Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Top 10 Songwriters

Not quite the turnout as last time, but still it's a worthwhile exercise. On the heels of Novermber's Top 10 Guitarists, now we have Top 10 Songwriters.

As a poor songwriter myself, it's an interesting list to look at, I gave my own list quite a bit of though, and seeing Jack's list brings forgotten (by me, anyway) songwriters back to my conciousness.

BOJ's List

I tried to pick songwriters who have touched me in a personal way. Even at that, I had to leave off a number who have meant a lot to me like Ed Robertson & Steve Page of Barenaked Ladies, Mojo Nixon and John Coltrane (writing out lyrics for him here would have been a hoot!). For me, a great songwriter makes me chuckle, think and take a different look at myself. These 10 definitely all do that.

10) Shawn Michael Bitz - Abby SomeOne - As much as I tried, I couldn't leave off the best songwriter I personally know. SMB always provides lyrics that crystalize my thoughts better than I ever could. And I left Paul Simon off of my list for this guy.

She ain't shy
But she's careful what she take
She's got her foot on the gas
But she's tappin' on the brake


9) "Icepick" James Harman - I was so into his music, then I moved to SoCal where James spends his winters. I could see him every Wendesday in February at Blue Cafe in the LBC. The guy can write a song about anything! An example that he grabbed off of a locksmith's van while stuck in traffic:

I got a double chambered dead-bolt
And a flame-tempered shank
That's a killer combination, child
Take that to the bank
Oh, I'm your lock doctor, baby
And I hold the master key

"Lock Doctor"

8) Ben Folds - Ben Folds Five - Solo - A poetic, yet conversational style. Ben's songs are like talking to friends for me. And he has this sort of unnatural attraction to the music of William Shatner.....

'Cause my peers they criticize me
And my ex-wives all despise me
Try to put it all behind me
But my redneck past is nipping at my heels


7) Randy Newman - His mean-spirited but thoughtful lyrics have always struck a chord with me. If you've only heard his few songs that got radio airplay, you're really missing out.

Asia's too crowded, Europe's too old
Africa's too hot and Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

"Political Science"

6) John Lee Hooker - Songwriting at its best is poetry. And like they taught us in high school English, great poetry doesn't have to rhyme. That doesn't always work in music, but Hook made it work, even avoiding the obvious rhyme at times.

Every time I see you
Walkin' down the street
I gets a thrill, baby
From my head down to my toes

"I'm in the Mood"

5) Willie Nelson - If Willie had written nothing but Crazy, America's greatest pop song, he'd make my list. Nashville didn't have a clue what to do with him, so he went off and reinvented country music through "outlaw country."

I'm crazy for cryin'
Crazy for tryin'
And crazy for lovin' you


4) Bruce Springsteen - & the E Street Band - We've seen Springsteen grow up from a kid writing about cars and failed (or failing) relationships to a socially conscious songwriter on par with Bob Dylan.

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames
Of burned-out Chevrolets

"Thunder Road"

3) John Lennon & Paul McCartney - The Beatles - Can you make this list without mentioning them? Prolific, has any duo ever written more memorable songs? Their stuff even worked auf Deutsch.

Sie liebt dich - yeah yeah yeah
Sie liebt dich - yeah yeah yeah
Denn mit dir allein' kann sie nur glücklich sein!
Denn mit dir allein...
Mit dir allein..

"Sie Liebt Dich" ("She Loves You")

2) Bob Dylan - Again, how do you leave someone like Dylan off of this list? As good an American Songwriter as there will ever be, politically, socially, in every way possible. And definitely not above the relationship song. Sue Foley loves his tunes, she covered the following, and it gives me a very special feeling to hear her sing it.

But if you got to go
It's all right
But if you got to go, go now
Or else you gotta stay all night

"If You Gotta Go, Go Now"

1) Willie Dixon - Chess Blues 1950's to 1970's - Responsible for so many fine blues tunes from the likes of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, etc. His songs were always simple but perfectly constructed.

I am your backdoor man
Well the men don't know
But the little girls understand

"Backdoor Man"

Jack's List

I don't know which was harder, choosing my favorite top ten guitarists or this recently completed list of song writers. In any case, here are my picks, accompanied by excerpts from their compositions, along with my comments.

1) Lennon/McCartney--What actually needs to be said? These guys wrote so many beautiful melodies and lyrics, and in my mind, have stood the test of time. Today's youth is discovering the magic of their compositions, which were written well over 30 years ago.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me.....

"Across The Universe"

2) George Harrison--This guy was writing in the shadows of two giants while a member of the Beatles, so it was understandable why his contributions were at the time, maybe not fully appreciated. I've always enjoyed his solo work, but it wasn't until after his death, and after viewing on DVD "Concert for George", which was a gathering of his musical friends playing his music in tribute to him, I realized how many great songs he too wrote. Here are some of them: “Isn’t It a Pity”, “Old Brown Shoe”, “Beware of Darkness”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Something”, “When We Was Fab”, “Love Comes To Everyone”, “Give Me Love”, “All Those Years Ago”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “All Things Must Pass”……..

Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
Its not always going to be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

“All Things Must Pass”

3) James Taylor--I like heavy sounds emanating from electric guitars, but I like even more the sweet sound of an acoustic guitar. When it's a song played by James Taylor--it's icing on the cake. Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain, You've Got a Friend(Carole KIng), Copperline, Wandering, Mexico........

But baby, don't you throw your love away
I hate to seem unkind
It's only that I understand the man
That the monkey can leave behind
I used to think he was a friend of mine

"A Junkie's Lament"

4) Billy Joel--the piano man. Yea, but that wasn't even in my top ten favorites of his. "New York State of Mind" gets my nod as being his best. A cross between jazz, blues and rock, it has some great killer chord progressions, and the words ain't bad either:

It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, The Daily News
It comes down to reality
And it's fine with me 'cause I've let it slide.....

"New York State of Mind"

5) Paul Simon-All I have to do to state my case for this man is list five songs of his, with partial lyrics to the last: "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", "Homeward Bound",
"The Sounds of Silence", "Still Crazy After All These Years", and "The Boxer".

Asking only workman's wages I come lookin' for a job,
But I get no offers, just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare there were times when I was so lonesome, I took some comfort there…

"The Boxer"

6) Randy Newman--Now a comfortably numb Hollywood score writer for the big screen, he has done very well for himself--deservedly so. But he has been writing great songs forever. Like "Guilty", "I Think It's Going To Rain Today", "It's Money That Matters", "Political Science", and my favorite--"Louisiana 1927".

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright.....
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

"Louisiana 1927"

7) Jackson Browne--One of my favorite musician/songwriters from the '70's. I've always thought his early work was his best, especially his second album "For Everyman".

Seems like I've always been looking for some other place
To get it together
Where with a few of my friends I could give up the race
And maybe find something better
But all my fine dreams and
Well thought out schemes to gain the motherland
Have all eventually come down to waiting for Everyman
Waiting here for Everyman…

"For Everyman"

8) Fagen/Becker (Steely Dan) These off-the-wall guys with their off-the-wall lyrics and their smooth jazz/rock sounds captured my attention from the first time I heard them. It's funny how I didn't think of Steely Dan as smooth jazz/rock back then. I guess they weren't. But probably now. Love Larry Carlton's guitar playing. I've got pretty much all their recordings. Numerous great songs: "Aja", "Kid Charlemagne", "Hey Nineteen", "Reelin' In the Years", "Royal Scam", "Third World Man", "Gaucho", "Any Major Dude Will Tell You".............

Are you with me, Doctor Wu?
Are you really just the shadow of the man that I once knew?
She is lovely, yes, she's sly, and you're an ordinary guy.
Has she fin'lly got to you?
Can you hear me, Doctor?
Are you with me, Doctor?

"Doctor Wu"

9) Gilmore/Waters (Pink Floyd)--Best album of the 70's? "Dark Side of the Moon". And an even better album from Pink Floyd some 20 years later--"Division Bell". The following music not too shabby either.

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're sayin'.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

"Comfortably Numb"

10) Jagger/Richards (Rolling Stones)--Gotta give these bad boys alot of credit for longevity. These rockers have been crankin' out songs for 75 years now--and are still going strong in their mid-90's. I think they were around when Christ was on Earth. Maybe they should write a song about that......"Sympathy for the Devil", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Ruby Tuesday", "Wild Horses", "Brown Sugar", "Gimme Shelter", "Honky Tonk Woman", and my favorite, especially the sax instrumental break, is "Waiting On A Friend".

Don't need a whore
I don't need no booze
Don't need a virgin priest
But I need someone I can cry to
I need someone to protect
Making love and breaking hearts
It is a game for youth
But I'm not waiting on a lady
I'm just waiting on a friend

“Waiting On A Friend”

Honorable Mention: Frey/Henley(Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Gordon Lightfoot, John Prine, Sting, Sir Elton John

Like last time, I'll continue to take submissions to this list. Just leave a comment or send me an email. Also, feel free to comment on the lists here. You can continue to tell Jack just how off base he was, though last time those type of comments seemed to be aimed more at me than at him.



How long does your list have to be to include some women?

I know this is all very subjective, personal taste in music, comparing genre and style...but there ought to have been at least one representative of the fairer sex on one of your lists! I would submit Bonnie Raitt, Emily Saliers/Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Carole King, Karla Bonoff, Sarah MacLachlan, Alanis Morissette...

As far as the guys go, Lyle Lovett and Sting are up there as is Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Webb, Elvis Costello, Rodgers & Hart and Leonard Cohen. And SMB would be eight, maybe seven on my list. Though he is a 10. ;)
I tried to put a female on my guitarists list (Bonnie Raitt, not Sue Foley), but I just couldn't eliminate anyone I had there.

Same thing this time. There's a fabulous blues songwriter, Ann Rabson (Safire - The Uppity Blues Women), who I'd love to have put here. Couldn't do it. I already left off Paul Simon, for heaven's sake. That itself probably dooms me to some songwriter's hell when I expire.

I really like your take on this, T1G. Shoot me a list. Follow the format that Jack and I used (brief explanaton, some lyrics) and I'll post it. I'll even send you a notice next time I do one of these. You won't be the first woman here either, good friend MonyP posted on Top 10 guitarists.

For the record
My favorite female songwriters:

Ann Rabson
Sue Foley
Joni Mitchell
Carole King
Sarah MacLachlan
Bonnie Raitt
Memphis Minnie
Lucille Bogan

That's just off the top of my head....
I'm on it! I have a Yahoo email address for you, can I send my list there?
There or send to the link in the post.
I've been meaning to send this list in for quite some time:
Tom Waits
Leonard Cohen
Elvis Costello
Jeff Tweedy
Van Morrison
David Byrne
Elliot Smith
Warren Zevon
Donald Fagen
Vic Chestnut
Tom Waits

Yes, I'm with that1gal! More women in the lists.

Here's mine (with women):

Suzanne Vega
Dolly Parton
Lucinda Williams
Tori Amos
Carole King
Lyle Lovett
Paul McCartney
Roger Waters
Tom Waits

Thanks for the opportunity, BOJ!
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