Inspiration can be found anywhere. As loyal readers could surmise, my personal inspiration is primarily music. When I read a friend’s post – My Favorite Everything: The 50 Best Songs Ever – I was intrigued. The first item that piqued my interest is the notion of “guilty pleasures”. Like Bryn, I don’t ascribe to this concept. I used to be so concerned about what others thought of my musical (and other) tastes, but eventually grew to believe “I like what I like and, if you don’t agree, that’s fine.” There is no sweet spot in a Venn diagram that covers everyone’s likes or dislikes (not even the hatred for Nickelback).
Before I get into the musical menagerie, I should clarify how I went about culling the songs. In order to prevent skewing the list with multiple songs from an artist or band, I limited myself to just one song per performer. If various band members did solo projects, I considered that an extension of the original group. If I hadn’t done that, this post would be much longer. With that, I present (in no particular order) my 75 Best Songs Ever (plus a few extra):
Rick Springfield is the first artist that I considered a guilty pleasure. Within my circle of friends at the time, it was frowned upon to listen to Rick, let alone like his music. I quickly learned I didn’t care what those people thought.
This song is special because of a particular woman and the idea of wild jungle love.
The song is dark and disturbing. It’s also a love story. Go figure.
Everyone has troubles, even the successful.
This song is sort of sad and romantic. I love it.
Music inspires my writing. This was one of the tracks on my playlist as I wrote The Longest Walk.
This is the perfect summer day driving song. Bar none.
When I first heard this song, it made me wonder if this is how my brother felt when my nephew was born. Did my dad feel the same when my brothers & sister were born?
Like #6 above, this was on my playlist when I wrote Broken Needle. Writing that one took me to some dark places.
I was too young to fully understand Viet Nam, but this song brought me a lot closer. I don’t usually like it when an artist reappropriates a song that’s about a very specific topic for another cause. When Billy didn’t it for the NYPD and NYFD after 9/11, I found it fitting.
This song has held double meaning for me. Whenever I feel I just can’t take another run or workout, I play this song for motivation. It also works when I get depressed.
This song is on a playlist for an unpublished short story I’ve been working on.
This song came to me via the TV show Chuck which, along with Scrubs, had the best soundtrack. Probably surprising to no one, it’s also about a woman.
As someone who really can’t whistle, this song confounds me. Is it possible to be in a bad mood when you hear someone whistling a tune? I can’t.
I’m not the Springsteen connoisseur that my buddy, Jason, is, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this song. Bruce and Clarence always looked like they were having so much fun. It’s stupidly infectious. Plus, who wouldn’t like to be Bruce when he has women jumping on stage to steal kisses?
This song was part of a sketch I wrote for Monkeys With Hand Grenades. The intro lulls you into a languid comfort before the rest of the song jars you. I’ve always loved how Kate uses her music to push artistic boundaries.
17. Who Knew – Pink
I never gave P!nk more than a passing thought. That was, until her appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. When she performed this song, she was so plaintive and so raw that I couldn’t help being impressed by her talent.
Back when I was still in a band, this song was always a favorite to play. If I’d had a bad day, beating the crap out of my drums on this one would always relieve all my stress.
Jazz, funk, soul. What’s not to love about this song?
This is my all-time favorite Bowie song and my personal mantra. “We can be heroes, just for one day.” What would this world be like if everyone held this belief?
“Hot take”: Losing someone is hard. Remembering them can be so much harder. This song epitomizes wistful memories.
Van Halen does a gypsy jazz tune? Can you listen to this and not feel light and carefree? I don’t think so.
It’s this blog’s namesake. Could a list like this exist where this song wasn’t present? No.
This was another song on my playlist when writing The Longest Walk. I can’t help but think of my grandparents when I hear this.
“I wanna be that guy that gets the girl and saves the world, then everyone would wanna be like me.” See #20.
I loved the Steve Martin movie and this song has stuck with me ever since. Love those jazz standards.
Romantic imagery. ‘Nuff said.
Elvis has many great songs, but this one is just so fun. It reminds me of America’s early love affair with AM radio.
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic. This song defines that line between wanting and having. Why must there always be those people who are tantalizingly close but just out of reach?
The best songs tell great stories and this one tells a doozy. I used to believe it was about the trans-continental railroad from America’s Westward Expansion era. Right idea, wrong country. It’s about the British Railways. It also brings to mind that time when you finally move away from your parents.
This was the best band I’ve ever seen at a bar. On a frigid, snowy February night in 1990-something they played to an audience of 5 people. They could’ve packed it in, but instead they rocked their asses off. I’ve loved them for it to this day.
There are plenty of Toad the Wet Sprocket songs I could’ve included, but you saw my rules above. These lyrics resonate so strongly with me.
33. Bronte – Gotye
To this day I can’t listen to this song without getting misty-eyed. Shut up. The pains of “growing up” says it all. Regardless of what you think of Somebody That I Used To Know, this whole album is terrific.
Quirky and fun. How can you not at least smile at that title?
They were my gateway drug to Aussie/Kiwi bands.
My mom, sister, and nieces all had children at an early age. So…
If you could freeze a moment in time, what would you choose? Is it at the moment you won the big game? Received a promotion? Leaned in for your first kiss with someone special?
It’s just Frank dropping life truths.
Jellyfish was one of the most underrated bands. These gifted musicians crafted gorgeous songs with lush harmonies. How many other lead singing stand up drummers have you seen? Exactly.
This was the inspiration for my flash fiction piece entitled See You Tia, Goodbye Sky Harbor. That story still makes me feel a bit melancholy.
This seemed to be the theme song of my early twenties. It wasn’t until a friend informed me that I might have a little better luck if I didn’t look like a wolf hunting its prey. Thanks for that.
This is the album version of the song that appeared in Chuck. Behind all the techie, spy drama is a classic Rodgers & Hammerstein formula. Boy meets girl.
Here’s another tune from Chuck. Boy loses girl.
Rounding out the Chuck trilogy of songs. Boy gets girl back. At least that’s how I choose to view the finale.
After a string of terrible events occurred several years back, my buddy, Josh, told me about this song. Any time I feel down, this song cheers me up. I’ve also used the song and video to illustrate to management the correlations in our workplace.
Hayley’s voice sounds so pure and she seems like such a sparkplug. Love her energy.
“He was the first musician to ever merge rock with rhythm and blues. And he is best known for popularizing the Arrrrgh sound.” Thank you Pee Wee Herman.
Love the a cappella opening. Great wanderlust song.
I’ve covered this here.
50. Buy A Dog – Luce
My buddy, Scott, introduced me to this band. Listen to the song then go save a rescue dog.
I fell in love with this song when Lykke performed it in the back of a cab for the Black Cab Sessions. I always appreciate it when performers use unorthodox instruments to re-imagine their music.
I love the dynamics in this song. Sometimes it’s ethereal, sometimes it’s electronic, sometimes it’s punchy. I will often put my FitBit into sleep mode by drumming this out on my steering wheel or the arm of my chair.
Thank you, Scrubs, for introducing me to this song. The Peter Gabriel version is more sweeping with its strings and I enjoy that version. This one is just stark and raw. If I ever get married…
Lush layers and imagery. Once again, a favorite because of a woman.
BREAKING: Break-ups suck when you’re the breakee. Such emotion in this song.
“You’re vicious like the blue sky, right before the rain comes pouring through.” Turns out Matt isn’t just a clever lyricist, he’s also quite the raconteur.
There are plenty of great Metric songs, but this one stands out for me. It’s a great tune for grinding out time on a treadmill.
I used this in a Monkeys With Hand Grenades sketch about serial killers. I loved throwing the audience a curve and watching their reactions.
Who needs a therapist when you can simply write song lyrics?
60. Cream – Prince
Shaboogie bop. ‘Nuff said.
Freddie may be the most dynamic live performer ever.
Have you ever been with someone who you knew just wasn’t where you were? Maybe you delude yourself into thinking your instincts are off, but very soon you’re proven right and wonder if there was something else you could’ve done?
“Don’t get sentimental, it always ends up drivel.” A constant reminder to not get caught up in negative thoughts.
So many intentions behind I love you. Do most people know their own intent?
This is the inspiration for another unpublished short story I’m working on.
Say hello to a young Claire Danes. So you don’t fit in with a certain crowd? Maybe it’s because you’re an angel too.
This is another song from the playlist I made to write The Longest Walk.
“All I want to do is lie in bed with you
All I really ever need is you
All I got to do is give up all I have to be with you”
How many times have you changed for someone else rather than having them accept you for who you are?
I borrowed some of these lyrics for a toast at my brother’s wedding.
Have you ever visited your significant other in another city only to realize the relationship wasn’t going to last?
Friends Josh & Kim got married and asked for songs from those attending to make the playlist. This was my submission. Think it’s inappropriate for a wedding reception? You’d be wrong. My cousin, Mark, might be ecstatic to find a Tom Waits song on this list.
I absolutely love these lyrics.
This was on my playlist while I wrote Broken Needle. People make stupid mistakes.
This is another great sunny day driving song. The windows are down and the music is turned up.
75. Roses – Outkast
“I know you’d like to think your shit don’t stink
But lean a little bit closer
See that roses really smell like poo-poo-oo
Yeah, roses really smell like poo-poo-oo”
Yes, those are the lyrics. You might think it juvenile, but it makes me laugh that they use shit and poo-poo. I also get a kick out of the whole school talent show theme with Kevin MacDonald as the principal.
It was really difficult to cut the list I had down to just 75 since I had over 100 songs initially. Some of the others that just missed this cut include:
Another break-up song.
Have you ever had a George Costanza moment where you felt like every decision you ever made was wrong?
Could a hopeless romantic not have this on the list? Apparently so, since it missed the cut. Maybe I’m not as hopeless as I thought.
I saw them in concert several times and they were great each time.
I was goofing around in San Jose with my buddy, Scott, who walked me through the guitar chords of this song. Two minutes later we were playing it. That happened a lot.
I really dig his accent on this song that feels quite wistful.
Todd, whether solo or in Utopia, is terrific. Do you know the question?
When I first heard this song I thought it was U2. It sounds like something they might release right?
This song reminds me of early Rod Stewart or Bruce Springsteen music – a little nostalgia from new music.
When I’m feeling frustrated at work, this song works wonders. When you get to the end, you’ll understand.
First, I get a kick out of the name Skeetwood Mac. This DJ does a great job with the mashup.
This is such a wonderfully energetic song. I made it part of a Tantrum show music disc.
I really like the simplicity of the stomp-clap beat.
This is a little darker song courtesy of Chuck. It kind of haunts me, but in a good way.
I really like the bits of Spanish guitar they use.
So there you have it 75 + of my best songs ever. Would any of them made your list? If you’re so inclined, feel free to create your own list and hit me with a link in the comments section. I’m always on the lookout for new (or new to me) music.