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The 1,001 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century – 380 to 371

 

 

380. “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn. Songwriter: Loretta Lynn; #83 pop/#1 country; 1970. Loretta Lynn was an established country artist well before releasing “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” having released seventeen Top Ten country hits and three #1 singles. However, her autobiographical tale of her hardscrabble Kentucky roots and a childhood defined by poverty, love, and faith resulted in the most lasting connection with her fan base. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” became her signature song and was also the title of a successful 1980 film about Loretta Lynn’s life. Her original intent in writing the song was to deliver a bluegrass tune for the Osborne Brothers of “Rocky Top” fame. Lynn, “By the time I finished the first line I said, ‘Hey, that’s not going to do. They can’t be coal miner’s daughters – what’s wrong with me?’” Although thematically different, this country chart topper did share one common denominator with some of her biggest hits of the 1960s, including “Fist City” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).” They were written solely by Loretta Lynn.

379. “Genius of Love,” Tom Tom Club. Songwriters: Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, Steven Stanley; #31 pop/#2 R&B; 1982. While on hiatus from the Talking Heads in 1981, rhythm section/husband and wife Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth created the Tom Tom Club. Their hit single “Genius of Love” was a Girl Group effort for the new wave era, as Andrew Belew’s angular guitar work bounced off of a funk groove. Tina Weymouth, along with her sisters Laura and Lani, provided the enchanting, breathy lead vocals. Tina Weymouth, “It just has a texture that sounds like magic. It was kind of a different edge. Everything else was about 120 bpm at the time for dance music, and we wanted to slow it down to give it more internal swing, and not have any four on the floor – maybe give it kind of an island feel as well. I can’t remember if it was 112 bpm or something. Maybe it was around 108, but it was really slow for us, because we were used to playing these nervous paces and breakneck speed and stuff, so it was a delightful challenge.” Chris Frantz, “It was a song that was pioneering. At the time there was nothing that sounded like it, and frankly, except for the people that have sampled it, there still isn’t.” Fitting for a song that pays tribute to James Brown, well over 100 different songs have sampled “Genius of Love.”

378. “You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me,” The Miracles. Songwriter: Smokey Robinson; #8 pop/#1 R&B; 1962. During a recording session in 1980, Yoko Ono stated that John Lennon was sounding more like a Beatle than a solo artist. Lennon responded, “Actually I’m supposed to be Smokey Robinson at the moment, my dear, because The Beatles were always supposing that they were Smokey Robinson.” Smokey’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” took its gospel pop sound from Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and immediate caught the listener’s attention with the opening salvo – “I don’t like you, but I love you.” Graham Vickers, “The Miracles’ ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’ was perfect for The Beatles to cover. It had everything: memorable instrumental riffs; a great melody; a two-part harmony sung by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers; and a hint of gospel-style drama in the ‘tighter’ interjections. Ostensibly an exercise in effortless pop, it was of course carefully crafted by Motown’s best personnel.”

377. “Swingin’,” John Anderson. Songwriters: John Anderson, Lionel Delmore; #43 pop/#1 country; 1983. Forget Romeo and Juliet, Little Charlotte Johnson inspired the best love story ever. John Anderson conveys the wondrous thrill of new romance and his band positively…um…swings with horns and a rock inspired Hammond B-3 organ interlude. Not only a #1 hit, not only the Country Music Association Single of the Year, but this song was best-selling country single in the history of Warner Brothers Records. Anderson, “I knew then I was very, very lucky to have a song that big, especially to have written it as well as published it. I always give the good Lord credit for my music and the songs I’ve written, but I thank Him many, many times for “Swingin’.” Anderson co-wrote “Swingin’” with Lionel Delmore, whose father was in the legendary country act the Delmore Brothers. Anderson, “Lionel Delmore was one of the most important people to me ever in my career as far as advising me and staying on me about writing songs. We both decided to quit our jobs the same day and start writing songs together.”

376. “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” Hall & Oates. Songwriters: Sara Allen, Daryl Hall, John Oates; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1982. The Philadelphia based duo Daryl Hall and John Oates had three Top Ten singles in the mid-70s (“Sara Smile,” “She’s Gone,” and “Rich Girl”), but faded from radio later in that decade. They returned to the Top Forty in 1980 with the aptly titled “How Does It Feel to Be Back” and became one of the most successful acts of that decade. Music journalist Steve Peake on “I Can’t Go for That,” “This unforgettable and very worthy No. 1 pop hit stands as one of the duo’s all-time grooviest and funkiest songs, propelled by a wonderfully spare but tasty guitar lick and an infectious rhythm.” Daryl Hall, “I was still sitting at my keyboards, just playing around. I had this primitive drum machine, which had a setting called: ‘Rock 1.’ I pushed the button and out came a rhythm. Then I played the first bassline that came into my head, followed by some chords, and thought: ‘Oh man! There’s something happening here!’ I yelled into the studio: ‘Turn the tapes on!’ Then I shouted to John: ‘Play this line.’ And I hummed something. John grabbed his guitar – and that was it. I basically wrote the song on the spot: it was being recorded as I was thinking of it. In the vocal booth, I sang some gibberish words and wrote some proper lyrics later. We added the alto sax later too. A few years after the song topped the US charts, we did ‘We Are the World,’ the USA For Africa famine relief record, with a lot of other stars. Everybody was in the room without their minders – a really unusual situation. I got talking to Michael Jackson and he said: ‘I hope you don’t mind. I stole the groove from ‘I Can’t Go for That’ for my song ‘Billie Jean.’ I told him: ‘Oh Michael, what do I care? You did it very differently.’”

375. “Ready Teddy,” Little Richard. Songwriters: John Marascalco, Robert Blackwell; #44 pop/#8 R&B; 1956. Rolling Stone, “Little Richard was the freakiest of all the great rock & rollers – his sexual expressiveness was untempered by Elvis Presley’s down-home charm, Chuck Berry’s sly wit, Jerry Lee Lewis’s wolfish malevolence, Buddy Holly’s pop sensibility or Fats Domino’s avuncular geniality. Richard’s feral ‘WOO’ conflated the spiritual and the orgasmic in a way that changed the way musicians communicated desire forever.” Greil Marcus, no stranger to hyperbole, “’Good Golly Miss Molly’ and ‘True Fine Mama’ sound as anomalous, as Martian, in 1984 as they did in 1958. But ‘Ready Teddy’ (1956), which is a better song, a better text, better written, takes place on another level. It is the whole body—forget the mouth, we’re in the lungs, the legs. It’s not a performance: it’s an event, one of those events that took place even before the birth of language, like death.” In another text, Marcus referred to “Ready Teddy” as “the most musically extreme record of its time.” It is quite a bopper.

374. “Move It On Over,” Hank Williams. Songwriter: Hank Williams; #4 country; 1947. Despite his relatively short career, Hiram King “Hank” Williams is widely revered as one of the most talented singers and songwriters in American music history. Raised in southern Alabama, Williams was taught guitar chords by a local black street performer named Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne. He started performing on Montgomery radio when he was thirteen, however, World War II and his own battles with the bottle delayed his success. Businessman/songwriter Fred Rose signed Williams to a six song contract in late 1946. After four singles failed to chart, Williams scored a Top Five country hit with the doghouse/12-bar blues of “Move It On Over.” Fiddler Jerry Rivers on one aspect of Williams’ appeal to his audience, “His novelty songs weren’t novelty – they were serious, not silly, and that’s why they were much better accepted and better selling. ‘Move It On Over’ hits right home, ‘cause half of the people he was singing to were in the doghouse with the ol’ lady.” Bill Haley recorded a cover version of “Move It On Over” in 1958, but more famously released an unofficial cover in 1954 titled “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.”

373. “Honky Tonk Women,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #1 pop; 1969. Mick Jagger was singing about alcohol, cocaine, and sex on “Honky Tonk Women,” behavior that was perfectly acceptable from white British rock stars. The New York City vocal trio Reperata and the Delrons provided backing vocals. Keith Richards, “’Honky Tonk Women’ started in Brazil. Mick and I were sitting on the porch of this ranch house and I started to play, basically fooling around with an old Hank Williams idea. ‘Cause we really thought we were like real cowboys. We were sitting in the middle of nowhere with all these horses, in a place where if you flush the john all these black frogs would fly out. It started out a real country honk put on, a hokey thing. A couple of months later we were writing songs and recording. Somehow by some metamorphosis it suddenly went into this little swampy, black thing, a blues thing.” “Honky Tonk Women” is historically significant for being the first Stones recording to include guitarist Mick Taylor. Keith Richards, “The song was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930s country song. And it got turned around to this other thing by Mick.”

372. “Come Together,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #1 pop; 1969. The Beatles took a Chuck Berry riff into swamp rock territory, adding Lennon’s evocative/provocative collage style lyrics and vocal distortion into the equation. John Lennon, “The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook. ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Tim Leary had come up with for (perhaps for the governorship of California against Reagan), and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and I tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, ‘Come Together,’ which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right? It was a funky record — it’s one of my favorite Beatles tracks. It’s funky, it’s bluesy, and I’m singing it pretty well.” McCartney, “I said, ‘Let’s slow it down with a swampy bass-and-drums vibe.’ I came up with a bass line, and it all flowed from there.” Producer George Martin, “If I had to pick one song that showed the four disparate talents of the boys and the ways they combined to make a great sound, I would choose ‘Come Together.’ The original song is good, and with John’s voice it’s better. Then Paul has this idea for this great little riff. And Ringo hears that and does a drum thing that fits in, and that establishes a pattern that John leapt upon and did the (‘shoot me’) part. And then there’s George’s guitar at the end. The four of them became much, much better than the individual components.”

371. “Bizarre Love Triangle,” New Order. Songwriters: Gllian Gilbert, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner; #98 pop; 1986. New Order was formed by the members of Joy Division after the suicide of Ian Curtis and found fame by making dance music for goth people. They had success in the U.K. and in U.S. rock critic polls with their early singles “Ceremony,” “Temptation,” and “Blue Monday.” Their 1986 single “Bizarre Love Triangle” was a dance hit with one of those choruses that transports the listener into a dimension of pure pleasure. Andrew Unterberger of Billboard, “’Bizarre Love Triangle’ was an unparalleled head-rush of a synth-pop song, combining classic soul melodies and borderline-gospel lyrical reverence with layers upon layers of spellbinding electronic hooks, crafting an incandescent jewel of mid-’80s computer love in the process. Of course, if you remember ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ for one thing, it’s that wallop of a chorus, hopping up and down the octave: ‘Every time I see you falling/I get down on my knees and pray.’ The quasi-religious wording gives it echoes of Al Green, and the melody is classic Motown.” Robert Ham of Paste Magazine, “Dozens of bands have been chasing down a sound as honeydripping and danceable as this one. All have failed.”

 

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