Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rolling Stone Magazine Names 5 Greatest Songs of All Time

*** Rolling Stone Magazines choice for the 5 Best Songs of All Time with music videos.

Photo by Jsome1 @ flickr

From Denny: What to start a fight with all your friends and folks at the office? Ask them to name the five best songs of all time and it will end up a knock-down drag out for sure! :)

Rolling Stone Magazine thought they would get into the fray by listing the top 500 songs of all time in their collector's edition, drawing heavily on the 60's and 70's music. In this video clip The Early Show host Harry Smith and Rolling Stone contributing editor Alan Light argue over the best picks.

Rolling Stone came up with the best picks based on results of two polls. One poll in 2004 they asked a panel of 162 artists, producers, industry execs and music journalists to pick their choices for greatest songs of all time. Last year they asked another similar group of 100 to pick the best songs of the 2000 decade.

Coming in at number 5: "Respect," by Aretha Franklin

Hard to believe it after hearing Aretha sing it for so long we all grew up on it but it was originally written and recorded first by Otis Redding for the Volt label back in 1965. Aretha made the song her own when she recorded it at Atlantic's New York studio on Valentine's Day in 1967. It was her first number one hit and the single that crowned her Queen of Soul.

When Otis sang it he called for equal favor with a passionate force. But Aretha, well, she wasn't asking for anything. She definitely sang from higher ground. She demanded an end to the exhausted wife syndrome of constant sacrifice, always getting the raw end of the deal. Aretha sang it with all scathing attitude and scorching sexual authority. Basically, "Baby, if you want it you will have to earn it now."

Music Videos: Aretha Franklin - Respect, No. 5 Best Song of All Time

Coming in at number 4: "What's Going On," by Marvin Gaye

What's special about this song is that it's an eloquent plea for Peace on Earth. Gaye sung it while he was in crisis after the loss of his duet partner Tammi Terrell. She died the same year, 1970, of a brain tumor after a devastating three-year battle.

Gaye was also trapped in a turbulent marriage to Anna Gordy, the sister to his Motown boss, Berry Gordy. Marvin was Motown label's top male vocalist yet he didn't like the assembly line role he played on his own hits.

Marvin definitely had complicated relationships in his life and was in need of peace. His relationship with his puritanical father, Marvin, Sr., was not good either. "If I was arguing for peace," Gaye told biographer David Ritz, "I knew I'd have to find peace in my heart."

It was not long after Terrell's passing that Renaldo Benson of the Four Tops came to Marvin with a song he had written in collaberation with Motown staffer Mo Cleveland. Marvin saw more into the song and oversaw the arrangement. He included topical references to war and racial strife using his own private anguish as fuel for the passion in his singing. The Motown session crew, Funk Brothers, cut this jazz inflected rhythm track. Marvin thought of his own family when he sung the song. He sang it as a prayer to his younger brother, Frankie, a Vietnam veteran in the lyrics of ""Brother, brother, brother/There's far too many of you dying." Marvin also appealed for calm in his home life with the lyrics "Father, father, father/We don't need to escalate."

Can you believe it that this awesome Peace song for desiring peace in the world and peace in our families was rejected as uncommercial? It was a wonderful studio achievement and a powerful song gift of healing to the world. Sadly, Peace never came in his own private world that he so desperately craved. Marvin got into a family dispute and was shot dead by his own father on 1 April 1984.

Music Video: Marvin Gaye - Whats Going On, No. 4 Best Song of All Time

Coming in at number 3: "Imagine," by John Lennon

The song "Imagine" was written one early morning in his bedroom at Tittenhurst Park, John Lennon's estate in Ascot, England. He sat down at the white piano and almost completed the song in one burst of inspiration. That now iconic white piano has become familiar to us all from films and photos of the sessions for his Imagine album. It's a serene and lingering melody with a pillowy chord progression. The lyrics are simple, graceful and full of faith in the power of the world inside us, united in a common purpose to heal and change the world.

"It's not like he thought, 'Oh, this can be an anthem,'" his wife Yoko Ono said, looking back at that morning 30 years later. "Imagine" was "just what John believed: that we are all one country, one world, one people; He wanted to get that idea out."

Music Video: John Lennon - Imagine, No. 3 Best Song of All Time

Coming in at number 2: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," by The Rolling Stones

"It's the riff heard round the world," says Steve Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band. "And it's one of the earliest examples of Dylan influencing the Stones and the Beatles - the degree of cynicism, and the idea of bringing more personal lyrics form the fold and blues tradition into popular music."

The now famous guitar riff was said by Keith Richards to come to him in a dream back in May 1965. He was on a Rolling Stones tour in a motel room in Clearwater, Florida. It was one of those artistic sudden moments of inspiration when he grabbed his guitar and a cassette recorder. He played the run of notes once, then fell back to sleep. "On the tape," he said later, "you can hear me drop the pick, and the rest is snoring."

What was so special about this innovative riff, other than opening and totally defining the Satisfaction song, is that it took current early rock and roll and delivered it into the harder rock genre. Early rock was often defined by sappy puppy love or a rickety jump rhythm. This riff changed all that because this was primal and more raw. What is familiar to us now was innovative and shocking back then: Richards played this primal riff through a Gibson Fuzz Box, Mick Jagger was sneering and dismissive while he sang his lyrics, the rhythm guitarist Brian Jones was proudly strutting on stage along with bassist Bill Wyman while drummer Charlie Watts set the strong beat. Definitely, this new sound was the primal scream of a generation eager to take their place in the world and by storm.

Music Video: The Rolling Stones - Satisfaction, No. 2 Best Song of All Time

And coming in at number 1: "Like a Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan

"I wrote it. I didn't fail. It was straight," Bob Dylan declared after he recorded it in June 1965. He just knew it would be his greatest song. "Like a Rolling Stone" was revolutionary both in design and execution. Dylan was only 24 when he wrote it.

Reflecting years later is Al Kooper, who played organ on the session, "There was no sheet music. It was totally by ear. And it was totally disorganized, totally punk. It just happened."

Of course, like many hit songs, when they rose to the top it was because they were new and exciting, unprecedented in some way. Dylan's language was impressionist, speaking via intensely personal accusation, something not done before in commercial music. Kooper's garage-garbage organ shocked with this apocalyptic charge. And Mike Bloomfield's "stiletto-sharp spirals" howling from his Telecaster guitar were defiant in the six minute long master take. For the time, there had been no pop song that so challenged the commercial limits and actually transformed the artistry of the time.

Music Video: Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone, No. 1 Best Song of All Time

Inspiration comes in bursts for most musicians and artists. Dylan was no different. When he wrote down the verse for this song, as long as 20 pages by one account, he said, "Just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred, directed at some point that was honest." During the course of another three days back home in Woodstock, New York, he tightened up the lyrics. He crafted a confrontational chorus breathing a piercing metaphor of concise truth. "The first two lines, which rhymed "kiddin' you' and 'didn't you,' just about knocked me out," Dylan remembers of the write when he talked in interview with Rolling Stone in 1988, "and when I got to the jugglers and the chrome horse and the princess on the steeple, it all just about got to be too much."

The song further developed as seen in the documentary from D. A. Pennebaker called "Don't Look Back." In an offstage moment with sidekick Bob Neuwirth, Dylan sings a verse from Hank William's song "Lost Highway" of the lyrics "I'm a rolling stone, I'm alone and lost/For a life of sin I've paid the cost." Dylan plays a set of chords that later transformed into the melodic bass for his hit song. Dylan later remarked that the progression really was a chip off of Ritchie Valens' song "La Bamba."

Dylan gave voice to his generation, an angry yet electrifying voice. He morphed the traditional folk music from America's 1930's, bending it to his strong will, intensifying the content of what a song could say. When he finished the song he knew it was to be his best ever. And, by many accounts, "Like a Rolling Stone," is the best song of all time.

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