Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Greatest Songs Ever Written or Performed

my future polygamous husband

It's time for a new edition of my list of favorite songs, but I'm too lacking in humility or even modesty to call it that. Instead, I refer to it as "The Greatest Songs Ever Written or Performed" as though my personal take on the topic is the final word. I know such is not really the case, but I still elect to entitle my list in the manner I've chosen. Furthermore, in addition to the obviously over-inflated ego as evidenced by the title, I recognize the redundancy in "ever written or performed." Duh! A song needs to be written to be performed, even if it happens simultaneously as with the original calypso music. (Those Carribbeans who created and perfected the music form were more talented than for which they were ever given credit. Making up lyrics and sometimes even melodies on the fly while one is performing is not easy and, moreover, takes major guts.((I was going to say balls instead of guts, but I deferred out of respect to my mom, who will most likely never read this blog. Am I not an extremely considerate daughter?)) )  

But  I digress. Sometimes the brillianc of a song isn't so much in the composition as in the performance. Some raw material had to have existed in the mere composition of a song, but in various cases, it's the artist who took a mediocre work and turned it into sheer brilliance.  I won't cite specific examples of such because we all have our own perspectives on what songs fit this mold, but I offer the elucidation as a justification for my redundancy. 

My list follows. I'm not consulting any previous lists because tonight's list is how I feel tonight. Whatever I thught or wrote three months ago is irrelevant.  Additionally, the order is random. The list is in neither ascending nor descending order in terms of my relative preferences. I'm just typing songs a they occur to me. I'm also not pre-listing a number, as in "My Top 25 Songs," because I'll type songs until I decide I have no more favorite songs tonight. I may stop at eighteen. I may stop at ninety-three. (Don't feel obligatedto readto the end if I go all the way to ninety-three.) In reality, i'll prbabaly top somewhere between eighteen and ninety-three. Again, a song's relative ranking on my list has no relationship to its actual relative merit in my mind tonight. It just appears where it appears. Fate puts it where it belongs. In actuality, this list matters to me and probably only to me. Someday when I'm old and gray (my mother says I deserve to go gray very early in life because of everything I've put her through, but I happen to know that she does not have a gray hair on her head, so who is she to suggest that I deserve to go gray prematurely? If I'd given her as much trouble as she suggests, there would be at least the occasional random gray hair or maybe a wrinkle or two. She is forty-seven. She buys Clairol Natural Instincts just because she likes the conditioner that comes with it. She's never ever put as much as a drop of the coloring product on her head. When she gets too many boxes of the coloring to fit in her bathroom cabinet, she throws it all out. It sounds wasteful to me, but as long as I'm supported in the manner to which I've become accustomed, who am I to complain?), I may read this and it may remind me of what I was thinking and feeling tonight.  That's really what the whole thing blog is about, anyway, although I do love a platform from which to pontificate. 

Anyway, the list . . .

1. House at Pooh Corner (or "Return to Pooh Corner;") 
                        I have no preference as to whether or not the nostalgic little verse 
                        at the end is included. it neither makes nor detracts from the song.
                        I saw a video inwhich Kenny Loggins described how he wrot this song
                        one day while he was cutting class in high school. Earnings from this 
                        song have paid for the education of eachof his children. Irony in its 
                        purest form.

2. I Will
                        From the Beatles' "White Album," it's  a love song to a love the singer                                             and/or writer has never met. It has a decidedly sweet melody. Though
                        I enjoy the occasional song that rocks loud and hard, i'm partial to sweet                                         melodies.

3.On and On
                        I'd temporarily forgotten of this song's existence until Knotty reminded me of                                   it by posting a Stephen Bishop video of it. Remembering it makes me happy
                        and reminds me of the simpler times when my daddy used to sing it to me                                     before I went to sleep.

4. Down to the River to Pray
                        I don't know if this is an old gospel song or maybe even a spiritual, or if it was                               written for George Clooney's movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? , but I                                         believe I love it a litle more each time I hear Alison Krauss sing it.  

5. My Life
                        I could probably comprise my list of favorite songs with music written                                               exclusively  by Billy Joel, but I will refrain  from such single                                                                 dimensionality. Of all of Billy Joel's songs, this one best expresses where 
                        I am at this moment in time. 

6. God Only Knows
                         The crazy genuis Wilson brother wrote this (I get them confused). One
                         account I read related that it was getting into the wee hurs of the morning
                         and the others were getting tired, so he sent them all home and did all the                                      vocals on the recording of this himself. If so, he nailed it, although it was                                          beautiful  in performance, with everyone else singing the vocals as well. 
                         I read somewhere that one of Paul McCartney's children told of ho                                                  McCartney used to play th song repeatedly and bemoan the fact that                                              someone else other than he (McCartney) wrote the song, as he considered
                         it to be the most perfect song ever written. I'm not sure i'd go that far, but it's                                  damned close.

7. If I Fell
                         I don't even remember what Beatles' album this one came from, though I                                        know it was one of the very early ones, and probably the song that caused me to                          fall in love with the Beatles.  At the time, when i was maybe three, I'm not                                        sure what was in the song that i thugh i could relate to, but i loved it when                                        the Beatles sang it, and I loved it whenmy dad sang and played it to me.                                        the chord structure is especially lovely.

8. We Will Rock You/ We Are the Champions
                          Two separate songs usually played in tandem, I'm not sure there's anything
                          truly great about these songs, musically speaking, but I love them anyway.
                          The words, however, are epic.

9. Come, Come, Ye Saints
                           This is a not terribly fitting song for meto have chosen for my list of favorite
                           songs, but I love it, particularly when performed by the MoTab, who are not
                           even close to my favorite group. This song, however, they nailed. I                                                    especially love the version that begins with strings playing the initial notes                                      of the melody in modulating keys until it settles and the choir begins to                                            sing. There's  a video on YouTube -- are many, actually -- but one                                                    particular video touches me. In a place in the video, one family's ox has                                          done all he thinks he can do and will go no further. He lays down and                                              refuses to get up as the families that were previously behind them pass                                          them up. The family's survival may depend upon this ox, although they                                              were not traveling alone, and one would think someone would have come                                      to their aid. Still, the already arduous trip  would have been made even                                            more so at best. The  young  mother in the  family, traveling with her                                                children and either her aging parents or in-laws, as her husband had  gone                                    ahead with an earlier group, prays  for the ox, pets him, then, crying,                                                pleads with him to get up and continue. She  takes the reins, pulls with all                                        the strength her petite body can accumulate, pulls the ox to his feet, and                                          persuades him to continue the journey.  Her father or father-in-law pats her on                                the back in a 'You go, girl!" manner, and they rejoin the wagon train procession.                            I know it's only a dramatization and isn't real, but still I get teary-eyed each time I                            watch the video.

10. Mother of a Miner's Child
                            The Poet Laureate of Canada, Gordon Lightfoot, has written more songs                                       than I can ever remember. I've been exposed to much of Lightfoot's music.
                            especially because my father was a friend of his late lead guitarist. I don't                                       know exactly what about this song appeals to me so, except for its pure                                         simplicity and beauty. I know next to nothing of mines and the mining                                               industry, but the song tells a sweet love story which a person who knows                                         nothing about mining can follow.There are probably only six or seven chords in                             the entire song, but the particular inversions of the chords are more perfect                                   than perfect can be, and the guitar work is exquisite. Though he played rhythm                               and not lead, Lightfoot's guitar skills have been heavily underrated. As rhythm                               guitarists go, he's one of the all-time greats. I'll get my lazy butt out of its                                         persistent vegetative state someday and post a Youtube video of the song,
                            but at this point, a great one has yet to be made. If you happen to go searching,
                            be sure to listen to Lighfoot himself. The covers do not do the song justice.

11. Nessum Dorma
                            From Puccini's opera Turandot, this is probably the all-time classic tenor 
                            aria. Once, in an effort to delay the inevitable bedtime, I asked my dad to sing it                             for me. He has a much better-than-average voice and has sung                                                       back-up professionally, but he's not a classically trained singer, nor is he even                               technically a tenor, although he has a fairly expansive range. Good sport that 
                            he is, he printed the lyrics off his computer before my mom could locate the                                   libretto from her volumes of music of every genre. I won't pretend that someone                             closing his or her eyes would have confused his rendition with that of Bocelli,                                 but it was seriously not bad.  My mom, who is not easily impressed, was                                         impressed.

12. Hey Joe
                            Covered by many bands but probably most famously done by "The Jimi                                         Hendrix Experience," this song makes the list probably more because of                                       positive associations and warm fuzzies than because of anything about the                                   song itself. I have a cousin on my mom's side who is about thirteen years older                              than I. I adored him when I was little and still do. he did not know how to play                                 the guitar (and he knew he didn't know how to play guitar; he wasn't a                                             delusional sort of person. Nonetheless, anytime he saw  guitar lying around,                                   he'd pick it up, begin strumming chordlessly, and sing "Hey Joe, where you                                   goin' with that gun in your hand?" I think of Brian now whenever I hear the song,                             and I have happy memories.

13. Hey Jude
                            A classic Beatles' song, it may have been  about marijuana and things even                                   more nefarious, or it may have been a simple song of consolation to                                               Julian Lennon as penned by Paul McCartney. Lennon and McCartney took joint                             credit for most or all either one wrote as a Beatle whether or not it was a                                         collaborative effort, but those in the know are aware of what was written by                                     whom. I tend to side with those who believe in the more innocent origin of the                                 song, but regardless, the song was and is a thing of beauty.

14. We Are Young

                            By a group known as "Fun," this isn't a terribly profound song, but not all songs                             need to be profound. two hundred years from now I'm not sure this song will                                   even be a blip on anyone's radar screen, but for tonight anyway, it's on my list
                            of favorites, 

15,  Like a Prayer

                             I don't know who wrote this, but I suspect the genius is in the arrangement.
                             The black gospel choir, the church setting, everything about the video and
                             the song itself is nothing short of perfection. It's Madonna at her very finest.

16. Blackbird 
                              This song will probably turn up on any "favorites" list I compile. Beautiful                                          melody,simple yet profound words -- what's not to love?

17. Penguin Lament
                               Words are by Sandra Boyton, a children's author and songwriter,  who is                                        somehow able to persuade amazing artists to record her stuff. Both Ms.                                        Boynton and John Ondrasek outdid themselves on this one. It deserves radio                                 play time even if it is a children's song.

18. Gira Con Me Questa Notte
                               Written by David foster and recorded by Josh Groban, my dad refers to this                                  as  the poor man's Nessum Dorma. I don't really care what my dad thinks                                      about it. I think it's a beautiful song and I love both it and Josh Groban. If he                                    asked me to marry him today, I'd do it even if I found out that he had fourteen                                  other wives I would have to share him with and we were going to live in                                            Colorado City or on the ranch near San Angelo, Texas, or wherever Warren                                  Jeffs assigned us to live.

19, Petit Papa Noel
                                 This is a relatively modern French Christmas carol. The words and melody                                    aren't totally suited to one another, as the melody is somewhat somber, as                                     though the song might be about the immaculate conception or some                                               similarly reverent topic, the word are of a child telling Santa that he or she 
                                  hopes Santa bundles up warmly because if he gets sick, it will be all the                                         child's fault because Santa was outside delivering toys to him or her.  My
                                  dad said the song had to have been written by a Catholic, because it has                                       the classic Catholic spin of taking something that should be light-hearted
                                  and fun, and turning it into the typical Catholic Festival of Guilt.

                                  While I think the melody is gorgeous -- perhaps too beautiful for that of a                                         children's sing -- and I especially love my polygamous fiance Josh Groban's                                   version, my real reason for being especially fond of the song hasn't much                                       to do with either the words or the melody. it's because it was the song that                                     made my grandmother love me. I'll end my "Favorite Songs' list here and                                       tell the story related to Petit Papa Noel in my very next post.



  1. I like "I Will". I like Alison Krauss's version... and Ben Taylor's version, too.

    "House At Pooh Corner" is a nice song, but I don't play it often because Bill's kids used to listen to it and it makes him sad. Frankly, I love Kenny Loggins' version of "All The Pretty Little Horses".

    I like "My Life". I remember when it was used as the theme song for "Bosom Buddies", which was a show Tom Hanks was on before he became a big star.

    I also like "God Only Knows"... but you know, the first time I heard it, it was sung by Olivia Newton John. I like the Beach Boys' version better.

    One of my favorite Beatles songs is "In My Life". But I like the way Judy Collins does it. I did it myself not long ago. The one below is mine.


  2. I wouldn't listen to a song that made my husband sad, either.

    My mother has Bosom Buddies reruns on vCR. They were transferred from Beta to VCR - a total home job. Peter Scolari played the other guy who dressed as a girl so that they could live in that house just for women.

  3. I loved that show! Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember when it was prime time viewing!