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Katherine Wright | | June 10, 2020

Spotify playlist: Breaking down 150 years of college football

Mansfield's 2010 reenactment of the first-ever night football game in 1892

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 ‚ÄĒ but¬†transformative ‚ÄĒ¬†experience.

For college football, the pop culture documentation begins on Nov. 6, 1869 ‚ÄĒ the date of the first¬†game ever played in intercollegiate football.

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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 ‚ÄĒ and still are ‚ÄĒ 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.

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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 ‚ÄĒ¬†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, ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ which began on Dec. 4, 1926 ‚ÄĒ only makes the irony stronger.¬†

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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 ‚ÄĒ 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. 

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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. 

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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 ‚ÄĒ during the Lombardi coaching era.¬†

Today's game

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 ‚ÄĒ¬†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)¬†‚ÄĒ happened frequently, the title game was incorporated in 1998 and¬†crowned just one national champion ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ both finishing the year No. 1.

Most recently, Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers did the unthinkable in 2018¬†‚ÄĒ blowing out defending champion Alabama, 44-16 ‚ÄĒ 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.¬†

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
1925 Alabama "Charleston" Paul Whiteman
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
1980 Georgia "Call Me" Blondie
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
1998 Tennessee "Too Close" Next
1999 Florida State "Believe" Cher
2000 Oklahoma "Breathe" Faith Hill
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
2004 Southern California* "Yeah!" Usher
2005 Texas "We Belong Together" Mariah Carey
2006 Florida "Bad Day" Daniel Powter
2007 Louisiana State "Irreplaceable" Beyonce
2008 Florida "Low" Flo Rida ft. T-Pain
2009 Alabama "Boom Boom Pow" The Black Eyes Peas
2010 Auburn "Tik Tok" Ke$ha
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
2018 Clemson "God's Plan" Drake
2019 TBD "Old Town Road - Remix" Lil Naz X, Billy Ray Cyrus

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