Last night, after being my mom and step-dad’s third wheel for Valentine’s day, and after a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a couple glasses of Ommegang’s Chocolate Stout, and a couple glasses of Yellow Rose’s Bourbon, I got an itch to make up a Top Ten list of the best songs. It started it off smooth enough, but when I got to the 8th song on the list, I realized, there are so many artists that deserve to make this list. I couldn’t keep it at just ten, so I said to myself, “I’ll make it a top 15 list.” Ten minutes later I said “alright 20, but I’m stopping there.” So, that is how I created the top 20 songs of all time. Now I would like to say Rock songs or Pop songs, but I couldn’t limit myself to a genre. With respect to the thousands of classical numbers out there, I’m sorry I’m not more familiar with the great composers of the world. But, if you like jazz Miles Davis made the list…YAAAA!
Alright this post is going to play out a little different than my other ones. I made a playlist as always, but instead of just writing a little something and posting a related list of songs, I am going to write a little bit about each song.
*NOTE* this list is not in order of best to worst or worst to best. The list is in the order that they should be played in sequence. ENOJY!
1. How – Regina Spektor
For me, this song captures a beautiful, naive breakup. Think back to the first time you fell in love. Remember how amazing it felt? Now think back to the day that that fist love broke up with you or vice a versa. I’m sure it was painful, I know my experience was rough. I cried a lot.
Regina’s song has a simple melody, but it is delivering a huge message. Her voice is wonderful and dramatic. It takes me back to many of my breakups. Like most of the breakups that I have experienced, Regina’s lyrics depict a situation where she feels like the significant other she is losing is making a mistake. She hopes for a second chance and truly believes it may happen. Terribly sad.
2. All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
George is, by far, my favorite Beatle and my bias may have gotten in the way of John and Paul making the list. Sorry — Not Sorry. George’s lyrics are amazing and always full of hope. His voice is so unique and his guitar work is amazing. All Things Must Pass is no exception. If you have never listened to this full album, you need to cancel the rest of your plans for the weekend, roll a — echem– burrito…and sit and listen. I have to admit, watching Living in the Material World was the inspiration for this list, and in the brilliant documentary of George’s life, George admits that during the Abbey Road sessions he would get so frustrated that he would leave the studio and go home and write his own songs. By the time Let it Be was in production, Phil Spector had convinced George he needed to record an album. George invited Phil to his house to “show him a few things” he had been working on. Phil says there were HUNDREDS of songs. Then with Paul releasing an album, John and Yoko releasing an album, George put together a 6 sided LP of some truly amazing work
3. Satisfied Mind – Jeff Buckley
Now Jeff Buckley did not write this song. It was written by Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes, but Jeff’s version of this song is haunting. His voice flutters and soothes the lyrics over a simple melodic guitar part. Every time I listen to the song I hope that Jeff could really say “I leave this old world, with a satisfied mind.” His untimely death is really a terrible loss to the music world. He had so much potential and had only just breached the surface of his talent.
4. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
The song that changed rock n roll for ever. Bob took insightful meaningful lyrics that he had been writing for years and gave it an electric backdrop that would alter history. Bob did many things for the songwriting community, but it is his never ending ambition to innovate and create more, better that makes him a true rock legend. The story goes, that Bob was unhappy with the way it sounded and couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but then the musicians including, then rookie, Al Kooper began improvising most of the melody, using Bob’s voice as a guide. The final product changed the public’s view of Bob Dylan and became the template for modern day rock format, recording process and the epitome of rock n roll. Free, rebellious, and loud.
5. So What – Miles Davis
As I warned in the introduction, Miles Davis had to make an appearance in this list. As a musician and a huge fan of music in general I can’t keep myself from listening to the opening track of Kind of Blue at least once a month. It is so wonderful and warm. Miles blows the notes with ease and grace. They just bounce over the beat giving off a cool vibe that so much of today’s music is missing. Plus you cannot beat The group of musicians brought in for this album. Kind of Blue is essentially 7 of Jazz music’s greatest performers getting together as a super group to change the way Jazz music was played. There may not be a better collaboration on record to date than the group of men on Kind of Blue. So What is by far the best 9 and a half minutes of Jazz music ever recorded.
6. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
The title track of Van Morrison’s second solo album sets the tone for this imaginative and mostly improvised album. Van’s voice is unparalleled in innovation and tone. Van Morrison’s voice could be picked out of a crowd of a dozen voices. There is proof of this in the movie The Last Waltz. As the entire ensemble of musicians gathered on the stage to sing The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down, there are moments when Van’s voice is the most clear. But Astral Weeks takes listeners through a hypnotic journey to a place far away. Maybe to another time or another planet, it is really hard to imagine what Van was seeing as he sang, but that is what makes the song so great. It forces you to use your imagination to travel. Even though the song is just over seven minutes (which is long for pop songs) it still could be longer and I would still listen.
7. Something – The Beatles
George’s second appearance on this list is possibly the most beautiful and realistic love song of all time. He knows that he loves the woman, but he has no clue how far the love is going to reach, all he knows is in the very moment he is happy and isn’t going to go anywhere. He lives 100 percent in the moment of the love as it is. Again his guitar work is stunning, and the other three Beatles have rarely sounded so tight. Mad props to George.
8. The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel
Paul Simon is easily one of the best American song writers to ever grace the world. His tendency to write songs as a story and to bring the story to life using amazing harmonies and uncharacteristic melodies truly creates an image as much as it creates an auditory delicacy. In a time caught up on the British bands such as the Beatles, The Who, anything Eric Clapton, and The Kinks, Simon and Garfunkel reminded Americans that we started pop music and we will continue to prove to the world that we are the best at it and Bridge Over Troubled Water with its harmonies, strange beats and Paul Simon proving that he is one of the greatest song writers in American history embodies the abilities and beauty that America has.
9. The Weight – The Band
This could quite possibly be the greatest bonfire song ever written. I have been to many bonfires in my day, and I have played with numerous musicians and music loving people, and rarely have I not been a part of the chorus of this song. The Band in all their simplicity brought something extremely necessary to the world. Unity and loving friendships. Again this song, like many other on this list, tells an amazing story or possibly several stories about helping out friends in need. This is the perfect example of the “pay it forward” method.
10. Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
If I could I would put a few more of Joni’s songs on this list, but I had to leave room for some other more contemporary song writers. But Both Sides Now is truly an amazing piece of work about a woman that has aged and is well aware of the changes her life has seen. As I get older this song makes more sense. I think back to my younger, freewheeling days, and now my more composed and focused days and I can honestly say I understand Joni. Though the song is about love, I feel it could give insight to more than just love. It is an exploration of life in general. It could be seen as the balance of life itself. The good and the evil, the loss and the gain of life.
11. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Another song that so often makes an appearance at bonfires everywhere, is truly a masterpiece. It goes deep into my being. When my grandfather passed away, I literally listened to the Wish You Were Here album on repeat for DAYS and DAYS. The loss of someone dear to you has never been more accurately depicted in any art medium since the inception of this gem. I guarantee that if you walked down the street and asked 100 people if they knew the words to this song, that at least 75 of them will know the words. The other 25 will be under the age of 10 and just have not been exposed to the song yet, but soon enough they will join the ranks to sing along to this timeless piece of loss and grieving.
12. Fool in the Rain – Led Zeppelin
Yes the Mighty Zeppelin has arrived and just in time too. It is strange that so many well written songs have such a sad appeal to them. Though the lyrics to Fool in the Rain aren’t exactly happy, the melody and the energy in this song makes me happy. Again the art of telling a story comes alive in Robert Plant’s voice. I’m not sure why I relate to this song so much, but I really do. It’s strange because I have never been left on a corner in the rain by a woman, but I have been stood up on a date or two, so I guess that could be a similar situation, or at least similar enough to spark a sense of likeness in me. I have to admit, the hundreds of times I have listened to this song, every time I hear the ending I feel really bad for Robert Plant. After trying and trying to find his lady he discovers he is on the wrong block, thus leaving him defeated, cold, wet and crying. Truly a sad ending.
13. Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
There really is not a lot that needs to be explained about this song. It really speaks for itself, so I just urge you to listen to it. Listen to it a few times to really grasp its genius. Bob Dylan is quite possibly the best song writer of all time. And it is songs like Blowin’ in the Wind that confirms that believe. Say what you will about his voice or his simple guitar part, but respect the man for his lyrics.
14. Lua – Bright Eyes
Oh yes, you know Conor and his tortured lyrics had to make an appearance in this list. If you find this song a surprise in this list, then you need to go out and buy I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning and listen to it. You will surely change your tune. Conor’s voice is so relevant because it is so realistic, he doesn’t need to hit proper notes or be able to hold notes for long periods of time. His iconic quiver and his ability to choke out words through tears truly makes his songs so relatable because they are so candid. He holds nothing back and has no interest in trying not to offend. Music should be a release of emotions, and I believe Conor would agree with me.
15. One – Harry Nilsson
Some people consider Harry Nilsson to be the fifth Beatle, because he quickly became friends with all the Beatles, in fact he attended all of their weddings and was Ringo’s best man. His friendship with the Beatles grew into an influence and you could easily put his songs next to Beatles songs and hear the influence. But One is quite possibly the best single person’s lament ever written. It’s simplicity is so haunting and real. It reminds me of being trapped in my own head and wanting to hold a lover they may never exist.
16. Helpless – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
Neil Young is another song writer that you must look past his squealy voice and just listen to the message he tries to get across. Though in Helpless his Squeal is works perfectly. It is so perfect in fact that the harmonies with Crosby, Stills, and Nash work regardless what key they are supposed to be in. This is a song about the constant human struggle of the world. We are all helpless in one way or another, that is why we need each other.
17. Lover, You Should have Come Over – Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley’s second appearance on this list actually comes as his own song. Let me just tell you, there has never been a song that has been so close to my life. Everyone has that one significant other that they regret losing, but when you think about why they are lost, the reason never seems clear. Jeff urges you to think that maybe you are “just too young to hold on, and too old to break free and run.” Again his voice is haunting and so real. He truly has the voice of an angel, an angel that left us too soon.
18. Going to California – Led Zeppelin
I had to let the Led out again for this list, but this time I include a more touching song. This is easily my favorite Led Zeppelin song. It is one of those songs that no matter where I am or what I am doing, if it comes on, I have to stop what I’m doing and listen. In fact it’s on right now, hold on ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
19. Fault Line – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
I wish I could have put a few more of BRMC’s songs on this list, but unfortunately I could not. Though I do have plans to write an entire post about their album Howl in the near future. Fault Line comes off that album. For some reason I listen to this album and it reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s acoustic work, and when I think of Bruce Springsteen I immediately think of my dad. So, I guess, theoretically speaking, when I hear Fault Line it reminds me of my dad. Interestingly enough, this song does capture a man who feels obligated to live up to his father’s dreams of him but can’t seem to figure out how to get there. I’m not saying this is necessarily true in my own life, but I’m not saying it’s not true either. I feel a connection to this song regardless of how my father and I get along in the world.
20. Play Crack the Sky – Brand New
Lastly, we have a song that has gotten me through EVERY breakup I have ever been a part of. I can’t stress how clever this song is in all of it’s sadness. Brand New takes love and uses a shipwreck as a metaphor for it. It is one of those things that makes me say, Damn why didn’t I think of that, because it is so accurate. Every time I listen to this song I always think of the girl that I let get away. She knows who she is. I have literally cried to this song more than once. It truly captures love in a beautiful way. Few songs make me cry.
I hope you all enjoyed my list, and as always listen to them in order, it makes a really magical experience. Feel free to send me your favorite songs and I’ll feel free to listen to them with hopes of them being in my next top 20 list of best songs ever.