So, What Are Your Ten Best Songs of All Time?

  • Share
  • Read Later
It sounds like something out of "High Fidelity": What are the 10 best songs of all time? But a panel of 20 songwriting legends, including Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jerry Leiber and Hal David, were brave enough to answer that hopelessly subjective question for the British music magazine Mojo, and the results range from predictable to surprising to vaguely unsatisfying.

Perhaps most unexpected is the appearance in the top slot of a song that not only was not a hit, but has rarely if ever been covered by anyone else: The John Lennon autobiographical reverie "In My Life," from the Beatles' "Rubber Soul," widely considered to be one of the Fab Four's first forays beyond standard boy-girl preoccupations. As if to counterbalance Lennon's contribution, "Here, There and Everywhere" comes in at number four, its killer modulation a reminder that as the two composers diverged (in spite of the pro forma "Lennon/McCartney" credit), McCartney did more than just hold his own, and was probably the superior melodist.

The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," a perennial chart-topper in lists of this sort, placed second, a testament to the enduring appeal of a monster riff attached to a slurred lyric that manages to be youthful and world-weary at the same time — a three-minute "Catcher in the Rye" for its generation and all those that followed.

Although heavily skewed to the soundtrack of the baby-boom generation, the poll was not confined to rock 'n' roll, thus "Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz" and "Strange Fruit," popularized by Billie Holiday, weigh in at number 3 and 7, respectively. Like most of the songs on the list, these are cultural phenomena as much as songs, and this applies as well to Motown and Bob Dylan, represented on the list by Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks of My Tears' (5) and Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" (6).

But the remaining tunes seem a bit haphazard, none more so than Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" (8). It's the only song from the past 30 years, and considering the chronological proximity of the selections, one wonders if it doesn't reflect a token vote from a panel with an apparent generational disconnect from post-'60s genres. Maybe it'll take a few years to see the likes of Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello, Prince, Andy Partridge, Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Kurt Cobain and Bruce Springsteen, not to mention Dr. Dre or KRS-One.

Perhaps more surprising is the dearth of jazz and show tunes (no Cole Porter, Gershwin, Irving Berlin or Richard Rodgers) and the categorical dismissal of country music. Instead, "People Get Ready" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" round out the list — worthy songs, doubtless, but perhaps more representative of limited common ground in a poll of 20 participants than of true greatness. Then again, as the man suggested, satisfaction is hard to come by.

The Mojo top 10, with the artists who made the songs famous:

1. In My Life — The Beatles
2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction — Rolling Stones
3. Over The Rainbow — Judy Garland
4. Here, There And Everywhere — The Beatles
5. Tracks of My Tears — The Miracles
6. The Times, They Are A-Changing — Bob Dylan
7. Strange Fruit — Billie Holliday
8. I Can't Make You Love Me — Bonnie Raitt
9. People Get Ready — The Impressions
10. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' — The Righteous Brothers

Name Those Tunes

OK, music fans, which songs do you think should be the Top 10 of all time? Herewith, TIME Daily's Jonathan Gregg seeds the cloud; please send us your list for posting on the site:

Jonathan Gregg's top-of-his-head 10:

1. If I Fell (Lennon/McCartney)
2. Here, There and Everywhere (Lennon/McCartney)
3. Satisfaction (Jagger/Richard)
4. Like a Rolling Stone (Dylan)
5. I Hear a Symphony (Holland/Dozier/Holland)
6. More I Cannot Wish You (Frank Loesser)
7. Fourth of July (Aimee Mann)
8. Waterloo Sunset (Ray Davies)
9. The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields)
10. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams)