Some of the songs I’ve chosen spoke to me through their lyrics, like ‘Free Man In Paris’ by Joni Mitchell. The music is nice but the lyrics produce such wonderful imagery which is what makes this song special. Other songs chosen spoke to me through their music, such as ‘Martha My Dear’ by the Beatles or ‘RadioGaGa’ by Queen. Several other of my choices resonate with me based on lyrics and music such as Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’ and Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly.’
Martha My Dear – Beatles
This song was recorded in 1968 and according to Wikipedia, it was written by McCartney about his Old English Sheepdog, Martha, a dog that Paul owned at the time. It begins with a piano piece by Paul McCartney which is rather whimsical, setting an upbeat tone throughout the song. Beatle aficionados typically would not put this song in their top 10 or 20 of all time Beatles’ favorites but again, it just seems to resonate with me. It’s a very sort song but still fun and upbeat and is irresistibly charming. Impossible not to smile when listened to. Before the one minute has elapsed, several string instruments are introduced. Shortly thereafter, you may hear French horns, trombones, and trumpets. This was directed by George Martin who played a pivotal role in introducing uncharacteristic instruments into a rock song.
Leonard Cohen – Dance Me To The End of Love (Live Version)
The song is aligned to a typical Greek “Hasapiko” dance move, and maybe inspired by Cohen’s love for the Greek island of Hydra. This live version is several minutes longer than the original recording done in 1984, but is well worth the added length. The live version begins with a piano bit followed by a violinist – a nice mix of charming sound. Leonard’s deep and charming voice is also accompanied by several background singers, a horn section, and an accordion. It's a song one can relax too or for that matter, dance to it.
Free Man In Paris – Joni Mitchell
I do my best And I do good business
There's a lot of people asking for my time
They're trying to get ahead
They're trying to be a good friend of mine
I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no one's future to decide
You know I'd go back there tomorrow
But for the work I've taken on
Stoking the star-maker machinery
Behind the popular song
I can’t say what I prefer more, the lyrics or the actual music as both are outstanding.
My take on this song is that she misses living in Paris in the early 70’s and being free. Being “free” meant unfettered and alive where her friends and other contacts were not asking her for favors to help with their careers. Unfortunately, she’s signed a contract to write more song to stoke the star-maker machinery so in a way she’s tethered to this obligation and really missing being a “Free Man In Paris.”
Radio Ga Ga (live version) – Queen
This live version was recorded in London during the Live Aid concert in 1985 in the old Wembley stadium. I first found this song when listening to Queen’s short stint for Live Aid. It’s a short song but Queen and especially Freddie Mercury is passionate and eager to get the attendees involved in the chorus. Written by drummer Roger Taylor, it laments the loss of influence radio has as TV has overtaken radio as the most popular medium. Also, as TV has gained more influenced, MTV had become a very popular channel for people to receive their music. Roger also felt music television became much more influential than radio as it focused on the video rather than the aural sense.
Caravan – Van Morrison (The Last Waltz)
The Last Waltz was a rock documentary which captured the last concert by The Band on Thanksgiving in ‘76 in SF. This movie was directed by Martin Scorsese and included special guests Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and other musical stars. According to Wikipedia, the theme of the song is about gypsy live and the radio which are both images of harmony. The song Caravan sung by Van was accompanied by The Band, a song that starts slow and ends with Van passionately dancing and repeating “Turn it up, turn it up, because you got soul.”
Killing Me Softly – Roberta Flack.
I don’t know what I like most about this song, the lyrics or the actual music. This song is well over 40 years old but when it’s played, it continues to resonate with me. Norman Gimbel and Lori Lieberman wrote the lyrics to this "Killing Me Softly with His Song" and Lieberman released the song in 1972
In 1973, it became a number-one hit in the United States and Canada for Roberta Flack, also reaching number six in the UK Singles Chart. The song has been covered by many artists; the version by the Fugees won the 1997 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
End Of The Line – Traveling Wilburys
A fun song, one you can tap your feet to. The collaboration of Bob, Tom, George, Jeff, Roy, and company make this a song that's hard to ignore when played.
Candle In The Wind – Elton John
Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did
Goodbye Norma Jean is the second song of side one of a two LP album titled Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. As you can see by the partial lyrics, the opening line is “Goodbye, Norma Jean” referring to Marilyn Monroe’s real name. Never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in…Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did.
This song appears to be a wailing song of mourning composed as a memorial to a dead person. This song could also apply to many famous people whose life was cut short in the prime of their life. Elton John composed this song and Bernie Taupin was the lyricist. As some know, Elton and Bernie collaborated on dozens of songs on Elton John’s records.
In 1997, Elton recorded “Candle in the Wind 1997” or “Goodbye England’s Rose as a tribute to Diana Spence, Princess of Wales. This version was produced by George Martin.
And She Was – Talking Heads
David Byrne and company. Good beat, a song that you want to instantly dance too. Unfortunately, it’s rarely played at weddings so it’s seldom you have a chance to dance to.
My Honorable Mention
Make Me An Angel – Bonnie Rait
Pixeleen – Steely Dan
Southern Cross – Steven Stills
Canadian Railway Trilogy – Gordon Lightfoot
One Piece At A Time (One of Grandpa’s favorite) – Johnny Cash
You Don't Mess Around with Jim – Jim Croce
Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
Tangled Up In Blue – Bob Dylan
A Day In The Life -- The Beatles