With an easygoing piano, vibrant string sections and a prominent bassline, Nelson Riddle & his orchestra captured the spirit of one of America's most iconic highways with 'The Theme From Route 66.' The instrumental composition, written for the popular 'Route 66' television series, earned Riddle a pair of Grammy nominations and still stands as one of music's best lounge songs.
'Beyond the Sea'
Like many big band songs, 'Beyond the Sea' was recorded by numerous artists over the years, but Bobby Darin's was the most successful, reaching No. 6 on the pop chart in 1960. The song was an updated version of the 1946 French song 'La Mer,' with re-written English lyrics. Kevin Spacey performed the song in the Darin biopic, also called 'Beyond the Sea.'
'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'
Originally composed by Jerome Kern for the Broadway show 'Roberta' in 1933, 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' was a chart-topper for R&B group the Platters in 1958. That same year, orchestra leader Ray Conniff released his own version of the standard. The opening track from his album ''S Awful Nice,' Conniff's recording featured a chorus of male and female singers humming background vocals and horns in place of lead vocals.
'It's Not Unusual'
Tom Jones became an international sex symbol thanks to his good looks, strong voice and lively tunes like 'It's Not Unusual,' his first major hit in 1965. The song was lyrically simple but its unforgettable melody and orchestration make it popular even today. Younger listeners likely recognize it as the inspiration for Carlton's trademark dance on '90s tv show 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.'
'So Nice (Summer Samba)'
Astrud Gilberto earned widespread acclaim for her hit 'The Girl from Ipanema,' but her biggest contribution to lounge music was 'So Nice (Summer Samba),' a bossa nova song composed by her fellow Brazilian Marcus Valle in 1966. Gilberto's noticeable accent added an endearing quality to the record, as she sang about finding "someone who would take my hand and samba through life with me."
'James Bond Theme'
John Barry's 'James Bond Theme' is perfect for those who like their martini lounge music with a little adventure, intrigue and danger. The song conveyed all the elements of a typical 007 movie with urgent, pulsing drums, horn bursts and dramatic strings. Barry's theme appeared in the first Bond movie, 1962's 'Dr. No,' and in several subsequent films in the Bond series.
'Comin' Home Baby'
Mel Torme had a hit in 1962 with the R&B song 'Comin' Home Baby,' a tune with call-and-response verses between The Velvet Fog and his female background singers, and lyrics about returning to see a significant other: "Expect to see me now anytime / When you're in my arms I'll be fine." Interestingly, Torme reportedly didn't care for his own recording of the song.
From its finger snaps and sinister bass notes to classic lyrics like, "Never know how much I love you / Never know how much I care," Peggy Lee's 'Fever' is undoubtedly one of the sexiest lounge songs ever recorded. Dozens of artists have covered 'Fever' over the years, from Elvis Presley to Madonna, but none have matched the seductive appeal of Lee's version.
'The Pink Panther Theme'
Perhaps one of the most recognizable instrumentals of all-time, Henry Mancini's 'Pink Panther Theme' captured the laid-back mood that is characteristic of good lounge music. The sax-driven song was a hit on the charts and earned Mancini three of his 20 Grammy Awards. Mancini scored the entire 'Pink Panther' soundtrack, earning an Academy Award nomination in the process for Original Score.
'Soul Bossa Nova'
It's impossible now to hear 'Soul Bossa Nova,' our choice for the best martini lounge song, without thinking of 'Austin Powers.' Legendary producer and arranger Quincy Jones composed the charming track, with the quirky jazz flute melody, in 1962. A quarter-century later Mike Myers chose it as the theme for his 'Austin Powers' movies, ensuring that a whole new generation would come to appreciate the song.