Most awarded songs #14

Summer’s here

The countdown continues. Some of the most awarded songs #14. Grammy and/or Oscar love. Citations in Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and more.

20. The Tracks Of My Tears – The Miracles. Classic Smokey Robinson poetry. “Since you put me down My smile is my make up I wear since my break up with you” It uses the clown motif, as did the Miracles’ Tears of A Clown.

19. Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson. Interestingly, this is a song that was NOT written by Willie. The 1972 song was also successfully recorded by artists, including Elvis, before Willie’s Grammy Award-winning version in 1982.

18. Be My Baby – The Ronettes. Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector, the only Ronette on the track was Veronica Bennett, later Ronnie Spector. Sonny and Cher sang backup vocals. The Wrecking Crew played the instruments, with Hal Blaine making an error in the drumming that stayed on the recording.

17. Great Balls Of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis. The song I most associate with Lewis was used in the 1957 movie Jamboree.


16. Light My Fire – The Doors. I’ll admit it. The album version of this song, which was often played on the radio despite its 7-minute length I grew to find tedious.

15. What’d I Say – Ray Charles. His first big crossover to pop hit is a great call-and-response. And also very suggestive, especially in part 2. Ray closed every live show with the song. The unedited version.

14.  Stand By Me– Ben E. King. This was a rewrite of an old gospel song by King, Leiber, and Stoller, released in 1961. It was featured on the soundtrack of the film of the same name a quarter of a century later. It was covered over 400 times, by Otis Redding, John Lennon, and many more.

13. Dancing In The Streets – Martha and the Vandellas. The song was written by Marvin Gaye, Mickey Stevenson, and Ivy Jo Hunter. The Vandellas had the hit in 1964 after Kim Weston passed on the piece. It was a party song, enjoying splashing through the open fire hydrants in the summer. But it was adopted as a civil rights anthem as well.

Hello, Darkness

12. The Sound Of Silence – Simon And Garfunkel. From Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man’s Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life by Sanford D. Greenberg.  Much of this is accurate, but the part about the song, written by Paul Simon, of course,  is not.

Sandy was roommates with Art Garfunkel at Columbia University. [Sandy went blind from severe glaucoma and went back home, defeated, to Buffalo. But his buddy Art showed up at the front door.] Art escorted Sandy around campus and even referred to himself as “Darkness” to demonstrate his empathy with his friend. “Darkness is going to read to you now.”

While at Oxford, Sandy got a call from Art. Art had formed a folk-rock duo with his high school pal Paul Simon, and they desperately needed $400 to record their first album. Sandy and his wife Sue had literally $404 in their bank account, but without hesitation, Sandy gave his old friend what he needed. Art and Paul’s first album was not a success, but one of the songs, The Sounds Of Silence [later changed], became a #1 hit a year later. The opening line echoed the way Sandy always greeted Art.

11. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers. Written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil in 1964, it was the epitome of the Wall Of Sound.

Most awarded songs #13


Ritchie Valens

We’re so lucky to be able to listen to some of the most awarded songs #13. Maybe they’ve gotten Grammys and/or Oscars. Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and others have said good things about them.

30. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor. An anthem. In 2019, I listed it as one of the Songs that make me think about life. “In 2016, the Library of Congress deemed [it] to be ‘culturally, historically, or artistically significant’ and selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry.”

29. Hotel California – The Eagles. “In the 2013 documentary, History of the Eagles, Don Henley reiterated: ‘On just about every album we made, there was some kind of commentary on the music business, and on American culture in general. The hotel itself could be taken as a metaphor not only for the myth-making of Southern California but for the myth-making that is the American Dream because it is a fine line between the American Dream and the American nightmare.'”

28. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel. I wrote about this here.

27.  The Message – Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five. I was very taken by this, that the newish genre in 1982 would address social commentary.

26. People Get Ready – The Impressions. Written by Curtis Mayfield, it’s a great freedom song, clearly written with the black church experience permeated in it. Heavily covered.

“I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend”

25. Fire And Rain – James Taylor. The singer has said that the song is in three parts, the suicide of his friend Suzanne, his struggle to overcome drug addiction and depression, and coming to grips with fame and fortune.

24. Soul Man – Sam and Dave. When I was younger I was a bit confused. The song was composed by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Sam and Dave consisted of Samuel Moore and David Prater. Porter/Prater; OK, got it. Booker T. and the MGs played on the song. “Play it, Steve” refers to guitarist Steve Cropper. Hayes also played organ on the track.

23. Yesterday – The Beatles. My problem with Yesterday was that is that it seemed EVERYBODY covered it. Some of them are even good. I must have at least three dozen different versions.

22. Papper’s Delight – Sugarhill Gang.  I bought this 12″ vinyl with the more familiar blue label, probably in 1980. It might be the first rap song I ever purchased.

21. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens. The song originated in Veracruz, Mexico. It was recorded in the late 1930s and several times afterward. Valens gave it a rock and roll feel. The song was a big hit in 1987 when Los Lobos covered it for the soundtrack of the movie La Bamba.

Most awarded songs #12

to a real hound dog

We’ve hit the TOP 40 of the most awarded songs #12. They’ve been cited by the Grammys and the Oscars, not to mention Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and so forth.

40. Superstition  – Stevie Wonder. The lead single from the Talking Book album, the first of four albums over five years was at the height of Stevie’s creativity. Jeff Beck plays guitar.

39. Piano Man – Billy Joel. I saw Billy Joel at Elting Gym in New Paltz in 1974. This song and Captain Jack were the only songs of his I knew well at the time. Piano Man was based on his experience as a piano-lounge singer for six months in 1972–73 after his commercially disastrous first album, Cold Spring Harbor. It has of course become his signature tune.

38.  Tutti-Frutti – Little Richard. “Got a gal, named Daisy, she almost drives me crazy. She knows how to love me, yes indeed. Boy you don’t know what she do to me.” This makes the nonsense lyrics – “A wop bop a loo bop a lop bom bom” – even more suggestive. Songfacts notes the chorus was “Tutti Frutti, Good Booty,” until it was changed. This song went to #17 in 1956. The version by Pat Boone went to #12 the same year, proving the public is NOT always right.

37. Behind Closed Doors – Charlie Rich. One of my sisters says, quite often, “You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.” But it has a very different meaning than the lyrics to this song.

36. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana. Seriously, I thought this was a bit of a joke when I first heard it. “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido.” What? And now I own four Nirvana albums. Related, Smells Like Nirvana is my favorite Weird Al parody.

I found my thrill

35.  Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino.  The song was recorded by several artists from the time it was written by Vincent Rose and John L. Rooney in 1940. Sammy Kaye, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, and Louis Armstrong were among those who recorded it before Antoine Dominique Domino Jr.

34. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys. The title of this expensive and expansive “pocket symphony” derived from Brian Wilson’s “fascination with cosmic vibrations, as his mother would tell him as a child that dogs sometimes bark at people in response to their ‘bad vibrations’.”

33.  The Twist– Chubby Checker. I wrote a whole post about this significant song.

32. Killing Me Softly With His Song – Roberta Flack. Lori Lieberman says she co-wrote this song while seeing Don McLean perform. Charles Gimbel and Norman Fox say they wrote it for Lieberman.

31. Hound Dog – Elvis Presley. Elvis had to sing this song to an actual basset hound on “The Steve Allen Show” in July 1956. The song was written by Leiber and Stoller and originally done by Big Mama Thorton in 1952.

Most awarded songs #11

“unable to interpret any of the wording”

Stu, John, Doug, Tom

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.

41. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival. This was the first of five singles by the band to peak at Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Most awarded songs #10

mondegreen of long duration

Sam Cooke

More fun with tunes that are among the most awarded songs #10. I own every one of them in some form. Here are some of your Grammy and Oscar winners. They’ve been touted by Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and others.

60. A Change Is Going To Come – Sam Cooke. If you saw the biopic One Night in Miami, you get a sense of the importance of this song on society at that point. He was inspired by Bob Dylan’s Blowing In The Wind. Cooke chose to share feelings he had from dealing with discrimination, at hotels, e.g., that he experienced. Unfortunately, he was killed on December 12, 1964, two weeks before the song was released as a single.

59. I Only Have Eyes For You – The Flamingoes. Quoting me: “I hear those first three or four chords and I am always surprised how it leads to such a lush tune. My first favorite song, probably for 30 years.”

58.  Layla – Derek and the Dominoes. I loved this song when I was in college. My neighbors Howie and Debi had a cat named Layla, who was a sister to our cat Doris. It is, of course, about Clapton’s longing for his friend George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Rita Coolidge has claimed credit for co-creating the piano part, a segment that her then-boyfriend Jim Gordon was playing the tune during the album sessions.

57. Losing My Religion – R.E.M. I could always relate to this song.

56. Imagine – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. I’m on record of having overdosed on this recording and especially all of the covers. Still, I’m glad that John had a signature song by which he’ll be remembered. His son Julian sang it to support the Ukrainians recently.

“Picket lines and picket signs”

55. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye.  Berry Gordy famously wasn’t a fan at first.

54. You Send Me – Sam Cooke. Cooke took a lot of grief for abandoning the gospel music with the Soul Stirrers. Still, this song is pretty tame for such outrage.

53. I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash. as his first big hit – #1 country, #17 pop in 1957 – it is the song I most associate with him. A biopic about him and June Carter was titled Walk The Line.

52. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison. Apparently, because of signing a bad contract with Bang Records, Morrison never made a cent on his first, and signature hit.

51. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and The Papas. They were listed as The Mama’s and the Papa’s on their first big single. Here is was one of the mondegreens I lived with for the longest time:
Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)
but I heard
And I began to pray
Moreover, I’ve heard a number of cover versions that made the same mistake.

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