'50s progression

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A 50s progression in C

The '50s progression is a chord progression and turnaround used in Western popular music. The progression, represented in Roman numeral analysis, is: I–vi–IV–V. For example, in C major: C–Am–F–G. As the name implies, it was common in the 1950s and early 1960s and is particularly associated with doo-wop.

It has also been called the "Heart and Soul" chords, the "Stand by Me" changes,[1][2] the doo-wop progression[3]:204 and the "ice cream changes".[4] The first song to use the sequence extensively might have been "Blue Moon", written in 1933 by Richard Rodgers, and first released, with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, in 1934.[not verified in body]


In Western classical music during the common practice period, chord progressions are used to structure a musical composition. The destination of a chord progression is known as a cadence, or two chords that signify the end or prolongation of a musical phrase. The most conclusive and resolving cadences return to the tonic or I chord; following the circle of fifths, the most suitable chord to precede the I chord is a V chord. This particular cadence, V–I, is known as an authentic cadence. However, since a I–V–I progression is repetitive and skips most of the circle of fifths, it is common practice to precede the dominant chord with a suitable predominant chord, such as a IV chord or a ii chord (in major), in order to maintain interest. In this case, the 50s progression uses a IV chord, resulting in the ubiquitous I–IV–V–I progression. The vi chord before the IV chord in this progression (creating I–vi–IV–V–I) is used as a means to prolong the tonic chord, as the vi or submediant chord is commonly used as a substitute for the tonic chord, and to ease the voice leading of the bass line: in a I–vi–IV–V–I progression (without any chordal inversions) the bass voice descends in major or minor thirds from the I chord to the vi chord to the IV chord.


As with any other chord progression, there are many possible variations, for example turning the dominant or V into a V7, or repeated I–vi progression followed by a single IV–V progression. A very common variation is having ii substitute for the subdominant, IV, creating the progression I–vi–ii–V (a variant of the circle progression) and thus the ii–V–I turnaround.

Variations include switching the vi and the IV chord to create I–IV–vi–V, as is used in "More Than a Feeling" by Boston[5] and "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals.[citation needed] This is also similar to the I–V–vi–IV progression.

The harmonic rhythm, or the pace at which the chords occur, may be varied including two beats (half-measure) per chord (About this soundPlay ), four (About this soundPlay ) (full measure or bar), eight (About this soundPlay ) (two measures), and eight beats per chord except for IV and V(7) which get four each (About this soundPlay ).[3]:206

"Sleep Walk" by Santo & Johnny uses a similar progression, with the IV replaced by its parallel minor iv for an overall progression of I–vi–iv–V.[citation needed]

Examples in popular music[]

This is a partial list of recorded songs containing the '50s progression. The list does not include songs containing the progression for very short, irrelevant sections of the songs, nor does it include remade recordings of songs by other artists.

Song Name Artist Year Progression
"A Teenager in Love" Dion and the Belmonts; Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman (writers) 1959 I–vi–IV–V
"Angel Baby" Rosie and the Originals 1960 I–vi–IV–V
"All I Have to Do Is Dream" Everly Brothers 1958 I–vi–IV–V
"Baby" Justin Bieber 2010 I–vi–IV–V
"Baby Doll" The Buttertones 2016 I–vi–IV–V
"Bad Girl" The Detroit Cobras 1996 I–vi–IV–V
"Baby, I'm an Anarchist!" Against Me! 2002 I–vi–IV–V
"Beautiful Girls" Sean Kingston 2007 I–vi–IV–V
"Beyond the Sea"[6] Jack Lawrence and Charles Trenet 1946 I–vi–IV–V
"Bleeding Love" Leona Lewis 2007 I–vi–IV–V
"Blue Moon" The Marcels 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Brave as a Noun" Andrew Jackson Jihad 2007 I–vi–IV–V
"Bristol Stomp" The Dovells 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Brokenhearted" Karmin 2012 I–vi–IV–V
"Burberry Headband" Lil Mosey 2018 I–vi–IV–V
"Capital Radio" The Clash 1977 I–vi–IV–V
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Darlene Love 1963 I–vi–IV–V
"Chain Gang"[7] Sam Cooke 1960 I–vi–IV–V
"Close Your Eyes" Meghan Trainor 2014 I–vi–IV–V
"Cradle Rock The Heartbreakers (Ray Collins/ Frank Zappa) 1963 I–vi–IV–V
"Crocodile Rock"[8] Elton John 1972 I–vi–IV–V
"Da Doo", "Dentist" Little Shop of Horrors (musical) Original Broadway Cast 1982 I–vi–IV–V
"Dance with Me Tonight" Olly Murs 2011 I–vi–IV–V
"Dear Future Husband" Meghan Trainor 2015 I–vi–IV–V
"Donna"[9] Ritchie Valens 1958 I–vi–IV–V
"Don't Dream It's Over"[10] Crowded House 1986 IV–V–I–vi
"Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" The Swingin' Medallions 1966 I–vi–IV–V
"Duke of Earl"[11] Gene Chandler 1962 I–vi–IV–V
"Dura" Daddy Yankee 2018 I–vi–IV–V
"D'yer Mak'er" Led Zeppelin 1973 I–vi–IV–V
"Earth Angel"[9][12] The Penguins 1954 I–vi–IV–V
"Enola Gay" Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 1980 I–vi–IV–V
"Epiphany" BTS 2018 I–vi–IV–V
"Eternal Flame"[13] The Bangles/Atomic Kitten 1989/2001 I–vi–IV–V
"Every Breath You Take" The Police 1983 I–vi–IV–V
"Eyes of Blue"[14] Paul Carrack 1995 I–vi–IV–V
"Eyes on Me" Faye Wong 1999 I–vi–IV–V
"Flightless Bird, American Mouth" Iron & Wine 2007 I–vi–IV–V
"For Your Precious Love"[15] Jerry Butler 1958 I–vi–IV–V
"Friday"[16] Rebecca Black 2011 I–vi–IV–V
"Give a Little Love"[17] Bay City Rollers 1975 I–vi–IV–V
"Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder" Mothers Of Invention 1966 I–vi–IV–V
"Girl on Fire" Alicia Keys 2011 I–vi–IV–V
"God Is in the Rhythm" King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard 2015 I–vi–IV–V
"Happiness Is a Warm Gun"[11][18] The Beatles 1968 I–vi–IV–V
"Heart and Soul"[19] Larry Clinton feat. Bea Wain 1938 I–vi–IV–V
"I'll Make Love to You" Boyz II Men 1994 I–vi–IV–V
"I'm Not Edward Cullen" Hank Green 2009 I–vi–IV–V
"I'm the One" DJ Khaled 2017 I–vi–IV–V
"I Always Knew" The Vaccines 2012 I–vi–IV–V
"I Love You Too Much" The Book of Life (soundtrack) 2014 I–vi–IV–V
"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"[20] Neutral Milk Hotel 1998 I–vi–IV–V
"In The Shape Of A Heart" Jackson Browne 1986 I–vi–IV–V
"In the Still Of the Night" The Five Satins 1956 I–vi–IV–V
"I Wanna Be With You" The Raspberries 1974 I–vi–IV–V
"I Will Always Love You" Dolly Parton / Whitney Houston 1974 / 1992 I–vi–IV–V
"Jesus of Suburbia"[21][22] Green Day 2005 I–vi–IV–V
"Joey" Concrete Blonde 1990 I–vi–IV–V
"Just One Look" Doris Troy 1963 I–vi–IV–V
"Just like a Pill"[23] Pink 2002 I–vi–IV–V
"Just the Way You Are (song)" Bruno Mars 2010 I–vi–IV–V
"Kimberly" Patti Smith 1975 I–vi–IV–V
"Last Kiss"[24] Wayne Cochran 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Looking for an Echo" Kenny Vance / Ol' 55 1975/1976 I–vi–IV–V
"Lollipop"[25] Ronald & Ruby 1958 I–vi–IV–V
"Lonely This Christmas"[26] Mud 1974 I–vi–IV–V
"Lovable"[27][28] Sam Cooke 1956 I–vi–IV–V
"Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" Air Supply 1982
"Mama I'm A Big Girl Now" Hairspray (musical) Original Broadway Cast 2002 I–vi–IV–V
"Mandy" Barry Manilow 1974 I–vi–IV–V
"Marathon" Tennis 2011 I–vi–IV–V
"Marvin Gaye" Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor 2015 I–vi–IV–V
"Me!" Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie 2019 I–vi–IV–V
"Messin' Around" Pitbull 2016 I–vi–IV–V
"Don't Dream It, Be It" The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975 I–vi–IV–V
"Hangin' Out with Jim" GG Allin 1988 I–vi–IV–V
"Million Reasons" Lady Gaga 2016 I–vi–IV–V
"Monster Mash" Bobby Pickett 1962 I–vi–IV–V
"No Hay Pedo" Banda Los Recoditos 2014 I–vi–IV–V
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" Starship 1987 I–vi–IV–V
"Octopus's Garden" The Beatles 1969 I–vi–IV–V
"Oh True Love" Everly Brothers 1960 I–vi–IV–V
"Bobby Brown" Frank Zappa 1979 I–vi–IV–V
"Hang Fire" The Rolling Stones 1981 I–vi–IV–V
"Saturday Night" The Misfits 1999 I–vi–IV–V
"Oliver's Army"[29] Elvis Costello 1979 I–vi–IV–V
"Perfect"[30] Ed Sheeran 2017 I–vi–IV–V
"Please Mr. Postman" The Marvelettes 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Pretty Little Angel Eyes" Curtis Lee 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache" Warren Smith 1957 I–vi–IV–V
"Rinky Dink" Dave "Baby" Cortez/ Booker T & the MGs 1962 I–vi–IV–V
"Runaround Sue" Dion 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Stand by Me"[31][32] Ben E. King 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Telephone Line" Electric Light Orchestra 1976 I–vi–IV–V
"Tell Me Why" The Beatles 1964 I–vi–IV–V
"The Man Comes Around" Johnny Cash 2002 I–vi–IV–V
"The Thin Ice" Pink Floyd 1979 I–vi–IV–V
"This Boy" The Beatles 1963 I–vi–IV–V
"This is Me" Keala Settle 2018 I–vi–IV–V
"This Magic Moment"[33] The Drifters 1960 I–vi–IV–V
"Those Magic Changes"[34] Sha Na Na 1978 I–vi–IV–V
"(Tired Of) Toein' The Line" Rocky Burnette 1980 I–vi–IV–V
"Total Eclipse of the Heart" Bonnie Tyler 1983 I–vi–IV–V
"Twistin' the Night Away" Sam Cooke 1962
"Mr. Bass Man" Johnny Cymbal 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"True Blue"[35] Madonna 1986 I–vi–IV–V
"Unchained Melody" Righteous Brothers 1955 I–vi–iv–V
"We Almost Had A Baby" Emmy the Great 2009 I–vi–IV–V
"We Are Young" Fun ft. Janelle Monáe 2011 I–vi–IV–V
"We Go Together"[36] John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John 1972 I–vi–IV–V
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" Pete Seeger 1955 I–vi–IV–V
"Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" Barry Mann 1961 I–vi–IV–V
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers 1956 I–vi–IV–V
"You Don't Own Me"[37] Lesley Gore 1963 I–vi–IV–V
"Your Reality"[38] Dan Salvato 2017 I–vi–IV–V

Examples in classical music[]

Instances of the I-vi-IV-V progression date back to the 17th century, for example, the ostinato bass line of Dieterich Buxtehude's setting of Psalm 42, Quem admodum desiderat cervus, BuxWV 92:

Buxtehude, Psalm 42 "Quem ad modum desiderat cervis"
Buxtehude, Psalm 42 "Quem ad modum desiderat cervis"

The opening of J. S. Bach's Cantata "Wachet Auf":

J. S. Bach Cantata BWV140, orchestral introduction to the opening chorus
J. S. Bach Cantata BWV140, orchestral introduction to the opening chorus

The progression is found frequently in works by Mozart, such as his A minor Piano Sonata:

Mozart, from Piano Sonata K310, first movement
Mozart, from first movement of Piano Sonata in A minor K310

The opening of his Piano Concerto 22, K482 extends the progression in a particularly subtle way, making use of suspensions:

Mozart Piano Concerto K482, opening bars
Mozart Piano Concerto K482, opening bars

Eric Blom (1935, p. 227) hears this passage as "the height of cunning contrivance resulting in what is apparently quite simple and obvious, but what could have occurred to nobody else."[39]

See also[]


  1. ^ Moore, Allan (May 1995). "The So-Called 'Flattened Seventh' in Rock". Popular Music. Cambridge University Press. 14 (2): 185–201. doi:10.1017/s0261143000007431. ISSN 0261-1430.
  2. ^ Cole, Clay (2009). Sh-Boom!: The Explosion of Rock 'n' Roll (1953–1968). Garden City, NY: Morgan James. p. 56. ISBN 1-60037-638-X.
  3. ^ a b Scott, Richard (2003). Chord Progressions for Songwriters. New York: Writers Club Press. ISBN 0-595-26384-4.
  4. ^ Austin, D.; Peterik, J.; Lynn, C. (2010). Songwriting For Dummies. Wiley. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-470-89041-7. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  5. ^ Bennett, Dan (2008). The Total Rock Bassist. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 0-7390-5269-1.
  6. ^ "Beyond the Sea", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  7. ^ "Chain Gang", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Crocodile Rock", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  9. ^ a b Hirsh, Marc. "Striking a Chord", The Boston Globe, December 31, 2008.
  10. ^ "Don't Dream It's Over", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  11. ^ a b Scott (2003), p. 206.
  12. ^ Harwood, Dane (September 1982). "Review: [untitled]". Ethnomusicology. University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology. 26 (3): 491–493. doi:10.2307/850712. ISSN 0014-1836. JSTOR 850712.
  13. ^ "Eternal Flame", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  14. ^ "Eyes Of Blue chords & lyrics - Paul Carrack". Jellynote. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  15. ^ "For Your Precious Love", MusicNotes.com.
  16. ^ Lewis, Randy (March 31, 2011). "Rebecca Black's 'Friday': There are a million good reasons you can't get it out of your head". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  17. ^ "Give a Little Love", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Riley, Tim (2002). Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album by Album, Song by Song, the Sixties and After. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 269. ISBN 0-306-81120-0.
  19. ^ "Heart and Soul", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  20. ^ "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Rebuttal". University of California. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  21. ^ "Acoustic Lesson 11B: Basic Chord Progressions". GuitarLessonInsider.com. Archived from the original on November 30, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  22. ^ "Jesus of Suburbia", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  23. ^ "Last Kiss", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  24. ^ "Just Like a Pill", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  25. ^ "Lollipop", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  26. ^ "Lonely This Christmas Chords", E-Chords.com
  27. ^ Guralnick, Peter (2005). Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. New York: Little, Brown. p. 157. ISBN 0-316-37794-5.
  28. ^ "Lovable", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  29. ^ "Oliver's Army", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  30. ^ Robert Joffred (24 November 2017). "Weekly Billboard Theory — Perfect". Medium. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  31. ^ Moore, Allan (May 1995). "The So-Called 'Flattened Seventh' in Rock". Popular Music. Cambridge University Press. 14 (2): 185–201. doi:10.1017/s0261143000007431. ISSN 0261-1430.
  32. ^ "Stand by Me", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  33. ^ "This Magic Moment", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  34. ^ "Those Magic Changes", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  35. ^ "True Blue", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  36. ^ "We Go Together", MusicNotes.com. (subscription required)
  37. ^ "YOU Don't OWN ME Chords - Lesley gore | E-Chords".
  38. ^ "Misc Computer Games - Doki Doki Literature Club - Your Reality (Chords)".
  39. ^ Blom, E. (1935, p.227) Mozart. London, Dent.