Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Top 200 Favorite Songs, Part 19

(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 think if you're not an idiot your parents' tastes in music begin to form a lot of your own, likely from an early age.  I never really went through that phase where you rebel against what your parents tastes in the arts were.  I don't know if it's because my parents didn't teach me to think that way (that what is old is inherently bad) or if I was self-aware enough to know this, but art is art is art, and good songs are good songs are good songs, regardless of whether they're older or newer.  As a result, my mom's love of Carole King's Tapestry got to me pretty quickly at a young age.  In fact, I will admit right now that the two CD's that I ended up stealing from my mom were Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard and Carole King's Tapestry.  There was something about this troubadour who had a marvelous voice but an even more impressive prowess with her songwriting skills that absolutely moved me to no end.  I frequently would listen to the entire CD in order, and it was one of the earliest CD's where I memorized every word.  It was also one of the first things I remember conversing with one of my parents about as an adult.  We would compare what our favorite songs on the album were (my mom's was "Tapestry," mine you'll see in a minute), and I would learn about my mom's tastes in music as a teenager, and slowly I began to see both my parents less as people that made the rules and more as people I aspired to be like.  I speak with so many people my age who call their parents their heroes, but they don't know real things about them-they are more abstract ideals, but thanks to singers like Carole King, I got a more accurate tapestry of rich and royal hue of what they are like as people, and for that I am forever grateful.

20. "Crying," Roy Orbison (1961)

Roy Orbison's falsetto is a National Treasure of pop music.  This song, which goes in the long history of crescendo-style songs that I adore in this countdown is wonderfully-sad, a song about a man trying to get over a breakup and tying to hide his pain, where it becomes glorious is in the end, when the man in the black sunglasses hits impossibly high notes to the point where you just can't imagine any human male could get that high...and yet he kept going there for decades afterwards.

19. "Both Sides Now," Joni Mitchell (1969)

The first time I heard this song was Mitchell's wonderfully-lush 2000 version of the song, where her voice was deeper.  Many people tend to prefer this version, and it is indeed the version that plays on my iTunes playlist, but I wanted to celebrate the original in this countdown, because Joni Mitchell's angelic voice can do no wrong regardless of the era, and because there's a different kind of hope in this song that turns to weariness years later.

18. "Home Again," Carole King (1971)

"I won't be happy til I see you alone again, til I'm home again and feeling right."  Carole King's song can be taken literally, a way that we have to travel home to feel at peace, and that there's a certain sort of comfort that you can get from returning to your roots, but I've always liked the idea that home was a person, someone that creates a beacon for you when you can't find settlement.

17. "Come Away with Me," Norah Jones (2002)

It's hard to believe that when her original album came out it was "Don't Know Why" and not "Come Away With Me" that was constantly on the radio.  The song, with its lackadaisical approach to the piano and instruments, with Jones making a sweet plea to a lover with an offer impossible to resist has rightfully claimed its position as her signature tune.  I saw her perform this live once, and was just blown out of the water-those vocals are unmatched.

16. "White Rabbit," Jefferson Airplane (1969)

The ultimate crescendo song.  Grace Slick's specific vocals, peaking through that strumming bass guitar, is spellbinding.  You can see not only the drug references going on, but the literary allusions to Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass.  It doesn't matter that in the book the Dormouse never said "feed your head"-when Slick sang it, you believed it.

15. "Always on My Mind," Willie Nelson (1982)

Brenda Lee originated it.  Elvis Presley made it famous.  Willie Nelson, with his sparing, soft vocals and interpretation as a man completely devastated by regrets for the only woman he would ever love who is now gone, made it immortal.

14. "Easy Silence," The Dixie Chicks (2006)

I was listening to this song the first time I ever realized I was in love with a guy, when it dawned on me that the lyrics were describing not just an abstract person like they always had, but a specific man in my life.  Years later, I listen to this song, which I would play on loop for years after I had that realization, with the memory of one of the most vital moments of my life.  "Breathe in, sanctuary."

13. "Girl from the North Country," Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan (1969)

The only time in this entire countdown that I'm going to cheat and put in two videos.  This is partially because there's no great video of Dylan with Cash performing (hence you get the best scene in Silver Linings Playbook above), and partially because I never can tell if this is a better song when sung with two men (where they are both pining for the same woman) or between a man and a woman (pining for each other).  Either way, it's beautiful in both renditions, so please give both a try.

12. "Let It Be," The Beatles (1970)

How do you pick a favorite song by The Beatles?  You need it to be lyrically dramatic, something that shows off their near poetic stylings.  You likely need Paul on the vocals (let's be honest here).  And you need it to be a call for something greater than just romantic love.  As a result, there's no choice but to just let it be.

11. "Coat of Many Colors," Dolly Parton (1971)

The only song ever written that makes me cry literally every time I hear it.  Obviously the most personal song in Parton's arsenal, the song about being picked on as a little girl who couldn't see bigotry until it was pointed out by those on the playground, it's a wonderful metaphor for how we all can handle moments of shame and turn them into moments of pride.

And there we are-tomorrow comes the Top 10, but in the meantime what do you think of this set?  Do you also find that you know so much from your parents as a result of their musical tastes?  Do you have a favorite song on the Tapestry album?  Share your thoughts below!

If you've missed any of the past installments, go ahead and click: Part 1234567891011121314151617, 18

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