Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top 200 Favorite Songs, Part 7

(If you're just tuning in, I'm doing a rundown of my Top 200 Favorite Songs-see the bottom of the page for previous entries and welcome!)

I knew of The Temptations long before I was obsessed with them.  On my treasured Diana Ross & the Supremes' Greatest Hits album (I knew every single word), they had two songs toward the end of the album.  I liked them, but was distracted by the shininess of Diana Ross telling me I couldn't hurry love and as a result they stayed on the back-burner until in college,when VH1 was playing a repeat of The Temptations TV movie and I was absolutely blown away.  The music, the drama, the incredible stories-a decade later I don't know if the film is any good, but what I do know is that music was absolutely spellbinding.  I could listen to it over-and-over, and eventually had the chance to see what was probably the closest I would ever get to see of them (The Temptations Review, an offshoot of the band that featured Dennis Edwards of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" fame).  Every day during college when I would work on my computer, the Temptations were consistently on repeat, playing over-and-over again that incredible soul and rhythm.  Today I still may know every word to every Supremes' hit, but it's now the Temptations that have forever replaced them as the best Sound of Motown in my heart.

140. "Donna," Ritchie Valens (1958)

"La Bamba" may be more iconic for the seventeen-year-old singer (seriously-how is it possible that Ritchie Valens was only seventeen the day the music died), but my mom's name is Donna, so this one has always had a special place in my life.  My brother and I would run across the house when I was little and this would pop up on the radio or my dad would play it and sing it to my mom, with us kids jumping up-and-down proclaiming, "mom, it's your song!!!"

139. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," (1966)

Has a song ever had this much confidence in the opening notes?  "I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go"-David Ruffin's growling voice and the sweet choreography make this even better to watch live, but it's the lyrics that make this a karaoke staple and one that you can't help but tapping your feet to when it pops up.

138. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Bob Dylan (1973)

Originally written for Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, the song is less political and more spiritual for Dylan, creating one of his biggest post-1960's hits.  The song, about a deputy dying, combines Dylan's effortless cool and hauntingly-specific vocals with lyrics that seem far darker than the song's catchiness would normally indicate.

137. "I Can't Get Started," Ella Fitzgerald (1962)

I first heard this song on a Gilmore Girls episode where Sookie wants to play it as she walks down the aisle.  This is of course ridiculous, since the song is about a woman who can't land the man she loves, but Sookie didn't care and neither did I-I thought this song was terribly romantic, sung to perfection by the one-and-only Ms. Ella Fitzgerald.

136. "I Wish It Would Rain," The Temptations (1967)

This was about the time during the Temptations history where it was starting to become less about one-for-all and more about David Ruffin and the Temptations, and though Ruffin seemed a bit like an ass, it's hard not to see the reason why the studio went this direction-Ruffin's vocals in this song are the best of his career, soulfully getting higher and higher until you almost feel that rain might just fall out of sheer willfulness.

135. "Rhinestone Cowboy," Glen Campbell (1975)

Could Glen Campbell's hair-and-clothes scream "1970's" more loudly in that video?  Honestly, though, while the title casts an era-specific allusion, the reality is that this is a story about a man trying to find his way in the world, which makes it universal for any era.  Plus, that chorus is impossible not to belt out when it plays on your car radio.

134. "Diamonds and Rust," Joan Baez (1975)

"Well I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again," may be one of the most beautiful starts to a song ever written.  Though Baez usually interpreted others works, this was clearly all her own, written about her relationship with a genius who was worshiped by a generation of people, but couldn't commit to his love for her.  Lyrics like "the madonna was yours free"-wow, her poetry sure wasn't anywhere close to lousy.

133. "Why Can't He Be You," Patsy Cline (1962)

Released as a B-Side for "Heartaches," this song eventually found its way onto the immortal Greatest Hits album from Cline.  Cline's penchant for finding the most melancholy aspects of love may have hit its greatest heights here, where she sings her song about the perfect on-paper guy, who just can't compare with the guy that she's in-love with-if you haven't been there, consider yourself lucky, as this was one of the hallmarks of my early love life.

132. "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," Edith Piaf (1959)

True story: In college, I used to lock my dorm room, put on Edith Piaf CD's and drink pink champagne imagining I was in Paris, watching twilight surrounding the City of Lights.  If you haven't done it, I insist you do it immediately, and if it sounds too silly, I feel just infinite sadness for you-Edith Piaf and pink champagne is pure magic.

131. "Abraham, Martin, and John," Dion (1968)

I miss political songs.  I say this knowing that they were almost all written before I was born, but it's hard to find a song as poignant as this tune, written in reaction to the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy brothers.  Dion reinvented his career with this "Abraham...," and deservedly so-there's so much heartbreaking soul amidst that strumming guitar, making the song almost sound like a gospel melody.

And there you have it-the next ten songs.  Did I hit one you love?  Did I hit one you've never heard before (I believe this is the oldest set of ten songs that we'll profile in this countdown, all of them being written long before I was born)?  And what do you think of The Temptations-are they your favorite Motown act?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

If you've missed any of the past installments, go ahead and click: Part 12345, 6

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