On Facebook this week, friends challenged each other to come up with their top ten albums. No easy task, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized individual songs stick with me most. Although each album listed is fantastic, they all contain one track that moved, changed, or influenced my life. Here they are in no particular order…
1. “Tangled Up in Blue” — Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan — I was a freshman in college, sitting in my boyfriend’s dorm when I first heard this song. I sat, entranced, listening about lost love and rain falling on shoes and heading out to the East Coast. “But all the while I was alone, the past was close behind. I seen a lot of women, but she never escaped my mind. And I just grew. Tangled up in blue.” It’s the first time I really got Dylan and what a perfect storyteller he is. It gave a glimpse into a world where people can love each other but still can’t stay together. It made me achingly sad.
2. “Deacon Blues” — Aja – Steely Dan — Another goodie from college. My boyfriend Randy and I would tool around in his mustard-colored Capri between classes, zipping along the windy roads and rocky beaches of Connecticut, smoking and listening to Steely Dan. Like any great lyricist, Donald Fagen told me just enough to whet my appetite. “You call me a fool. You say it’s a crazy scheme. This one’s for real. I already bought the dream. So useless to ask me why. Throw a kiss and say goodbye.” Who’s calling who a fool? What crazy scheme? What the hell is this song about? It doesn’t matter. All I know is I want to meet this guy and watch him work the saxophone and cross that fine line. To this day, I can’t think of a more elegant lyricist than Donald Fagen.
3. “Wanna be Startin Something” –Thriller – Michael Jackson — Randy and I were newly-weds in the 80’s and this pop hit was the perfect backdrop to that fun, frenetic time. There’s something stirring in its tribal, gospel-driven rhythm. Life was exciting and fast-paced and we were young and ambitious and hungry. “Lift your head up high and scream out to the world. I know I am someone, and let the truth unfurl. No one can hurt you now because you know what’s true. Yes, I believe in me, so do believe in you.” I challenge anyone to listen to this song and not move.
4. “Coyote” — Hejira – Joni Mitchell – A young mother in the early 90’s, I first heard Joni’s guitar-strumming tale of this womanizing scoundrel and couldn’t get enough. We’ve all known Coyotes, the bad boys, callous, fickle and irresistible. Sometimes I’d grab my beat-up acoustic while the kids napped and try and play along. “He’s got a woman at home and a woman down the hall, he seems to want me anyway. Why’d have you have to get so drunk and lead me on that way?” Ah, Coyote. Joni sang of unrequited love in her dulcet tones and my heart melted.
5. “Hold on to Me” – America’s Sweetheart – Courtney Love – Surprised? Me too. I came upon Courtney Love late in life, but heard this song one day and had to turn it up. Yes, Courtney has issues, but her voice has authority and presence. There’s something moving in this anthem to feminine power and passion. I get why she’s a rock star. “We all get our glory. A little bit of fame. But there’s no truth at the heart of any of it. Just the brilliance and the passion. And the bitterness remains.” This is Courtney at the height of her talent, tough but tender, rebellious, unafraid and unrepentant. I love it.
So that’s it. Randy’s horrified I have no Beatles or Stone’s, but that’s like asking me to pick my favorite food or place to visit. I simply can’t narrow it down.
Decades later these five songs still make me smile, dance, and cry. Mostly they’re about being human and doing the best we can. And maybe that’s what true art is all about.
What are your favorite songs? I’d love to hear. Comments are welcome!! And if you’re so inclined, please share. Thank you.