Thursday, August 13, 2015

Top 200 Favorite Songs, Part 9

(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!)

Aretha Franklin in the weirdest of ways introduced me to opera.  For those of you unfamiliar, Franklin, whom I had known as the Queen of Soul, at the Grammys in 1998 had to fill in for noted tenor Luciano Pavarotti.  Admittedly, no one can sing "Nessun Dorma" like the Maestro and the song wouldn't have won her many points for precision at Julliard, but man was it powerful.  There aren't many people whom I could be convinced could actually be accomplished and fascinating singing the phone book, but Aretha Franklin is one of them.  I got my first Aretha CD when I was thirteen, and I wore. that. thing. out.  Literally it's a Greatest Hits album, and not only could I sing every song on it, I could probably sing them in order.  I used to listen to her in my bedroom when I was growing up and whenever everyone was out of the house I'd sneak upstairs and start demanding on my imaginary stage (which faced my bed and a Titanic poster), that I was Eleanor Rigby, picking up the rice in the churches where the weddings have been.  Decades later, she still demands my respect and admiration, and still sits atop the perch of my all-time favorite singers.  And when I decided my junior year of college to learn how to sing an opera aria, there was no other option to pick than the piece she inspired me with from Turandot.  Viva Aretha!

120. "The House That Jack Built," Aretha Franklin (1968)

"I got the house, I got the car, I got the rug, and I got the rent, but I ain't got Jack."  Tell me those lyrics aren't just wonderfully fun.  Aretha wasn't one to lie down if her man was going to leave her-she would demand that he come back, and wasn't afraid that anyone would know it.  The Queen of Soul bows to no man, but she's not afraid to sing to the rafter to catch him.

119. "In My Life," The Beatles (1965)

The Beatles never had a more romantic song.  The subject is hard to tell-sometimes it seems like a romantic paramour, other times it seems almost like simply a friend.  Inspired from Lennon's childhood, "In My Life," almost always makes me cry when I sit and listen to it-how can you not?  It's all about putting one person above all else-it's terribly personal and, by Beatles-level standards, highly-underrated.

118. "Landslide," Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Who hasn't listened to Stevie Nicks and her rasp as they are contemplating a change in the direction of their lives?  "Landslide" is deeply personal to almost every person who has ever heard it-we all have that moment when we've been "afraid of changing because we've built our life around you."  Listening to Nicks, who wrote the song before making one of the best decisions of our lives (pursuing music), you can feel that authenticity and how it spills over to your own major decisions.

117. "I've Got the Right to Sing the Blues," Billie Holiday (1939)

I remember the first time I heard this song was on Murphy Brown, and I was floored as Candice Bergen lip-synched her heart out to this tune.  Really, no one had the right to sing the blues quite like the immortal Billie Holiday, and this song with its commanding vocal and constant crescendo could make anyone a believer in the Lady.

116. "Fever," Peggy Lee (1958)

EVERYONE has sang "Fever" at some point in their careers regardless of what genre they are a part of, but it is the immortal and classic Peggy Lee who owns the song.  If you've never seen the way she performs the song live, click up-top.  She starts out physically stiff but that voice moves you.  Standing like a board (I said standing), Lee shoots music off like a rocket, so by the time you hear her proclaim "fever all through the night" you know this song will last til morning.

115. "I Wanna Be Sedated," The Ramones (1979)

Ahh-the Ramones!  Teenage angst has never been put to better use than this strumming, drumming song about sheer boredom.  The song doesn't have much of today's highly synthesized backgrounds, so it's just a clash of guitars and drums and vocals, creating a distinctive freshness that would be the Ramones raison d'etre.

114. "Pictures of You," The Cure (1990)

"I've been living so long with these pictures of you, that I almost believe that they're real."  There are two different directions that you can take this-it's either a man who has spent his entire life fantasizing about being with someone that he's created a plausible life in his head, or that he's forgotten how magical the person in the pictures is.  Either way this song always gets to me-a rare look at what happens when you stop and examine the life around you.

113. "La Vie en Rose," Edith Piaf (1947)

There are very few moments in my life that have felt unequivocally like a movie.  One of them was when I was sitting on a balcony on a sunny Paris evening, the sun starting to set, the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and "La Vie en Rose," by Edith Piaf started to play.  It might have been part of a ploy to get tourists to buy more souvenirs, but for me it was one of the most surreal moments of my life.  In an instant, I'd become Audrey Hepburn and Edith Piaf's "Life in Rosy Hues" would stay in my soul forever.

112. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" Stevie Wonder (1970)

I sing all of these songs in my spare time-this is just a fact.  There are only a few songs, however, where I have a specific dance that goes with them.  Jamming out to Stevie Wonder while I'm sitting in a chair at work, it's as if I'm singing to two different microphones, both grooving to the cool, crispness of this impossibly catchy pop hit.

111. "Eleanor Rigby," Aretha Franklin (1969)

Yes, I'm going with the Aretha version and not the Beatles.  Perhaps it's because a woman can find the fight in Eleanor Rigby, a woman who hasn't always wanted to put her face in a jar.  Franklin's ode to the lonely finds solace in her booming voice, but she doesn't reprieve us-she's angry that there's loneliness in the world, but the song ends with it still lingering in the air.

And there you have it-what's your favorite song from the Queen of Soul?  We hit our halfway marker tomorrow-have you been enjoying so far?  What songs are you hoping will be there in the top 100?  Share in the comments!

If you've missed any of the past installments, go ahead and click: Part 123456, 7, 8

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