Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Songs of All Time

Do you ever get so entangled with an idea that you can’t wrap your brain around it enough to convey it as something coherent? And then, as you’re pondering it, it grows, sprouting new, related ideas, like a Hydra that even Hercules (or Percy Jackson) couldn’t tame.

It happens to me with the regulariuty of Old Faithful – ideas simmering beneath the crust of my skull to eventually spout upwards, a huge mess for the world to see. Except, you know, not nearly as impressive as a geyser.

I’ve been pondering, for years now, I’d say, the interconnectedness of language, music, and movement – how they are all forms of communication that weave our human souls together. And one day, hopefully soon, I am going to bring together all these thoughts, all the scribblings scattered through different notebooks, and the bookmarked articles on the internet, and the literary quotes and song lyrics, and put them all together into something coherent and meaningful. I swear, I will.

But not today.

This post is a bit of a tangent, born from my larger ideas about music. This post is pure fun.

In a separate, but slightly related, part of my brain from all these thoughts about language, and connection, and blah, blah, blah, I have been doing another sort of pondering. For several years now, I have been trying to come up with a list of my Top Ten Favorite Songs of All Time.

In an effort to impress Jack Black in High Fidelity, I have really tried to be exclusive with my list. I have tried only to include songs which have stood the test of time, ones that make me pause in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store when I hear them, smile, and go, “ahhh.” Songs that tug at my heart strings.

Still, the list isn’t perfect. I’m sure there are songs I’ve forgotten. It’s a work in progress, as is life. But I thought I'd go ahead and share it with you. To this point, here’s what I’ve got, (in order, yes):

1. BadU2         I don’t even know what to say about this song. Haunting. Passionate. To me, it speaks of trying to let go of an obsession. It’s the battle of the human soul with itself. It makes me crumple inside – but in kind of a good way. It’s the very best from a band which could easily fill out this entire top ten list.

2. Into the MysticVan Morrison            Sometimes this one actually ranks as number one (when I feel a little less haunted). I want my gypsy soul to be rocked. Don’t you?

3. Clare de LuneClaude Debussy           Heart wrenchingly beautiful. I’ll discuss this one at greater length if ever I get around to the topic of motion/movement and expression. With no lyrics, it may not actually qualify as a song, but who cares. It’s my list.

4. ImagineJohn Lennon            I won’t bother analyzing this one for you. Just listen to the lyrics. I love and adore every word. Cliché and idealistic? Maybe. But in my view – perfect.

5. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small TownPearl Jam         The haunting beauty of Eddie Vedder’s voice is part of what makes so many Pearl Jam songs find their way into your soul. This one does it exceptionally well, and touches on the beauty (pain?) of perspective – “I change by not changing at all.”

6. Running to Stand StillU2     It kind of freaks me out that I connect so well with songs about heroin addiction, but maybe it’s just a U2 thing. They used to sing about that a lot. And after all this time, I still love them. A lot.

7. Ramble OnLed Zeppelin       I like a lot of songs in the “rambling” genre, and I like a lot of Led Zeppelin tunes. The combination puts this one on the list, for sure. It rocks, and “My freedom I hold dear.”

8. CocoonJack Johnson             For all the many, many Jack Johnson songs that I adore, it kind of surprises me that this is the one that stands out. I’m not totally sure why. I just know that if it pops up on a playlist, or on Pandora, I always reach out to turn up the volume and sing a passionate, off-key accompaniment.

9.  Girl, I Wanna Lay You DownALO     This is the most recent song on the list, and so I hesitate to say it’s really “stood the test of time” yet. Still, it makes me melt. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with an ALO show I went to several years ago. Have you ever been front row center when Zach Gill sang this song? I have, and I swear to you, he was looking directly at me while he sang. True story! I relive that experience every time I hear this one. So, … yeah.

10. This slot I really just have to leave open. Did you know I’m not great with commitment or closure? I feel like I need to keep this last spot flexible in case the best song ever comes along. Right now it’s a battle between Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams (high school and college memories), Across the Universe – The Beatles (part of the whole language/connection thing – “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup”), and Say Goodbye – Dave Matthews (just indescribably sexy). At the moment, Say Goodbye is in the lead, big time.

So, there you have it. A bit of my heart in music. And now it’s your turn, friends. Please tell me some (or all!) of the songs that would be on your all time top ten list! I'm sure it will make me want to change my list. What makes you turn up the volume, or cry, or dance around the living room like a maniac?


  1. In college I ran to Crosby, Stills and Nash. Then I went through a Cowboy Junkies period. After that, living in Oregon and missing my family, I listened to Paul Simon's Graceland every run, over and over, for a year. Then a long fallow period. Smatterings of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. A couple of winters ago I listened to Zen Mind, Beginners Mind then Anna Karenina (not technically music, but still). Last year I listened to Foo Fighters quite a bit. Love that song Walk. Now I'm enjoying the quiet. Looking for something new to listen to. Always.

  2. Ooh, those are some of my favorite musicians, too! I will always love Joni Mitchell. Always.

    I find that running music is pretty specific. Although I haven't run with music for years, and even when I did, it was infrequent. I don't think any of the songs on my list would be good for running - they're all such downers! Maybe Ramble on, and Zach Gill.

    Some of my favorite bands to see live are bluegrass bands, and that is great running music, believe it or not!

  3. I believe it. For some reason I like to run with mellow music (ie, Cowboy Junkies...). Bon Iver is a band I've also been listening to recently. Running or not running. I have so much noise in my life right now, I don't listen to much. Even NPR is pretty silent these days.

    1. Love Bon Iver. Can't imagine running to it! :)

  4. Damn you for putting this into my head!
    I named my son Van *not* after Van Halen. That old morose Scottish bastard does something to me deeply, you know?
    I'll go with U2's "One."
    Also REM's Find the River. Great stuff. Love REM.
    But numero uno? Gotta be Graceland, off of Paul Simon's Graceland EP. "The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar..."

    1. Eric - :)

      Wow, named your son after Van. Quite a tribute. I totally get it.

  5. Hi Gretchen, great post! It's overwhelming to think of making my own list, but your post made me think of an idea I've had in my head for awhile own blog on thoughts/ideas while running. Not that I have such profound ideas/epiphanies/minutia worth sharing, but maybe for my own journaling and maybe even for others to share. Anyway, cheers from a new reader!

    1. Thanks, Nicole. I had fun with making this list, because it really is something I've been pondering, here and there, for years. Every time I heard a song that I thought might make the list, I made a mental note. Of course, I think I forgot many of those mental notes!

      I think a lot of what I end up blogging about is put together in my head while running, so your idea makes perfect sense to me!

  6. 4 Seasons - Vivaldi
    Little Red Corvette, Do - Prince
    Gimme Shelter, Shattered - Rolling Stones
    Carie, I'm A Radio - Joni Mitchell
    Operator, Don't Mess Around With Jim song - Jim Croce
    If You Could Read My Mind, Ballad of the Edward Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot

    I would be very sad and impoverished feeling in my soul if I never heard these songs again.


    here is my list :)It's a little bit long but i love all of them very much :D (Click the numbers :)