I don't believe in "best of" lists. I avoid top ten albums of the year lists and any discussion of who is the greatest guitar player, songwriter, singer, etc. To me, it's all just a waste of time. I'd rather talk about who is simply a good musician or songwriter. "Best of" or "the greatest" are all too subjective. It's not like we're talking about football teams.
Now, after saying that, I'd like to list 10 songs I wish I had written. Of course, there are at least one hundred songs I wished I had written but these 10 are usually the first to come to mind.
1) EL PASO written by MARTY ROBBINS. The first song I remember hearing. The first song that completely sucked me in with it's imagery, story, sound, etc., My mother bought this record for me when I was 4 or 5 years old and I loved it so much that I taught myself how to operate the record player just so I could play it again and again. Marty Robbins wrote some great songs (MAN WALKS AMONG US is another favorite of mine) but this is THE ONE for me. If you ever get a chance to hear Rick Shea and Chris Gaffney sing this together you're in for a wonderful treat.
2) MEMPHIS written by CHUCK BERRY. Another song I remember vividly from childhood and another amazing narrative masterpiece Not a wasted word. How can you top, "my uncle took the number and he wrote it on the wall?" And the twist at the end, even though we've all gotten used to it and know what's coming, it still gets me just about every time. Chuck Berry wrote several classics but if had only written this one he'd still be one of the greats.
3) PEOPLE GET READY written by CURTIS MAYFIELD. Curtis was one of the most soulful, prolific, meaningful songwriters ever but this song, well, it sounds like a song God would've written. When I heard this song for the first time, somewhere back in the fog of childhood, I wasn't aware enough to know exactly what he was talking about but I started crying in the backseat of my parents car. That's what a great song is supposed to do.
4) WEST TEXAS WOMAN BLUES written by Whistlin' Alex Moore. I first heard this when I was 13 and the song's direct and simple blues poetry moved me even though the very adult subject matter was well out of my realm of experience at that time. Over the years it's accurate and honest narrative still gets me. I covered this on KING OF CALIFORNIA as EAST TEXAS BLUES because it reminded me of someone I used to know somewhere in east Texas.
5) BLUE WING written by TOM RUSSELL. Tom has written many songs I'd wished I'd written but this one . . . well, songs don't get any better than BLUE WING.
6) NO TIME TO CRY written by IRIS DEMENT. Made me cry the first time I heard it. It's still hard to listen to without getting choked up. Iris hit the nail on the head with this one.
7) PLEASE SEND ME SOMEONE TO LOVE written by PERCY MAYFIELD. Maybe the best mixture of social comment and personal heartache. They don't call Percy the "poet laureate of the blues" for nothing.
8) KERN RIVER written by MERLE HAGGARD. My favorite "California" song by one of the best California songwriters.
9) SHENANDOAH written by ANONYMOUS. Somebody wrote this somewhere sometime. Whoever did write it was one hell of a songwriter. Despite the fact that it's been taken for granted and shoved down school kids throats and abused by mawkish, sentimental Muzak arrangements, it remains one of the greatest songs this country has produced.
10) WHY DON'T YOU WRITE ME written by LAURA HOLLINS. Recorded by the west coast r+b vocal group, THE JACKS, back in the mid-50's, this is . . . well, let's just say it's a sentimental favorite.
Now, here's an INCOMPLETE list of songwriters and songs that have influenced me directly as a songwriter. Songs that have inspired me to write or made me want to quit writing because they were too good. Songs that have made me order another beer or call old friends in the middle of the night or sing to myself while driving or drop some quarters into a jukebox or get up the nerve to ask somebody to dance or gotten me pissed off at the sad state of the universe or made me laugh at the sad state of the universe or brought tears to my eyes or gotten me out of bed in the morning or put me back into bed at night. (My sincere apologies to anyone I may have left out. Also, this doesn't include any public domain folk songs, standards, world music, etc. Another list, another time.)
WOODY GUTHRIE - DEPORTEE and PRETTY BOY FLOYD BIG JOE TURNER - TV MAMA TERRY ALLEN - GIMME A RIDE TO HEAVEN MOSE ALLISON - EVER SINCE THE WORLD ENDED and EVERYBODY CRYING MERCY SKIP JAMES - HARD TIMES KILLING FLOOR BLUES and DEVIL GOT MY WOMAN HANK WILLIAMS - COLD COLD HEART SAM COOKE - A CHANGE IS GONNA COME and SOOTHE ME STEVE YOUNG - SEVEN BRIDGES ROAD and LONESOME, ON'RY AND MEAN ROBERT JOHNSON - COME ON IN MY KITCHEN JERRY LEIBER AND MIKE STOLLER - RIOT IN CELL BLOCK NO.9 WAYNE CARSON - DRINKIN' THING and I SEE THE WANT TO IN YOUR EYES FRED NEIL - I'VE GOT A SECRET (DIDN'T WE SHAKE SUGAREE) and EVERYBODY'S TALKING BIG BILL BROONZY - JUST A DREAM and ALL BY MYSELF BOB DYLAN - YOU'RE A BIG GIRL NOW, DOWN IN THE FLOOD and I SHALL BE RELEASED WILLIE DIXON- THE SAME THING, BRING IT ON HOME and I'M READY DAN PENN and SPOONER OLDHAM - DARK END OF THE STREET and I'M YOUR PUPPET JESSIE BELVIN - GOODNIGHT MY LOVE RANDY NEWMAN - SAIL AWAY and MARIE MEMPHIS MINNIE - NOTHING IN RAMBLING and ME AND MY CHAUFFER BILLY JOE SHAVER - IF I GIVE MY SOUL and YOU ASKED ME TO BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - MANSION ON THE HILL JERRY MILLER - 805 RICHARD BERRY - HAVE LOVE WILL TRAVEL and I'M BEWILDERED TOM WAITS - OLD 55 and SAN DIEGO SERENADE BO DIDDLEY - MONA RICHARD THOMPSON - VINCENT BLACK LIGHTNING JIM RINGER - TRAMPS AND HAWKERS and RACHEL JIMMY REED - HONEST I DO MICHAEL SMITH - THE DUTCHMAN CARL PERKINS - HONEY DON'T LUCILLE BOGAN - SLOPPY DRUNK BLUES JOHN STEWART - CALIFORNIA BLOODLINES and JULY, YOU'RE A WOMAN DAVID OLNEY - ANOTHER PLACE ANOTHER TIME and JERUSALEM TOMORROW LEROY CARR - PAPA'S ON THE HOUSETOP and HOW LONG BLUES BUTCH HANCOCK - BOXCARS LOWMAN PAULING - THINK and DON'T LET IT BE IN VAIN DOC POMUS and MORT SCHUMAN - SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME GUY CLARK - DUBLIN BLUES and COAT FROM THE COLD BILL MORRISSEY - INSIDE BLIND WILLIE MCTELL - BROKE DOWN ENGINE TIM HARDIN - DON'T MAKE PROMISES JOHN HIATT - CROSSING MUDDY WATERS BIG MACEO MERRIWEATHER - WORRIED LIFE BLUES ROBBIE FULKS - I PUSH RIGHT OVER and THE BANGLE GIRL HARLAN HOWARD - HEARTACHES FOR A DIME and PICK ME UP ON YOUR WAY DOWN STEVE GOODMAN - CITY OF NEW ORLEANS TAMPA RED - IT MURTS ME TOO KATY MOFFAT and TOM RUSSELL - WALKING ON THE MOON ROBERT WILKINS - I'LL GO WITH HER and THAT'S NO WAY TO GET ALONG ROSIE FLORES and LEROY PRESTON - WEST TEXAS PLAINS MICKEY NEWBERRY - MOBILE BLUE CHRIS SMITHER - LINK OF CHAIN LEON PAYNE - LOST HIGHWAY and THEY'LL NEVER TAKE HER LOVE FROM ME DOUG SHAM - MENDOCINO and DYNAMITE WOMAN OTIS REDDING and STEVE CROPPER - DOCK OF THE BAY and OLD MAN TROUBLE WYNN STEWART - WISHFUL THINKING NICK LOWE - WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING JUNIOR PARKER - MYSTERY TRAIN B BRADDOCK and C PUTNAM - HE STOPPED LOVING HER TODAY CHARLIE PATTON - TOM RUSHEN BLUES PETER CASE - ON THE WAY DOWNTOWN ROLY SALLEY - KILLING THE BLUES KATE WOLF - HERE IN CALIFORNIA and THE TIMES WE'RE LIVING IN BILLY MIZE - WHO'LL BUY THE WINE BRIAN WILSON - IN MY ROOM MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT - LOUIS COLLINS and RICHLAND WOMAN BLUES HANK BALLARD - SEXY WAYS, WORK WITH ME ANNIE JOHN DOE AND EXENE CERVENKA - THE NEW WORLD OTIS BLACKWELL - DON'T BE CRUEL CHARLIE RICH - FEEL LIKE GOING HOME J.B. LENOIR - DOWN IN MISSISSIPPI, FEELIN'GOOD and EISENHOWER BLUES WILLIE NELSON - AIN'T IT FUNNY HOW TIME SLIPS AWAY JOHN PRINE - SAM STONE PHIL OCHS - THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE C TAYLOR and G RICHEY - THE GRAND TOUR THE WIERDOS - WE'VE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB SLEEPY JOHN ESTES - DROP DOWN MAMA LUCINDA WILLIAMS - LITTLE ANGEL LITTLE BROTHER DAVID HIDALGO and LOUIE PEREZ - WILL THE WOLF SURVIVE FRANKIE LEE SIMMS - WHAT WILL LUCY DO KRIS KRISTOFFERSON - SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN REV. THOMAS DORSEY aka GEORGIA TOM - IF YOU SEE MY SAVIOR and TIGHT LIKE THAT MUDDY WATERS - TWO TRAINS RUNNING WARREN ZEVON - CARMELITA
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Last Modified: 04Nov02
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