One Thousand Words on My 20 Favorite Songs

A few years ago I felt an overwhelming need to pick my twenty favorite songs. It just seemed like an important thing to do.

It wasn’t easy. I love so much music, but there are a few that always make me smile or take me back to a particular time and place.

Here’s the list, in alphabetical order by title, with an explanation (if there is one):

Bring Me Some Water (Melissa Etheridge)
I like this song because of one lyric: “I feel the slap and the sting of the foul night air.” Melissa Etheridge sings that line with such venom. You have to really use your teeth and lips to sing it with her.

Don’t Stand So Close to Me (The Police)
Besides the reference to one of my favorite books, Lolita, I like this song because it’s a story set to music.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)
The summer between high school and college, I was a nervous wreck. I had insomnia and was upset about leaving home and my mom. This song was on the radio at the time and it became our theme song. We’d sing it to each other to cheer us up. I listened to it a lot my first few weeks of school, to make me feel closer to home.

For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
I can’t explain why this is on the list. It’s not particularly fun. The lyrics aren’t anything special. I just like it.

Ghost (Indigo Girls)
I think the Indigo Girls write the best lyrics. I don’t usually understand what they are trying to say, but I know it’s deep and I love to sing them. I’m not the only one who feels this way. When they performed at my venue a few years ago, the audience sang louder than the band.

In My Life (The Beatles)
This song makes we want to learn to play the piano. And what self respecting top twenty music list doesn’t include the Beatles?

In These Shoes? (Kirsty MacColl)
The lyrics are funny, there’s great beat and I can practice my Spanish.

Insomniac (Billy Pilgrim)
First, the band is named after the protagonist in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Second, one of guys is now in Sugarland, so I’m cool because I discovered him before he was popular. Third, this is the only song I’ve ever heard that has Dramamine in the lyrics.

Karma Chameleon (Culture Club)
This one just makes me happy. It’s the 80s. It’s Boy George. Everybody sing!

No Rain (Blind Melon)
I don’t like this song because of the stupid bee girl video. I like it because whenever I happen to catch it on the radio, I want to crank the volume, open all the window and sing.

Layla (Eric Clapton)
It’s pretty. Stupid reason to like a great song, I know.

Love Shack (B52s)
Three words: Tin roof, rusted.

Real World (Matchbox Twenty)
This is my theme song, for three reasons. First, I often wonder what it would be like to be somebody else. Second, I also wonder “if I were someone else would this all far apart” and third, I do wish “the real world would just stop hassling me.”

Red, Red Wine (UB40)
This song makes me think of a boy in college. Enough said.

Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley)
I grew up listening to Elvis. I’ve been to Graceland twice. I don’t care what anyone thinks, Elvis was cool. I used to like his early songs but lately I’ve appreciated his seventies stuff more. If I could be any kind of performer, I think I’d be a backup singer for Elvis on this song.

Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N Roses)
I don’t admit this often, but I went through a big Guns and Roses phase. Actually, I was obsessed. I drove to Boston, in a snowstorm on Saint Patrick’s Day to see them in concert at the Garden. It’s a miracle I survived between the weather, the crazy people drunk on green beer and the scary GnR fans. This song came out my senior year of high school and every time I hear it, it takes me back. I think I owned the cassette tape (Yes, I’m that old) three months before I listened to the rest of the songs. Then I was hooked. Say what you want about the band, Appetite for Destruction is one of the best albums ever made.

Short Skirt/Long Jacket (Cake)
Another one that’s on the list just because it makes me happy to sing along.

Stay (Lisa Loeb)
I can’t explain this one either. I just like the way it sounds and the pseudo-intellectual lyrics. Maybe it’s just the glasses that make her sound smart.

Sweetheart Like You (Guy Davis)
I have a huge crush on Guy Davis and this song is my favorite of his. The first time I heard it I cried, and I’m not a crier. I know it’s a Bob Dylan song and Dylan fans would be appalled at my saying this, but Guy’s version is so much better. (I think it’s because you can actually understand the lyrics!)

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (Dusty Springfield)
I had never really listened to the lyrics of this song until they talked about it on an episode The American Life. They said it was one of the greatest torch songs ever sung. So I downloaded it and listened. It’s a little corny sounding but when you listen to it, it’s one of the saddest songs ever. “I can’t help but love you but believe me I’ll never tie you down” How miserable is she that she’ll settle for that?

Ok, there it is. My top twenty, such as it is. For some reason I feel like I’ve revealed more about myself in this post than I have in all my previous posts combined. What is it about music that is so personal?

Now it’s your turn to share. What are your favorite songs?

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