HEY ROLLING STONE…

Wine, women and song…(finish that phrase as you will)

These three things have always been thought of as great characteristics of a very good life. All three add immeasurable amounts of joy and pleasure. And while none of them may contribute to your overall character, your standing as a person, they do add a dimension to a life that distinguishes it from a boring existence.

You know, I heard a few days ago about Rolling Stone Magazine publishing the 500 greatest songs of all time. Gotta say though that I have some questions and many, many disagreements. Maybe it is just one of the many signs of my advanced age, but I can remember when this magazine was highly respected and widely read. Not sure that is the case anymore as I haven’t read it, or even thought about it in quite a few years now.

Be that as it may, great music is great music which stands the test of time, sounds good on vinyl, tape or CD, and passes from one generation to the more knowledgeable of the next one. Looking at this list though, I really don’t see a whole lot that stands up to just that bit of scrutiny. Now I know that each generation has its own idea of greatness, its own standards and norms, but in my mind, good is good and mediocre is just that and deserves a fast, passing glance and a swift toss into the “round file,” if you get my drift. So, it is with this in mind that I am posting the five greatest songs produced in this country. This is my list but it comes with a whole lot of experience and hours of listening, singing and enjoying music that is written with pride and purpose. So…Here we go

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Ray Charles

#1 GEORGIA ON MY MIND

Originally written and recorded by Hoagy Carmichael in 1930, this classic is normally associated more closely with the late, great Ray Charles. I chose this song as number 1 because it is really the perfect song. If you have a stereo player, put on this record and slide the BALANCE control all the way to the left. Listen only to the background music. What you hear is simply a beautiful melody featuring violinists who really knew what they were doing. Just beautiful notes and chords played perfectly. Now, take that same BALANCE button and slide it all the way to the right. Listen to Ray Charles’ voice. Hear the passion, the love and the conviction in every word and phrase. Ray never had the best voice around, but for this song, his was perfect. No other word can describe it. Just sit back, listen to the entire recording and feel yourself ease into the music and be consumed by its beauty. No one could paint a better picture or tell a better story. No one could describe the longing that this song conveys. This is truly a work of art.

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Bobby Darin

#2 MACK THE KNIFE

Technically, this is not a true American song as it originated in the THREEPENNY OPERA and was first sung in 1928. Over the years though it has been associated with another late, great artist, Bobby Darin, who by the way, left us much too soon. Written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, this is a brief story of a murderer, Mackie Messer. It was performed over the years as the opening and closing numbers of the opera and was jazzed up a little for Darin’s recording in 1959. Once again the listener is treated to words and melody that are unmatched since. A backup orchestra gives such a push to this song and finishes it off so well that it is actually hard to listen to only once. You almost have to replay it, and I guarantee, you will hear something the second time that you missed the first. Darin’s voice was never better, and if you were fortunate enough to see it live ( he sang it live on the Ed Sullivan Show) you can probably still remember that, and your mother’s reaction to it. Another timeless classic.

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Dinah Washington

#3 WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

This was a Grammy winning song, in 1959 (not a bad year for music) recorded by Dinah Washington. The song was originally written in Spanish in 1934, but was translated and adapted for the Dorsey Brothers in the same year. But it was in 1959, when a young Dinah Washington recorded it and made it a classic. Her voice introduces it and the background music is played very softly and adds to her story. This song is melodic and sung with only love as its driving force. This is a perfectly recorded version of the song, sung only as she could with a heavenly yet sultry voice that shows that she means business. If she was singing this with a man in mind, this was one very lucky man.

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Etta James

#4 AT LAST

The original of this song was written for the Glenn Miller Orchestra and was featured in the 1942 movie, “Orchestra Wives.” In 1960 Rhythm and Blues singer Etta James recorded a slightly updated version of the song and it took until 1999 for this version to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Again, James’ voice introduced the song with a passion that you can feel. The opening phrase, “At last…” introduces her love and leaves no doubt as to where this song is going. I seem to remember years ago that she actually sang this song about her baby, but I haven’t found anything to substantiate this. Nevertheless, her sultry voice gives this song a quality that few others have or can match. It was sung at James’ funeral by Christina Aguilera who hit every note in the scale in the first two words. Another terrific voice, but not a fair comparison to the original.

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b.b. King

#5 THE THRILL IS GONE

No list of musical greatness is complete without mentioning the King of the Blues, Mr. B.B. King. Together with his guitar, Lucille, this song talks of the end of a relationship simply by using the title of the song as the reason. Hey, life goes on. King’s voice is unmistakable and almost eerie as his guitar provides most of the background music, and when it came to guitar players, he had few equals. Sit and listen to the melody and the words and you will treat yourself to the musical equivalent of greatness. King was actually a brilliant man, but when he put these words to music, he achieved an even higher level.

So, there you have it. The list is complete and as far as I am concerned, don’t bother to argue. But I do have to say that while each of these recordings are perfect, they need to be sung only by the original artists. Attempts have been made by other performers, and good ones, but the originals are still the best. Try them and see for yourself. At the very least, you will have close to 30 minutes of absolute musical triumphs, as you revel in the presence of greatness. There are other lists: Best ROCK songs, best FEMALE performances. But that is for another time.

So, there you have it. The list is complete and as far as I am concerned, don’t bother to argue. But I do have to say that while each of these recordings are perfect, they need to be sung only by the original artists. Attempts have been made by other performers, and good ones, but the originals are still the best. Try them and see for yourself. At the very least, you will have close to 30 minutes of absolute musical triumphs, as you revel in the presence of greatness. There are other lists: Best ROCK songs, best FEMALE performances. But that is for another time.

Published by JC home

Retired and loving life in North Carolina. Writing was always an interest, so I decided to give this a try. Former teacher, Wall Street Brokerage Associate and Postmaster for USPS.

4 thoughts on “HEY ROLLING STONE…

  1. Hey, JC!

    Thanks for the invite! I’m sorry I haven’t been around more.

    I’d push a follow button so you’d show up on my reader but I don’t see one? I never leave my email address because I always end up unsubscribing when I get more than an email a month. lol Kinda defeats the purpose, ya know?

    Anywho…

    This blog post is wonderful!

    I agree on your choices … love soulful music!

    I also agree about Rolling Stone. Haven’t read it for years!

    Your writing is very engaging! I’ll be reading more, for sure! I’ll make a point of it!

    Like

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