I’ve got several thousand songs in iTunes, which enables you to rate songs on a scale of 1-5. In the spirit of Darwin, natural selection takes over to give the lesser songs the John 15 treatment (lopping them off), leaving me with only the better songs (and more disk space–that’s the real issue).
This unnatural selection leaves me with quite a few songs sporting a “5″ rating, the highest. But among them are a handful of songs which, if I could, would get a “6.” These are songs which I never, ever get tired of hearing. When I hear the song, I stop and pay attention. They aren’t necessarily by my favorite artists. In some cases, I don’t care for anything else by these artists. No, there’s just something about these particular songs. They resonate with something in me.
For example, I’ve given a “5″ rating to a number of Bruce Springsteen songs, like “Glory Days,” “Darlington County,” “The Rising,” and “Into the Fire.” I love those songs. But there’s something about “Born in the USA” which is on another Cosmic Level of Existence. It’s the only Springsteen song which makes me pay attention every time I hear it.
Here are the other songs I would put in this transcendent category.
- “The Rose,” by Bette Midler (1979). Might be my favorite of all.
- “It’s Only Rock’n'Roll,” by the Rolling Stones (1974). There’s something restrained (for the Stones) about this song, like a thoroughbred with a restrictor plate (to mix racing metaphors). Do you remember the TV awards show where they performed this wearing white sailors’ outfits in a plastic bubble which filled with bubbles as they performed?
- “Never Been to Spain,” by Three Dog Night (1972). The lyrics say, “I headed to Las Vegas, only made it out to Needles.” The starting point could have been Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where I once lived. We always traversed Needles en route to Vegas.
- “What’s Up?” by Four Non-Blondes (1993). I use a line from this song as a heading in the Anchor Church site.
- “All She Wants to Do is Dance,” by Don Henley (1984). Love the bass line. Interesting nuclear-wasteland video, too. Don’t like anything else by Don Henley. In general, drummers shouldn’t sing. (Hear that, Ringo? Phil Collins? Tommy Lee?)
- “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong (1968).
- “Scarborough Fair,” by Sarah Brightman (2000). Yes, a Simon and Garfunkel song by somebody else. I love Sarah Brightman’s voice.
- “Sweet Child of Mine,” by Guns N Roses (1987). Sheryl Crow’s version is very good, too–a 5, but not a transcendent 6.
- “Old time Rock & Roll,” by Bob Seger (1978).
- “Dancing in the Street,” by Mick Jagger and David Bowie (1985). A joyful, fun-loving song. “They’ll be swinging, swaying, records playing, dancing in the street….”
- “More than a Feeling,” by Boston (1976). I still remember the first time I heard it: 1977, in a room in Wright Hall, third floor north.
- “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by Simple Minds (1984). Icing on the cake: it concludes my favorite movie, “Breakfast Club.”
- “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” by the Smithereens (1999).
- “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” by NewSong (2000).
- “I Can Only Imagine,” by MercyMe (2001).
- “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by the Georgia Satellites (1986). Good ol’ Southern rock.
- “Transcendental Blues,” by Steve Earle (2000).
- “With or Without You,” by U2 (1990).
- “Beautiful Sunday,” by Daniel Boone (1972). A joyful song from the 1970s. Takes me back to Electronics class at Lake Havasu City High School.
- “I’m a Bit**”, by Meredith Brooks (1997). Can I spell that out?
- “Born in the USA,” by Bruce Springsteen (1984). Title track of one of my favorite albums.
- “Colorful,” by Verve Pipe (2001). First heard this at the end of the movie “Rock Star” (the coffeehouse scene) and fell in love with it. Tracked down the original version on iTunes.
- “The Way,” by Fastball (2002). First heard this in a Best Buy store, and loved it, but didn’t learn the title or artist for at least another year, when I stumbled across it on a borrowed CD.
- “Heroes,” by the Wallflowers (1998). Better than Bowie’s version.
- “American Pie,” by Don MacLean (1971). Doesn’t get old.
- “American Pie,” by Slaughter (1997). Same song title, totally different song. Has the same restrained feel as “It’s Only Rock and Roll.”
- “Take My Breath Away,” by Berlin (1986). Yes, the song from “Top Gun.”
- “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” by Green Day (2004). The latest addition to this list.