John Shearer: In The Spirit Of Woodstock, What Are Your Favorite Songs/Musicians?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - by John Shearer

For about a year or more, I have been trying to write down my favorite songs.

 

And with the 50th anniversary of that seminal moment in music and cultural history -- the Woodstock Festival – having just been observed, I figured what better time than now to at least get some kind of semi-complete list finally together. 

 

I am not sure what started this other than a personal desire to document a part of my life, but I originally began wanting to list every song I could say I really liked.

Or at least I wanted to state that I enjoyed them before I played them too much on my eight-track player when I was younger!

 

Although I have a few of my favorite songs on my own iTunes collection in my laptop, whenever I would hear another song I liked, usually while driving and listening to a scanning radio dial, I would want to list it. 

 

But because the stations don’t always say or list what song is being played, I would try to write down a few words on a piece of paper in my car – while trying to avoid a wreck – and then search for the song on my computer after I arrived at home.

 

What I eventually discovered through all this is that the number of songs I greatly like is much more than I initially thought.

 

And then a few weeks back, as I was continuing to plunge on and slowly add to my list, I saw that well-read chattanoogan.com opinion columnist and former Chattanooga Free Press colleague Roy Exum had run a list of some of his favorite songs in a column.

 

Talk about great minds thinking alike! Just kidding, at least regarding my ‘great mind’!

 

Although I realize some people might care what my favorite songs are about as much as they are interested in my favorite ice cream flavor, I decided to put this list together in large part to encourage other people to list theirs. 

 

Music is the great connector, and chances are that if you are middle aged and older, you might have grandchildren or nieces or nephews who are interested in what music you like. And they might be surprised that you like to – or at least once liked to – let loose and enjoy some of those rebellious songs of youth.

 

Chances are that each of our lists of our 100 or even 50 favorite songs would also be singularly unique in a collective sense, almost like our own music DNA. For example, two 60-year-old men might like similar rock ‘n’ roll music from the 1970s, but one might have also added classical music to his interest list in later years, while the other might have become more enamored with bluegrass music. It is all part of our individual uniqueness.

 

But the one connection many of us agree on is that music is definitely one of God’s and our creator’s gifts for the soul. And it does not matter if you are ‘80s rocker Tommy Tutone or Johnny I Can’t Carry A Tune. How many times have you felt better after listening to music when you were down, or felt even better when you were up?

 

Music is also one of the world’s great natural highs, even though many of us over our lives have probably tried to enjoy music a little more after we have had a few too many you-know-what’s!

 

The art form is also like a friend that is with us all through life’s journeys. Do you have a song that was encouraging to you at a certain time, or one that was a hit when you first met your spouse or got a break in your career, and you sang it out loud at some time?

 

With all that in mind, as you try to think about your favorite songs, here is a listing of a few of my favorites, which I must reiterate is only a sampling, despite the large number. 

 

The latter fact is in part because I probably like literally hundreds of songs from about the mid-1960s through the early ‘70s, when I was still about 12 and under but easily influenced by all those great and often melancholy songs from the Vietnam era. And I must admit I also enjoy contemporary hit songs, as if this graying person is still trying to hold on to the magic of youth!

 

I hate to come up with a single favorite, but if I did have to say my most cherished song right now, it would probably be “Landslide” from Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. It is a song that is about 40 or more years old, but it is simply beautiful to me with its acoustic sound. I first heard it in friend Don McGonagil’s Myers Hall dorm room at the University of Georgia about 1981, and have loved it ever since.

 

No. 2 might have to be “Old Man” by Neil Young, another beautiful acoustic song. And Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – whether they were with or without Mr. Young – have probably been my favorite group of musicians over the decades with all their great songs now going on 50 years old. Among these others are “Wooden Ships,” “Ohio” and Mr. Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”

 

I also love C. S. & N.’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and how it builds to a crescendo with a harmonious hum at the end. Like “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos (and Eric Clapton) with the piano solo at the end, I never get tired of the way “Suite” changes directions quickly and beautifully.

 

My favorite individual singer would no doubt be Carole King, whose female, Neil Young-like nasally voice and beautiful piano playing almost seem to speak to me personally. I never get tired of such songs as “So Far Away,” “Up on the Roof,” “It’s Too Late,” “Been to Canaan,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” Her early 1970s album, “Tapestry,” is a music treasure in my opinion. 

 

Along the same line, I also like the music of such other female pop contemporaries of that time as Judy Collins, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. I also love the more recent version of Ms. Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” done by the Counting Crows. When they expressively shout out, “Hey farmer farmer, put away the DDT, I don’t care about spots on my apples, just leave me the birds and the bees,” I sing along, as that statement speaks to me as someone who wants to save and preserve nature.  I also love “Both Sides Now.”

 

And James Taylor from that same era is like a male version of some of them. “Fire and Rain” is a genuine classic, and I have also grown to identify with “Carolina in My Mind.”

 

There are countless other songs or entertainers I love from the 1960s or early-to-mid 1970s, such as Glen Campbell’s melancholy songs, “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston,” and “Eli’s Coming,” by Three Dog Night. I do not care for Three Dog Night’s “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” or other light songs like many of those from Jimmy Buffett, other than “Come Monday.”

 

I also love Chicago’s “Take Me Back to Chicago,” and substituted the words “Take me back to Chattanooga” when I first went away to the University of Georgia and became homesick. 

 

Other favorites from that era include the Jackson 5’s “Got To Be There,” “ABC,” “Stop the Love You Save” and “Ben;” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “If This World Were Mine” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell; the Four Tops; the Temptations; Earth, Wind and Fire; the Fifth Dimension; Dionne Warwick; the Stylistics, Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky;” Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer;” and Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.”

 

The latter is a beautiful song, and if you happen to admire any of the American martyrs he mentions, that adds even more meaning to and enjoyment of the song.

 

Also, I like from that era “Just Walk Away Renee;” “Leaving on a Jet Plane;” “We Got To Get You a Woman” and “Can We Still Be Friends” by Todd Rundgren; “A Song for You” from Leon Russell; “Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven” by the Righteous Brothers; “MacArthur Park;” “California Dreamin’ ” “Just a Morning in May” and “Are You Going to San Francisco.” 

 

And how about “Kentucky Rain” and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” from Elvis Presley; “I Will Always Love You,” “Jolene” and “Here You Come Again” by the beloved Dolly Parton; “Angie” by the Rolling Stones; “Beth” by Kiss; and “Ruby” and “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers. Other favorite groups and singers from that time are Boston, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Barry Manilow, Bread, Harry Chapin and Blood, Sweat and Tears

 

The Beatles were about the first group I remember, and I grew to love such Beatles or post-Beatles songs as “Yesterday,” “There Are Places I Remember,” “Imagine” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

 

The first song that I really remember liking was “Downtown” by Petula Clark, which came out about 1964 – when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I still love to hear that song.

 

As I was coming of age in the 1970s, I had several other groups I liked. My favorite singer as a young teenager was Elton John. He had the early hit and heartfelt piano song, “Your Song,” and then his “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album was a genuine classic. I became interested in wanting to play the piano simply because of him, and I did – although I am still in the beginning stages 40 years later!

 

I also loved the early Bruce Springsteen songs from the “Born to Run” album, before he started singing so much about blue-collar life in New Jersey. I did like his later song, “Secret Garden,” probably due to my affinity for the movie, “Jerry Maguire” and – yes -- actress Renee Zellweger. 

 

During about my junior and senior years in high school, the Electric Light Orchestra was probably my favorite group. I loved their earlier instrumental hit, “Fire on High.” And I played to death on my eight-track player their later album, “A New World Record,” with such hits as “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” and “Do Ya.” I often did this while driving around as a shy teenager wishing that one or two girls I knew or knew of was my girlfriend. 

 

ELO was also the first concert I went to as a high school senior or older. And it was in faraway Memphis, after fellow Baylor School graduate Bill Freels and I drove over there.

 

Also during the 1970s, I loved about every song produced by the group America. And what Southern rock ‘n’ roller from the 1970s did not like Lynyrd Skynyrd! From “Free Bird,” to “Simple Man,” to the rhythmic “On the Hunt,” their music was magical.

 

I also love Shinedown’s more contemporary version of “Simple Man.”

 

One of my favorite songs from the late 1970s was “Highway Song” from Blackfoot. I remember hearing that song on the radio when I knew I was going back to Georgia for my sophomore year. It comforted me knowing my plans had happily changed and I was going to return to beloved Athens town after thinking I was going to have to stay in Chattanooga for the year.

 

And don’t forget the Carpenters, whose love songs of the early 1970s gave me a hint of what falling in love was about – or what I imagined it to be about.

 

One college roommate jokingly kidded me that I must have girl genes in me due to all the sappy love songs I liked, including “Loving You” by Minnie Riperton and “I Do Love You” by Billy Stewart. Another friend astutely noted with a laugh that I was quite eclectic in my tastes, saying that I might play the Carpenters one moment and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin the next. 

 

Without going on too much longer, how about such Broadway songs as “Try to Remember” from the Fantasticks;” “Seasons of Love” from Rent; “Maria” from “West Side Story;” “Day by Day” from “Godspell,” “Memory” from “Cats,” “All I Ask Of You” from “Phantom of the Opera,” “Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha,” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.” I loved it when the latter song played in the recent movie version I saw while they were playing the credits. No one wanted to leave when it started playing.

 

And one time I was in New York and saw Liza Minnelli close her show with the fabulous song, “New York, New York.” I jokingly noted in a travel story I wrote that the Big Apple went bananas.

 

For movies, how about songs from “The Way We Were,” “Love Story,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Patton” and “Rocky.” Every time I hear the latter song, I want to get up the next morning and go jogging – but without downing any raw eggs. 

 

I also like about every song from “The Sound of Music,” as well as Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz," and “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s."

 

For TV shows, I love the themes from “Dynasty” and “M*A*S*H,” among many others. And don’t forget the theme from “Peanuts,” which makes me want to dance.

 

I also love several church songs, from classic to contemporary. For old songs, you have to start with “Amazing Grace.” I also love such other old favorites as “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Give Me Jesus,” and “Be Thou My Vision.” For more contemporary songs, my favorites include “Falling on My Knees,” “I Can Only Imagine,” “Better Is One Day,” “God of Wonders,” “Who Am I,” “Remember Me,” and “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” (the latter of which is more like about 50 years old).

 

Among my favorite holiday songs, a sampling includes “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “I Wonder As I Wander,” and, of course, the melancholy “Auld Lang Syne.”


For college fight songs, even though I am a proud Georgia graduate as mentioned, I love UT's “Rocky Top” and the “Tennessee Waltz.” I also like Michigan’s fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” and Notre Dame’s “Wake Up the Echoes."

 

If I had to listen to just one kind of music for a straight hour, it would probably be modern country. I love everything from Blake Shelton’s “Austin,” to Miranda Lambert’s “House That Built Me,” to Sugerland’s “Baby Girl,” to Chris Stapleton’s “Drink a Beer.” I love to sing that latter song out loud when I am driving alone in my car – and I don’t even drink beer anymore!

 

I also love Celtic music and have grown to enjoy classical music, including songs of more recent years by Aaron Copland. 

 

In the 1980s, I loved black or rhythm and blues dancing songs, including Alexander O’Neal’s and Cherrelle’s “Saturday Love” and “No Parking on the Dance Floor” by Midnight Star. During that time, I volunteered to review some of these concerts for the Chattanooga News-Free Press, and it may have been the first time the paper really started covering that kind of music. So that may be my one and only brief contribution to the Chattanooga music scene. 

 

I had lived in the athletic dorm at the University of Georgia with a number of black athletes and had grown to love their kind of music.

 

Among the songs of more recent decades, I love “Wonderwall” by Oasis; “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Goyte; Adele’s “When We Were Young,” Tracy Chapman’s  “Fast Car” and “Revolution;” “White Horse” by Taylor Swift; Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and “The A Team,” “Where Do We Go” by Guns N’ Roses, “Marry Me” by Train, “Home” by Daughtry, Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” and Sister Hazel’s “All for You.”

 

Other more recent songs I like include “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, “I’ll Always Love You,” by Taylor Dayne, “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind, “A Long December” by Counting Crows, “Voices Carry” by ‘Til Tuesday, “Try” by Colbie Callait, “I Just Want You To Know Who I Am” by Ronan Keating, the Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me,” “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik, Mat Kearney’s “Nothing Left To Lose,” “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole, “Hands” by Jewel, “Get Here If You Can” by Oleta Adams, and Sweet Love by Anita Baker.

 

If you are like me and have a gray hair or two and don’t know those last few songs, Google them! That’s what I did to get the titles – and artists!

 

Needless to say, I love music, all kinds of music, and hope you do, too!

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


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