Songs that have stood the test of time.


Jackson Browne "These Days"...

Covered by Nico, Gregg Allman and more... it has the staying power, even now!

This has to be one of THE great songs still!

There are many more. What are yours?

astro58go
Up on Cripple Creek, The Band

Ah, The Band (from me? :-). They had quite a few I could name, number one being "The Weight". Timeless elegance, the songs lyrics passed between The Band’s three lead singers. I defy anyone to name another band of which that can be said!

I began listening to and buying music before our current "Rock" music was the dominant music of the day---"Pop" music. This era really kicked into high gear with the appearance, out of nowhere, of The Beatles. Yes, there were Rock Bands before they arrived in the U.S. (I actually consider them a Pop Group not a Rock Band, but that’s a separate discussion). Paul Revere & The Raiders, etc. But Rock music didn’t dominate the airwaves and charts before The Beatles.

What made The Beatles so revolutionary was that they didn’t just perform their music, they wrote it as well. Actually, they came to that late; their debut album contains only about half self-written songs, the others being Rock ’n’ Roll and Pop songs that had been hits for earlier artists. And those songs were usually not written by their performer. Pre-Beatles, there were songwriters, there were singers, there were recording musicians, there were arrangers, there were orchestrators, and there were producers. Extremely rarely did any two of those intersect in one person. THAT is the era of the great Pop standard songwriters. You know the names, the songs recorded over and over again. The reason for that is that, being "only" a songwriter, one had to be a REALLY good one to make a living at it. The writers in the Brill Building in NYC sat in little cubicles, trying to come up with the next hit for The Drifters or Neil Sedaka, competing with the other Brill Building songwriters.

In the Rock era, the song itself is often not the most important ingredient. It may be the singers voice or the guitarist playing that listeners are focused on. A Rock band can be a really good one (as musicians and/or singers), sell lots of records, and draw large audiences, without necessarily having "good" songs. From our current era (the "Rock" one, from the early 60’s onward), there actually were some songs written the equal of the pre-Rock era songs. I nominate the following two, my favorite songs of all time:

---"What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted". An achingly beautiful song written by Motown’s William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean, and sung by Jimmy Ruffin. Motown’s legendary bassist James Jamerson plays a fantastic part, using inversion (playing not the root note of the chord) to great effect (James is Paul McCartney’s bass model). The great Joan Osborne performs a fantastic version of the song in the Motown documentary.

---"God Only Knows": I can not hear this song without crying. Written, orchestrated, and produced by one of the only two geniuses Rock ’n’ Roll has produced, Brian Wilson. If there has ever been a better song written, I haven’t heard it. The chords, their voicings, the movement of the bass through those chords, the melody, the harmonies, the counterpoint---all miles beyond what anyone else in "Rock" has ever done. Pure brilliance found on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album.

@bdp24 
Excellent songs: What Becomes... & God Only Knows

I've wondered why no country artist that I know of ever covered Don't Worry Baby. Its an early BB song but an indicator of greatness. 

Maybe its the currency of Glen Campbell but I've recently come to think of "Galveston" as a great song that evokes a place and period. Probably considered sappy or too pop for most.  Jimmy Webb could write a song.  

I rarely remember "Don't Worry Baby" Tom, and I can't figure out why. It was definitely the high point of their set when I saw The Beach Boys at The San Jose Civic in the Summer of '64, my first live concert. When Brian got to and sang the line "and she makes love to me" the girls in the audience went INSANE. The following summer I saw The Beatles at The Cow Palace, and the screaming was throughout the entire performance. The year after that everyone was sitting on the floor smoking jazz cigarettes. Things had changed that rapidly.

And The Beach Boys had been completely written off. That is, until "Good Vibrations" came on the radio. But "Don't Worry Baby"---real good song. I'm gonna listen to it right now! 

Simon and Garfunkel Sounds of Silence - recently covered by Disturbed. 
Simple Man - recently covered by Shinedown
Hava Nagila  by unknown, but sang and played by whole bunch of artists and all together too.
Money For Nothing... sang by whole bunch of R&R singers and musicians at a time in famous video.
Hava Nagila of course. (We are, after all, talking about songs that have stood the test of time.) I have no idea what that song is about but I have danced to it many, many times. It's a mitzvah!?!

Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is a great song and covered by many. But his "All Along The Watchtower"is more personal and subversive. Hendrix covered it best but there are many others....

If I'm understanding you, such a song would combine great music with great lyrics that touch timeless, intergenerational themes?  Songs like:

"Yesterday" 

"Wind Beneath My Wings"

"Bridge Over Troubled Waters"

Well if we're going to include songs like Hava Nagila, then I will have to bring up Happy Birthday. 
Happy Birthday has been covered many, many times. 
If the test here is that the song invites reinterpretation, I'll nominate two from Todd Rundgren.  I love both songs and both reward a great voice:

Pretending to Care
Love is the Answer


Both have been covered to great effect many times - but Love still awaits the definitive interpretation IMO.


@martykl 

Todd Rundgren for sure!

Both great songs and DEFINITELY an artist I also considered. Can We  Still Be Friends or Hello It's Me. A song can be sappy and still be a great song. 
I like Star Spangled Banner covered by Carla Bley in minor key.
@czarivey 

I can't stream that song by Carla Bley. Isn't it some kind of anniversary for that song? BTW, I would be standing to listen to it. 
dbtom2, less-likely you will be able to stream that tune as it sounds more like funeral march (try to sing it out in minor key LOL) in other words, censorship blocks it anywhere it appears. 
The album is called European Tour 1977 and it’s available on vinyl and CDs at discogs
Thanks @czarivey 

I've added her to my listen queue. Seems like somebody I should get to know better. Thanks. 
There's slight chance to listen to her live while she's still around and actively touring at her 80+. 
Not too much of material placed on streaming or youtube so shop for vinyls and CDs and try to see her live as well.
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Only about 30 years old but has been covered so many times it seems the original (and best) version has been forgotten.
dbtom2 - Tom Landa and the Paperboys have a really good version of All Along the Watchtower.
Check out this My Way cover:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egHWqEDlHuk
"Hallelujah"---great choice! I heard Leonard do it live in concert (if you have a chance to see him live, do not miss it!), but my favorite version remains the one by Rufus Wainwright. Transplendent ;-) !
Hey @thepigdog 

Found that song All Along The Watchtower on Tidal on the Nod To Bob compilation.

Another great version. Thinking it could've been on the The Departed soundtrack or inspired a Mumford & Sons version. Thanks for pointing me in yet another direction!

And, of course, Hallelujah. Why didn't I think of that? Great song no matter who covers it. 
My favorite Hallelujah is by Puddles the Clown.  Not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure.
Gimme Some Lovin' - Spencer Davis Group. It's been covered at least 65 times; but nothing comes close to the original. THE definitive rock song!

Hallelujah has got to get a mention, I agree. Jeff Buckley's version on SACD gives me chills.

I didn't see any votes for Hey Joe. I have 13 versions of that, Black Cat Bone being my Fav, but Hendrix' is the classic.

 I also have 15 versions of Morning Dew; but that's just me.

I'd also have to say that Janis Joplin singing Piece of My Heart never gets old; but probably the number one long lived hit is Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow never gets old, and always compels me to listen. 
dbtom2, Speaking of Jimmy Webb & Glen Campbell, I gotta put in "Wichita Lineman" as one of the all time greats.
The best cover of "All Along The Watchtower" is Dave Mason's. What  voice!

"Imagine", by John Lennon. Classic and profound.

"Lives In The Balance", Jackson Browne's best and just as relevant today.

"And It Stoned Me" by Van Morrison

"Have A Little Faith in Me" by John Hiatt, America's best songwriter.


Of course, this is all a matter of opinion. A great son is one that reaches a listener and moves them on some level. The classic ones do that forever.
Just happen to spin a song "Tea for Two" covered by Della Reese -- super great!
I hope that Jmc... won't relate this song to "Happy Birthday" like he did to "Hava Nagila" LOL!
wolfie, Your post reminded me of Dave Mason. What a great talent! Often underrated IMO because he was in other bands that had the press writing about those other band members more than he. I was recently gifted around 200 lps. Among those was "Certified Live". This is a great lp and great sounding live lp.

I'll nominate "Sad and Deep As You" to this lit.
Speaking of Dave Mason - it was his version of All Along The Watchtower that I remember hearing before I heard the Hendrix version -

how about "Feelin' Alright'? Great song.
Speaking further of Dave Mason, he's out touring right now (with Bekka Bramlett, daughter of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett).  I love Mason's guitar playing and I've got tix for his local show here in the SF Valley on December third.

Little Wing!!