EVERY UK NUMBER ONE SONG: ‘Secret Love’ – Doris Day

What was the number one song in the UK on 16th April 1954?

by Hayley Beasley Dye

Secret Love is from the 1953 musical film Calamity Jane where Doris Day played the lead role. It was number one for a week on 16th April and then again for 8 weeks from 7th May.

Hooray, this is the first song I’ve already heard of from 1954. I’ll bore you with the reason why, shall I? Well reader, it’s because I was once in the stage musical Calamity Jane! Alas, I didn’t play the lead role. I played Susan. Anyway, I fell in love with this song way back in the 90s when I was whip cracking away on stage (that’s not what you think it is). It’s a classic beautiful love song, very much of its time, sung perfectly by the wholesome Doris Day. Right now, I am currently reeling from the fact that Doris is still very much with us and she is 97 years young.


“Secret Love” is a song composed by Sammy Fain (music) and Paul Francis Webster (lyrics)  for Calamity Jane, a 1953 musical film in which it was introduced by Doris Day in the title role. Ranked as a number 1 hit for Day on both the Billboard and Cash Box, the song also afforded Day a number 1 hit in the UK. “Secret Love” has subsequently been recorded by a wide range of artists, becoming a C&W hit firstly for Slim Whitman and later for Freddy Fender, with the song also becoming an R&B hit for Billy Stewart, whose version also reached the Top 40 as did Freddy Fender’s.In the U.K., “Secret Love” would become the career record of Kathy Kirby via her 1963 remake of the song. The melody bears a slight resemblance to the opening theme of Schubert’s A-major piano sonata, D.664.

Doris Day first heard “Secret Love” when its co-writer Sammy Fain visited the singer’s home and played it for her, Day being so moved by the song that she’d recall her reaction as being: “I just about fell apart”.

Day recorded the song on 5 August 1953 in a session at the Warner Bros. Recording Studio (Burbank), overseen by Warner Bros. musical director Ray Heindorf. On the day of the recording session for “Secret Love”, Day had done vocal exercises at her home. Then about noon — the session being scheduled for 1 p.m. — she had set out on her bicycle to the studio. Heindorf had rehearsed the studio orchestra prior to Day’s reaching the studio; upon her arrival, Heindorf suggested that Day do a practice run-through with the orchestra prior to recording any takes, but acquiesced to Day’s request that her first performance with the orchestra be recorded. Day recalls, “When I got there I sang the song with the orchestra for the first time … That was the first and only take we did.” … “When I finished Ray called me into the sound booth grinning from ear to ear and said, ‘That’s it. You’re never going to do it better.'”

The single of “Secret Love” was released on 9 October 1953 – three weeks prior to the premiere of the Calamity Jane film – by her longtime record label, Columbia Records in both 45 and 78 rpm format (cat. no.40108). The single entered the Top 20 bestselling singles survey – at number 17 – on Billboard magazine dated 9 January 1954 with the single reaching number 1 on the Top 20 survey for the week ending 17 February 1954, the week in which the song’s Academy Award nomination for Best Song had been announced, the nominations for the 26th Academy Awards for the film year 1953 having been announced two days earlier. Day’s “Secret Love”, having spent three weeks ranked as the number 1 bestselling single by Billboard, was still ranked as the number 4 bestseller the week of the 26th Academy Awards broadcast which occurred 25 March 1954. However, Day herself declined to perform the nominated – and ultimately victorious – “Secret Love” at the Academy Awards ceremony, later stating: “When they asked me to sing ‘Secret Love’ on Academy Awards night I told them I couldn’t – not in front of those people”. (Ann Blyth performed “Secret Love” at the Academy Awards ceremony.) Day’s refusal to perform “Secret Love” on the Academy Awards broadcast resulted in the Hollywood Women’s Press Club “honoring” the singer with the Sour Apple Award as the most uncooperative celebrity of 1953: this put-down occasioned a bout of depression which kept Day virtually housebound for several weeks, and which Day eventually had to qualify her Christian Science outlook to deal with, consulting with a medical practitioner.


“Once I had a secret love
That lived within the heart of me
All too soon my secret love
Became impatient to be free
So I told a friendly star
The way that dreamers often do
Just how wonderful you are
And why I am so in love with you
Now I shout it from the highest hills
Even told the golden daffodils
At last my heart’s an open door
And my secret love’s no secret anymore”

The Playlist

Relive, enjoy and share every song and keep following Talk About Pop Music for more Number One posts!

Every UK Number One Song

Do you remember these songs?

If you enjoy what you read on this site – feel free to donate and show your support…click to donate any amount you like, every little helps!

Never miss an update and keep track of all our playlists. Get the App