Now the countdown begins in earnest. With the list of some of the most awarded songs #11, we’re talking about the songs pop music aficionados of the 20th century surely know. So do Grammy and Oscar voters, as well as those folks who create those lists for Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and more.
50. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan. “Rolling Stone listed it at No. 1 on their 2004 and 2010 ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ lists.”
49. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen. Richard Berry wrote this in 1955 and released a recording in 1957. But it’s the Kingsmen version in 1963 that made its mark. It’s chaotic, raw, and sloppy, with the singer coming in too early after an instrumental break. “The FBI started a 31-month investigation into the matter and concluded they were ‘unable to interpret any of the wording in the record.'” That actually added to the song’s allure.
48. When A Man Loves A Woman – Percy Sledge. Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright were members of the Esquires, which Percy Sledge fronted. The two are credited with writing the song, but Sledge thought that his changes warranted a co-writing designation.
47. I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye. The third version of the song from Motown. Berry Gordy nixed The Miracles’version. Gladys Knight and the Pips had a hit. But Marvin’s version became the monster. It became overplayed when the movie The Big Chill came out.
This is NOT a good wedding song
46. Every Breath You Take – The Police. This is a song about stalking and the breakup of Sting’s marriage. So the songwriter is bemused when people tell him they had the song played at their weddings.
45. Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley. It was written by Otis Blackwell in 1956. A two-sided hit with Hound Dog.
44. In The Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett. “The song was composed by Pickett and Steve Cropper at the historic Lorraine Motel in Memphis, later (April 1968) the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.” It might have been a bigger pop hit except that the powers that be thought it was too suggestive.
43. Earth Angel – The Penguins. “The original demo version became an unexpected hit.” Songwriting credits were in dispute for years. A vocal group from Canada named the Crew-Cuts did a cover and actually had the bigger pop hit.
42. Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly. The song was written by Jerry Allison and Norman Petty, although they insisted Holly receive a credit after he had died in 1959.