The funny thing about music is its direct correlation with its present day. Through the retrospective funnel of history, the musical notes and often rhythmic lyrics teleport you to an era we will never experience again firsthand. They act as pop culture textbooks. But better. Music integrates feeling within sound. And the result is an etherial — but transformative — experience.
For college football, the pop culture documentation begins on Nov. 6, 1869 — the date of the first game ever played in intercollegiate football.
Socially, the United States has evolved since, and so has college football. To best show the transformation, we've compiled a Spotify playlist of 150 songs, one song for each corresponding year of college football and its national champion. Unfortunately, Spotify only shows you 100 songs in the embed below, so you'll have to click the box to see the full library.
I guess Spotify thinks 150 songs in one playlist is overkill, but we don't!
Each No. 1 song from 1940-present day was picked from Billboard's Top 100 Songs of the Year and the remaining 70 years were selected through research, review and discussion.
Tell us your favorite team-song duo in the FCS's Facebook comment section.
Late 19th century: The expansion era
Key songs: "Oh my Darling, Clementine" (1884), "22nd Regiment March" (1889), "The Washington Post" (1890), "America the Beautiful" (1895)
The innocent and redundant beats of nursery rhymes danced on tongues in the latter-half of the 19th century, but as the familiar sounds of "Oh, my Darling, Clementine" rocked babies to sleep, America's Armed Forces were making their own mark on the popular tunes of the day. Marching bands were — and still are — a cornerstone in all branches of the military with the aid of composer John Philip Sousa, who helped make marches popular and attractive to the ear.
The dance between percussion, strings and horn instruments are no better illustrated than through "The Washington Post." According to the United State Marine Corp.'s official website, Sousa is credited for "bringing the United States Marine Band to an unprecedented level of excellence." And paired with the two-step dance, the march soon became the most popular song in America and Europe. The United State Marine Corp. continues to the play tune, along with the "22nd Regiment March."
Now, you must be asking how football fits into all this? As Ivy League schools commanded the stage in the mid-1800s, college football cut the wheel toward unfamiliarity and found unrelenting fandom. All regions of the U.S. became exposed to the gridiron game during the late 19th century. Colleges in the eastern United States took onto the new sport quickly with Notre Dame and Penn State playing their first game in 1887.
And the appeal wouldn't stop at sunset. Just 100 miles south, the first night game was played in Mansfield Pennsylvania on Sept. 28, 1892.
As the sport expanded, many of the most historic rivalries began during this time, including the famous Army-Navy Game. Nov. 29, 1890, marked its genesis, and Navy shut out the oldest military branch in the U.S., 24-0. Army would even the series in 1891 with a 32-16 victory. Though many families at the time might've had a connection with the armed forces, the gridiron duel probably humanized the branches, while further instigating competitive natures between the academies.
Just 25 years after The Civil War (1861-65) and 28 years before America's entrance into World War I (1917-18), allegiance toward the union was growing throughout the country, along with the popularization of "America the Beautiful" in 1895. Katharine Lee Bates wrote her original poem as she traveled through Colorado. According to the Library of Congress, the majesty of the region's mountains and ample skies inspired her poem, which became popular in The Congregationalist — a weekly newspaper.
Early 20th century: Modernization
Key songs: "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1904), "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1908), "The Spaniard that Blighted My Life" (1913), "I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Solider" (1915), "California, Here I Come" (1924), "The Best Things in Life are Free" (1927), "Singin' in the Rain" (1929)
Apart from Lafayette's tie with Princeton in 1896, Michigan broke the Ive League's stronghold on the national championship picture in 1901 and did not relinquish the title until 1905.
It took over an additional decade for the Ivy League era to be overtaken. Aside from Michigan, Notre Dame responded with its own surge toward success under Knute Rockne in 1913. What was once an unknown Catholic school in the Midwest, the Fighting Irish became a trademark college football brand with Rockne's popularization of the forward pass against Army. Rockne and Notre Dame won, 35-13.
Notre Dame's reputation forever changed that day. New immigrants, many of whom were Catholics from Europe, flocked to admire the underdog Irish.
"Our team looked like that wave. They had last names like the people in that immigration wave. They dressed like them," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told the Associated Press on Nov. 1, 2013, — the 100th anniversary of the Army game. "The cadets were traditional America. So the tension created that day, at this weird intersection of historical facts, made us America's team in a fundamental way. The new America, the America that was arriving on Ellis Island, they just adopted us."
"California, Here I Come" depicts that excitement and anxiousness in the new Americans. Though the tune represents a different region of the union, it pairs well with Notre Dame's spike in popularity, European immigrant's flock to the brand and its first national title in 1924. The future annual rivalry between University of Southern California — which began on Dec. 4, 1926 — only makes the irony stronger.
One year after the ignition of Notre Dame-USC rivalry, the musical Good News opened on Broadway. It debuted a reoccurring favorite song in pop culture, "The Best Things in Life are Free." Football largely became romantic around this time, as shown best in the musical plot. Football star Tom Marlowe falls in love with student Connie Lane. Notre Dame's Rockne even received credit for the featured song "Advice in Football Technique," according to Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik — authors of Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Show of All Time.
It's blatantly obvious Rockne's effect on football outstretches the imagination and continues on. Exhibit A: The Rockne coaching tree includes Alabama legend Bear Bryant and NFL giant Vince Lombardi, figures who shaped the sport into its modern image.
Mid-1900s: National spotlight
Key songs: "Georgia on my Mind" (1930), "The Way You Look Tonight" (1936), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "White Christmas" (1942), "Heartbreak Hotel" (1956), "All Shook Up" (1957)
Aside from LSU's shared title with Penn in 1908, teams from the South were not the dominating figures they are today. Georgia Tech won the South's first college football championship in 1917 until Alabama busted the door in 1925 and 1926. The two teams traded southern domination until Texas Christian won it first title in 1938, followed by Texas A&M in 1939.
Once they made their introduction, the national spotlight followed. And so did the fascination with the South. In 1930, "Georgia on My Mind" became one of the most popular songs in the country, and today the favor transcends trademark. In 1979, the song was designated Georgia's official state song and is now an anthem of the University of Georgia's football games.
Southern California finally broke through in 1931 with its first national championship. Eyes had been on the West Coast, specifically Southern California, because of the construction of Hollywood and the motion picture industry, creating a new forum for the music industry. "White Christmas" captured the hearts of Americans in 1942 with the Hollywood musical film Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and 1954's sequel White Christmas, starring Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Billboard calls the evergreen holiday tune "the most success song in music history."
Besides the technical and strategical innovations at the turn of the 20th century, the national spotlight era introduced new avenues for teams to play opponents from different regions. These initiatives created the Orange Bowl (1933), Sugar Bowl (1935), Sun Bowl (1936) and Cotton Bowl (1937). Recognition by the Associated Press weekly poll began in 1936, following the first Heisman Trophy presentation to Chicago's Jay Berwanger.
HEISMAN HISTORY: Every Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up in the award's history
Notre Dame kept cruising through the mid-1900s. In 1943, the Irish won their fifth national championship, corresponding with the most popular song of the year, "I've Heard that Song Before."
Unlike the expansion era when popular songs coincided with war, jovial yet distracting tracks became important from 1939-45 during World War II. A key representation is in 1944 and 1945 were when "Swinging on a Star" by Bing Crosby and "Till the End of Time" by Perry Como were the most popular songs of their respective year. Many Army soldiers with eligibility returned from fighting in Europe to win consecutive national titles in 1944 and 1945 — during the Lombardi coaching era.
Key songs: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (1964), "Hey Jude" (1968), "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" (1972), "Call Me" (1980), "Physical" (1982), "When Doves Cry" (1984), "Faith" (1988), "I Will Always Love You" (1993), "Macarena" (1996), "Believe" (1999), "In Da Club" (2003), "Yeah" (2004), "Irreplaceable" (2007), "Low" (2008), "God's Plan" (2018), "Old Town Road" (2019)
Enough of the social studies. It's time to have fun some fun with this! Most college football fans know what happened after 1960. More bowl games were created and that led to the Bowl Championship Series (1998-2013) and now the College Football Playoff (2014-present). Since instances like 1964 — when Alabama, Arkansas and Notre Dame tied for the title and shared that year with 1964's most popular song "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (how cute) — happened frequently, the title game was incorporated in 1998 and crowned just one national champion — unless you're LSU and South Carolina, who had to share their title not only with each other but also with 50 Cent's 2003 smash hit "In Da Club."
Penn State had endured this turmoil in two previous national title races (1911, 1912), and finally pocketed its first consensus national championship in 1982. The Nittany Lions' "Physical" performance over Georgia matched Olivia Newton-John's Billboard topper of the same name. But no performance mimicking a year's Top 100 song has outshined Notre Dame's 1988 championship performance and Georgia Michael's all-time hit "Faith."
Florida tried. And the Gators might've succeeded. After LSU's championship year in 2007 paired with Beyonce's No. 1 Billboard hit "Irreplaceable," the Gators won their second title in three years in 2008. Flo Rida got "Low" but the Gators got back on top — both finishing the year No. 1.
Most recently, Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers did the unthinkable in 2018 — blowing out defending champion Alabama, 44-16 — for their second title in three years. Sound familiar, Florida? Maybe it was "God's Plan." It definitely could've been. But this year it might be different. A team might have to take their horse to the "Old Town Road" to pull out the 2019 championship.
too. much. sauce. pic.twitter.com/iKSA1zg6w5— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) January 10, 2017
Playlist: Celebrating 150 years of college football
|1869||Princeton, Rutgers||"Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me"||T. Brigham Bishop|
|1870||Princeton||"Romeo and Juliet Overture"||Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky|
|1871||None selected||"Mollie Darling"||William S. Hays|
|1872||Princeton||"Carissima"||M. W. Stryker|
|1873||Princeton||"Home on the Range"||Daniel Kelly, Brewster M. Higley|
|1874||Yale||"Take my Life and Let it Be"||Frances Ridley Havergel|
|1875||Harvard||"Carve Dat Possum"||Sam Lucas|
|1876||Yale||"Rose of Killarney"||George Cooper, John Rogers Thomas|
|1877||Yale||"Chopsticks"||Arthur de Lulli|
|1878||Princeton||"Aloha 'Oe"||Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii|
|1879||Princeton||"London Bridge is Falling Down"||A.H. Rosewig|
|1880||Princeton, Yale||"Roses from the South"||Johann Strauss II|
|1881||Yale||"Bring Back my Bonnie to Me"||Charles E. Pratt|
|1882||Yale||"The Old Miser"||Charles A. White|
|1883||Yale||"The Farmer in the Dell"||Unknown|
|1884||Yale||"Oh my Darling, Clementine"||Percy Montrose|
|1885||Princeton||"The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery"||George Ware|
|1886||Yale||"The Gladiator"||John Philip Sousa|
|1887||Yale||"I Know a Youth who Loves a Maid"||Arthur Sullivan, W.S. Gilbert|
|1888||Yale||"Drill, ye Tarrier, Drill"||Thomas Casey, Charles Connolly|
|1889||Princeton||"22nd Regiment March"||Frank Goede|
|1890||Harvard||"The Washington Post"||United State Marine Band|
|1891||Yale||"Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep"||Holding's Parlor Orchestra|
|1892||Yale||"Take your time Gentlemen"||Press Eldridge|
|1893||Princeton||"When the Roll is Called up Yonder"||James M. Black|
|1894||Yale||"Daisy Bell"||Edward M. Favor|
|1895||Pennsylvania||"America the Beautiful"||Katherine Lee Bates|
|1896||Lafayette, Princeton||"El Capitan March"||John Philip Sousa|
|1897||Pennsylvania||"Stars and Stripes Forever"||John Philip Sousa|
|1898||Harvard||"Eli Green's Cake Walk"||Cullen and Collins|
|1899||Harvard||"You Tell me Your Dream, I'll Tell you Mine"||Seymore Rice & Albert H. Brown Charles N. Daniels|
|1900||Yale||"Flight of the Bumble Bee"||Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov|
|1901||Michigan||"In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree"||William Baird|
|1902||Michigan||"In the Good Ole Summer Time"||William Redmond|
|1903||Michigan, Princeton||"Melody of Love"||Tom Glazer, H. Engelmann|
|1904||Michigan, Pennsylvania||"I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy"||George M. Cohen|
|1905||Chicago||"I Love a Lassie"||Harry Lauder|
|1906||Princeton||"The Caissons go Rolling Along"||Edmund L. Gruber|
|1907||Yale||"Shine on Harvest Moon"||Nora Bayes, Jack Norworth|
|1908||LSU, Pennsylvania||"Take me out to the Ball Game"||Jack Norworth, Albert Von Tilzer|
|1909||Yale||"By the Light of the Silvery Moon"||Doris Day|
|1910||Harvard, Pittsburgh||"Come Josephine in my Flying Machine"||Blanche Ring|
|1911||Penn St., Princeton||"Turn off your Light, Mr. Moon Man"||Nora Bayes, Jack Norworth|
|1912||Harvard, Penn St.||"Everybody Two Step"||Billy Murray|
|1913||Harvard||"The Spaniard that Blighted my Life"||Al Jolson|
|1914||Army||"Colonel Bogey March"||Kenneth J. Alford|
|1915||Cornell||"I Didn't Raise my boy to be a Soldier"||Alfred Bryan, Al Piantadosi|
|1916||Pittsburgh||"O Sole Mio"||Enrico Caruso|
|1917||Georgia Tech.||"Hail, Hail, the Gang's all Here"||Arthur Sullivan|
|1918||Michigan, Pittsburgh||"I'm Always Chasing Rainbows"||Charles Harrison|
|1919||Harvard, Illinois, Notre Dame, Texas A&M||"Saxophobia"||Rudy Wiedoeft|
|1920||California||"When my baby Smiles at Me"||Ted Lewis|
|1921||California, Cornell||"Ain't we got Fun"||Van and Schenk|
|1922||California, Cornell, Princeton||"I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise"||George Gershwin|
|1923||Illinois, Michigan||"Yes, we have no Bananas"||Billy Jones|
|1924||Notre Dame||"California, Here I Come"||Al Jolson|
|1926||Alabama, Stanford||"I'm Sitting on top of the World"||Al Jolson|
|1927||Illinois, Yale||"The Best Things in life are Free"||George Olsen|
|1928||Georgia Tech||"T for Texas (Blue Yodel)"||Jimmie Rodgers|
|1929||Notre Dame||"Singin' in the Rain"||Cliff Edwards|
|1930||Alabama, Notre Dame||"Georgia on my Mind"||Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Gorrell|
|1931||Southern California||"Minnie the Moocher"||Cab Calloway & His Cotton Club Orchestra|
|1932||Southern California||"All of Me"||Louis Armstrong|
|1933||Michigan||"Stormy Weather"||Ethel Waters|
|1934||Minnesota||"Moon Glow"||Benny Goodman|
|1935||Minnesota||"Cheek to Cheek"||Fred Astaire|
|1936||Minnesota||"The Way you look Tonight"||Fred Astaire|
|1937||Pittsburgh||"Sing, Sing, Sing"||Benny Goodman|
|1938||Texas Christian||"Begin the Beguine"||Artie Shaw|
|1939||Texas A&M||"Over the Rainbow"||Judy Garland|
|1940||Minnesota||"I'll Never Smile Again"||Tommy Dorsey|
|1941||Minnesota||"Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)||Jimmy Dorsey|
|1942||Ohio St.||"White Christmas"||Bing Crosby|
|1943||Notre Dame||"I've Heard that Song Before"||Harry James|
|1944||Army||"Swinging on a Star"||Bing Crosby|
|1945||Army||"Till the End of Time"||Perry Como|
|1946||Notre Dame||"The Gypsy"||The Ink Spots|
|1947||Notre Dame||"Near You"||Francis Craig|
|1948||Michigan||"Buttons and Bows"||Dinah Shore|
|1949||Notre Dame||"Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)"||Vaughn Monroe|
|1950||Oklahoma||"Goodnight, Irene"||Gordon Jenkins and The Weavers|
|1951||Tennessee||"Too Young"||Nat King Cole|
|1952||Michigan St.||"Blue Tango"||Leroy Anderson|
|1953||Maryland||"The Song from Moulin Rouge (Where is your Heart)"||Percy Faith|
|1954||UCLA, Ohio St.||"Little things mean a Lot"||Kitty Kallen|
|1955||Oklahoma||"Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)"||Pérez Prado|
|1956||Oklahoma||"Heartbreak Hotel"||Elvis Presley|
|1957||Ohio St., Auburn||"All Shook Up"||Elvis Presley|
|1958||LSU, Iowa||"Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)"||Domenico Modugno|
|1959||Syracuse||"The Battle of New Orleans"||Johnny Horton|
|1960||Minnesota, Mississippi||"Theme from 'A Summer Place'"||Percy Faith|
|1961||Alabama, Ohio St.||"Tossin' and Turnin'"||Bobby Lewis|
|1962||Southern California||"Stranger on the Shore"||Mr. Acker Bilk|
|1963||Texas||"Sugar Shack"||Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs|
|1964||Alabama, Arkansas, Notre Dame||"I Want to Hold Your Hand"||The Beatles|
|1965||Michigan St., Alabama||"Wooly Bully"||Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs|
|1966||Notre Dame, Michigan St.||"The Ballad of the Green Berets"||Sgt. Barry Sadler|
|1967||Southern California||"To Sir with Love"||Lulu|
|1968||Ohio St.||"Hey Jude"||The Beatles|
|1969||Texas||"Sugar Sugar"||The Archies|
|1970||Nebraska, Texas, Ohio St.||"Bridge Over Troubled Water"||Simon & Garfunkel|
|1971||Nebraska||"Joy to the World"||Three Dog Night|
|1972||Southern California||"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"||Roberta Flack|
|1973||Notre Dame, Alabama||"Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree"||Tony Orlando & Dawn|
|1974||Southern California, Oklahoma||"The Way We Were"||Barbra Streisand|
|1975||Oklahoma||"Love Will Keep Us Together"||Captain & Tennille|
|1976||Pittsburgh||"Silly Love Songs"||Wings|
|1977||Notre Dame||"Tonight's the Night (Gonna be Alright)"||Rod Stewart|
|1978||Alabama, Southern California||"Shadow Dancing"||Andy Gibb|
|1979||Alabama||"My Sharona"||The Knack|
|1981||Clemson||"Bette Davis Eyes"||Kim Carnes|
|1982||Penn St.||"Physical"||Olivia Newton-John|
|1983||Miami (Fla.)||"Every Breath you Take"||The Police|
|1984||Brigham Young||"When Doves Cry"||Prince|
|1985||Oklahoma||"Careless Whisper"||Wham! Ft. George Michael|
|1986||Penn St.||"That's What Friends are For"||Dionne and Friends|
|1987||Miami (Fla.)||"Walk like an Egyptian"||Bangles|
|1988||Notre Dame||"Faith"||George Michael|
|1989||Miami (Fla.)||"Look Away"||Chicago|
|1990||Colorado, Georgia Tech||"Hold On"||Wilson Phillips|
|1991||Washington, Miami (Fla.)||"Everything I Do (I Do It For You)"||Bryan Adams|
|1992||Alabama||"End Of The Road"||Boys II Men|
|1993||Florida St.||"I Will Always Love You"||Whitney Houston|
|1994||Nebraska||"The Sign"||Ace of Base|
|1995||Nebraska||"Gangsta's Paradise"||Coolio ft. L.V.|
|1996||Florida||"Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)"||Los Del Rio|
|1997||Michigan, Nebraska||"Candle in the Wind 1997"/"Something about the way you look Tonight"||Elton John|
|2001||Miami (Fla.)||"Hanging by a Moment"||Lifehouse|
|2002||Ohio State||"How you remind Me"||Nickelback|
|2003||Louisiana State, Southern California||"In Da Club"||50 Cent|
|2005||Texas||"We Belong Together"||Mariah Carey|
|2006||Florida||"Bad Day"||Daniel Powter|
|2008||Florida||"Low"||Flo Rida ft. T-Pain|
|2009||Alabama||"Boom Boom Pow"||The Black Eyes Peas|
|2011||Alabama||"Rolling in the Deep"||Adele|
|2012||Alabama||"Somebody that I used to Know"||Gotye ft. Kimbra|
|2013||Florida State||"Thrift Shop"||Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz|
|2014||Ohio State||"Happy"||Pharrell Williams|
|2015||Alabama||"Uptown Funk!"||Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars|
|2016||Clemson||"Love Yourself"||Justin Bieber|
|2017||Alabama||"Shape of You"||Ed Sheeran|
|2019||TBD||"Old Town Road - Remix"||Lil Naz X, Billy Ray Cyrus|