmonious vocals.
Walk Like An Egyptian is a playful and energetic song with a catchy hook and a memorable music video featuring various people performing the (now controversial) “walk like an Egyptian” dance move.
The Biggest Pop Artists of 1986 include:
(HPS music data is compiled from charts, including Billboard’s Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance, and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)