The 1950s might not be as celebrated as some of its following years but, as the first decade that made rock'n'roll a reality, it formed the bedrock for everything that modern music is built on. While Elvis was getting flustered teenagers all shook up, the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and more were helping to carve out a whole new musical world. Here are the songs that they achieved it with. Words by Matthew Horton, Tim Chester, Priya Elan. 100 best tracks of the '50s - Spotify playlist

90The Big Bopper, 'Chantilly Lace'

Chunky Jiles Perry Richardson went down in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, but not before releasing this twisting paean to a cute girlfriend. Its skittering groove would underpin many of rock'n'roll's dancefloor cuts, most dubiously Jive Bunny's 1988 megamixes where the Big Bopper's "Ooh, baby, that's what I like!" provided regular punctuation. But that's not his fault.

89Dinah Washington, 'What A Diff'rence A Day Makes'

Already decades old before this version was recorded, 'What A Diff'rence A Day Makes' never tingled so much as when Washington gave it some of that Grammy-winning magic. It would become a standard for any jazz/soul singer hoping to prove their chops, picked up by Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan and – naturally – Rod Stewart.

88B.B.King, 'Rock Me Baby'

Plundering the early blues catalogue – notably Lil' Son Jackson's 'Rockin' And Rollin'' – for inspiration, King created his own standard, his chiming guitar a hypnotic groove. 'Rock Me Baby' is an essential part of any blues grounding, cropping up in the oeuvre of Jeff Beck and The Animals and on Otis Redding's 1965 classic 'Otis Blue'.

87Jimmy Reed, 'Honest I Do'

Jimmy Reed's first US chart hit, 'Honest I Do' is a slow blues drawl featuring guitar and harmonica duelling from the man himself. Reed's pure voice and persuasive playing had a deep impact on the approaching rock'n'roll boom, particularly The Rolling Stones who covered 'Honest I Do' on their 1964 debut album.

86The Dells, 'Oh, What A Night'

In one form or another The Dells have stuck around for the past 60 years, but it was 'Oh, What A Night' that gave them their first hit. Marvin Junior's baritone plays off Johnny Carter's falsetto to form an easy, woozy slice of doo-wop that The Dells would revisit later, a 1969 soul re-tooling proving most successful.

85Ray Charles, ' I Got A Woman'

Now most famous for the combination of Ray Charles sample and Jamie Foxx impression that cooked up the gold dust for Kanye West's stupendous 'Gold Digger' in 2005, 'I Got A Woman' itself takes inspiration from gospel song 'It Must Be Jesus', in the process marking out the territory for what would become soul music.

84The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 'Take Five'

Written by Quartet member Paul Desmond, 'Take Five' features Brubeck on nudging, insistent piano and Desmond on the meandering sax, and was a pioneering jazz/pop crossover. It took a couple of years to break into the UK charts, but is now woven into the very fabric of pop's zoot suit and remains the signature tune for the still-going Quartet.

83Cliff Richard & The Drifters, 'Move It!'

Hard to believe sometimes that Cliff was once a genuine, lip-curling rock'n'roller, but 'Move It!' is a convincing start. Don't be fooled, those Drifters soon became The Shadows, and they work up the dirty thrum behind Cliff's still-polite but suitably snotty vocal. Yes, the UK had its very own Elvis, for a time at least, and sent his debut single straight to No.2.

82The Chords, 'Sh-Boom'

An early doo-wop success, The Chords' stray cat strut through 'Sh-Boom' would end up being their only hit, albeit a sturdy one, reaching the Billboard top 10. Various versions have surfaced in the movies and on TV, sh-booming through Johnny Depp's Cry-Baby and Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse as well as appearing in Dennis Potter's 50s pastiche Lipstick On Your Collar for the BBC.

81Johnny Ace, 'Pledging My Love'

'Pledging My Love' was a posthumous hit for Ace who weeks earlier had suffered the ultimate rock'n'roll demise, shooting himself in a blitzed round of Russian Roulette. He left behind this delicate ballad – reputedly the first record Paul Simon ever bought – that lives on in 50s-fuelled movies like Stephen King's Christine and, of course, Back To The Future.

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