I know of one song that has reached the Billboard Top 40 by at least four different artists, “Let It Be Me” (original French title “Je t’appartiens”). It has been recorded many more times, but as far as I know, these were the only artists who took it to the top 40. (The number in parentheses is the highest ranking.)
1960 The Everly Brothers (7)
1964 Betty Everett & Jerry Butler (5)
1969 Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell (36)
1982 Willie Nelson (40)
Are there any songs that have reached the Billboard Top 40 more often?
Seven different acts have taken it into the Top 40: Jimmy Young, Al Hibbler, Les Baxter, Liberace (all in 1955). Righteous Brothers (1965 and 1990), Robson & Jerome (1995) and Gareth Gates (2002).
err, a…that would be in the UK. Not sure about the US.
In the runner-up category is “Last Kiss”. The Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers version hit #2 in the charts in 1963, the Wednesday version cracked the Top 40 in 1973 (also bringing the Cavaliers version back into the Top 100), and in 1999 the song hit #2 again with the Pearl Jam version. I think it is the only song to hit #2 twice. Surprising, isn’t it?
Even more unusual is the fact that the Pearl Jam’s “Last Kiss” was a hit despite the lack of official promotion for the single. It wasn’t even intended for commercial release, and was originally issued only as a gift to fan club members. It began climbing the charts on the strength of radio airplay alone after a few DJs in key markets got ahold of copies, and eventually saw mainstream release due to intense popular demand. I love Pearl Jam, and even I can’t figure that one out. I guess the American public has a secret thirst for sappy songs about teenagers dying in automobile accidents.
What about the Star Spangled Banner?
The Star Spangled Banner isn’t exactly Top 40 material…
Fingolfin has it right. In the US, five different artists have taken “Unchained Melody” to the top 40.
Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, Roy Hamilton, June Valli, and the Righteous Brothers(who did it with three different recordings, 1965, 1990, and 1990).
Though it’s not the answer to the OP, I find it interesting that Goffin & King’s “The Loco-motion” has been a #1 hit twice, and has been a top ten hit 3 times.
It was a #1 single for Little Eva and Grand Funk, and later a top ten hit for Kylie Minogue.
Perusing the index to my copy of The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, it appears that in the U.S. the record is seven, held by Mack The Knife:
8/1956 Dick Hyman Trio
11/1956 Richard Hayman & Jan August
17/1956 Lawrence Welk
20/ 1956 Louis Armstrong
37/1956 Billy Vaughn
1/1959 Bobby Darin
27/1960 Ella Fitzgerald
There were also six versions of the Banana Boat (Day-o) song, all in 1957:
5 Harry Belafonte
13 Fontane Sisters
18 Steve Lawrence
19 Sarah Vaughan
25 Stan Freberg
In addition to the aforementioned Unchained Melody, there were five versions of Melody of Love (all 1955):
2 Bill Vaughn
3 Four Aces
8 David Carroll
19 Frank Sinatra and Ray Antony
30 Leo Diamond
Some other songs with four, all dating back to the fifties or sixties, include Ain’t That a Shame, Ballad of Davy Crocket, Everlasting Love, Hearts of Stone, It’s Almost Tomorrow, Let Me Go, Lover!, Man With the Golden Arm theme, Nuttin’ For Christmas, Only You, Stand By Me, Volare, What’d I Say, White Silver Sands, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and Young Love.