Oct 29, 2007

Top 20

Last night, I complained about Elvis Costello. I don’t like his voice. (I also dislike the voices of Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan).

Guy: I don’t care. He’s still one of the Top 20 Best Songwriters of the past forty years.
Cordelia: If you say so.

It occurred to me that’s a phrase people bandy about with far too much ease. Who are these Top 20 Songwriters? What are the criteria? Over the rest of the bottle of wine, we came up with, um, a lot more than twenty Top 20 Songwriters. And they were 90% rock musicians. And 90% male.

We are in need of assistance. We’re looking for Top 20, not Top 50. (Also, if you can think of any women I’ve left out…)

The criteria we settled on include, but are not limited to:

  • Longevity. Will these songs be covered in 50 years? (This is why Radiohead didn’t make it).
  • Mass Love. If they deeply touched millions of people, they should probably be on the list. (This is why Lennon/McCartney did make it).
  • Just Being Damn Good. Just because someone’s underrated and unknown doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the Top 20. This is our list, not EW’s.

Elvis Costello
Bob Dylan
Tom Petty
Neil Young
Joni Mitchell
Patti Smith
Stephen Sondheim
Bonnie Raitt
Keith Jarrett
PJ Harvey
Elton John
John Fogarty
Rufus Wainwright
Brian Wilson
David Bowie
Fleetwood Mac (so as to free up space on the list, we melded together Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and what the hell, threw in Christine McVie too)
Marvin Gaye
Bob Marley
Van Morrison
Michael Stipe
Josh Ritter
Kathleen Edwards
Chrissie Hynde
Mark Knopfler
Burt Bacharach
Carole King
Jagger/Richards
Lennon/McCartney
Paul Simon
Bono
Bruce Springsteen
Tom Waits
Jeff Tweedy
Lou Reed
Madonna
British Sea Power

8 comments:

alex said...

great list!!!!
here's mine:

Bob Dylan
Neil Young
Joni Mitchell
Prince
Kate Bush
David Bowie
Brian Wilson
Syd Barrett
Jagger/Richards
Lennon/McCartney
Lou Reed
Elvis Costello
Black Francis
Stipe & Co.
Miles Davis
Bruce Springsteen
Van Morrison
Kraftwerk
Alex Chilton
Paul Westerberg

Guy said...

I was just signing on to add Alex Chilton to the list. At least, for a brief time in his life. (#1 Record & Radio City--I don't love "Sister Lovers")

Anonymous said...

You forgot Stevie Wonder, Freddie Mercury, Laura Nyro, Kris Kristofferson (Me and Bobby McGee, and many more), Carly Simon and Smokey Robinson


With your criteria, these folks would have to be considered:

Pete Seeger
Harold Arlen (Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Stormy Weather, It's Only a Paper Moon)
Irving Berlin (White Christmas, Cheek to Cheek)
Hoagy Carmichael (Stardust, Georgia, The Nearness of You)
Jerome Kern (Just the Way You Look Tonight, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes)
Gershwins (But Not for Me, Someone to Watch Over Me, They Can't Take that Away From Me)
Jule Styne
Cole Porter
Rodgers & Hammerstein

B&G's mom said...

That's a fine list. I would add some folks to yours (in no particular order, of course):
Curtis Mayfield
Ray Davies
John Phillips
Paul Westerberg
Sly Stone
George Harrison
Randy Newman
Laura Nyro
Todd Rundgren
Warren Zevon
Holland/Dozier/Holland
Stevie Wonder
Lieber & Stoller
Townes Van Zandt
Kurt Cobain
Paul Simon
Prince
Leonard Cohen
Otis Redding
Felice and Boudleaux Bryant
Hank Williams
Smokey Robinson
Lucinda Williams
Elton John
Pete Townshend
Joey Ramone/Dee Dee Ramone
Woody Guthrie
and so many more whom i can't recall at the moment!

And all the Great American Songbook writers who gave us all those standards.

Cordelia said...

Mo-om. Top 20 of the last 40 years. We'll do a pre-1967 one later.

But I can't believe I forgot Stevie Wonder! And Freddy Mercury!

And maybe, Anonymous, you're not my mother, because Laura Nyro?

Who is this?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am your mother, and no, I cannot believe you don't recognize Laura Nyro's name

Anonymous said...

Ummmm...Have we forgotten Randy Newman?? Im joking of course. Good list, but I didn't see Eric Clapton, Or did I? I'll have to look agian.

Cordelia said...

I do too know who Laura Nyro is...I just didn't think you did. I am ashamed.