I must say I often feel the desire to throttle people who ask what my favourite song of all times is – sure, I’ll just pick one out of the thousands that tickle my fancy and be done with it.
Music is by its very nature subjective, which is what makes lists like these so difficult to quantify. What we’re looking at here is a list by Neil McCormick, who acknowledges that very fact in his piece for the Telegraph:
Part of the beauty of a song is the way we share it, so I have tried to reflect that by celebrating songs everybody knows. Some are karaoke standards, the songs we sing to make sense of our lives, while some have a different kind of greatness, pushing further and deeper in recalling experience.
Any such list will always be personal rather than definitive – we all have songs that sing in our hearts.
Let’s fast forward and see what he picks as his top five – no pressure:
Ray Davies (1970); DV: The Kinks
Witty, compassionate, inspirational song of confused, transgender love, boasting dazzling rhymes, exultant melody and explosive emotion.
4: Unchained Melody
Alex North & Hy Zaret (1955); DV: The Righteous Brothers (1965)
A thousand karaoke versions cannot destroy this epic, vocally demanding ballad.
3: Tangled Up in Blue
Bob Dylan (1975)
Dylan’s dazzling narrative of star-crossed love and divorce was shaped by abstract art into a tableaux you can come at from any angle and discover something new.
2: Let It Be
Lennon & McCartney (1970); DV: The Beatles (1970)
Anthem of consolation, inspired by Paul McCartney’s dream of a visit from his own mother, Mary.
1: Life On Mars?
David Bowie (1971)
Gloriously strange sci-fi anthem. A stirring, yearning melody combines with vivid, poetic imagery to accomplish a trick very particular to the art of the song: to be at once completely impenetrable and yet resonant with personal meaning. You want to raise your voice and sing along, yet Bowie’s abstract cut-up lyrics force you to invest the song with something of yourself just to make sense of the experience, and then carries you away to a place resonant with intense, individual emotion. The magic and mystery of music and lyrics. It is something to behold.
Neil is definitely a fan of the old school, but then again when your music is still relevant almost half a century later you must be doing something right.
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