Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
There’s so much bad news these days, it just makes me weary. I find myself looking for ways to not feel “so bad.” Remembering favorite things is a great way to do that.
Rolling Stone magazine helped me. A month or so ago the magazine came to the rescue, publishing its latest version of “The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.” What a great way to put the stories about the woes of the world behind me–escape into the world of music. I started to page through it, and then stopped. I thought “What are my favorite songs of all time? I’ve been listening to American Top 40, probably since I was cruising Hettinger’s Main Street in my 1949 Plymouth in high school, I’ve been to a lot of concerts, and own hundreds of CD’s (remember them) by my favorite musicians and bands. I should make my own list.”
So, not being nearly as ambitious as the editors of Rolling Stone, I decided to make a list of my ten favorite songs. I didn’t just sit down and do it. I thought about it when I was doing other things and scribbled down notes when a song came to me. I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be easy, or even possible, to narrow it down to ten. So I kept scribbling notes, and got to 25, then 40. Then I decided it was time to get organized. I needed some rules. I thought that 25 sounded like a good number, but I was going to have to throw away some notes. So Rule No. 1: Only one song by each artist or band.
By this time I had typed up the list of notes. I went through it and thought, “Damn. How do you limit Bob Dylan or Neil Young or John Prine, or the Moody Blues, or the Eagles, to just one song among your favorites? I’ve seen them all in concert many times. Among them they’ve easily got dozens of the best songs of all time.”
Rolling Stone, I discovered when I finally went through their list (I didn’t read their list until I was done making mine. When I did, I learned that about half of my favorite songs made their top 500, so fie on them), has Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” as #4. Yes. Great song. But I think I like the weird lyrics in “Ballad Of A Thin Man” better. How the hell do you choose just one of Dylan’s songs? He’s the greatest of all time.
As for Young, he scratched out “Ohio” in just hours after the Kent State shootings, and gave us “Rockin’ In The Free World,” “The Needle And The Damage Done,” “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon,” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” but I think my favorite is “After The Gold Rush.”
And Prine? Is it “Hello in There,” “Sam Stone,” or “Paradise?” And the Beatles? The Stones? This is not going to be easy. So here are “25 Of My Favorite Songs,” (not “My 25 Favorite Songs”) in alphabetical order, because, unlike Rolling Stone, I can’t rank them one through twenty-five. I like them all.
I think if you click on them you can actually listen. A few of them have ads you can just skip after a few seconds. Youtube has to pay the bills somehow, but it’s a great service. (It took me a long time to write this, because I got to listen to 25 of my favorite songs, including all 17 minutes of “In A Gadda Da Vida.” I might not get much done this morning–I might just click my way through them again.)
After The Gold Rush – Neil Young
American Pie – Don McLean
Angel From Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt version
Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty
Ballad Of A Thin Man – Bob Dylan
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchel
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
Hey Jude – The Beatles
Hotel California – The Eagles
Imagine – John Lennon
In A Gadda Da Vida – Iron Butterfly
Let It Be – Paul McCartney
Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin (Kris Kristofferson)
Moon River – Andy Williams
Nights In White Satin – The Moody Blues
Sam Stone – John Prine
Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Suite Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills and Nash
Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver
Sweet Dreams – Emmy Lou Harris
When You Say Nothing At All – Alison Krauss
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
Okay, so that leaves out Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade Of Pale,” The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” at least three songs by The Doors (“Light My Fire,” “People Are Strange,” and “Riders On The Storm”), Whitney Houston wailing on “I Will Always Love you,” Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” and The Band’s “The Weight.” Damn! Could I have substituted one of them for Andy Williams? Nope, sorry. I’ve been in love with Audrey Hepburn since 1961. I’m pretty sure she was my first love. And when Andy sings that song I fall in love with her all over again. At least one of my wives will tell you that every time I walked into a Blockbuster store (remember them?) to rent a movie I burst into that song as I came through the door. But I don’t think I rented “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” very many times.
But I am going to add one bonus track to the list of 25: Chuck Suchy singing “West Dakota Breeze.” It might just be my favorite song ever. It just defines where we live, out here on the prairie. I was going to put it in the list of 25, and then thought “No, it deserves a place of its own. It’s too good to just be one of 25.” Chuck knows how much I love his song. He’s promised to sing it at my funeral. “But I have to outlive you,” he says. Good luck Chuck. Hang in there.
So that’s that. I’ll be second guessing this list forever, as I’m out for a walk or driving down a highway, or lying awake in bed at night. But it was a fun exercise.
Right now, you’re probably wondering about those lyrics at the very beginning of this post. I’m sure you recognized them as Julie Andrews singing them in “The Sound Of Music.” I put them there, because I think I’m going to write about more of my favorite things this winter. My favorite places, parks, plants, people . . . The world is in need of lots more favorite things these days. My world is full of bridges and refineries and lawsuits and spineless politicians. So every once in a while this winter I’m going to forget about those things and write about good things: My FAVORITE things. Stay tuned. And watch Julie sing about her favorite things for about a couple of minutes right here.