Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Favourite Songwriters

The recent post about seeing Paul McCartney live naturally got me thinking about "bests".

So here's a best songwriters list:

To begin, Lennon and McCartney must be split up.  They're too good - and did too much stuff on their own - to be put together.  Oh, and they didn't collaborate as much as we thought at the time.  But mainly, the sheer volume of masterpieces says not only should they be on top, but they must be 1-2.  So ...

1) John Lennon.  An arbitrary choice.  Sorry, Paul.

2) Paul McCartney.  Silly love songs aside, Paul was - and is - a genius who has blessed us with countless thrills, memories and emotions over five decades.  In a class of his own.  No one else comes close.  Except  ...  well, sorry, Paul.

3)  George Harrison.  Not in the same class as his band mates, and a ranking most people will disagree with, but I can't place him any lower on the list.  I just can't.

4) Tom Petty.  Petty has held true to the mid-sixties vibe that The Beatles and The Stones defined.  He gets it.  He has absorbed all the elements, and knows how to serve up the perfect mix of heart-on-your-sleeve-emotion, humour and attitude.  And he's consistent, year after year, decade after decade.

5) Eric Clapton.  Clapton may have started out as a guitar god, but his voice and songwriting eventually caught up.  It's not just Layla.  Clapton has written a formidable number of great songs, and has been consistently fearless in expressing his emotions, transferring them to his audience.

6) Jagger/Richards.  Many would put them number one.  On sheer volume alone, they have a good case.  Ditto influence.  But this is a personal list, and I have to get the other five out of the way first.

7) Page/Plant.  Yes, I know Bonham and Jones were also credited on many of the songs ...   Again, from a volume and influence standpoint, these guys have to be up there.  I always had the feeling that Plant was just making up the words as they were recording, but the words never really mattered, did they?  What mattered was the thunderous and soaring competition between Page's riffs and Plant's voice.

8) John Lee Hooker.  I need at least one classical blues guy here, and ol' Johnny wins handily.  To me, he just told the best, most emotive stories.  That mournful voice helped a bit, too.

9) James Taylor.  Speaking of voices ...   His songs just make me feel.  Mostly good, sometimes sad.  Sometimes both at the same time, and sometimes some things else.  He makes me feel.

10) Bob Dylan.  I'm sure Dylan is number one for a lot of people, and I couldn't argue.  His influence is so pervasive it can't be measured.  And so many great songs.  I do wish they were all a verse or two shorter, though.

Anyway, that's my list.  I know that when I'm working on a song, one or more of the above is influencing what comes out.

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