This weekend, as millions have been reading about the death of beloved singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett, many were surprised to read that his famous signature song, “Margaritaville,” peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Most just assumed that a song that well-known and loved must have been a No. 1.
First off, there’s no shame in a No. 8 hit. And “Margaritaville” spent five weeks in the top 10, longer than the average No. 8 hit at the time. It spent a week at No. 10, followed by two weeks at No. 9, and then two weeks at No. 8.
“Margaritaville” was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in April 2023. (For what it’s worth, none of the other songs that were in the top 10 the weeks “Margaritaville” was at its peak have yet received either of those prestigious accolades.)
Buffett wasn’t the only legendary star in the top 10 the week ending July 30, 1977, when “Margaritaville” was in its second week at No. 8. The top 10 also included a pair of pop/adult contemporary superstars (Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow), as well as a pair of fixtures on the rock scene, Peter Frampton and Rita Coolidge.
The top 10 also included two teenagers (Shaun Cassidy, then 18, and Andy Gibb, then 19). Cassidy survived the hurricane that teen stardom often entails. Gibb did not.
The top 10 also included a true one-hit-wonder, whose first Hot 100 hit as an artist was also his last (Peter McCann).
Here’s a look back at the top 10 the week ending July 30, 1977.
Pablo Cruise, “Whatcha Gonna Do?”
Songwriters: Dave Jenkins, Cory Lerios
Notes: This song jumped from No. 12 to No. 10 that week, becoming the pop/rock group’s first top 10 hit. It peaked at No. 6 for two weeks beginning Aug. 20. The group returned to the top 10 the following year with “Love Will Find a Way.”
Rita Coolidge, “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher”
Songwriters: Gary Jackson, Raynard Miner, Carl Smith
Notes: A languid cover version of an exciting R&B rave-up made famous by Jackie Wilson? Doesn’t sound like a hit on paper, but it sure was. David Anderle produced this smash, which proved again that a great song can be interpreted any number of ways.
This song jumped from No. 11 to No. 9 that week, becoming Coolidge’s first top 10 hit after years in the business. She had recorded “Superstar” on Joe Cocker’s 1970 album Mad Dogs and Englishmen, but the Carpenters had a million-seller with the song.
Coolidge’s version of “Higher and Higher” peaked at No. 2 on Sept. 10 – higher than Wilson’s original, which had reached No. 6 in October 1967. Her follow-up single, a cover of Boz Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone,” also made the top 10.
Jimmy Buffett, “Margaritaville”
Songwriter: Jimmy Buffett
Notes: It’s easy to see why this song has touched so many. It combines a jaunty arrangement with a melancholy lyric, capped by the confessional line, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame/But I know, it’s my own damn fault.” That’s pretty self-aware for a song that presents itself as carefree escapism.
This was Buffett’s first and only top 10 hit. He came close with a pair of collabs with country stars – “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere” (a teaming with Alan Jackson that reached No. 17 in 2003) and “Knee Deep” (a teaming with Zac Brown Band that reached No. 18 in 2011). Both of those songs topped the Hot Country Songs tally (where “Margaritaville” had topped out at No. 13).
Peter McCann, “Do You Wanna Make Love”
Songwriter: Peter McCann
Notes: McCann was a hot property in 1977. He wrote Jennifer Warnes’ “Right Time of the Night,” which reached No. 6 in May 1977. McCann’s version of that song appeared on the B-side of this song, which jumped from No. 9 to No. 7 that week, on its way to a No. 5 peak. This was McCann’s first and only Hot 100 hit as an artist. He died in January at age 74.
The Emotions, “Best of My Love”
Songwriters: Maurice White, Albert McKay
Notes: White and McKay, both of Earth, Wind & Fire, co-wrote this song, which leaped from No. 10 to No. 6 that week on its way to a five-week (nonconsecutive) run at No. 1. Only Debby Boone’s seemingly undefeatable “You Light Up My Life” logged more weeks at No. 1 in 1977. “Best of My Love” hit No. 1 two years after The Eagles’ song with the same title topped the chart. This was just the second case of two different compositions with the exact same title each topping the Hot 100. The first was “I’m Sorry,” a No. 1 in 1960 for Brenda Lee and in 1975 for John Denver.
“Best of My Love” won a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a duo, group or chorus. (The song was also nominated for best rhythm & blues song, but lost to the Leo Sayer dance/pop ditty “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.” Go figure.) In 1979, The Emotions teamed with Earth, Wind & Fire to record “Boogie Wonderland,” which also made the top 10 (peaking at No. 6).
The Emotions had landed their first top 40 hit on the Hot 100, “So I Can Love You,” in 1969, but “Best Of My Love” was their real breakthrough.
Shaun Cassidy, “Da Doo Ron Ron”
Songwriters: Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector
Notes: Cassidy’s update of The Crystals’ 1963 smash dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 that week after hitting No. 1 the previous week. This was Cassidy’s first Hot 100 hit. Its success made him one of the top teen idols of the era. (My hearing may have been permanently impaired by fans’ screams at a Greek Theater show of his I attended.)
This remake climbed higher than the original did. The Crystals’ version, subtitled “(When He Walked Me Home),” reached No. 3 in June 1963. Cassidy’s next two singles, “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Hey Deanie,” also made the top 10. Eric Carmen wrote both of those songs.
Cassidy received a 1977 Grammy nod for best new artist. Cassidy, the son of Shirley Jones, lost that award to Debby Boone, the daughter of Pat Boone. (Deep Trivia: Pat Boone and Jones had co-starred in the 1957 film April Love.)
Barbra Streisand, “My Heart Belongs to Me”
Songwriter: Alan Gordon
Notes: Streisand had been a multi-media superstar since the 1960s, but she didn’t become a top 40 mainstay until 1977. This was Streisand’s follow-up to “Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born),” which logged three weeks at No. 1 in March. This song moved up from No. 5 to its No. 4 peak that week, a rank it would hold the following week. This marked the first time in Streisand’s career that she had back-to-back top five – or even top 40 – hits.
Barry Manilow, “Looks Like We Made It”
Songwriters: Will Jennings, Richard Kerr
Notes: This lovely and graceful ballad became Manilow’s third No. 1 hit the previous week and was now starting its descent. 1977 was the third year in a row that Manilow landed a No. 1 single on the Hot 100. “Mandy” topped the chart in 1975. “I Write the Songs” scored in 1976. Just two other acts each landed No. 1 hits in all three of those years – Bee Gees and KC & the Sunshine Band. (Bee Gees went on to also score No. 1 hits in 1978 and 1979.)
Jennings and Kerr also co-wrote a pair of 1979 top 10 hits – “Somewhere in the Night,” a 1975 Helen Reddy hit that Manilow took to top 10, and “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” Dionne Warwick’s comeback anthem (which Manilow produced).
Peter Frampton, “I’m in You”
Songwriter: Peter Frampton
Notes: This rock ballad, which jumped from No. 4 to No. 2 that week, was Frampton’s first top five hit. It spent a total of three weeks at No. 2. Frampton had notched a pair of top 10 hits from his 1976 blockbuster Frampton Comes Alive! – “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
Andy Gibb, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything”
Songwriter: Barry Gibb
Notes: This song, Gibb’s first Hot 100 hit, moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 that week, for the first of four nonconsecutive weeks on top. Gibb received two Grammy nods – best pop vocal performance, male (for this track) and best new artist. Gibb turned 19 the month before this song entered the Hot 100. He followed it up with five more top 10 hits over the next three years. He died in 1988 at age 30.