365 Songs of the Century

The Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts have released a list of the 365 “Songs of the Century”. Here are the top 25:

1 Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland
2 White Christmas - Bing Crosby
3 This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie
4 Respect - Aretha Franklin
5 American Pie - Don McLean
6 Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - The Andrews Sisters
7 West Side Story - Original Cast
8 Take Me Out to the Ball Game - Billy Murray
9 You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin - The Righteous Brothers
10 The Entertainer - Scott Joplin
11 In the Mood - Glenn Miller Orchestra
12 Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley & The Comets
13 When the Saints Go Marching In - Louis Armstrong
14 You Are My Sunshine - Jimmie Davis
15 Mack the Knife - Bobby Darin
16 Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
17 Take the ‘A’ Train - Duke Ellington Orchestra
18 Blueberry Hill - Fats Domino
19 God Bless America - Kate Smith
20 Stars and Stripes Forever - Sousa’s Band
21 I Heard It Through the Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
22 Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding
23 I Left My Heart in San Francisco - Tony Bennett
24 Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
25 Stand By Me - Ben E. King

(The ranked list comes from the Hollywood Reporter site here. Listings on the RIAA and NEA sites are grouped by era, like this.)

And you know, it’s a pretty good list. Even the songs that don’t particularly grab me, I can understand why they’re there. But a few observations:

Not enough Gershwin. “Porgy and Bess” is at 97, and that’s all. I mean, how do you leave “Rhapsody in Blue” off this list? I noticed that the list is oriented around specific recordings, not just the songs, and maybe there’s no definitive recording of “Rhapsody in Blue”.

Jimi Hendrix barely makes the list at number 365 with “All Along the Watchtower”, should be higher.

“Whip It” by Devo should be on the list. The closest I can find (if such a concept even applies when talking about music) is “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads at number 257.

Something by the Velvet Underground and/or Iggy Pop should be on the list.

There’s no punk. Should be something by the Sex Pistols or the Ramones.

And if it were just me, I’d have found room for “Cocktails for Two” by Spike Jones.

But like I said, as these lists go this one’s not bad. There were some things left off, but I haven’t decided what I’d pull from the list to make room. Anybody else see any glaring problems (my officemate says there should be some Bob Marley), and if a radio station played this list, would you listen?

Hmmm. That list, especially the top of it, appears to be remarkably… caucasian. Where in the hell is “Black and Tan Fantasy?”

Okay, I take that back. Just because Duke, Louis, and Miles aren’t 1-2-3 doesn’t mean that black artists are not well represented on that list, sort of.

I’ve read that “You are My Sunshine” was made a hit when the mob controlled much of the juke-boxes in this country as a money-laundering front. In return for syndicate advantages in Louisiana, Gov. Jimmy Davis’s vanity song was force-sold to bar and soda fountain owners all over the country, some of them having to buy multiple copies of the same record. I wish I had the cite for this - sorry, I’ll just have to libel this sappy song without it.

Great if you’re a music snob.

What possible credibility can the list have when “YMCA” is #87?

kunilou and IJGrieve, your two posts taken together are what makes this interesting. There are some elitist entries, like Caruso and Miles Davis, and some populist ones, like “YMCA”. But any list that includes Scott Joplin and Janis Joplin has got a lot of ground to cover. I almost didn’t realize how broad the spectrum really was. Every song on there conjures up distinct influences and memories. And still there are some that were left out.

What, “Dare to be Stupid” isn’t in the top ten? Sacriledge!

I’m surprised “Candle in the Wing” by Elton John isn’t higher.

but to add to the horror:
No “Baby Got Back”?! Scandalous!!!

“I like big butts and I can not lie…”

Robot, I think you’re right both times; it’s not a bad list overall, but while anybody can argue with a list (“The Theme from Shaft” beats out “What a Wonderful World”? WTF?) your criticisms are particularly apt. The 20th century without “Rhapsody in Blue”? I don’t think so. Hendrix should have made the top 50, easy. And no Ramones?!? AND no Velvet, Stooges, Pistols? Feh.

Thanks, bete. I think the first problem is that the list is titled “Songs of the Century” and it really should be “Records of the Century”. “Yesterday” and “Don’t Be Cruel” are both listed along with their B-sides (“Act Naturally” and “Hound Dog”, respectively), and they have “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston instead of Dolly Parton (Whitney’s version was much more well known, so I don’t really fault them for that). Even “records” would be a bit of a misnomer because they list “The Entertainer” being released on piano roll in 1902. There’s no single recording of “Rhapsody in Blue” that defines the piece. Gershwin’s own piano roll has the historical cred, but not the recognizability (but it still should be on the list). If the list really were for “songs”, I’d put RiB number one.

Another omision, “La Vie En Rose” by Edith Piaf.

But what would you take out to make room? That’s one of the things about this list that makes me like it, there’s nothing I would cut out of the list without feeling at least a little bit sorry for it. If I had to, I’d take out “Crying” by Roy Orbison (“Oh, Pretty Woman” stays) and maybe three or four of the musical cast recordings (“West Side Story”, “The Sound of Music”, “Oklahoma!”, “Porgy and Bess”, “My Fair Lady”, “Hair”, “South Pacific”, “The King and I”, “The Music Man”, “Grease” and “Show Boat” are all on the list.)

Undoubtedly one of the top 5 most important songs in rock and roll history, and it comes in at #92 (no, I’m not forgetting that the list encompasses many a genre)??? I’m speaking of course of “Like a Rolling Stone”. As someone else said, I can appreciate the reasons most songs are on the list, but for example, couldn’t we switch “What’s Love Got to Do With It” at #38 for LaRS for chrissakes? And what’s up with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Raindeer”? Ignoring the rankings, however, it’s a decent list.

Well, I could sit and argue with a list of songs all night. First of all, how can you compare whole musicals like West Side Story with single songs like ‘American Pie’.

Nice to see ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman in there, but what about 'The Way, ‘Iris’, ‘Hazard’?

That’s enough don’t you agree? That’s the trouble with these lists.

No, that’s the good thing about these lists. If people start talking about music, you know what will happen? Eventually they’ll start thinking about it. And that is a Good Thing.

I think it’s kinda sucky, meself. No PRESLEY in the Top 50? No BEATLES in the top 25??? “Friends in Low Places” is on the list at ALL?

Bleh. BLEH, I say! :slight_smile:

When I first saw the list I thought it must be top American songs of the twentieth century, but then I saw that the Rolling Stones were in there.

I can’t believe no one has complained about this yet!!!

Give me a break! If we’re going to give no-talent-mullet-pop-one-hit-wonder-boys like this a spot on the list why not compose the list entirely of NKOTB, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and 98 digreez.

Falcon, if they were listing the performers of the century, Presley and the Beatles would have to be higher. But I can’t think of particular songs that perfectly represent either of them. I think that’s why “Good Vibrations” is at number 24. It’s kind of a signature piece for the Beach Boys, and by extension you have Jan and Dean and all the surf groups. It’s on the list as the standard bearer for its genre. I might have liked to see an instrumental, too, like “Walk, Don’t Run”.

Same thing with “Friends in Low Places”, and “Achy Breaky Heart” made the cut too. They aren’t my favorite songs in the world, but I can see them as forerunners in the current resurgence of country music.

(I just read Dignan’s post while previewing, but I think I’ll leave that paragraph as written. A simulposting about “Achy Breaky Heart” will surely not happen again in our lifetimes.)

Manduck, the list isn’t just American songs but they’re pretty clearly songs that meant the most to an American audience. And since it’s from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America, that’s probably unavoidable. The NEA link in the OP gives the methodology by which the list was compiled. Would any foreign dopers care to point out some songs we ethnocentric Americans missed?

Some obvious ommisions:
Clash, Sex Pistols, Pretenders, Elvis Costello,or The Jam, just for starters. And thats just the 70s.
There was lots of noteworthy bands of the early 90’s as well, from Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. And all we get from that era was one Nirvana song?
Forgivable, except when Bily Ray Cirus, Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child, MC Hammer, R. Kelly, and Garth Brooks all made the grade?!

I guess the criteria is a little scattershot here. Are we going for influencial, popular, groundbreaking, or a random smattering of the above?
How Miles Davis and Billy Ray end up on any list together raises questions.

Ask yourself this: While very many songs were worth inclusion on this list, how many of the 362 non-beatles songs here were really better than almost anything the Beatles released?
For instance,say… “Day In The Life” vs “Achy Breaky Heart”, Or “Hey Jude” vs TLC’s “No Scrubs”, or “Revolution” vs “Friends In Low Places”. It’s pretty mind boggling.

I can see if this list were coming from someone’s personal fav’s list or a populist magazine, but coming from the NEA?

Just checked out the NEA website.
THese are the intend uses of this list:

And this is how they got the list:

So there you have it. After looking at the list again, I guess I don’t have a lot of problems with it until you reach the last 30 years. Especially the last 10.
Billy Ray Cyrus, man…