My friend recently posted her top ten favorite songs of all time and challenged me to post mine as well. My first thought was impossible…too many to narrow it down. There can be so many reasons why a song resonates with us, moving us in an almost otherworldly sense and suddenly your reaction to it seems personal. Of course all art is by nature subjective and the reasons why you love a song or any work of art can be as varied and inexplicable as the reasons why someone else dislikes it.
So I thought about the songs that had never fallen out of favor with me, ones that for one reason or another moved me, and then as it turned out, narrowing it down to ten wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. So here they are, the top ten favorite songs of my life – and some of the reasons why they made the cut.
The Sad Café – Eagles
Written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh & J.D. Souther
The Long Run ©1979
“I don’t know why fortune smiles on some and lets the rest go free”
Don Henley has a way with words and it’s certainly fair to give him the title of poet. I think he’s incapable of writing anything without depth. There are a lot of Eagles songs that I love but this one is so off the charts good and one that most people say they don’t know. If you don’t know this one, you really should. The lyrics are about hanging out at a LA café with friends (other artists) trying to break in to the music industry and about trying to reconcile his fame, with other’s obscurity.
South City Midnight Lady – The Doobie Brothers
Written by: Patrick Simmons
From: The Captain & Me ©1973
“South City Midnight Lady, I’m much obliged indeed, you sure have saved this man whose soul was in need”
The same thing holds for this song, often people tell me they’ve never heard it, but it’s in my top two of all time. This is a beautiful song. In our house growing up, the Eagles and Doobies were a big deal. My brother could listen to the songs and just start playing them on the guitar and my mom and I sang harmony. Everyone in our house liked them and their music helped make the Saturday family house cleaning go much faster.
Back in the Saddle – Aerosmith
Written by: Steven Tyler & Joe Perry ©1976
From: Rocks ©1976
“I’m calling all the shots tonight, I’m like a loaded gun”
Along with R & B, Detroit likes to rock – they don’t call it ‘Detroit Rock City’ for nothing. Detroit was one of the first cities to give Aerosmith love. Aero played their first big show, (80 thousand) at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. This was my favorite song at seventeen – I used to blast it in my car on an 8-Track of “Rocks”. Okay, so Steven Tyler isn’t very poetic when it comes to lyrics, deep they’re not, (unless we’re speaking of double entendres) but I do know this, Steven and Joe can write music that make you feel something. If this song can’t make you feel something, it’s quite possible you may have stopped breathing. Although I didn’t put “Walk this Way” on the list, that’s another song that I listened to a lot when I was a young girl, thinking I was cool with my arm bracelet and platform sandals. I remember very clearly that listening to it made me feel grown up, even if I was too young to know exactly why.
Written by: Eric Clapton
From: Unplugged ©1992
“I was born with a raging thirst, a hunger to be free “
I love Eric Clapton for his bluesy ways. Every great guitarist has their own style and I think Eric’s guitar always sounds like an old friend, comfortable and just plain good. I listen to this over and over – never tiring of it. The song is about a man who knows he’s trouble and tries to warn off his new love.
Harvest for the World – The Isley Brothers
Written by: (R. Isley, O. Isley, R. Isley, E. Isley, M. Isley, C. Jasper) ©1976
From: Harvest for the World ©1976
“When will there be a harvest for the world?”
If you grew up anywhere near Detroit in the sixties, you loved Motown. R&B is still my first choice and I have fond memories of those years. You heard the Temps, Tops, Ojays, Stylistics, Barry White, Sly & the Family Stone, Spinners….and of course, those talented Isley Brothers. This song makes me feel good – plain and simple. The lyrics are a simple hope for everyone in the world to have their needs met and to be happy. Idealistic, yeah sure, but it’s still a nice thought. I can remember hearing “That Lady” in the early seventies, while my family and I were driving on a summer afternoon, in our station-wagon – R & B was what you heard on CKLW Detroit at that time, all the time.
You’re the first, the last, my everything – Barry White
Written by: B. White, T. Sepe, P.S. Radcliffe 1974
From: Can’t get enough ©1974
“My first, my last, my everything and the answer to all my dreams, you’re my moon, my sun, my guiding star, my kind of wonderful, that’s what you are”
This is a great song and oh that deep, sexy voice of Barry White. My memory of this song is from hearing it on the radio and just loving it and then watching Soul Train and being somewhat surprised at the physical version of the guy attached to that voice. Even so, he was one smooth, sexy singer.
You bring me joy – Anita Baker
Written by: David Lasley ©1980
From: Rapture ©1986
“You bring me joy, when I’m down, so much joy, when I lose my way your love comes smiling on me”
This could be said about Anita’s voice – it brings me joy. I have seen Anita twice; once at the Fox Theatre in Detroit and as amazing as her voice sounds on a CD, trust me when I say it can’t be compared with hearing that magnificent voice in the same room. She is a tireless performer and at the end of the evening she lets you choose from 3 songs, which one you want her to sing last and both times it was overwhelmingly the audience choice. When she gets ready to sing it, you could hear a pin drop in anticipation. It is one of the best concert moments of my life, next to hearing James Galway, the great flutist, play “Danny Boy” at the Detroit Opera house.
For the love of you – The Isley Brothers
Written by: (R. Isley, O. Isley, R. Isley, E. Isley, M. Isley, C. Jasper) ©1975
From: The Heat is On ©1975
“Drifting on a memory, ain’t no other place I’d rather be than with you, loving you “
Sexy, sultry and romantic all rolled into one – a great groove. A true classic. Jude Law romanced Nia Long in the remake of “Alfie” to this tune and they ended up on a pool table…need I say more?
Old Love – Eric Clapton
Written by: Eric Clapton & Robert Cray ©1989
From: Journeyman ©1989
“ I can feel your body, when I’m lying in my bed, there’s too much confusion, going round through my head“
This is one of those songs that you can listen to twenty times in succession and never get tired of. I like Robert Cray as well and I can hear his influence on it. This is another song about Patti Boyd (Harrison-Clapton) the muse to two very talented men. He drove Patti away and then regretted it – the song says it all.
Same Old Song & Dance – Aerosmith
Written by: Steven Tyler & Joe Perry ©1974
From: Get Your Wings ©1974
“Say love ain’t the same on the south side of town, you could look but you ain’t gonna find it around.”
“It’s the same old story, same old song & dance my friend”
This one has it all, a bluesy, sexy riff, with a pounding beat and throbbing bass from start to finish. Aerosmith has consistently written one great song after another – right out of the gate. This was another one that I listened to a lot in high school and still do. Some of the best combinations in life turn out to be the unruly, tension fueled, passionate ones and Steven & Joe have lived that theory out, writing amazing songs with unforgettable riffs & lyrics and managing to keep it together for over forty years. Even when I’m eighty, this one will remain on the list.