180. "The Gambler," Kenny Rogers (1978)
Okay, I'll admit the above music video is a teensy bit strange, but let's be honest here-so is Kenny Rogers (he and Dolly are quite a pair in the plastic surgery department, and are slowly looking more and more similar as they get older). Still that rusty voice and the world-weary lessons of "seeing you're out of aces" is a great lesson from a singer who was counted out far too often in his long career.
179. "The Wanderer," Dion (1961)
Rosie had the right idea. Long before the concept of a player was considered a goal for young men, Dion had a different term for a lothario called the wanderer. What I love about this song is that it isn't shy about sexuality, it isn't shy about playing the field, and it has a wonderful love of the saxophone throughout that keeps the sharp rhymes swinging.
178. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," The Tokens (1961)
Perhaps the greatest "novelty" song ever written, you must admit that you started saying "wimoweh" the second you began reading the title. Combining a smooth falsetto with an infectious chorus, this song about a man putting the moves on his girl because the lion is taking a catnap-you can't help but singing and dancing along.
177. "Up On the Roof," The Drifters (1962)
Before she wove a tapestry that dominated the 1970's, Carole King was writing pop perfection for doo-wop groups like The Drifters with Gerry Goffin. This is arguably their best collaboration, a song about trying to find a place higher in the world, climbing up the metaphorical tower of urban America to get a beautiful view of the world.
176. "Chances Are," Johnny Mathis (1957)
I am a terrible romantic, I will admit it. You'd have to be to have a Johnny Mathis song on your favorite tunes list and still be under seventy. Admittedly Johnny doesn't have the remotest of edges and occasionally sounds like music you'd hear on the background of an Olive Garden, but when he's wonderful, it's perfect, and "Chances Are" is a sweet bet on love, and that's one I always want my music to take.
175. "A Teenager in Love," Dion and the Belmonts (1959)
I'm loving how Dick Clark is slowly becoming the unsung hero of these write-ups, considering how frequently he's showing up in these clips. Dion's best youth-period song, this tune is one close to my heart-I used to listen to it as a teenager whenever I had a crush on a boy in my class that I couldn't have. If you remember that agony of pining for someone who didn't know your name, this song is impossible to resist.
174. "Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash (1955)
If you're a fan of the Man in Black, you know that he's always willing to put a little shock in his country. How else do you explain a song that has the cheek to put "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" into one of its hooks? So steeped in Johnny Cash-lore is "Folsom Prison" that it opened his Oscar-winning biopic Walk the Line, and who am I to deny it a spot amongst my favorites? I could (and always do) sing every word.
173. "All I Want is You," U2 (1989)
For a brief moment there I thought we'd get through ten songs where none of them were released in my lifetime (I frequently say that I was born in the wrong era, but everyone says that I suppose). Either way, for years my favorite playlist on my iPod was my "Melancholy Baby" list, which was lead off by "All I Want is You"-there's something so confessional about Bono's soft rock approach and the way he only wants one thing.
172. "In Dreams," Roy Orbison (1963)
Of course I had to pick a music video that featured Dean Stockwell lip-synching. Really it's impossible not to link Orbison's tune about a "candy-colored clown they call the Sandman" with David Lynch's magnum opus Blue Velvet. Both are rich, weird, and just a bit terrifying. Orbison's crazily light and immortal voice just keeps getting higher and higher, until it feels like he really has drifted off into that moment before slumber. The best word for it: haunting.
171. "Time Bomb," Rancid (1995)
And we end this list of ten songs not with another 60's-style love ballad, but instead with a mid-90's punk song about well, I'm not 100% sure, but that beat and that insistence on "black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac" having some sort of connection makes this a constant repeat on my phone, and if you can sell a hook like that, you must be doing something right.
There you have it-another ten as we continue the countdown. Have I hit your personal favorite yet? Did I introduce you to a song you loved and/or hated? If so, the comments are right there-sound off!