Gerry’s criteria for choosing songs is simply this: if he likes them, they’re in. I love that; I can’t bear the erudite, snobby standards that some people feel they have to use to justify labeling something as “good.” I’ve heard, from more than one source, for example, that The DaVinci Code sucked, that it was rotten literature and not worth the paper (or the hype) it received. I disagree. For what it was supposed to be – escapist fantasy best read on the beach – it was fantastic; enjoyable, suspenseful, and fun. What’s wrong with that? Why can’t something be good just because we like it? I say, “it CAN!”
So, here’s my list of 100 of my favorite songs, in no particular order and decided upon by a variety of criteria. Because I’m particularly fond of music in general, I’m pretty sure that I can come up with 100 more songs I love, too, but I’m going to limit myself here. I haven’t figured out how to embed audio into posts, so I’ve put in YouTubes or included links whenever I can find them. You would probably be best to go to iTunes to listen to bits of the songs.
I welcome your comments.
1. Freedom by George Michael. I’ve always loved this song, and not just because it has one of the best music videos ever made, either (remember the lip-synching super models? ). The song has a catchy beat, is complex and interesting to listen to, and has a really great premise – I used to do what was expected of me, but I’m becoming who *I* want to be now: “today the way I play the game is not the same, oh yeah. Now I’m gonna get me some happy.”
2. The Soul Cages by Sting. I’m betting Mr. Sumner is going to be a pretty heavy presence in this list anyway, and this song is one of my all-time favorites among his long catalogue of winners. I ADORE this song, and for a lot of reasons. The story is compelling (hey, I’m an English teacher, I’m all about the stories) and I love the literary allusions (“he’s the king of the ninth world” as a direct nod to Dante’s Inferno, for example) and how Sting very often refers back to other songs he’s written (in this one, he pulls a chorus from Island of Souls, of the same album). The song really rocks, too – it’s one that I like to play at top volume in the car.
3. Killer Queen by Queen. Many years ago, I took a trip to the hinterlands of Maine to visit my grandmother. One of the two things I had to entertain me on that seemingly endless strip of Maine Turnpike was a cassette tape of Queen’s Greatest Hits (the other was a cassette of August and Everything After by the Counting Crows. We’ll get to them in a minute). When I returned from the trip, I walked into my house, looked at my roommate and told her that “Freddie Mercury was a fucking genius.” I still stand by that assessment of Mercury’s skill. Queen songs were multi-layered, musically interesting and just plain fun.
4. Omaha by The Counting Crows. I really like Adam Duritz’s voice, and I’m not quite sure I can adequately articulate what it is about this song that appeals to me so much, but it’s one of my favorites from that really stellar album. Maybe it’s the accordion… (which leads me to…)
5. The Downeaster Alexa by Billy Joel. There are going to be quite a few Billy Joel songs on this list, too, I imagine, but this one is a song I never tire of. This song gives me chills. It could be his voice, it could be the beat, but I really think it’s the sympathy my New England Yankee soul feels for the topic. The seaside life is something that I feel kin to; rough, seafaring men and the stoic, strong women left behind are more than the stuff of romantic stories around here, even today, and even though my life isn’t directly affected by such things, there’s something about them that resonates for me. That, and Joel’s “ya, ya, ya, YO!” at the end is just thrilling.
6. Cold as it Gets by Patty Griffin. I’m REALLY sorry that I can’t find a good link for this song. It’s gorgeous; raw, haunting and powerful. When I first heard it, I had a visceral reaction to it; it literally brought tears to my eyes. I identified with the song as the adult child of abusive parents and, to me, it was a song about overcoming that kind of past and being able to stand up in spite of it. I later found out that Ms. Griffin had written the song after seeing a documentary about Simon Wiesenthal, the “Nazi Hunter.” The song still means the same things to me, though, and I often include it in my classroom whenever I introduce any literature or speeches that have to do with the Holocaust.
7. Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers. I adore this song, so much so that I have every different cover version I can get my hands on loaded on my iTunes (I’ll list my favorite cover next). This song is beautiful – sparse and yearning and heartfelt. There are no extra bits here: the song is just exactly what it should be and nothing more (even with the 26 “I know”s in the middle).
8. Ain’t No Sunshine as covered by Sting. Same as above, but with an entirely different flavor lent by Sting’s voice and style.
9. The Power of Two by the Indigo Girls. You know how some people have songs that represent important things for them? Well, for me, this song is representative of my relationship with my husband. It’s a simple song – Emily Saliers claims that she wrote it over the course of about half an hour – but one that conveys a sort of matter-of-fact certainty that the relationship is right, that it couldn’t be any other way. Our friends BoBo and Mrs. B sang it for us at our wedding, we danced to the Indigo Girls’ version at our reception, and Mr. Chili asked a friend of mine from college to cover it for our 9th anniversary (and, if I could figure out how to embed audio, I’d put that one up for you – it’s beautiful; just Courtney and her guitar). It’s a “there’s nothing we can’t do together” sort of song, and I really, really love it.
10. Speed of Sound by Coldplay. It took me a while to warm up to this group, but I really do like them now – well, most of their stuff, anyway; I’m still acquiring the taste for them. This song appeals to me for a lot of reasons: I really like the music – the beat and tempo work for me – and the words speak of searching and learning; two things I’m constantly doing.
11. Shackled by Vertical Horizon. There are going to be a lot of VH songs on my list, but this one really is my favorite among some really great pieces. It totally rocks out – I wish I could see it live – and the lyrics are compelling: someday, I’m going to write a story about “I know now what trouble can be, and why it follows me so easily.” The ending guitar thrills me, and this is a song often heard blaring at full volume from my little black VW Golf.
12. Raven by Dave Matthews Band. I really do like DMB, and this is one of my many favorites from them. I love this song for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the memory of listening to it in the car, analyzing the lyrics with my eldest daughter. It’s another song whose lyrics intrigue me (“one hand is bleeding and the other hand holds a gun“) and the message of it – that we should be more careful and respectful of the things we hand down to our children – is one that I wish more people would heed.
13. Yellow Moon by the Neville Brothers. I have this as a live version – I think I got it off of Napster before all the hullaballoo broke out over file sharing – and it’s a lot of fun. I’m still not sure how much I really LIKE Aaron Neville’s voice, but this song doesn’t feature a whole lot of his wobbling falsetto, so it’s all good. Plus, it’s loaded with jazz sax. How can that be bad?
14. Set the Prairie on Fire by Shawn Colvin. This is a smokin’, sexy song, practically smoldering right out of the stereo. I love Ms. Colvin’s voice, and I have fond memories of seeing her live in tiny little venues early in Mr. Chili’s and my relationship. This song sticks in my head long after I’ve heard it and, though I’m not quite sure what “the cool dusk of horses” is, I know for sure what she’s talking about when she’s got her “arms around midnight, we’re headed for release.”
15. Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley by Robert Palmer. I should probably include the song that essentially bookends this one – Hey Julia – because there really isn’t a break between the two tunes and they’re both intertwined in my mind. This song is just plain fun. It tells the story of a guy trying to get his girlfriend past his wife, and about how badly he does that (“tryin’ to talk double talk, get-myself-in-trouble talk, catchin’ myself in lies“). The beat is such that I can’t not groove to it, and I always come to the end of the song smiling. By anyone’s standards, that should make a song good, don’t you think?
16. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) as covered by Shawn Colvin. This is the song that Mr. Chili picked out for our wedding. I really love the way Ms. Colvin interprets this song – I like it much better than the original Talking Heads version – she sings it with longing and desire and a recognition of what “home” really means, and it makes me cry every time I hear it.
17. Stop by Matchbox Twenty. This is another rockin’ song. Most of the offerings on this album are about dysfunctional love, and this one is no exception, but Stop is about recognizing the dysfunction and at least trying to do something about it (“you’d better stop / using me up /’cause I’ve had enough / and I’m ready to forget the reasons that keep me here“). I like the feeling of self-realization in this song, however tenuous that realization may be.
18. No Looking Back by Michael McDonald. I LOVE this man’s voice (and he’s not hard to look at, either). There’s a sort of deep soulfulness to it, and it’s just perfect for the Motown covers for which he’s been most recently recognized. This song comes off of an album that came after the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan and before the Motown interpretations, and I may be one of the few people on the planet to actually own the thing (check out the video – Johnny Carson is holding up an L.P.! I’m totally dating myself here). That doesn’t matter to me, though – I really love this tune. This is a song about letting go and starting over, and there are some really great turns of phrase in it (“I took a one-way flight / too high to see the ground / now I know how long it takes / a heart to come down“). I have a collection of Christmas songs by Michael McDonald that I love, too. We’ll likely get to a few of those later.
19. Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. This is another version I got off of Napster (seriously, though – years ago: I stopped getting Napster music when the legality of file sharing was brought into question and when iTunes was loaded onto my computer. All you have to do is look at my iTunes “purchased” file to see that I don’t steal music anymore). It’s a demo version, and one that I’ve not seen available anywhere since. It’s a happy song about being in love, and it makes me pine for the lazy weekend mornings that Mr. Chili and I would spend at home with nothing to do but… well… you know….
20. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. I remember being haunted by this song, and my appreciation for it has never waned. The Edmund Fitzgerald went down in 1975 – I remember hearing about it and watching news reports on television (I was six). It seemed to me, even then, that something like this should never have happened; shipwrecks are things of old stories. The adult I am now really loves the fact that the crew of this ship will never truly be forgotten: this is a masterpiece of the intersection of storytelling and music that will keep the memory of the doomed ship alive. My proof of that claim is that both of my daughters (currently aged ten and eight) can sing the entire song by heart.
21. Synchronicity II by the Police. I love the guitar work on this song almost as much as I love the images in it (“the factory belches filth into the sky” and “packed like lemmings in to shiny metal boxes.” It’s great stuff) and the fact that it tells two different stories at the same time: here we are, concerned with our meaningless little lives, worried about trivial, mundane and meaningless things, when there is real suffering not so very far away that we never even see.
22. The Choice by Jonatha Brooke. This is another one of my “adult survivor of child abuse” songs; the lyrics speak to me in ways that Ms. Brooke probably never considered when she wrote the song. I’m guessing it’s a song about a love affair gone bad, but that’s not what *I* hear when she sings “I won’t tell you a thing / you won’t see me cry / I know what to do / I will not lie / I’ll take my chance / I may be fine but / I will never be the same.”
23. Land of Confusion by Genesis. I LOVED this video, and just about everything about the song works for me. Phil Collins is such an unlikely rock star: he’s not particularly good looking (and his puppet in the video is downright nasty looking) and his voice is strangely quirky, but I love it. This song was a part of my teen years, and I remember, at the height of the Reagan/Gorbachev standoff, thinking that the lyrics Genesis put together for this tune were right on.
24. 32 Flavors by Alana Davis. I’ve mentioned this song before on a Ten Things Tuesday about covers I like more than the originals. This song was written and performed by Ani DiFranco before Ms. Davis got her lovely hands on it, and I think that she does a much nicer interpretation of it than the original. Alana Davis gives the song a sort of matter-of-factness that softens the “I am who I am” message of the tune, and I really like the smoky edginess of her voice. There are some great lines in the song – credited, of course, to Ms. DiFranco: “God help you if you are an ugly girl / ‘course, too pretty is also your doom” and “I never tried to give my life meaning by / demeaning you” are my favorites.
25. What it’s Like by Everlast. I LOVE this guy. I love his voice, I love the message of this song, and I love that he’s a white guy making it big in the rap/hip-hop scene. I tend to not listen to this song when the girls are around (some of the lyrics are a little edgy), but I will when they’re older: the message of “don’t judge lest ye be judged” and the concepts of true empathy are ones that we’re trying to teach them, and letting them see those same ideas put out in popular culture is a good way to help solidify those values in their minds.
26. I Will Not Go Quietly by Don Henley. The drum beat alone in this song makes it one of my favorites, but even more than that, it’s a song that just exudes attitude. “Turn this thing around / I will not go quietly / I will not lie down” I feel stronger when I listen to it, and it’s another that holds up well at full volume in the car.
27. Blue on Black by Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The feel of this song is what makes it one of my favorites – steady, self assured, and purposeful. It’s almost lulling in its beat, and the lead singer – Noah Hunt – had just the right voice for the tune. It just works for me.
28. New World Man by Rush. I’ve always really liked Rush; they were a prominent feature in my adolescence and I remember contemplating the lyrics – even then – and thinking that there was something interesting in them: “he’s old enough to know what’s right / and young enough not to choose it.” Geddy Lee, like Phil Collins, has a voice that intrigues me – it doesn’t seem like he’d be a good rock band front man, but he is.
29. The Show Goes On by Bruce Hornsby. How can you not love a guy whose primary instrument is a grand piano but who turns out really great pop songs? This one is my favorite of the many winners Hornsby put out. Like Blue on Black, this song has a wonderful, steady, almost hypnotic beat, and his voice is wonderful: he’s got an interesting combination of smooth and straining that I really like.
30. Lonesome For a Place I Know by Everything But the Girl. I took a liking to EBTG with their Language of Life CD – I heard a ten second clip of Driving in a Sam Goody commercial in 1989 and ran out that afternoon to buy the album (we’ll get to Driving in a bit). Language of Life, was my gateway drug to this duo. Tracey Thorne’s voice is mesmerizing, I love how she and Ben Watt harmonize (and how they layer Ms. Thorne’s voice over itself) and the really wonderful way they combine acoustic and electronic sounds to a really neat effect. This song is one of my most favorite of theirs; it speaks of a deep connection to place despite its shortcomings – much like how I feel about New England (well, at least in the winter, anyway). It’s almost a 20th century interpretation of my favorite Nathaniel Hawthorne passage about the connection one feels to a spot they call “home.”
31. Queen and Soldier by Suzanne Vega. This song, for me, is all about the story. I mean, yes; Suzanne Vega does have a lovely voice and yes, the music is wonderful, but it’s the story that really grabs me. Kizz has also always been intrigued by it (though I didn’t know that we shared a love of the narrative until a year or two ago) and is even ruminating on how to put together a play based on the song. This is one of the first songs I learned to interpret into ASL (though I’m not sure I can remember how to do it now) because I thought that something so beautiful and mysterious in English would be even more so in ASL. I was right.
32. Trust Me This is Love by Amanda Marshall. This song, like This Must Be the Place and The Power of Two, makes me well up when I hear it, and for the same reasons. It’s a song about just knowing that, regardless of how hard things may get, real love can survive – and come out stronger for it. “You and I can walk on water / the river rises, we rise above / it may not look that way right now / but trust me, Baby, this is love.” It gives me the shivers just writing it.
33. Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong by the Spin Doctors. This is a GREAT song to walk to – it’s got a perfect workout-walk beat – and the lyrics are fun: “it’s been a whole lot easier since the bitch left town / it’s been a whole lot happier without her face around.” The guitar in it is fun, too. I just like it.
34. Shotgun Down the Avalanche by Shawn Colvin. I love the lone guitar and the sparseness of this song; even on the album, it’s a deceptively simple piece. Shawn Colvin’s voice is one that can convey, at least to me, a sort of mournful longing that’s strangely tinged with hopefulness, and the lyrics of this tune are haunting (“so I let go the catch and we are over the edge. You have left me nowhere to go“). This, like most of her songs, holds up extremely well with just her and her guitar; no accompaniment is necessary.
35. I’m Outta Love by Anastasia. This, I think, is the only song of hers that I own – I think I saw her perform on an episode of Ally McBeal and went out and found this track. I’ve heard a few other songs by her – one or two have popped up on CDs that I’ve bought for my step classes – but this one is the only one I’ve cared to put money down for so far. It’s another song that’s great to walk to – I have it loaded on a “workout” playlist that I plug myself into after I walk Beanie to school and then take the loooong way home. Anastasia’s voice is FULL of attitude – she just sounds like the kind of woman you don’t mess with – and I dig that about her.
36. Woke Up This Morning by A3. The version I have starts with a guy saying “and after three days of drinkin’ with Larry Love, I just got an inklin’ to go on home.” He then goes on to talk about how he’s “overcome by a feeling of brief mortality” because he’s “gettin’ on in the world, comin’ up on 41 years; 41 stony grey steps toward the grave.” I love it. The beat kicks, and I love all the extra stuff going on in the background – people are singing, some are yelling, and one guy’s saying “oh yeah, oh yeah.” It all comes together, though, and it’s great. The bass is enough to get the side mirrors shaking.
37. Driving the Last Spike by Genesis. This song, which clocks in at somewhere around 11 minutes, is really amazing, and I’m hoping to someday see it performed live. It tells the story – well, three stories, really – of the construction of the railroads and what people had to deal with working under those conditions. So often, the people who build the structures of civilizations – the pyramid slaves, the railway workers, the construction workers and the folks who dig tunnels and canals – are invisible; we don’t take the time to learn their stories or remember their sacrifices. This song gives a little of that back, and I like it for that. I also really love that it’s three distinct songs all in one, and how effortlessly is moves among them. Genesis are some really talented guys.
38. Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out) by Billy Joel. This song is just FUN. I would LOVE to go to an Italian place called Mr. Cacciatore’s where an Irish cop tends bar. I mean, really – you should never argue with a crazy ma-ma-ma-ma-mama, you oughta know by now! Enough said.
39. Money For Nothing by Dire Straits. Come on – this was another FUN song. Check out the video, too – back in the day, this was impressive stuff. Of course, Pixar’s ruined this sort of thing for us with how good they are, but I still get a wicked nostalgia trip watching this video. I love that this link has the whole song, too – not the “clean” version that was on the radio. I wonder if anyone in the 80’s had any doubt just who, exactly, Mark Knopfler was referring to when he said yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair.
40. Where Are You Going by Dave Matthews Band. This is another love song, and I wrote about it when I was ruminating about what “home” means to me. I really like the simplicity of this song: Dave Matthews’ tunes are often complex and have strange beats (I’m pretty sure his percussionist is an alien), but this one is easy to follow and steady. The lyrics are great, too: are you looking for answers / to questions under the stars / well, if along the way / you are grown weary / you can rest with me until the light of day / you’re okay and I am no hero / oh, that’s for sure / but I do know one thing / where you are / is where I belong / I do know where you go / is where I want to be. Yup.
41. Think by Aretha Franklin. I LOVE Aretha; I love her attitude, I love her voice, and I love how comfortable she’s always seemed to be in her own skin. I loved this song before the Blues Brothers, but the fact that this tune is in that movie puts the proverbial cherry on top for me – I laugh out loud every time I see it.
42. 57 Channels (and There’s Nothin’ On) by Bruce Springsteen. I suppose I should put this one at number 57, but what the hell; we’re not going in any particular order here, right? Anyway, I’m not a huge Springsteen fan; I could never really figure out what was so wonderful about the guy. He’s not particularly good looking (though, as we’ve clearly already established, good looks are not a prerequisite for good rock stars) and I’ve never been fond of his voice, either. He always seemed a little constipated to me. There are a few songs of his that I really do like, though, and this is one of them. I like this song because it’s fun, because we’ve ALL felt the way the guy who shoots his television feels, because Springsteen’s making fun of the trappings of culture, and because the beat is catchy. Of course, now we’ve got 557 channels and there’s still nothin’ on.
43. Hey Ya as interpreted by Obidiah Parker. This song was originally performed by the hip-hop group Outkast. I like Outkast’s version, but I LOVE this cover. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this version, but I’m really, really glad that I did. Who would ever have thought that a really good hip-hop tune would work so incredibly well sung by a single guy with a guitar? Certainly not I, but it does work – at least as well as the original. Maybe better.
44. Kodachrome by Paul Simon. I’d forgotten how much I really like this song until I heard it again on a long drive home with a dead iPod battery. I was cruising through the radio channels, looking for something good to listen to, when the dial stopped at the very beginning of this song. I turned up the volume and sang at the top of my voice. When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school / it’s a wonder I can think at all. Of course, I was teaching high school at the time, which made it all that much more fun to sing…
45. Name by the Goo Goo Dolls. I really like the Goo Goo Dolls, and this is one of my favorites. I like the acoustic guitar at the beginning, I like how the acoustic guitar continues to work when the song gets a little more rockin’, and I really like the lyrics. I believe that naming things gives us power over them – that’s what therapy is about, really – being able to put your fears and problems into words so that they can be deconstructed – and I love the bit in this song that goes we grew up way too fast / now there’s nothing to believe / and reruns all become our history. Something about that line works for me.
46. Bad is Bad by Huey Lewis and the News. I never got tired of this song, and I am disappointed as hell that I can’t find a link to an old video or anything. This is another song that makes it onto this list because it’s FUN. It starts out with the background guys singing “Ah, di, di, di,di,di, di, wa,” then Huey Lewis starts almost moaning in that wonderful voice of his – it’s just fantastic. The song’s really about the difference between “wow, that’s really GREAT!” bad and “man, that really SUCKS!” bad – the crazy guitar playing cousin is “GREAT” bad; the strange pair of shoes underneath his girlfriend’s bed is “SUCKS” bad – and all through is the signature bluesy sound of the News. Sometimes, bad is really, really good.
47. The Philosophy of Loss by the Indigo Girls. This is another one I can’t find a link for, and I’m sorry about that. It’s a beautiful song – sparse and simple – that I almost missed because, on the album, it comes as a part of a song that I really kind of despise. My geeky-genius husband figured out how to capture just the part of the song that I wanted, though, and I’ve been putting it on my “favorites” iPod lists ever since. It’s a song full of longing; a song that questions the things we do to each other in the name of what we think is “right”: modern scribes write / in Jesus Christ / everyone is free / and the doors open wide to all straight men and women / but they are not open to me. When will (?) we ever learn?
48. Slap Leather by James Taylor. Here’s another fun song. It’s an indictment of the choices we make in how we run our world (take all the money that we need for schools / and to keep the street people in out of the cold / spend it on a weapon we can never use / make the world an offer that it can’t refuse), but it’s funny in how it does it (Big Mac Falafel / Stormin’ Norman / I just love a parade! ) Maybe, though – knowing what we know now – it’s not so funny after all…
49. Rapid Roy by Jim Croce. There are a few personalities who have passed that I actively miss: John Candy, Sam Kinison, and Jim Croce are among them. There’s something about Croce’s voice that really appeals to me; he seems approachable and kind, whether he’s singing this (really peppy and fun) song or lamenting about not being able to save time in a bottle. This song makes it onto this list for a number of reasons – the aforementioned peppy and fun, the chuckle-worthy lyrics (he do a hundred-thirty mile an hour / smilin’ at the camera / with a toothpick in his mouth), and the joy that Croce seems to have in singing it.
50. Pensacola by Joan Osborne. I am REALLY sorry that I can’t find a link to THIS song – it’s really, really fantastic on every level. Ms. Osborne’s voice is gorgeous and straining, the beat is bluesy and slow with great guitar and harmonica, and the story is about a girl who goes looking for her father – against her better judgment – and realizes that there’s nothing there for her after all; Mama took me aside /and she tried to change my mind / she said ‘don’t waste your time in lookin’ / there’s nothing, nothing left to find. Please do go to iTunes and look this one up if you don’t have it already: if ever there were a song that one could steal for the .99 cents, this one is it.
52. 3×5 by John Mayer. This came off of the album that had the hit “Your Body is a Wonderland,” but I think that 3×5 is a much stronger song. His voice sounds sleepy and introspective, the guitar carries the beat really nicely, and I love the idea of trying to really be in the moment. I’m often guilty of trying to capture things for later without actually experiencing them as they happen – it’s sometimes more important for me to get pictures than it is for me to actually see what’s happening right in front of me. I’m learning to not do that quite so often – sometimes a memory is more important than a picture: today I finally overcame / trying to fit the world inside a pictures frame. This song is a good lesson in slowing down and being observant, and it’s a lesson I think more of us need.
53. Black Horse and Cherry Tree by K. T. Tunstall. Someone – I can’t remember who (was it you, WeedWoman?)- sent me a video link of this woman performing this song on Good Morning America or some such show. I was amazed that a song as layered and complex as this one could be entirely produced by one person, and that one track was enough to hook me on Ms. Tunstall for good. The “woo-hoo’s” and “oh-no’s” are fun, the song really rocks, and I love the well my heart knows me better than I know myself /so I’m gonna let her do all the talkin’ line. I often feel that way…
54. Paper Walls by Marc Cohn. I was never fond of his Walking in Memphis song, but Paper Walls rocks my socks (and, of course, I can’t find a link, dammit!). I love everything about this one – the story it tells, the tune, the way the background vocals lend more credibility to the tone of the song – it’s all good.
55. The Voice by the Moody Blues. This song has always been a favorite of mine. It never seems dated to me – despite the very 70’s-sounding synthesizer – and I like the lyrics. The ideas of constantly learning and of eventually being able to trust yourself appeal to me: understand the voice within /and feel a change / already beginning.
56. Keep Coming Back by Richard Marx. This guy got a bum rap when he was making music – I really love his voice and, though some of his songs were the musical equivalent of cotton candy, this one isn’t one of them. It’s bluesy and sultry and full of self-destructive longing; you say we shouldn’t be lovers / and I say we can’t just be friends / all this talking just makes me / want you more… why should I try / I don’t want to get over you. The addition of Luther Vandross’s velvet voice in the background only makes this good song better.
57. Smooth by Santana (with Rob Thomas). Carlos Santana’s guitar, Rob Thomas’s voice and the almost irrational passion of the lyrics – the whole song’s a winner.
58. Time by Sarah McLachlan. I love her breathiness, the achingly devastating lyrics, and the really pretty harmonies in the background. I also love how this song seems so delicate, yet has that persistent drum in the background, keeping the pace.
59. Driving by Everything but the Girl. As I mentioned back in #30, I heard the first ten seconds of this song on a Sam Goody ad in the late ’80s, and that was all I needed to run out and buy the CD. EGBT has been a favorite of mine ever since, mostly because Tracy Thorn’s voice is so fabulous.
60. American Woman as interpreted by Lenny Kravitz. LOVE the guitar, love the attitude, love the “UH!” at the end. This is one of the songs that I like more as a cover than I did in its original version, and it’s all because Lenny just exudes attitude. This is a “louder is better” tune.
61. Yer So Bad by Tom Petty. I didn’t like anything Tom Petty released until his Full Moon Fever album and, strangely, I’ve liked everything since. Part of why I love this song is that, on occasional Saturday mornings, Mr. Chili will pop that CD into the player and turn it up as loud as he thinks is prudent and we all bop around the house, dancing like the crazy people we are.
62. The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. This is one of those songs that I can call up pretty much at will, and that I can keep in my head for days at a time without ever getting sick of it. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m all about the story-based songs, and I love the way Simon and Garfunkel harmonize to create different moods in this tune, from the almost apologetic feel of there were times that I was so lonesome / I took some comfort there to the angry tone of he carries the reminders / of every glove that laid him down or cut him / till he cried out. It’s just an all-around great tune.
63. Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday by Stevie Wonder. There are a bunch of Stevie songs I really love, and this is one of them. For reasons I can’t begin to understand, I often wake up with this song in my head – it’s a good thing I like it as much as I do. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s catchy.
64. Once in a Lifetime by The Talking Heads. David Byrne cracks me up; he always has. I love this song mostly because I ask myself “well! How did I GET here?!” all the time…
65. Born to Fight by Tracy Chapman. This woman is cool. She writes really great songs, and this is one of my favorites among them. This tune didn’t get much airplay off of her Crossroads album, but it may be my top pick of that work. It’s a “you can’t take away from me what I won’t freely give you” song, and I really love the sentiment. Oh no, oh no, this one’s not for sale.
66. Da Da Da by Trio. We TOTALLY bought this album because of this ad. The year that VW put this commercial on the air, Mr. Chili found a “da da guy” (the little skeleton puppet the passenger is playing with) and a tee shirt with the stinky chair on the front and “Da Da Da” on the back under the Christmas tree (we still have the tee shirt – we found the “da da guy” when we moved out of the old bedroom). The rest of the album is fun, too – there’s a song on there whose chorus is “let me in, let me out” – I don’t really understand a damn one of ’em, but they’re all fun.
67. She Moves in Mysterious Ways by U2. I’m not a huge U2 fan, but there are some songs that I really like, and this is on the top of my list. I really like the bass line in this tune, and the lyrics are great: to touch is to heal / to hurt is to steal / if you wanna kiss the sky / better learn how to kneel / on your knees, boy!
68. Midnight Blue by Lou Gramm. I always loved this song – something about the beat and Gramm’s voice at the end just kicks it for me. This is another tune that’s on my iPod for walking; the beat is perfect for my stride. Son, life is simple / it’s either cherry red / or midnight blue. Indeed.
69. Sunshine by Vertical Horizon. This is one of my favorite rockin’ songs. I love the opening guitar, I love the syncopation in the chorus, and I love the lyrics: I hold this widow wide enough / to heat the whole world / I want to spit out all this stuff / and keep the girl. There’s a great story in there somewhere.
70. Queen of the Night by Whitney Houston. I was never a big Whitney fan, and I’ve been trying to not watch her crash and burn over the last few years. Still, the woman’s got a set of pipes on her, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I liked The Bodyguard, and this song always gets me going. Plus, it’s fun to watch Bowyer lip synch this tune whenever it comes up on iTunes.
71. Vincent by Don McLean. This is the only song, so far, that I DON’T have on my iTunes (I do, however, have a cover by Vonda Shepard, but it’s not quite as good as the original). I like this one mostly on nostalgia – I learned this song when I was little, little (it was released when I was three) and I always loved the story of it. A lot of what I knew of Vincent Van Gogh I learned first from this song, and I remember recognizing the words I knew from the song the first time I saw a Van Gogh painting (and, as an aside, I just had a flashback of being in freshman art class in high school. We were tasked to make an album cover, and my choice was “a silver thorn, a bloody rose.” Teenagers are so melodramatic).
72. Never Going Back as covered by Matchbox Twenty. I really DO like this version better than the original (and, of course, I can’t find a link to it – sorry. You can find it on Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac). After hearing Rob Thomas’s take on the tune, the original Fleetwood Mac sounds too happy, upbeat and springy. Matchbox Twenty remakes the song with a hard, gritty edge, and when Thomas sings been down one time / been down two times / never going back again, I believe him.
73. The Girl I Can’t Forget by Fountains of Wayne. This song makes it onto my list because it’s FUN! The lyrics tell the story of a hapless guy and the one tragic night he spends making an utter and complete fool of himself for a girl. It starts well she picked me up in a German car / and then she took me out to an Irish bar / where I drank some beer in a plastic cup / till I had some trouble standing up and goes on to say that when he woke up in the hall / I was alone and softly groaning / and I’d lost my keys and I’d lost my phone and ends with I guess I’ll let it go / I’m not so sure I want to know. It was a night he can’t remember with a girl he can’t forget.
74. Turn it On Again by Genesis. I love how this song builds up from just the bass strum and – I’ve said it before but I’m sayin’ it again – I love Phil Collins as a lead singer. I’ve always also really liked how calm these guys are – I mean, Mike Rutherford is practically a zombie – he doesn’t do the typical rock star bit – but the man can PLAY!
75. Sympathy by the Goo Goo Dolls. This is another lyric-driven song for me. I love the acoustic feel of it – not exactly standard operating procedure for the Goo Goo Dolls – and John Rzeznik’s voice gives me the shivers. I wasn’t all the things / I tried to make believe I was / and I wouldn’t be the one / to kneel before the dreams I wanted / and all the talk and all the lies / and all the empty things disguised as me.
76. Vienna by Billy Joel. If I were doing this in order of how much I love these songs, this would have made it in the top ten, I think. I’ve always identified with this song – I am, and always have been, eager to please and given to over-achievement, and I still crave approval perhaps a little more than is good for me. The line if you’re so smart / tell me why are you still so afraid STILL resonates with me and, you know, there’s an accordion in the song….
77. Video by India Arie. I LOVE the message of this song. I’m raising girls in a culture that is absolutely toxic to young women. The images of “beauty” that the world foists on my precious babies is horrifying to me, and I’m working very, very hard to counter those images. This song helps a LOT. My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes is a message Punkin’ Pie needs right about now, and both girls will benefit from recognizing herself in this line: every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be / and I know my creator didn’t make no mistakes on me / my feet my thighs / my lips my eyes / I’m lovin’ what I see. More girls need these messages. Our world is a little out of control.
78. Watershed by the Indigo Girls. I love this song for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are the memories I have of singing it with Bowyer in the car the summer we met- he took Amy Ray’s parts and sung them really well. I also really like the themes of constant searching for your highest and best; well I’d better learn how to starve the emptiness / and feed the hunger.
79. Carolina on My Mind by James Taylor. This is classic JT, and I’ve always loved the words to this song. Hey baby, sky’s on fire / I’m dying, ain’t I and with a holy host of others / standin’ around me / still I’m on the dark side of the moon / and it feels like it goes on like this forever / you must forgive me / if I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind. Just beautiful.
80. So Much Mine by The Story. Jonatha Brooke, before she made it really big, was part of a duo called The Story (the other half was a woman named Jennifer Kimball, by the way). I stumbled on their first album, called Grace in Gravity, almost entirely by accident and instantly fell in love with the quirky harmonies that these ladies seemed to effortlessly produce. This song is one of my many favorites of them together (I enjoy both of them separately, too – Ms. Brooke is quite the folk star and Ms. Kimball released an album a few years back that I bought, too), but I don’t think that they have the same kind of flavor as solo artists. Anyway, I chose this song because, as the mother of daughters, I cry nearly every time I hear it. I’m hoping to be able to navigate the difficult teenage years without too much pain and drama but I also know that, as their mother, I’m going to be the one they feel compelled to identify AGAINST. The separation is going to rip my heart out, and I’m steeling myself for it already.
81. In These Shoes by Kirsty MacColl. Here’s another one that I love just because it’s FUN. It tells the story of a woman who gets propositioned to do – well, you know – in all kinds of strange and exotic places. Her response to each of them is “In THESE shoes?! / I don’t think so! / I said ‘HONEY! / Let’s do it right here.'” If your high school Spanish is a little insufficient to the task, she’s singing “I don’t like to walk, I can’t get on your horse, how can I dance? It’s a scandal!”
82. Use Me as covered by Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz. I’ve never liked Mick Jagger – there are only a few Stones songs that I can even stand, never mind that I actually enjoy – but this cover of a Bill Withers song is really top-notch. Somehow, and I’m not really sure I can articulate how, Jagger and Kravitz click, and they do justice to a great song.
83. Live to Tell by Madonna. Here’s another mega-star that I never really latched on to, but I really do love this song. I think it’s that it’s slow and quiet and sad, and just perfect for the movie – At Close Range – for which it was written: If I ran away / I’d never have the strength to go very far / how would they hear / the beating of my heart.
84. Best of What’s Around by Dave Matthews. Here’s another unlikely love song. Listen to the lyrics; it’s all about being safe with someone and taking care of each other: see you and me /have a better time than most can dream / have it better than the best / so we can pull on through / whatever tears at us / whatever holds us down /and if nothing can be done /we make the best of what’s around…. turns out not where / but who you’re with that really matters. Yup.
85. Georgia on My Mind by Brother Ray. It’s sad and lovely and is a VERY interesting song to contemplate when one considers that Ray Charles was black and that Georgia was one of the states which was most resistant to racial integration. It kind of speaks to my Hawthornian notions of what “home” is.
86. Dancing Nancies by Dave Matthews Band. I’m intrigued by the question of whether we could be anything – or anyone – but what we are. “Could I have been a magnet for money?/ Could I have been anyone other than me?”
87. Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. I’m not sure what it is about this man that appeals to me so. It could be that he always seemed very calm and even-keeled. Even though I know that his personal life was anything but for a good long time, on stage he presented a very matter of fact persona. I love the message of this song too; “I find it very very easy to be true.” There is such a thing as a love that forsakes all others, and there are a few of us who are lucky enough to have it.
88. Because We Can Can Can by Fatboy Slim. I LOVE this song at top volume on the iPod. It’s great moving music.
89. Days to Dust by Grey Eye Glances. I have always loved this song; the lead’s voice is gorgeous, and I love the mysterious, almost haunting quality of the melody.
90. I Feel Lucky by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I’m not much of a country music fan, but this song works for me. It’s fun, it’s funny, and I love the sentiment of flipping off the signs of doom in favor of a positive attitude. “The stars are stacked against you girl/ get back in bed / but I feel lucky / I feel lucky / no professor doom’s gonna stand in my way/ Mmmmm, I feel lucky today!”
91. Useless Desires by Patty Griffin. I have a HUGE soft spot for chicks with guitars, and this lady is one of my favorites. There are a bunch of songs of hers that I would include in this list (see #6), and this is one of the few I could find a link for, and I want you to get a sample of this woman’s beautiful voice and haunting lyrics. If you can get hold of “Tony” from her Flaming Red album, please do; it’s another of my favorites.
92. The Great Beyond by R.E.M. I really like Michael Stipe’s voice – there are a few R.E.M. songs that I’d put here – but this one, I think, is a favorite of mine because I, too, am looking for answers from the Great Beyond.
93. Change Will Do You Good by Sheryl Crow. I love this song for the beat – it’s a perfect walking tempo. I’m not really sure I have any clue as to what the hell the song’s about, but you sure as hell can dance to it.
94. Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing) by Sting. I love songs that tell stories, and this one tells an interesting one. I love it from the English teacher perspective – the story isn’t really the story at all, but only the story as imagined by the boy who’s stealing the car; it brings up interesting questions about the reliability of narrators. Plus, it’s the first song I learned to interpret into ASL all by myself (I had help for Queen and Soldier )- for that reason, it will always be one of my favorites. Plus, you know… it’s STING!
95. Nothing But Flowers by Talking Heads. I’m not a nature girl – my idea of camping is making reservations at Holiday Inn; that’s about as close to “roughing it” as I like to get. This song speaks to that part of me. “If this is paradise / I wish I had a lawn mower” and “I miss the honky tonks, Dairy Queens and 7-11s” You got it.
96. Woman in Chains by Tears for Fears with Oleta Adams. I absolutely LOVE the way these people sound together. Ms. Adam’s voice is rich and deep and profoundly expressive, and Roland Orzabal’s vocals interweave and dance almost seamlessly in the composition. This, despite its not being a rock song, is one that I like to listen to at some volume. I get shivers.
97. I Will Show You Love by Kendall Payne. She’s a brand new artist to me; I heard a tiny clip of one of her songs at the end of a Grey’s Anatomy episode and I was hooked (for the record, I’ve found a lot of really great music that way. The soundtrack people at Grey’s Anatomy and I must have very similar tastes). I Googled the lyrics I could discern, found out who the artist was, and went straight to iTunes. I now have two of her albums and I’ve not been disappointed with either of them.
98. Giving You the Best That I’ve Got by Anita Baker. Mentioning Oleta Adams in #96 reminded me of how much I love Anita Baker. She’s got a voice like caramel sauce, and this song is representative of some of her best work. “I bet everything / on our wedding ring.” That line still gives me shivers.
99. One of You by Vertical Horizon. I LOVE the guitar work on this song, and the funky harmonies that kick in around the middle of the song thrill me.
100. Overkill by Colin Hay. This is a nostalgia song for me, and I love that Colin Hay put out an acoustic remake of it a few years ago (I really like when artists remake their own stuff.
This was FUN! It got a little exasperating at times, though – I was really frustrated to not be able to find links or videos to songs I wanted to add, and found that, while I have a pretty extensive music collection (4167 songs as of November 21, 2007), I tend to listen to only a few selected artists. I think I may need to set my iTunes to shuffle a little more often to broaden my range.
Thanks for sticking this out with me! I welcome your comments and suggestions for further listening!