Rolling Stone magazine has put out a list of the “500 greatest songs of all time,” although upon closer inspection they mean the 500 greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era. But no matter: it’s a cool list, made up of votes from 172 “rock stars and leading authorities.”

Their #1 song? Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Hey, I’m not gonna argue — it’s a fucking fantastic song — but I do wonder if that particular song was subliminally advantaged in this particular race. 🙂

But read about the song’s genesis and recording, and you can’t help but see rock ‘n’ roll genius at work. Dylan poured out pages upon pages of raw emotion that he later condensed into the lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone.” His insistance on how the recording should sound may have seemed startling and controversial to the musicians sitting there in that session with him, but clearly, he had a vision. Whatever he channeled within himself or without, he produced a masterwork.

I love reading material like this. I’ve read every book of interviews with songwriters and musicians that I can get my hands on, and they’re always so very inspiring. What’s particularly interesting to me is how many of them say they don’t know where the song came from; that they must have drawn the inspiration from somewhere outside of them. Many make references to a collective consciousness or some mystic energy source that they feel they tap into now and then (especially through the use of intoxicants, no doubt). And quite a few admit to a tendency to create chaos in their lives because in times of peace, they’re not inspired.

And after reading all this, I sometimes wonder if it takes that level of eccentricity to create works of creative genius. And if it does, I’m grateful for the people who have that talent and the ability to push boundaries. I have no desire to live a jagged, painful existence, even if it means producing the most inventive works of art possible. I’m not saying I’m satisfied with mediocrity, but I’d be thrilled to make as meaningful a contribution to music as I can within the bounds of living a happy, well-balanced, healthy life. And if that’s being a sellout, show me the dotted line and I’ll happily sign it.

500 greatest songs of all time?

8 thoughts on “500 greatest songs of all time?

  • November 20, 2004 at 12:12 am
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    WO!

    Thank’s for posting that link. I am diggin this list.

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  • November 20, 2004 at 12:47 am
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    I have nothing of substance to say, but I just wanted to say that I love this post! It’s so very you. 🙂

    -J

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  • November 20, 2004 at 3:08 am
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    What kind of songwriting do you do, and who would you say your inspirations were?

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  • November 20, 2004 at 3:27 am
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    Isn’t it great? I’m gonna be poring over this list for days. Weeks, maybe.

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  • November 20, 2004 at 3:27 am
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    Hee! Well, thanks. 🙂

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  • November 20, 2004 at 3:51 am
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    Wow. Big questions. 🙂

    For the time being, I write songs intended for pop/country radio. My partner and I just moved to Nashville in February 2003. We haven’t had anything cut yet, and we don’t expect to have anything cut for quite a while. I’m sure it’ll take time to work our way into the business here. After we have some success, we may be able to broaden the range of styles we can write and get recorded, but we think our chances of getting in the door will be improved by concentrating on this (musically) fairly narrow, but profitable, genre.

    (You can hear a sampling of our demos here. These are fairly old songs by now; most of them were written sometime in 2002 and demo’ed in 2003. We haven’t spent any money on demos since we got our requisite five done*, but we’ll probably go back and record a few more in early to mid-2005, and I believe those are likely to show a lot of improvement.)

    Anyway, my influences are all over the map: although I grew up on pop radio, I’ve always been passionate enough about music to enjoy nearly all of it. Most of what I listen to for leisure is sort of folk-rock or alt.country, like Ryan Adams, Shawn Mullins, or the Wallflowers, but I also love music I can dance to, like reggae or Afro-Caribbean, or even teen pop like Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue.

    More to the point, I love clever and/or engaging lyrics, which means I’m a fan of Tori Amos, Cake, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, etc etc etc. It’s a long, long list. 🙂

    By the way, you might be interested in this discussion as well as the original post I was commenting on. And if you don’t already know , boy howdy, are you gonna be glad you clicked that link. 😉

    * Yes, there are six recordings there, but “Mango Sun” doesn’t count. That was a one-off demo done in Chicago as a pitch for a film project we heard about. It’s a fun song, but it certainly doesn’t get included in our Nashville demo CDs.

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  • November 23, 2004 at 1:47 am
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    Finally got a chance to listen to the mp3s, and Verily do they Not Suck 🙂 And it’s great to find a fellow fan of clever lyrics – a lot of my friends are musical snobs, and have given me no end of flack for weighting the lyrics of a song above the music.

    Oh, and thanks for the link to the discussion in ‘s journal – that was indeed a fascinating read. I don’t quite agree with the antigenre stance, since I’ve found a reasonably high correlation between whether I’ll like a song and whether I like the genre it belongs to. Also, my favourite genres (filk, musicals, folk and celtic) have a definite qualitative difference from most ‘mainstream’ music, so I’m grateful for the fact that the songs are preselected by their categorisation. And even though some of the the ultrafine divisions between genres most people couldn’t tell apart anyway seem ridiculous from the outside, from the inside they probably go a good way towards fostering the community aspect of music.

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  • June 25, 2007 at 9:18 pm
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    If you never have, I highly recommend reading the liner notes to Boston’s Third Stage. Very interesting story of the album’s production. Good stuff.

    Sorry about being 2 1/2 years late with this comment!

    Reply

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