20 Great Songs

A friend recently made me a CD with a sampling of her favorite songs. In attempting to reciprocate, I faced the daunting task of distilling my favorite music into 20 or so tracks. I started by acknowledging there is no such thing as “best” in music or art, which is why I’m calling this list “Twenty Great Songs” and not “The Twenty Greatest Songs” (I’m pompous, but not that pompous).

So this morning I rummaged around my CD collection and iTunes, trying to come up with just the right blend of new and old, mainstream and indie, classic and cutting edge. Each artist is limited to one place on the list. Here’s the result, in no particular order:

“Three County Highway”, Indigo Girls, Despite Our Differences “In the End”, Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory “Crazy Mary”, Pearl Jam, Sweet Relief “Phantom Limb”, The Shins, Wincing the Night Away “Hurt”, Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around “Let’s Get It Started”, Black Eyed Peas, Let’s Get it Started “Karma Police”, Radiohead, Amnesiac “Hey Ya”, Outcast, Speakerboxxx “Old Pigweed”, Mark Knopfler, The Ragpicker’s Dream “When You Were Young”, The Killers, Sam’s Town “Stratford-on-Guy”, Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville “Reelin In the Years”, Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill “For the Widowers in Paradise”, Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan “Meanwhile, Rick James”, Cake, Comfort Eagle “Weightless”, Nada Surf, Lucky “When Your Mind’s Made Up”, Glen Hansard, “Once” Soundtrack “Careful”, Guster, Keep It Together “Where to Now St. Peter”, Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection “Passing Afternoon”, Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days “Box of Rain”, Grateful Dead, American Beauty Scanning this list, I see that I’m a sucker for ballads and I have a decided preference for indie artists. Some readers may wonder where, in god’s name, are the Beatles? All I can say in my defense is a) you try picking just one Beatles song, and b) if you ask me tomorrow, you’ll probably get a completely different list.

Please feel free to add your favorite songs in the comment section below. Now I have go burn a disk or three…