Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.

Printable version of this story

DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- What are the songs that define the 20th Century?=

It all depends on who you ask.

When the Recording Industry Association of America and the National= Endowment for the Arts sent out the ballot for their "Songs of the Century= " project lastmonth, I couldn't resist taking part. At least this was a fre= e and fair election with candidates worth supporting and a ballot that cont= ained not a single chad.

It was fun to winnow more than 1,000 songs covering 100 years and e= very musical genre from country to jazz to hip-hop down to 350 or so of the= essentialrecordings of the period. As I filled out the ballot with my wife= , former music critic Joyce Marcel, we found ourselves agreeing more often = than not on thechoices as we filled out the ballot. So what followsis a ver= y subjective list. Feel free to disagree.

1890-1920: (12 songs) Stars & Stripes Forever -- JohnPhillip Sousa;= The Laughing Song -- George WashingtonJohnson; The Entertainer -- Scott Jo= plin; Nobody --Bert Williams; Take Me Out To The Ball Game -- BillyMurray; = Tiger Rag -- Original Dixieland Jazz Band;Vesti La Giubba -- Enrico Caruso;= When Irish Eyes AreSmiling -- Chauncey Olcott; The Star Spangled Banner-- = John McCormick; Shine On Harvest Moon -- HarryMcDonough; Sweet Adeline -- T= he Peerless Quartet; OverThere -- American Quartet.

COMMENTS: This was a period we didn't agonize over.The ballot didn'= t have many songs to choose from, andI selected more with an eye toward his= toricalsignificance. You can't make a list from this periodwithout tenors l= ike Caruso and McCormick or composerslike Joplin, Sousa, and George M. Coha= n. The popcategory got shortchanged, a pattern that I'd repeatin succeeding= decades.

1920-1930: (20 songs) It Had To Be You -- Isham Jones; Happy Days A= re Here Again -- Ben Selvin; I'm Just Wild About Harry -- Marion Harris; Wa= y Down Yonder In New Orleans -- Blossom Seeley; Bye Bye Blackbird -- Gene A= ustin; Star Dust -- Hoagy Carmichael; St. Louis Blues -- W.C. Handy; Down H= earted Blues -- Bessie Smith; See See Rider Blues -- Ma Rainey; Statesboro = Blues -- Blind Willie McTell; Sitttin' On Top Of The World -- The Mississip= pi Sheiks; Ol' Man River -- Paul Robeson; When The Saints Go Marching In --= Louis Armstrong; St. James Infirmary -- King Oliver & His Jazz band; King = Porter Stomp -- Jelly Roll Morton; Ain't Misbehavin' -- Fats Waller; Can T= he Circle Be Unbroken? -- The Carter Family; Blue Yodel (T For Texas) and B= lue Yodel No. 8 (Mule Skinner Blues) -- Jimmy Rodgers; The Prisoners Song -= - Vernon Dalhart.

COMMENTS: Country and blues took precedence on this list. There cou= ld've been more Armstrong ("Cornet Chop Suey" wasn't even on the ballot!) a= nd more Bessie Smith. I didn't even think twice about picking Jimmie Rodger= s over Al Jolson. And "Star Dust" would make anyone's short list of greates= t-ever songs.

1930-1940: (20 songs) Alexander's Ragtime Band -- The Boswell Siste= rs; Brother Can You Spare A Dime -- Rudy Vallee; Puttin' On The Ritz -- Har= ry Richman; Night And Day and Cheek To Cheek -- Fred Astaire; Over The Rain= bow -- Judy Garland; The Gold Digger's Song (We're In The Money) -- Dick Po= well; You're The Top -- Cole Porter; One O'Clock Jump -- Count Basie; I Can= 't Get Started -- Bunny Berrigan; It Don't Mean A Thing and Take The "A" Tr= ain -- Duke Ellington; Sing, Sing, Sing -- Benny Goodman; Cherokee -- Charl= ie Barnett; Minnie The Moocher -- Cab Calloway; Bumble Bee Blues --Memphis = Minnie; Cross Road Blues -- Robert Johnson; Fixin' To Die -- Bukka White; B= ack In The Saddle Again -- Gene Autry; Wabash Cannonball -- Roy Acuff.

COMMENTS: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Big Bands dominated th= ese selections -- Porter and Berlin because they're great songwriters and = Basie and Ellington because they created the grooves we're still swinging t= o today. Shortchanged on this list were Bing Crosby, Kate Smith and Tommy D= orsey, only because I think Robert Johnson, Bukka White and Roy Acuff were = more important. 1940-1950: (25 songs) This Land Is Your Land -- Woody Guthrie; Blue = Moon of Kentucky -- Bill Monroe; Walking The Floor Over You -- Ernest Tubb;= Faded Love -- Bob Wills; If I Didn't Care -- The Ink Spots; Paper Doll-- T= he Mills Brothers; Choo Choo Ch'Boogie -- Louis Jordan; Strange Fruit and G= od Bless The Child -- Billie Holiday; A Tisket A Tasket -- Ella Fitzgerald;= Stormy Weather -- Lena Horne; Good Rockin' Tonight --Wynonie Harris; The M= idnight Special -- Leadbelly; Boogie Chillun' -- John Lee Hooker; Call It S= tormy Monday -- T-Bone Walker; Every Day I Have The Blues -- Lowell Fulson;= Shotgun Blues -- Lightnin' Hopkins; Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy -- The Andrews= Sisters; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas -- Judy Garland; Body And = Soul -- Coleman Hawkins; In The Mood -- Glenn Miller; Flying Home -- Lionel= Hampton; At The Woodchopper's Ball -- Woody Herman; Begin The Beguine -- A= rtie Shaw; Brazil -- Xavier Cugat.

COMMENTS: Bing can't catch a break. He gets shut out in the 1930s a= nd then I snub "White Christmas." But "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christm= as" is the better of the two Christmas songs. Louis Jordan deserved more pi= cks ("Caledonia" and "Saturday Night Fish Fry" weren't on the ballot), but = rhythm and blues and jazz overwhelmed pop in this decade's picks.

1950-1960: (45 songs) Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel/Hound Dog= -- Elvis Presley; Rock Around The Clock -- Bill Haley; All I Have To Do Is= Dream -- Everly Brothers; Great Balls Of Fire -- Jerry Lee Lewis; Peggy Su= e -- Buddy Holly; Summertime Blues -- Eddie Cochran; Donna/La Bamba -- Rich= ie Valens; Come Go With Me -- The Dell-Vikings; At The Hop -- Danny & The J= uniors; Blueberry Hill -- Fats Domino; Bo Diddley -- Bo Diddley; Kansas C= ity -- Wilbert Harrison; Shake Rattle and Roll -- Big Joe Turner; I've Got = A Woman and What'd I Say -- Ray Charles; Fever -- Little Willie John; Tutti= -Frutti -- Little Richard; Johnny B. Goode -- Chuck Berry; Higher and Highe= r -- Jackie Wilson; (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean -- Ruth Brown. = Only You -- The Platters; Speedoo -- The Cadillacs; Since I Met You Baby= -- Ivory Joe Hunter; In The Still Of The Night -- The Five Satins; I Only = Have Eyes ForYou -- The Flamingos; Sh-Boom -- The Chords; Earth Angel -- Th= e Penguins; I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man and Got My Mojo Workin' -- Muddy W= aters; Evil and Smoke Stack Lightnin' -- Howlin' Wolf; Dust My Broom -- Elm= ore James; Big Boss Man -- Jimmy Reed; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry and Your= Cheatin' Heart -- Hank Williams; I Walk The Line -- Johnny Cash; Crazy Arm= s -- Ray Price; All The Way -- Frank Sinatra; Mack The Knife -- Bobby Darin= ; Mona Lisa -- Nat King Cole; How High The Moon -- Les Paul and Mary Ford; = I Left My Heart In San Francisco -- Tony Bennett; That Old Black Magic -- L= ouis Prima and Keely Smith.

COMMENTS: Again a list heavy on R & B, blues, doo-wop and country a= nd light on teen idols. This was also the first decade where it got harder = to make selections, even with the extra picks. Then again, it just would ha= ve meant more R & B and doo-wop selections.

1960-1970: (75 songs) The Times They Are A-Changin' and Like A Roll= ing Stone -- Bob Dylan; Turn, Turn, Turn and Mr. Tamborine Man -- The Byrds= ; Blowing In The Wind -- Peter, Paul and Mary; Sounds of Silence -- Simon &= Garfunkel; Angel Of The Morning -- Merilee Rush; Runaway -- Del Shannon; C= ryin' and Oh Pretty Woman -- Roy Orbison; Runaround Sue -- Dion; Sherry and= Working My Way Back You -- The 4 Seasons; Sweet Caroline -- Neil Diamond; = He's A Rebel and Do Doo Ron Ron -- The Crystals; Be My Baby -- The Ronettes= ; River Deep, Mountain High -- Ike and Tina Turner; You've Lost That Lovin'= Feelin' -- The Righteous Brothers; Papa Was A Rolling Stone -- The Temptat= ions; Reach Out I'll Be There -- The Four Tops; Dancin' In The Streets -- M= artha & The Vandellas; Heard It Through The Grapevine -- Marvin Gaye; Shotg= un -- Junior Walker and The All Stars; My Guy -- Mary Wells.

Tracks = Of My Tears -- Smokey Robinson; Twist and Shout -- The Isley Brothers; Tigh= ten Up -- Archie Bell and The Drells; Will You Love Me Tomorrow -- The Shir= elles; My Boyfriend's Back -- The Angels; Leader Of The Pack -- The Shangri= -Las; One Fine Day -- The Chiffons; Iko, Iko -- The Dixie Cups; Hold On I'm= Comin' -- Sam & Dave; In The Midnight Hour -- Wilson Pickett; Shake/A Chan= ge Is Gonna Come -- Sam Cooke; Tell It Like It Is -- Aaron Neville; Papa's = Got A Brand New Bag -- James Brown; A Rainy Night In Georgia -- Brook Bento= n; Boom Boom -- John Lee Hooker; The Thrill Is Gone -- B.B. King; Respect -= - Aretha Franklin; Walk On By -- Dionne Warwick; Tell Mama/I'd Rather Go Bl= ind -- Etta James; Goin' Out Of My Head -- Little Anthony & The Imperials; = People Get Ready -- The Impressions; Green Onions -- Booker T. and The MGs;= Save The Last Dance For Me -- The Drifters; I Fall To Pieces -- Patsy Clin= e; King Of The Road -- Roger Miller.

Good Vibrations -- The Beach Boys; Wipeout -- The Surfaris; Walk Do= n't Run -- The Ventures; I Want To Hold Your Hand, Yesterday, and Sgt. Pep= per's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- The Beatles; Satisfaction and Jumpin' Jack= Flash -- The Rolling Stones; Sunshine Of Your Love -- Cream; Gloria -- Th= e Shadows of Knight; The Letter -- The Box Tops; Louie, Louie -- The Kingsm= en; 96 Tears -- ? and the Mysterians; She's About A Mover -- Sir Douglas Qu= intet; Proud Mary -- Creedence Clearwater Revival; Devil With A Blue Dress/= Good Golly Miss Molly -- Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels; Born To Be Wild = -- Steppenwolf; Light My Fire -- The Doors; Piece Of My Heart -- Big Brothe= r& The Holding Company; White Rabbit -- Jefferson Airplane; Stand/I Want T= o Take You Higher -- Sly & The Family Stone; The Star Spangled Banner -- Ji= mi Hendrix; For What It's Worth -- Buffalo Springfield; Wooly Bully -- Sam = the Sham & The Pharaohs; Hang On Sloopy -- The McCoys.

COMMENTS: By far, the toughest decade to pick by virtue of how fert= ile the music was then. This was also the decade where Joyce and I disagree= d the most. I wanted more Motown and Stax-Volt. She wanted more California = rock. Country was the genre that took the worst beating this decade. I coul= d've easily added 50 more songs, most of which didn't make the ballot.

1970-1980 (60 songs) Fire and Rain -- James Taylor; City Of New Orl= eans -- Arlo Guthrie; American Pie -- Don McLean; It's Too Late/I Feel The = Earth Move -- Carole King; Big Yellow Taxi -- Joni Mitchell; You're So Vain= -- Carly Simon; Killing Me Softly With His Song -- Roberta Flack; What's G= oin' On -- Marvin Gaye; Superstition -- Stevie Wonder; Love Train -- The O'= Jays; I Want You Back -- The Jackson 5; Serpentine Fire -- Earth, Wind & Fi= re; One Of A Kind (Love Affair) -- The Spinners; Midnight Train To Georgia = -- Gladys Knight & The Pips; It's Your Thing -- The Isley Brothers; You Mak= e Me Feel Brand New -- The Stylistics; Lady Marmalade -- La Belle; You're T= he First, The Last, My Everything -- Barry White; Theme From Shaft -- Isaac= Hayes; Superfly -- Curtis Mayfield; Let's Stay Together and Tired of Being= Alone -- Al Green; Ain't No Sunshine and Lean On Me -- Bill Withers; Drift= Away -- Dobie Gray; Looking For A Love -- Bobby Womack; I Can See Clearly = Now -- Johnny Nash; That's The Way I Like It -- K.C. & The Sunshine Band; H= ot Stuff -- Donna Summer; Disco Inferno -- Trampps.

Ramblin' Man -- The Allman Brothers Band; Walk This Way -- Aerosmit= h; Uncle John's Band -- The Grateful Dead; Rock and Roll All Nite -- Kiss; = Oye Coma Va --Santana; You're No Good and Blue Bayou -- Linda Ronstadt; Ima= gine -- John Lennon; Lola and You Really Got Me -- The Kinks; Layla -- Dere= k & The Dominoes; Brown Eyed Girl -- Van Morrison; Maggie May -- Rod Stewar= t; Stayin' Alive -- The Bee Gees; Go Your Own Way -- Fleetwood Mac; Rikki D= on't Lose That Number -- Steely Dan; Heart Of Gold -- Neil Young; Kodachrom= e --Paul Simon; Hello It's Me -- Todd Rundgren; More Than A Feeling -- Bost= on; Coal Miner's Daughter -- Loretta Lynn; Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue= -- Crystal Gayle; Before The Next Teardrop Falls -- Freddy Fender; For The= Good Times -- Ray Price; Blue Skies -- Willie Nelson; Third Rate Romance -= - The Amazing Rhythm Aces; Behind Closed Doors -- Charlie Rich.

COMMENTS: A lot easier to pick than the 1960s. For a decade univers= ally derided as the time that taste forgot, there was a lot of surprisingly= good music. One glaring omission on the ballot is the total absence of pun= k/new wave. Without the Ramones, The Clash, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, = Patti Smith and The Sex Pistols, any 1970s list is incomplete. This is a re= flection of the Grammy's bias against non-pop and this ballot's bias toward= top-40 singles.

1980-1990: (38 songs) Beat It -- Michael Jackson; Purple Rain and = 1999 -- Prince; Celebration -- Kool & The Gang; Super Freak -- Rick James; = You Dropped A Bomb On Me -- The Gap Band; Freeway Of Love -- Aretha Frankli= n; Slow Hand -- The Poynter Sisters; What's Love Got To With It -- Tina Tur= ner; Barracuda --Heart; I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For -- U2; E= nter Sandman -- Metallica; Born To Run and Born In The U.S.A -- Bruce Springs= teen; Higher Love -- Steve Winwood; Bette Davis Eyes -- Kim Carnes; Like A = Virgin-- Madonna; Heart Of Glass -- Blondie; Love Shack --The B-52s; Burnin= g Down The House -- Talking Heads.

Legs -- ZZ Top; Pink Houses and Jack and Diane -- John Mellencamp; = I Love Rock 'n' Roll -- Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; Girls Just Wanna Have = Fun -- Cyndi Lauper; We Got The Beat -- The Go-Gos; Hit Me With Your Best S= hot -- Pat Benatar; Guitar Town -- Steve Earle; Cowboy Man -- Lyle Lovett; = Elvira -- The Oak Ridge Boys; Streets of Bakersfield -- Dwight Yoakam & Buc= k Owens; No Getting Over Me -- Ronnie Milsap; Seven-Year Ache -- Rosanne Ca= sh; Rapper's Delight -- Sugarhill Gang; The Breaks -- Kurtis Blow; The Mess= age -- Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five; Fight The Power -- Public Enem= y.

COMMENTS: I had 40 choices, and was hard-pressed to find 38 songs I= really liked. As with the 1970s, a lot of songs that formed my soundtrack = of what Barbra Erhenreich dubbed "The Worst Years Of Our Lives" weren't on = the ballot.

1990-2000: (17 songs) Friends In Low Places -- Garth Brooks; Boot S= cootin' Boogie -- Brooks & Dunn; Down At The Twist & Shout -- Mary Chapin C= arpenter; No Diggity -- Blackstreet/Dr. Dre; Baby Got Back -- Sir Mix-a-Lot= ; U-N-I-T-Y -- Queen Latifah; Killing Me Softly -- Fugees; No Scrubs -- TLC= ; Fast Car -- Tracy Chapman; Smooth -- Santana & Rob Thomas; Livin' La Vida= Loca -- Ricky Martin; Losing My Religion -- R.E.M.; Smells Like Teen Spiri= t -- Nirvana; Run-Around --Blues Traveler; Black Hole Sun -- Soundgarden; = Loser -- Beck; All I Wanna Do -- Sheryl Crow.

COMMENTS : I had 25 choices, and it took a lot of padding to get 17= . I could not bring myself to put Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Christina Aqui= lera, Eminem or Puff Daddy on this list. Grunge/Alt Rock got shortchanged o= n this ballot (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing= Pumpkins weren't on the list) and R.E.M's 1980s songs were much better tha= n their 1990s work.

GOSPEL: (10 songs) Take My Hand Precious Lord -- Thomas Dorsey and = Marion Williams; Strange Things Happening Every Day -- Sister Rosetta Tharp= e; Move On Up A Little Higher -- Mahalia Jackson; Don't Let No One Turn You= Around -- The Fairfield Four; By And By -- The Soul Stirrers; O Happy Day = -- Edwin Hawkins Singers; How I Got Over -- Clara Ward Singers; I Can See E= verybody's Mother -- Five Blind Boys of Alabama; He's Still Working On Me -= - The Hemphills; How Great Thou Art -- George Beverly Shea.

COMMENTS -- I worked at a Christian radio station for several years= , so I wasn't totally unfamiliar with this category. The picks were heavily= weighted towards black gospel performers.

MUSICALS: (10 shows) -- Show Boat (1932); Anything Goes (1934); Por= gy and Bess (1935); Oklahoma (1943);Carousel (1945); Kiss Me Kate (1949); G= uys and Dolls (1951); Gypsy (1957); West Side Story (1957); The Music Man (= 1958).

COMMENTS: It was tough to leave out "South Pacific" and "Hair." It = was easy to leave out anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

JAZZ: (15 songs) Just You, Just Me -- Lester Young Quartet; Orintho= logy -- Charlie Parker Sextet; Salt Peanuts -- Dizzy Gillespie Quintet; Rou= nd Midnight -- Thelonius Monk; Miles Ahead, Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain= and Bitches Brew -- Miles Davis; Take Five --Dave Brubeck; A Love Supreme = -- John Coltrane; Mercy, Mercy, Mercy -- Cannonball Adderley; The Girl From= Ipanema -- Stan Getz/Astrud Gilberto; Birdland -- Weather Report; Vocalese= -- Manhattan Transfer; When I Look In Your Eyes -- Diana Krall.

COMMENTS: An extremely meager list to pick from in this category, e= specially post-1970. The reason why Miles only got four picks was because t= hat's all they put on the ballot.

WRITE-INS: We were allowed five of them. Here's what I picked and w= hy.

My Generation -- The Who: The all-time, timeless song of teenage ra= ge and alienation.

Miserlou -- Dick Dale: The King of the Surf Guitar and the man who = invented loud in rock.

All Along The Watchtower -- Jimi Hendrix: The alpha and omega of th= e electric guitar in one of his greatest performances.

I Shot The Sheriff -- Bob Marley & The Wailers: Mainly because Eric= Clapton's version was on the list and didn't deserve to be, not when Bob M= arley's original was infinitely better.

Blitzkrieg Bop -- Ramones: Hey, Ho, Let's Go! The band that inspire= d thousands of punk rockers on both sides of the Atlantic.

SUMMING UP -- There were many flaws with this ballot. It was heavil= y weighted toward top 40 hits and ignored the switch from singles to albums= that took place starting in the late 1960s. Pop outweighed all other genre= s. The choices presented to voters were very safe and limited. They also ch= eated on dates with some artists, carrying songs by one artist into differe= nt decades (which explains why songs like "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks= are in the '70s and Springsteen's "Born To Run" is in the '80s).

But if one thing can be drawn from looking over this list, it would= be this: the huge influence of African-Americans on popular music in the 2= 0th Century. Urban and country blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, rock androll, s= oul, funk, disco, rap and hip-hop all were created, shaped and perfected by= black performers. Without them, the century's musical landscape would be b= arren.

Like any list, this one is open to endless arguments. Joyce and I w= ere admittedly biased in our choices. But then again, that's the fun of mak= ing lists.

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist inNew England for more than 20 = years. He edited "TheGeorge Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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