September 2015

220px-RingoCover#17 – Ringo Starr – “You’re Sixteen” – (1973)

As creepy as the title and chorus might seem, imagine that it’s being sung by another 16 year old, and not the now 70+ Ringo Starr. Ringo actually took this song to #1. It’s a cover of Johnny Burnette’s 1960 top ten hit. The song was actually written by the Sherman Brothers (of Mary Poppins, etc. fame). The kazoo sound during the bridge is actually Paul McCartney. And that’s Harry Nilsson on backing vocals. Looks like Ringo’s “All-Starr Band” started earlier than we thought…

220px-Lynyrdskynyrd#18 – Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Free Bird” – (1973)

“Free Bird” was actually the final track on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album. It’s the band’s signature song (right there with “Sweet Home Alabama”) and stands as one of the definitive songs of classic rock. At an album length of just over nine minutes, live versions regularly exceeded 10 (sometimes 15) – including the one below which is actually from Freebird… The Movie, a concert documentary about the band. The joke with this song is, of course, to yell out “Free Bird!” at concerts as it’s one of the most requested songs ever. The song peaked at #19 on the Hot 100 and has one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.

ScreenHunter_319 Aug. 23 11.13#19 – Al Wilson – “Show and Tell” – (1973)

Early-70s soul music is the best kind of soul music. There’s horns and great voices… this song was originally recorded by Johnny Mathis but it was Meridian, Mississippi’s Al Wilson who took it to #1 – the biggest hit of his career. Late Show fans will know this as the song Paul Schaffer would sing when they played Audience Show and Tell.

Jim_Croce_-_Life_&_Times#20 – Jim Croce – “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” – (1973)

I’ve always wondered where Jim Croce’s career would’ve taken him had he not died in a plane crash in 1973. This was his final #1 hit from a career that was all too short. This song is a fantastic folk song with some gospel/R&B infused into it. It’s one of those songs that tell a story – wait, I think I just described folk music in general.

diamond#21 – Seals & Crofts – “Diamond Girl” – (1973)

This isn’t 2004. I’m just going to start embedding the song into the post. Duh. Anyway, on to 1973 and this soft rock classic from Jim Seals and Dash Crofts. This was the biggest hit from the Diamond Girl album, peaking at #6 on the Hot 100. It’s one of the greatest soft rock songs of all time.


220px-Once_Soundtrack_CoverGlen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – “Falling Slowly” – (2007)

Folk music has never really been the mainstream genre… it sort of infiltrates and disappears throughout time. Folk rock is sort of popular right now but back in 2007 there was a movie called Once about two musicians – namely Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. It’s fictional, but the two stars wrote and performed all of the music, including this beautiful song that won an Oscar for Best Original Song. It was a top ten hit in Canada but only managed #61 in the U.S. (proving that it came out just a few years too early to really hit it big). 

Hootie_&_the_Blowfish_Fairweather_Johnson_CD_coverHootie & the Blowfish – “Tucker’s Town” – (1996)

This was Hootie & the Blowfish’s final album single that really garnered any real airplay. When you listen to it, if you don’t remember it specifically, you definitely can recognize the sound as mid-90s pop rock – something that has more or less entirely disappeared from modern radio. It was a top 40 hit, reaching #38 and was one of two radio singles from 1996’s Fairweather Johnson

Michael_Jackson_-_ThrillerMichael Jackson – “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – (1982)

Thriller was so good that even this, it’s sixth single was still awesome. Originally Michael and someone else wrote a song with this title, but producer Quincy Jones didn’t like it but liked the title enough to co-write this song instead (with James Ingram) and kept the title. It reached #10 on the Hot 100. Strangely, he never performed this song live. 

220px-Five-A-Side_(album)#1 – Ace – “How Long” – (1974)

One of the best soft rock songs ever, “How Long” was a #3 hit in the U.S. for Ace, of Sheffield, England. It was their biggest hit. Those smooth lyrics are delivered by Paul Carrack, who would later helm Mike + The Mechanics. The song is actually about the band’s bassist, who had secretly been recording with other bands. It’s really nice.

220px-SecondHelpingLynyrdSkynyrd#2 – Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Sweet Home Alabama” – (1974)

There is a lot that can be said about this song. It’s sort of like the anthem for the Deep South. The Confederate Flag has been in the news a lot lately and this is sort of its theme song. It has a really catchy guitar riff and was written as a reply to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” Neil Young later agreed that the shots they took at him in this song were deserved. This is a song about a time – it may have been 1974 but the wounds of the 60s were still healing. This is the definitive southern rock song and one of the definitive classic rock songs. Like it or not, you must admit this is a piece of American history.

220px-Elton_John_-_Caribou#3 – Elton John – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – (1974)

Elton John almost pulled off an amazing feat with this song. It reached #2 on the Hot 100 in 1974. He re-recorded it as a duet with George Michael in 1991 and it hit #1. He almost had two number one hits with the same song. This is one of Elton’s most beautiful songs. Co-written with Bernie Taupin, it was one song from Caribou – an album recorded in nine days and written in about the same amount of time. The chorus of this song features vocals from Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys (and you can totally hear Beach Boys-style harmonization if you listen for it) as well as Toni Tennille of Captain and Tennille.

220px-20100503183857!John_Denver_Back_Home_Again#4 – John Denver – “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” – (1974)

There are two versions of this song, first, the one included on the 1974 album Back Home Again. Then there is the very popular live version released in 1975 (recorded in 1974). The live version went to #1 on the Hot 100. It’s immensely catchy and remains very popular to this day. It was one of six songs in 1975 to top the country and pop charts. It was actually written by one of John Denver’s band members (the guy on fiddle). John Denver was actually pretty awesome… known mostly as a folk/country singer, he was beloved across America (and genres) and was one of its best-selling artists.

The_Kids_And_Me#5 – Billy Preston – “Nothing From Nothing” – (1974)

This #1 hit from Billy Preston is a masterpiece of piano-driven soul. Billy Preston was incredibly talented (and taken too soon). He was one of only two people ever credited alongside the Beatles on one of their tracks (“Get Back”). He played with the Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton. He had two #1 hits and this is his best song (of what I’ve heard). Fun fact: it was the first song ever performed live on Saturday Night Live