Now here’s a list that nicely demonstrates how North American monoculture has shattered into a million fragments. The Recording Industry Association of America actually compiled a list of the Songs of the Century (20th). So it’s gonna reflect a whole bunch of tastes and styles over an entire hundred years.
And be agreed to by … no one, not even the most broad-minded, culturally curious, historically informed I-love-everything kinda person. Up until about 1970, which incorporates all but two of the songs, you would have got reasonable support for this list, but no more.
The top three are probably hard to argue:
1. Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland
2. White Christmas, Bing Crosby
3. This Land Is Your Land, Woodie Guthrie
After that, it’s hard to keep your personal biases at bay. Mine kicked in big time. For example:
- American Pie is #5. Really? Ahead of The Beatles, The Stones, Chuck Berry?
- Elvis is missing?
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Seriously?
I mean, I know they had to include big band, jazz, ragtime, tin pan alley, patriotic songs and all that. I get it. But only two country songs? Only four songs from England? Tina Turner beats Fats Waller and Hoagy Carmichael?
And, hey! There is some cheating here: The West Side Story and The Sound of Music full soundtracks are on a list of songs?
You’ll find your own issues, outrages and mysteries, I’m sure. Brave people, the RIAA.