Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, January 10, 2010 1:22 pm

Greatest pop songs of the past 50 years

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 1:22 pm

My employer has opened to the public a music course that will look at 10 of the greatest pop songs of the past 50 years. The N&R did a story on it, and they’re also inviting readers to send reporter Robert Lopez lists of their favorite pop songs of the past half-century for a future story.

I’m probably forgetting something, but here’s my list. Songs are in no particular order, and I arbitrarily limited to three the number by a single artist. Remember, these are my favorites, not necessarily the ones I think are the greatest (by which I mean, among other things, they were very influential). There are a lot of great pop songs for which I hold a good deal more respect than affection.

Burnin’ Love – Elvis Presley
Okie from Muskogee – Merle Haggard
The Pill – Tammy Wynette
I Wanna Hold Your Hand – Beatles.
God Save the Queen – Sex Pistols
London Calling – The Clash
Brand New Cadillac – The Clash
Shout – Isley Brothers
Where the Cowboys Went – Pressure Boys
I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown
Tumbling Dice – Rolling Stones
Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones
Waiting on a Friend – Rolling Stones (note uncredited saxophone solo by jazz great Sonny Rollins)
My Old School – Steely Dan (in a catalog by a band noted for its session guitarists’ wonderful solos, this one by Rick Derringer is one for the ages)
Layla – Derek & the Dominos w/Duane Allman
Crossroads – Cream (cover of a blues by Robert Johnson c. 1928)
Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses
You Could Be Mine – Guns N’ Roses
Beat It – Michael Jackson
Billy Jean – Michael Jackson
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
Tangled Up in Blue – Bob Dylan
Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
God’s Little Acre – Right Profile
‘Til the Sky Turns Black – Right Profile
Fall on Me – R.E.M.
The One I Love – R.E.M.
Every Breath You Take – The Police (both this song and “The One I Love” are striking in their marriage of malevolent lyrics to harmless-sounding upbeat pop melodies)
U and Ur Hand – Pink
Girl of My Dreams – Bram Tchaikovsky
Starry Eyes – Records
I Wanna Be Sedated – Ramones
Sweet Jane – Velvet Underground
Pale Blue Eyes – Velvet Underground
Romeo Loved Juliet – Lou Reed
Dirty Blvd. – Lou Reed
Rockin’ in the Free World – Neil Young
Cortez the Killer – Neil Young
Night Moves – Bob Seger
Mohammad’s Radio – Warren Zevon
Lawyers, Guns and Money – Warren Zevon
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me – Warren Zevon
Listen to her Heart – Tom Petty
The Waiting – Tom Petty
Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting – Elton John

Take Me to the Backseat – The Donnas
What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
Backstabbers – The O’Jays
Back in Black – AC/DC
Walk This Way – Aerosmith
Jessica – Allman Bros.
Ramblin’ Man – Allman Bros.
Statesboro Blues – Allman Bros.
Rock Lobster – B-52s
Love Shack – B-52s
Piano Man – Billy Joel
Only the Good Die Young – Billy Joel
Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Green Onions — Booker T. & the MGs
Money Changes Everything – Brains
What About Everything – Carbon Leaf
Surrender – Cheap Trick
25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago
Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
Hurt – Johnny Cash
The Harder They Come – Jimmy Cliff
Pressure Drop – Toots & the Maytals
Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison
Brown-Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
TV Party – Black Flag
Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Super Freak – Rick James
Brick House – Commodores
Fire – Ohio Players
Tear the Roof Off the Sucker – Parliament/Funkadelic
Let It Whip – Dazz Band
Baby Love – Mother’s Finest
Suffragette City – David Bowie
Modern Love – David Bowie
Still in Hollywood – Concrete Blonde
Stone Cold Yesterday – Connells
Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Who’ll Stop the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
Discovering Japan – Graham Parker and the Rumour
Tunnel of Love – Dire Straits
China Grove – Doobie Bros.
Listen to the Music – Doobie Bros.
Sunshine Highway – Dropkick Murphys
Hotel California – Eagles
Take It Easy – Eagles
The Bitch Is Back – Elton John
Rocket Man – Elton John
Allison – Elvis Costello
Radio Radio – Elvis Costello
Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello
Santa Monica – Everclear
Say You Love Me – Fleetwood Mac
Radiation Vibe – Fountains of Wayne
Bad to the Bone – George Thorogood
Welcome to Paradise – Green Day
American Idiot – Green Day
The Message – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Fight the Power – Public Enemy
Everyday People – Sly and the Family Stone
Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder
Moni Moni – Tommy James & the Shondells
Heat Wave – Martha & the Vandellas
Holiday – Madonna
Like a Prayer – Madonna
Tracks of my Tears – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Fight the Power – Isley Bros.
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Is She Really Going Out With Him? – Joe Jackson
Rain on the Scarecrow – John Mellencamp
Slow Turning – John Hiatt
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
Waking Up in Vegas – Katy Perry
Louie Louie – Kingsmen
You Really Got Me – Kinks
Lola – Kinks
Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night – Kiss
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
Passionate Kisses – Lucinda Williams
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
That Smell – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Saturday Night Special – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn
Come to My Window – Melissa Ethridge
That’s When I Reach for My Revolver – Mission of Burma
Melt With You – Modern English
I’m a Believer – Monkees
Hair of the Dog – Nazareth
Kentucky Woman – Neil Diamond
Head Like a Hole – Nine Inch Nails
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
Million Miles Away – Plimsouls
Pretty in Pink – Psychedelic Furs
Georgia – Ray Charles
Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart
More Than This – Roxy Music
Love Is the Drug – Roxy Music
Bring It On Home to Me – Sam Cooke
Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow
Sounds of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds
A Change Is Gonna Come – Solomon Burke
Pulling Mussels from the Shell – Squeeze
Black Coffee in Bed – Squeeze
While You See a Chance – Steve Winwood
Fox on the Run – Sweet
Life During Wartime – Talking Heads
Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads
Take Me to the River – Al Green
My Girl – Temptations
All I Want Is You – U2
Pride (in the Name of Love) – U2
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
Cars – Just What I Needed
Don Henley – Dirty Laundry
Don Henley – Boys of Summer
Do You Love Me – Contours
Hey Ya – OutKast
Get Up – Sleater-Kinney
Wallflowers – 6th Avenue Heartache
Sugar Magnolia – Grateful Dead
Go Ask Alice – Jefferson Airplane
Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
When a Man Loves a Woman – Percy Sledge
Do You Feel Like We Do – Peter Frampton


  1. “Famous Final Scene” Bob Seger

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Sunday, January 10, 2010 6:18 pm @ 6:18 pm

  2. I forgot Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”

    Comment by Lex — Sunday, January 10, 2010 7:02 pm @ 7:02 pm

  3. Tis could go on for a long time but let me just say you also forgot

    The Great Conch Train Robbery

    It’s track 11 of the above CD.

    Also, And Casey Kasem says so too

    In The Still Of The Night..Five Satins

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Sunday, January 10, 2010 11:46 pm @ 11:46 pm

  4. I’m not going to make the list any longer (although where’s The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?). I just wanted to say I couldn’t agree more about the guitar licks in Steely Dan’s “My Old School.” I’ve got it in my car CD player as I write. That said, I think the genius springs from Skunk Baxter’s fretboard, not Derringer’s. According to Wikipedia, he only played slide on “Showbiz” Kids.” For me, Baxter’s one of the greatest under-rated guitarists of all time.

    Comment by Blair — Monday, January 11, 2010 2:19 am @ 2:19 am

  5. Dang you lured me back

    OK , you asked for it


    Comment by Fred Gregory — Friday, May 17, 2013 1:32 am @ 1:32 am

  6. I would definitely not recommend these as ways to break the ice
    however. Think of this as a way to document your improvements
    over time, and eventually it will be a very effective PR tool.
    Whether these are taken live – while you are doing a real gig – or whether
    you have them done on a false stage, will depend on you.

    Comment by — Friday, February 21, 2014 10:48 am @ 10:48 am

  7. Yes.

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Saturday, February 22, 2014 3:21 pm @ 3:21 pm

  8. John Fogerty wrote “Fortunate Son ” after doing one-weekend-a-month Army Reserve duty designed to keep him away from Vietnam.

    Bruce Springsteen & Dave Grohl’s Cover Of ‘Fortunate Son’ Draws Criticism

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Wednesday, November 12, 2014 8:19 pm @ 8:19 pm

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