Monday, May 11, 2009

Tag! You're It! My Favorite Songs...

An Essential Vertical Man repost: nancytoby tagged me to list my favorite songs, but I should provide a bit of background before I do. I grew up in a very musical household; both of my parents had advanced degrees in music. My father taught and made violins, conducted an orchestra and wrote music. My mother, though an elementary school teacher, also taught piano and organ.

Thus I grew up in a household where music was not simply aural wallpaper, but something that was taken seriously, listened to, discussed and revered. When music was playing you were supposed to keep quiet, pay attention and have an opinion.

All of this is by way of saying that this 'tag' is darn difficult for me. My musical tastes are expansive, eclectic and ever-changing (sometimes to my family's chagrin.) Today's list is different from yesterday's, and tomorrow's will be different still. But, here goes:

  • 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking' by the Rolling Stones (from 'Sticky Fingers') From a time when the world's best rhythm section drove the world's best band.
  • 'Into the Mystic' by Van Morrison. (from 'Moondance.') Hard to choose just one from Van the Man.
  • 'The 4 Last Songs' of Richard Strauss (with Lucia Popp, soprano) Tender, wistful, elegiac end-of-life reflections.
  • 'Blue In Green' by Miles Davis (from 'Kind Of Blue.') An extraordinary band and the greatest jazz album ever.
  • 'Heroes' by David Bowie. Exploring that point in everybody's life when dreams wash up on the shores of reality.
  • 'Tell Her This' by Del Amitre An overlooked and underrated Scottish band; a song that brings tears to my eyes.
  • Mahalia Jackson's stunning medley of 'Summertime' (From Porgy & Bess) and 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.' My all-time favorite voice.
  • 'Rock and Roll' by the Velvet Underground. "...saved by rock and roll..."
  • 'Working On a Building' by the Cowboy Junkies (from 'The Trinity Session.') Spare, evocative insights from a band as adept at channeling Lou Reed as they are Patsy Cline.
  • 'I Will Follow' by U2. Early U2, when they were lacerating, visceral and a band with something to say.
  • Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 Op. 92 A Major. Precise, emotional, propulsive.
  • K.D. Lang's gorgeous version of Leonard Cohen's 'Bird On A Wire.' (from 'Hymns of the 49th Parallel.') An aching lament.
  • 'Inner City Blues' by Marvin Gaye. Haunting and broken. Goosebump time.

I'll spare you longer expositions on why these made the list, though it suffices to say they're there for uniquely personal reasons, not because they might be included in some critic's "Top 100 songs of the Century." Each touches me in important ways, sparks powerful emotions or gives me new perspectives. 'nuff said.


Alicia said...

I love Del Amitri! My roommate in college introduced me to their music and I've been hooked every since. Spit in the Rain is one of my farvorites.

Vertical Man said...

I agree! The Rock and Roll Gods need to conspire to give them a boost over all the other, less-deserving bands.

Spokane Al said...

Your list is terrific. Can you Hear me Knocking is one of my favorites too, although I tend to experience a touch of disappointment each time I hear the band transition from the great, gutsy Rolling Stones riffs into Santana.