Sunday, October 14, 2012

Songs for Geezers? Not Here!

As a card-carrying member of the American Association of Retired People (although I'm not retired yet, I qualify on the basis of age ... sigh), I get the AARP magazine and all sorts of snail- and e-mail advertising retirement communities, cemetery plots, discount colonoscopies, and USDA Prime pureed steaks. But I also get some thought-provoking articles like this one by Jacqueline Mitchard: 16 Songs Everyone Over 50 Must Own.

Well, everyone over 50 except me, that is.

While I like some of the songs on the list, there's not a one that would make it onto my top 50 list. Not even close.

And so, with a tip of the musical hat to Andrea, my favorite music lady, here are Bilbo's Top 16 Songs That Will Always Be in My Collection, with commentary, excerpts from the lyrics, and links to YouTube videos, where they're available (a note about the videos - some of them have political ads inserted before the actual music, so be warned):

1. Fields of Gold (Sting). This is a great song with a near-perfect blend of music and evocative lyrics ...

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold.

2. Song for Judith (Judy Collins). A wonderful song about friendship, sung in Judy's bell-clear voice with the wonderful refrain,

Open the door and come on in!
I'm so glad to see you, my friend -
You're like a rainbow comin' around the bend
And when I see you happy, well, it sets my soul free
I'd like to be as good a friend to you
As you are to me.

3. Angel Mine (Cowboy Junkies). The ethereal voice of vocalist Margo Timmins, combined with beautiful lyrics make this one of the most touching love songs I think I've ever heard ...

I'll never promise that I'll grow those wings,
Or keep this tarnished halo shined;
But I'll never betray your trust, Angel Mine

4. Bullshit (Grace Jones). The quintessential election year song, but useful in so many situations ...

And if I wander down the wrong road,
It's alright honey, just let me go,
If I get tired of all those assholes,
It's alright cause' I want them to know.

I'm sick and tired of all this bullshit
Same shit, wrong shit
Hey Jesus come on down and save us, save us, rave on.

5. Mr Shorty (Marty Robbins). One of the greatest cowboy storytelling songs ever, about a little man pushed too far by a bully ...

It was clear he was ready and waitin',
He leaned a bit forward and said,
"When you call me 'Shorty,' say 'Mister,' my friend,
Or maybe you'd rather be dead.'"

6. Die unsichtbare Macht (Juliane Werding). The first of two German songs on my list, this one is an anthem for paranoid people everywhere. The title translates as "The Invisible Power," and asks questions like,

Wer registriert jeden Schritt den ich tu?
Wer hoert sogar den Gedanken noch zu?
Keine Frage - die unsichtbare Macht!

in English ...

Who's logging my every step?
Who's listening to my every thought?
No question: it's the Invisible Power (it rhymes and sounds better in German).

7. You Know I'm No Good (Amy Winehouse). Amy Winehouse may have been an ad for everything you can do wrong in life, but she was a hell of a singer. This is a great song that only her gritty, one-of-a-kind voice could have moaned out ...

I cheated myself
Like I knew I would.
I told you I was trouble -
You know that I'm no good.

8. Jamaica Farewell (Harry Belafonte). I love calypso music, and it doesn't get much better than this simple song about the pain of separation ...

I'm sad to say I'm on my way,
Won't be back for many a day.
My heart is down, my head is turning around -
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.

9. The Music of the Night (Michael Crawford). The Phantom of the Opera is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest musicals of all time, with fabulous music and lyrics ... of which this one is the best song. Consider these words ...

Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor.
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender.
Hearing is believing,
Music is deceiving,
Hard as lightning, soft as candle light -
Dare you trust the music of the night?

And it's even a great song for the current political climate, as the lyrics go on with these words ...

Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn't what you want to see.
In the dark it is easy to pretend
That the truth is what it ought to be.

10. Herbstgewitter ueber Daechern (Reinhard Mey). German has an image as a harsh and gutteral language, but it can also be a language of great beauty and imagery. In this song by German folk singer Reinhard Mey, titled "Autumn Thunderstorms over the Rooftops," he sings about the things he sees and hears and experiences, compares them to his beloved, and finds they come up short ...

Warten, hoffen und aufgeben, 
Irren und Ratlosigkeit.
Zweifeln, glauben und verzeihen.
Freudentränen, Trunkenheit.

Hätt ich all das nie erfahren,
Hätt ich all das nie erlebt -
Schlief ich ein in deinen Armen.
Sagt ich doch, ich hab gelebt!

Or in English,

Waiting, hoping and giving up, 
Making mistakes, helplessness,
Doubting, believing, and forgiving,
Tears of joy, drunkenness.

If I'd never known any of that,
If I'd never experienced it at all,
If I could just fall asleep in your arms,
I could say I'd lived.

11. Straight to Number One (Touch and Go). Just about the ultimate in sexy, sultry tunes. It's a rumba melody that makes you think much more about the down-and-dirty horizontal tango than the slow and sexy rumba ...

Ten - kiss me on the lips
Nine - run your fingers through my hair
Eight - touch me . . . slowly
Hold it - 
Let's go straight to number one!

12. Years Ago (The Statler Brothers). The Statler Brothers are one of the great country/folk groups, and many of their songs feature clever lyrics to go along with the great melodies. They have so many great songs that it's hard to pick a single example as a favorite, but this one one about a fellow who drops by his old flame's wedding has got to be high on the list ...

There's no reason I should stay,
The groom won't shake hands anyway,
And I kissed the bride years ago.

13. Ain't Misbehavin' (George Burns). A great, simple song with music by Fats Waller and Harry Brooks and lyrics by Andy Razaf. It's been recorded by many singers, but my favorite version was done by George Burns ...

No one to walk with, all by myself
No one to talk with, I'm happy on the shelf
Ain't misbehavin' -
I'm savin' all my love for you.

14. Prodigal Daughter (Michelle Shocked). A twist on the biblical tale of the prodigal son, this song asks about the reception that the fallen, prodigal daughter might get when she returns home ...

Look, here comes the prodigal son
Fetch him a tall drink of water;
But there's none in the cup, 'cause he drank it all up,
Left for the prodigal daughter.

15. Return to Sender (Elvis Presley). Before we had zip codes to sort our mail, we had postal zones ... I grew up in "Pittsburgh 37, Pennsylvania," which is now "Pittsburgh, PA 15237." You ought to know that bit of trivia if you're much younger than I am and want to enjoy this great song from The King, which contains the lines,

I gave a letter to the postman,
he put it his sack.
Bright and early next morning,
he brought my letter back -

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender - address unknown.
No such number, no such zone.

And it's a great swing dance tune, too!

16. Closer and Closer Apart (Mary Chapin Carpenter). A sad, poignant song about failing love ...

Now, my sad little boat floats on out to sea
And you're almost out of sight
I'll remember you
Please don't forget me
I whisper with all my might

All I can do is turn now to you
Holding my hand to my heart
All that I know is I'm watching us grow
Closer and closer apart.

Okay, I have to add one more to the list of 16 ...

17. A Rock and a Hard Place (The Rolling Stones). I don't like much hard rock, but this one is a classic ...

This talk of freedom and human rights
Means bullying and private wars and chucking all the dust into our eyes,
And peasant people poorer than dirt
Who are caught in the crossfire with nothing to lose but their shirts -
Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Okay, that's my list ... what songs are on yours? Let ol' Bilbo know in your comments, or send me an e-mail or a note on Facebook.

Because we need music to help us get through the worldly mess.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Duckbutt said...

Great songs, especially "Jamaica Farewell."

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Love Music Of The Night and no one sings it better than Michael Crawford

Ken K said...

You teased me right up until the end. "It's only Rock and Roll, but I like it."

Mike said...

I think everyone will have their own personal list. The AARP list mostly sucks.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I like that song from POTM too! And Jamaica Farwell. And, of course, anything by the Stones!

I think the AARP strived to be middle-of-the-road, if possible.

The Bastard King of England said...

Amy Winehouse was an artist for our time.

Kristen Lavransdrittsekkdatter said...

The AARP list was disappointing.

Big Sky Heidi said...

Grace Jones and Sting are outstanding.