what are your five essential songs

there is a local radio show where the host has invited everyone to go to enter their 5 essential songs and she plays 3 or 4 of them per show--so let me know what yours are.

my list in no particular order:
equinox-john coltrane
romeo is bleeding- tom waits
no getting over you - bonnie riatt
mandela- hugh masekela
jupiter- from holst the planets
A toughie. Here goes:
Rocks Off (Stones)
Revolution-"single version" (Beatles)
The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (Dylan)
Since I've Been Loving You (Zep)
Ship of Fools (Dead)
Norwegian Wood-The Beatles
Doctor Wu-Steely Dan
Late for the Sky-Jackson Browne
Bella Donna-Stevie Nicks
Werewolves of London-Warren Zevon
Grateful Dead--Uncle John's Band
Ain't No Cure for Love--Jennifer Warnes (Leonard Cohen)
C'est extra--Renée Claude (Léo Ferré)
The Well--Jennifer Warnes
Cycles--Rickie Lee Jones
Professor Longhair - Tipitina
John Coltrane - Naima
Grahm Central Station - Hair
World Saxophone Quartet - Ming
The Meters - Fiyo on the Bayou
Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan
Georgia - Ray Charles
Season of The Witch - Bloomfield, Kooper, Stills version
River Man - Nick Drake
America - Simon & Garfunkel
US Blues Grateful Dead
Michelle The Beatles
Surfer Girl Beach Boys
The Wasp The Doors
Deacon Blues Steely Dan

I must say that everyone's choices seem as eclectic as mine
Not my only essentials but a good start:
Hendrix- Gypsy Eyes
Santana- Singing Winds Crying Beasts/Black Magic Woman
Willie Nelson- Stardust
Rolling Stones- Let It Bleed
Steely Dan- Don't Take Me Alive
5 essential pop/rock songs (jazz is another list):

"Crybaby" - Utopia
The ultimate power pop song with a vocal harmony at the chorus so perfect that it threatens to split the universe.

"Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough" - New Radicals
The last-word (among many attempts) in re-working the perfect funk/rock ideal - "Sympathy For The Devil". For me, this easily surpasses the original Stones' song, which says a ton.

"No More Casual Sex" - Kid Creole
A finely sculpted dance song with an irresistable trumpet fanfare that resonates every time I hear it - and a truly hilarious lyric.

"I Know I'm Not Wrong" - Fleetwood Mac/Lindsey Buckingham
My favorite song from "Tusk", LB's "F*ck You" to his legion of pop fans. I love both the music and the lyric, but prefer his solo re-work to the original.

"The Christians and The Pagans" - Dar Williams
A tremendous lyric combining a very cleverly constructed and moving message of tolerance with keen observations of family at the holidays. Gets me every time.

Although, if you ask me tomorrow, 5 others might make the cut.

I could pick 100 essential 'songs' but not 5.. let me just narrow down to one specific category, 5 essential 1970's Jazz Fusion cuts:

1. Stanley Clarke - School Days title cut
2. Weather Report - A Remark You Made
3. Billy Cobham - Stratus
4. Return to Forever - The Sorcerer
5. Jeff Beck - Freeway Jam
Hendrix: Lil Wing
Coltrane: My Favorite Things
Cream: Crossroads
Bob Wills: Milk Cow Blues
Beethoven: Ode To Joy
Queen , Great King Rat (1st lp)..... James Cotton , Down at your Buryin .. ZZ Top, Jesus just left Chicago .. BB King , The Thrill is Gone ..... Black Sabbath , Solitude. Tough to pick Five out of hundreds but this is what I listened to tonight! Cheers
Great thread, I'm listening to equinox by Coltrane as I type.

John Coltrane-seraphic light

Miles Davis-shhh peacful

Chris Speed-transporter

David S. Ware-logistic

Tim Berne-heavy mental
As will apply to many posters, there could be others on the list if you'd ask me tomorrow (or in an hour for that matter)

Kashmir - Led Zeppelin
Every Colour You Are - Rain, Tree, Crow
Musical Box (live) - Genesis
Ne Me Quite Pas - Jacques Brel
Folk Song - Jack Bruce

Three of those are forbidden land since Rosemarie's death, in particular Brel; I admit that merely mentioning the title of this song is an effort that leaves me mentally wrecked
1) tom waits: 16 shells for 30/06
2) dead: sugaree (off dix pix 3)
3) stones: cant you hear me knocking
4) who: sea & sand
5) band of bees: sky holds the sun
at this very moment....the eagle rock/daddy cool....hot love/t. rex....please remember me/cliff richard....absolutely brilliant/sandi shaw...may you never/john martyn....subject to change any minute.
Five essential songs off the top of my head:

Louis Armstrong-Potato Head Blues
Van Morrison- Into The Mystic
Thelonious Monk- Round Midnight
Dion-Ruby Baby
Greatful Dead-Box of Rain
Since classical wasn't excluded, and in fact the op's post included a classical selection:

"Nessun Dorma" -- Puccini's "Turandot"
"O Mio Babbino Caro" -- Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi"
"Alto Rhapsody" -- Brahms
"Un Bel Di Vedremo" -- Puccini's "Madama Butterfly"
"Quando M'en Vo' Soletta" -- Puccini's "La Boheme"

And a separate list for popular:

"My Cup Runneth Over" -- Ed Ames
"Both Sides Now" -- Judy Collins (original release only)
"Today" -- The New Christy Minstrels
"Tammy" -- Debbie Reynolds (laugh if you want to)
"Steve's Song" -- The Blues Project

-- Al
Grateful Dead from Wake of the Flood "Attics of My Life"
Louis Armstrong "East St. Louis Toodaloo"
Beethoven "Fifth Symphony"
Santana from Supernatural "Maria Maria"
Jerry Garcia from Reflections "Catfish John"
Miles-"Attics" appears on AB, NOT Wake! You gotta get this stuff right.
In order:

King Crimson- 'Starless'
Kyuss- 'Whitewater
Uriah Heep- 'July Morning'
Blue Oyster Cult- 'Astronomy'
Yes- 'Starship Trooper'
I don't think any 5 songs alone can sustain me. I'd find another hobby.

But if I had to chose:

Epitaph - King Crimson
Suppers Ready - Genesis (at least its 20 minutes long....)
Man Erg or Still Life - Van Der Graaf Generator
Blue World - Moody Blues
Some Dylan song, not sure which ("Highlands" maybe, that's long too)!
That's 110 titles so far without any doubles; I'm proud of all and any of us!

We stand in defiance of the ignorant commercial always replicable hit parade pushers.
thunder road, born to run, jungleland, incident on 57th st./rosalita and blinded by the light. now i know i stretched it with incident but the lead in make them one song to me. besides 5 is a joke.
Excellent reminders of great songs, I need to expand my cd collection!
essentials this morning;

The Girl From Ipanema, Getz/Gilberto
Tangled Up In Blue, Dylan Blood on the tracks
Southern Man, CSNY 4way street
Time the Conqueror, Jackson Browne
Waiting for the world to change, John Mayer Continuum
Somewhere in Time, Dave Alvin and Los Lobos
White Man in Hammersmith Palais, The Clash
Surf Wax America, Weezer
Eurotrash Girl, Cracker
Dumb Things, Paul Kelly
No particular order:
- Brown-Eyed Women - Grateful Dead
- Baby Please Don't Go - Van Morrison and Them (Big Joe Williams cover with little known session guitarist named Jimmy Page!)
- The Look of Love - Shelby Lynne (Burt Bacharach/Hal David cover originally recorded by Dusty Springfield)
- In Memory of Elizabeth Reed - Allman Brothers Band
- Little Wing - Stevie Ray Vaughan (Hendrix cover)
Doctor Wu - Steely Dan
Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen/and version by Jeff Buckley
Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
Didn't I Blow you Mind - Delfonics
My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
Crazy Love - Van Morrison
Amado Mio - Pink Martini
Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones
Born Slippy - Underworld
Birdland - Weather Report

oh that was more like ten...
Hard to pick FIVE, but these always to captivate me

All Along the Watchtower-Jimi Hendrix version
Lark Ascending-Vaughan Williams
I Confess English Beat
Madame George- Van Morrison
4th Time Around- Bob Dylan
"An Ending (Ascent)" by Brian Eno
"Bad" by U2
"Videotape" by Radiohead
"Clocks" by Coldplay
"Blue In Green" by Miles Davis

That was difficult! Whew!
Oh Comely-Neutral Milk Hotel
Autumn Leaves(The Irresistible Force Mix)-Coldcut
14:31-Global Communication
Far Beyond The Sun-Yngwie Malmsteen
My Pal Foot Foot-The Shaggs

Boy you have picked more than one of mine. Cohen Dire Straits, Crazy Love...

Then I put on Blue Joni Mitchell and nominate the whole dam album/CD
at the moment:
I fought the law and the law won...
Tears on my pillow (not on mine)
How do you sleep
Come Together
“Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” Cheap Trick
“Drive” The Cars
“Yellow Brick Road” Elton John
“Band On the Run” Paul McCartney & Wings
“Hold Your Head Up” Argent

The last 3 listed are the songs that introduced me to rock, AM radio, hippies (the Anti-Parent),GIRLS, and helped me deal with the anomalies of my dysfunctional family…
Since it's so difficult for me to decide, I'll simply pull my top five most frequently played iTunes songs:

"Everything'll Be Alright (Wil's Lullaby)" by Joshua Radin
"Each Coming Night" by Iron and WIne
"9 Crimes" by Damien Rice
"One Moment More" by Mindy Smith
"We Learned the Sea" by Dar Williams

Great Post!
Sade - "Is it a Crime"

Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love"

Queen - "It's Late"

Rolling Stones - "Paint it Black"

The Church - "Under the Milkyway"
Tracks of My Tears
You've Lost That Lovin Feelin'
Horror Head by Curve
Perfect Day by Lou Reed

Just four.
My Girl
Saint James Infirmary
Carmalita (D. Yokum)
Stay All Night (B. Wills)
Nuage (Django)