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TOP 10 Songs Every Songwriter Should Know?


Ernest Buckley
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I`ve been catching up with some older students recently who are now in college and pursuing their own careers in music. We were discussing songwriting and I told one of my former students to mimic some of the most successful songwriters today and yesterday. Basically, copy their chord progressions, the melody, while adding your own lyrics. Then go back and change the melody and chord progression to make it your own.

 

That got me thinking… its so much easier to write a song if you already have another successful (meaning popular) song in mind to borrow ideas from to to use as a building block. Every songwriter should study multiple styles of music and call upon their memory those tunes to develop their own song ideas.

 

With that said, which songs do you think are essential for a well rounded musical background, specifically for a songwriter? There are thousands of songs but which 10 would you say not only established the art form of song, but also revolutionized the concept of songwriting?

 

I know… its a lot to chew on but I`m curious… and I think of so many songs from so many different genres… its seems endless but there are certain songs that are considered "cornerstones".

 

I have to think about it a bit more before I list my Top 10. Whats yours?

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Ernest......You fully realize that this could probably be the basis for someone's thesis. You're an evil man.

 

It is not like asking somebody to list their 10 favorite songs. To anyone that loves music, that in and of itself would be a most wrenching and difficult task.

 

You are literally asking someone to remove their personal tastes from the equation and apply a somewhat mathematical approach.

 

I refuse this exercise in futility. I never ever take on the daunting and seemingly impossible on Wednesdays. Takes the hump right out of Hump Day.

 

 

 

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Johnny B Goode

Love Me Do

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

This Guys in Love

Rollin and Tumblin

The Ballad of The Alamo

The Green Leaves of Summer

Turn,Turn,Turn

Summertime Blues

Gentle on my Mind

 

I hate you Ernest. It's official.

 

 

This is very interesting. I can directly recall 3 of these tunes. I'm not sure I have heard the others at all. I probably have but just can't associate them with their titles. This means I will spend some time on research.

 

Cheers,

 

Mats N

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Skylark

Cherokee

Lush Life

Promises, Promises (Bacharach)

Sophisticated Lady

Caravan

The Girl From Ipanema

So Many Stars

Betcha By Golly Wow

Cool (from WEST SIDE STORY)

 

Bonus: The Windmills Of Your Mind

Bonus #2: Deacon Blue

 

 

These are songs which really take you through a harmonic and melodic journey... which a good song should do. These are songs you play when you've graduated from the "roses are red, violets are blue" sort of song prosody. There are many great 3-chord songs that have been written over the last 100 years; these are not among them.

Edited by rasputin1963
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Ernest......You fully realize that this could probably be the basis for someone's thesis. You're an evil man.

 

:p:p:p

 

Honestly, I was pretty hesitant to start this thread knowing there is no definitive answer. However, I think most SSS contributors have good taste and a much longer history of music than I do… so I`m looking forward to what you all have to say. As for me… I`m still thinking…. this can take a while…

 

:D

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Skylark

Cherokee

Lush Life

Promises, Promises (Bacharach)

Sophisticated Lady

Caravan

The Girl From Ipanema

So Many Stars

Betcha By Golly Wow

Cool (from WEST SIDE STORY)

 

Bonus: The Windmills Of Your Mind

Bonus #2: Deacon Blue

 

 

These are songs which really take you through a harmonic and melodic journey... which a good song should do. These are songs you play when you've graduated from the "roses are red, violets are blue" sort of song prosody. There are many great 3-chord songs that have been written over the last 100 years; these are not among them.

 

I agree David, my list consists of many of the songs in the genres you have already listed above. I think our best songs were written between the 1920s and the 1960s. Then some sort of "dumbing down" occurred. Topic for another thread….

 

 

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Rhapsody In Blue - George Gershwin (If it doesn't meet your definition of "song" - sue me! It's on my list anyway.)

 

Alison - Elvis Costello (Declan McManus)

 

Something - The Beatles (Harrison)

 

The Look Of Love - Bacharach / David

 

Satin Doll - Duke Ellington

 

In The Mood - Joe Garland

 

American Pie - Don McLean

 

Crazy - Willie Nelson

 

Wichita Lineman - Jimmy Webb

 

Hey Jude - The Beatles (McCartney)

 

One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) - Mercer / Arlen

 

God Only Knows - Brian Wilson / Tony Asher

 

I've Got You Under My Skin - Cole Porter

 

Yesterday - The Beatles (McCartney)

 

Imagine - John Lennon

 

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams

 

Take 5 - Paul Desmond

 

Maybellene - Chuck Berry

 

 

 

Now how the heck am I going to cut this list down to ten songs - especially when I have a bunch of other songs that I think are just as deserving that should also be on the list? wink.png

 

 

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"Messiah" - George Frideric Handel

"Hard Times" - Stephen Foster

"Turn Your Radio On" - Albert Edward Brumley (also good for 'shape notes')

"Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on" - Tom T. Hall (Hit song about an active shooter - not many folks can do that)

"Coat of Many Colors" - Dolly Parton

"Fist City" - Loretta Lynn

"Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" - Chris Tomlin

"Your Cheating Heart" - Hank Williams

"Po Folks" - Bill Anderson

"The Music Man" - Meredith Willson

 

In addition to the song, we included the song's author. Often you can learn alot not just a single song, but also by the way their writing has changed over time. Also how the music adapts to different genres.

 

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Lists, lists, lists......evil lists must DIEsm-crossbones

 

but wait for my input first:)

 

One source to think about, that most of us don't talk about or listen to, are the great songwriters from the classical tradition. Probably Schubert gets mentioned the most as the king of this genre, but I am totally in love with the output of Gabriel Faure - think after Chopin, before Debussy (sounds like either of the two at times). He wrote tons of songs before he ventured into longer classical forms. His material always sings, whether for two performers or twenty.

 

Classical singing is hard to get past if you haven't acquired the taste - but songs are songs - short, easy structure to grasp, a single focus of story and/or mood, the interplay between the vocal and the backing.

 

Anyway, give it a try -

 

[YOUTUBE]L-GK8_78LQc[/YOUTUBE]

 

nat whilk ii

 

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Like a rolling stone - Dylan

What's going on - Marvin Gaye

Imagine - Lennon

Europa - Santana

Respect - Aretha Franklin

Georgia - Ray Charles

Manha de carnaval - Luis Bonfa

Bourree - Johan Sebastion Bach

This Masquerade - Leon Russell

Rappers delight - Sugerhill gang

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