State Songs: South Dakota – Wyoming

Here are the final 10 states alphabetically. The task—pick a favorite song that references the state or a place in the state. It must be a clear geographical reference — you can’t pick “Fly Me To The Moon” because there happens to be a Moon, Pennsylvania. Common sense rules still apply. This is the end!

What would you have picked??

Links to the first 40 states:
State Songs: Alabama – Georgia
State Songs: Hawaii – Maryland
State Songs: Maine – New Jersey
State Songs: New Mexico – South Carolina

South Dakota: Rocky Raccoon – The Beatles (1968)
From the White Album, Rocky Raccoon was from Minnesota on one earlier take. He wound up being from the “Black Mountain Hills of Dakota.” Safe to assume that’s the “Black Hills,” indicating South Dakota. Five of 10 participants selected “Rocky Raccoon” for South Dakota.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sif7Br-K1mI

Rocky Raccoon is a game piece in the Beatles' version of Monopoly. Photo from Beatle Brunch at http://www.brunchradio.com/Features/Articles/monopoly.html
Rocky Raccoon is a game piece in the Beatles’ version of Monopoly. Photo from Beatle Brunch at http://www.brunchradio.com/Features/Articles/monopoly.html

Tennessee: Dixie Chicken – Little Feat (1972/1973)
A lot of choices for Tennessee and at one point I was going to use “Honky Tonk Women.” I decided on “Dixie Chicken,” Little Feat’s signature song from the album of the same name. Although it never charted, “Dixie Chicken” has had staying power and has been covered by many bar bands. From “The Midnight Special:”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3z-GwdaKrn8

Texas: El Paso – Marty Robbins (1959/1959-60)
Perhaps the greatest story song of all time. Marty Robbins wrote and recorded “El Paso” in the Fall of 1959 for his Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album. It became a major country and pop hit and was the first number one pop song of the 1960s. Here is a live version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir0vUqGmUCU

Utah: Cell Block Tango – Chicago cast (original – 1975)
Found a few Utah songs but not many stand out for me. The “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago mentions Ezekiel Young from Salt Lake City. He’s the guy who can’t hold his arsenic. I guess he had it coming. Here is the movie version:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrrz54UtkCc

Vermont: Moonlight In Vermont – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1956)
The song is a pretty clear winner–picking the artist is trickier, as many greats have covered this song. It was written by John Blackburn and Karl Suesdorff and originally recorded by Margaret Whiting in 1944. This version is from the 1956 album, Ella & Louis. Seven of eight participants chose this song, but many different versions were chosen.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esynsha53A8

Virginia: Who’ll Stop The Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969/1970)
CCR was cranking out the hits between 1969 and 1971, but famously never had a number one song. “Who’ll Stop The Rain” and its B-side “Travelin’ Band” spent two weeks at number two in March 1970, one of five CCR records to peak at #2. This one had the great misfortune of being released at the same time of one of the greatest singles of all time, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Written about Fogerty’s trip to Woodstock. Here’s John Fogerty solo:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAgFR_wmLiY

Washington: Rock’n Me – Steve Miller (1976)
Could have gone Perry Como or a few other ways, but nothing grabbed me that much. The Tacoma reference wins it for Steve Miller. I’ve always wondered why the girls are warm in Northern California–some of those coastal towns are cold. Spent a week at #1 in November 1976. A live version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V7JKYaYeuM

West Virginia: Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver (1970/1971)
Easiest choice of the whole exercise. West Virginia even slapped “Almost Heaven” on its license plates. Released in April 1971, it took until late August to peak at #2 behind “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” Here’s an unusual cover by Hermes House Band from 2001 that was a top 10 hit in the U.K. and other locations (my choice remains the John Denver version).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVz_IJoyO6Y

Wisconsin: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot (1975/1976)
“The ship was the pride of the American side.” Canadian Gordon Lightfoot wrote of the tragedy of the ship coming back from a mill in Wisconsin. “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” was hitting its peak one year after the tragedy. Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night” denied Lightfoot another number one hit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKJNBxDCMIs

Wyoming: The Beaches Of Cheyenne – Garth Brooks (1995/1996)
Garth Brooks was on fire in the 1990s, after Billboard’s soundscan technology revealed he was more popular than anyone had ever realized. The third single from Fresh Horses was a tragic song that hit number one on the country chart in March 1996. It’s hard to find Brooks on YouTube, but here’s a live performance that hasn’t yet been taken down.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiJWl9cFgJI

So that’s it. Thoughts or comments??

State Songs: New Mexico – South Carolina

Here are the next 10 states alphabetically, leaving only 10 to go. The basic idea—pick a favorite song that references the state or a place in the state. It must me a geographical reference — songs about a girl named Virginia don’t count for the state of Virginia. Common sense rules still apply. Here are my choices—about 10 people participated in this exercise.

This set of 10 included some of the tougher states to find songs.

Links to the first 30 states:
State Songs: Alabama – Georgia
State Songs: Hawaii – Maryland
State Songs: Maine – New Jersey

New Mexico: By The Time I Get to Phoenix – Glen Campbell (1967)
“By the time I make Albuquerque….”
Glen Campbell’s version of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” is the most famous. Johnny Rivers recorded it in 1965. Campbell’s version peaked at #26 late in 1967 but went to #2 on the country chart. Campbell did win two Grammys for it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUg5p3BncuQ

New York: Native New Yorker – Odyssey (1977/1977-78)

http://s1220.photobucket.com/user/wellens/media/wellens097/1548425_zpst2td11gi.jpg.html
http://s1220.photobucket.com/user/wellens/media/wellens097/1548425_zpst2td11gi.jpg.html


I am picking a disco song over classics by Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel, which may seem to take some audacity, but is more of a testament to how much I really like “Native New Yorker.” The song was written by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, who also wrote “A Lover’s Concerto” and “Working My Way Back To You.” “Native New Yorker” spent two weeks at #21 in February 1978 but has proved to be a disco standard.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1rH_iaZkv0

North Carolina: Wagon Wheel – Bob Dylan (1973); Old Crow Medicine Show (2004)
Originally a Dylan song, versions by Old Crow Medicine Show and later Darius Rucker have made this song more famous. I have to include the Old Crow Medicine Show because their verses include Raleigh, North Carolina when they expanded on the Dylan tune.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gX1EP6mG-E

North Dakota: I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash (1996)
I should credit Hank Snow, a Canadian who first sang the North American version. This song was originally about places in Australia. The good news is that Cash mentions Fargo. The bad news is that I can no longer use this song for a difficult state.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoIfglXAbh0

Ohio: Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
Ohio, referring to the Kent State shootings earlier in 1970, was not a single from the Deja Vu album that was recorded before the shootings. That created an unusual chart situation in which “Teach Your Children” (from the album) and “Ohio” were climbing the charts almost simultaneously. For one week in August 1970, “Teach Your Children” was at #16 and “Ohio” at #17. The following week, “Ohio” peaked at #14 but the Neil Young protest song’s lasting impact is undeniable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAis0cKjJFY

Oklahoma: Never Been To Spain – Three Dog Night (1971/1972)
There were a few possible selections for Oklahoma, including the musical and a Bacharach-David song by Gene Pitney. “Never Been To Spain” was written by Hoyt Axton, who also wrote the group’s biggest hit, “Joy To The World.” It was the second single from their Harmony album and spent two weeks at #5 in February 1972. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKSrHMqQTEI

Oregon: City Of Roses – Esperanza Spalding (2012)
A track from her Radio Music Society album. I have had the chance to see Esperanza Spalding in concert–she’s best known for an upset Best New Artist Grammy win. Pretty rare when that award goes to a chamber music artist. Very talented and deserving. City of Roses is Portland’s nickname and the song is a tribute to her childhood home.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjTUyFZqkP0

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Freedom – The Elton John Band (1974/1975)
I wonder what Bernie Taupin thought when Elton told him to write lyrics for a song to be called “Philadelphia Freedom.” Elton wrote it for Billie Jean King, who at that time played for the Philadelphia Freedoms of the World Team Tennis league. Taupin came up with some odd lyrics with a few gems–“the whippoorwill of freedom zapped me right between the eyes!” Spent two weeks at #1 in April 1975.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqnGeSFhKV4

Rhode Island: Sweet Rhode Island Red – Ike & Tina Turner (1974)
From the album of the same name from 1974, a decent track by Ike & Tina. There weren’t a lot of options for Rhode Island. Later covered by John Waite. Tina Turner once covered Waite’s biggest solo hit, “Missing You.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H8y51GymqU

South Carolina: Dancin’, Shaggin’ On The Boulevard – Alabama (1997)
I considered “Greenville” by Lucinda Williams but all evidence I could find suggested inconclusively that the Greenville is not the one in South Carolina. There’s a “new country” song by Jason Aldean called “She’s Country” that clearly references South Carolina. I just can’t say I like that song though. That brought me to Alabama, a band who played a lot of clubs in Myrtle Beach. Since all of the places in the song are in Myrtle Beach, it counts. Hit #3 on the country chart in June 1997.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZYOJQ79DOw

State Songs: Maine – New Jersey

Let’s keep going. Here are the next 10 states. The challenge is to pick one song for every state and it has to clearly refer to a place in that state. Common sense rules still apply. Here are the middle 10 states alphabetically.

Massachusetts: Dirty Water – The Standells (1965/1966)
I lived in Boston for a few years and thus became very familiar with this song. That was before it was played at the end of every Red Sox home win, but radio there did play it quite a bit. It edges out Massachusetts by the Bee Gees for me. The Standells were an L.A. band who took this song to #11 in July 1966. Here is a televised lip-sync version.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5apEctKwiD8

Michigan: Dancing In The Street – Martha & the Vandellas (1964)
One person in the group posted this for Maryland and I resisted the temptation to say “coming soon to another state.” I originally had “Don’t Stop Believin'” penciled in here but I couldn’t pass on this Motown classic that references “the motor city.” It spent two weeks at #2 in October 1964 behind “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2wSiOs2rs8

Minnesota: Leader Of The Band – Dan Fogelberg (1981/1982)
“One went to Chicago and the other to St. Paul.” Fogelberg was on a soft rock roll in the early 1980s. “Leader Of The Band” hit number 9 in March 1982. He did better on the Adult Contemporary Chart, with two weeks at number one in February. It’s a bit sad–he wrote it for his father who had passed away, Even more sad that Fogelberg died young.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYFVEB4j6zI

Mississippi: Ode To Billie Joe – Bobbie Gentry (1967)
One of the greatest and most mysterious story songs of all time, the mentioned Tallahatchee was indeed in Mississippi. If that’s not enough, there is a reference to Tupelo as well. Gentry reached rare air with this megahit–she hit the top 20 on the pop, R&B and country charts. It spent four weeks at number one at the end of the summer of love….and oh, by the way……The Tallahatchie Bridge of which she sang collapsed in 1972.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZt5Q-u4crc

Missouri: Kansas City – Wilbert Harrison (1959)
Written by Leiber & Stoller in 1952, “Kansas City” has quite the history and has been covered many times. Wilbert Harrison has be far the most successful version, released in 1959. It spent two weeks at number one in May of that year.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlN-JA1u1JY

Montana: Come Monday – Jimmy Buffett (1974)
Not surprised to see that others agreed. This was a far bigger Easy Listening hit that a pop hit. Peaked at number three on the softer chart and at #30 on the Hot 100 in 1974. Buffett had not yet blown up into a big star by that point.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKGw_hrlaOY

Nebraska: You And I – Lady Gaga (2010/2011)
“You And I” was the fourth single from Born This Way. The song spent five weeks in the top 10 in the fall of 2011 and peaked at number six in September. She had already performed it on the Today show as early as July 2010. The single features Brian May on guitar but in her live shows, it’s a piano power ballad. Nebraska is mentioned six times. I’ll start with the studio/video version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9YMU0WeBwU
Live on The View:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUliJz26clg

Nevada: Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash (1955/1956; 1968)
It’s one of Cash’s signature songs. Originally recorded and released on Sun Records in December 1955, the song was already a Cash classic when he released his live version in 1968. The live version hit #1 on the country chart and was a Grammy winner.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1xSt7iganA

New Hampshire: New Hampshire – Jason Reeves (2007)
I really couldn’t find much else. From the album The Magnificent Adventures Of Heartache (And Other Frightening Tales…). Reeves is best known for writing “Bubbly.” the Colbie Caillat song. That’s about all I’ve got.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=af3077-gVG8

New Jersey: Palisades Park – Freddy Cannon (1962)
Freddy Cannon’s biggest hit was intended to be a B-side. A DJ in Flint, Michigan played “Palisades Park” by mistake and several weeks later, Cannon had a #3 hit. Who wrote this unintended classic? Chuck Barris, the TV producer host who would later create The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, was working for ABC in the early 1960s. One of his roles was to keep an eye on Dick Clark after the 1959 payola scandal. Barris wound up producing records and writing songs. “Palisades Park” was by far his most successful composition.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBgaf5gXJcc

So that’s it. Done with 30 states and 20 more to go. Thoughts and opinions?

 

State Songs: Hawaii – Maryland

Continuing with one song for every state. A reminder of the rules–the song must mention a place in that state, use common sense. And you can’t use the same song for more than one state. Here goes the next set of states, alphabetically.

Hawaii: California Girls – The Beach Boys (1965)
“I dig a French bikini on Hawaii island.” I like the sound of Hawaiian music and really liked the music from The Descendants, but I’m not familiar enough with it to find a song that has the geographical reference. Using the Beach Boys here is a bit of a cop out but it’s within the rules. Peaked at #3 late summer 1965. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oRb9-mypxg

Idaho: What’s Your Name – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1977/1978)
More people who participated used Lynyrd Skynyrd for Idaho than for Alabama, which is somewhat surprising. “It’s eight o’clock in Boise, Idaho” and for another weak state, that’s a winner. Peaked at #13 in March 1978. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlKJiZ8ymM4

Illinois: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – Jim Croce (1973)
I was going to go with the Kankakee reference in “City of New Orleans” but upon further thought, I like this song better. It’s a childhood favorite that holds up. It spent two weeks at number one in July 1973. Croce died in a plane crash in September of that year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwPRm5UMe1A

Indiana: Indiana Wants Me – R. Dean Taylor (1970)
It’s a decent pop hit and I just couldn’t think of anything better. This was Canadian Taylor’s only U.S. hit and was supposedly inspired by Bonnie and Clyde. It hit number five in November 1970. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZL_tZxyBDo

Iowa: Iowa – Bing Crosby (1944)
Iowa was tough, real tough. This song was written by Meredith Willson, who also wrote “Gary, Indiana” and other songs from The Music Man. Willson was born in Iowa and he wrote a few songs about Iowa, including the fight songs for the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. I don’t think Bing released this single, but he had some fun with it on his radio show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uSbp5NHaH0

Kansas: Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell (1968/1968-69)
Looks like two songs are popular for Kansas, including this one. I’m going with Campbell’s version. Written by Jimmy Webb about a lineman in Oklahoma, but Wichita fit the song better. “Wichita Lineman” peaked at #3 but hit number one on the country chart and the easy listening chart late in 1968. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q20Hj4FWbc

Kentucky: Kentucky Rain – Elvis Presley (1969/1970)
Should be no surprise to anyone who paid attention to my Elvis countdown and my rain songs countdown–I like this song quite a bit. That’s Jerry Scheff on bass, Ronnie Milsap on piano and Eddie Rabbitt is the songwriter. It spent two weeks at #16 in March 1970.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU2U3QAUGak

Louisiana: Walking To New Orleans – Fats Domino (1960)
Tough to choose just one for Louisiana. The Animals, Arlo Guthrie, CCR and Poco are among those with strong contenders. Few singers are as associated with one city as Fats Domino is with New Orleans. In 1960, he recorded this Bobby Charles composition. The New Orleans Symphony string section was brought in to add to the finished recording–a wise move. Peaked at #6 in August 1960. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-eWAuFmjN0

Maine: King Of The Road – Roger Miller (1964/1965)
Not surprisingly, others have chosen “King Of The Road” for Maine, we could have had back-to-back Roger Miller entries. Miller’s follow-up single, Engine Engine #9, mentions Baltimore. King Of The Road peaked at #4 in March 1965. Engine Engine #9 hit #7 in June. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0hI-8oybIU

Maryland: Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck (1976)
In the end, however, I chose Starbuck over Roger Miller for Maryland. “Moonlight Feels Right” was Starbuck’s first and biggest hit. Spent two weeks at #3 in the summer of 1976. It references Ole Miss in addition to Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay. Here’s a recent live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_10voFFPKaI

Comments or suggestions?

Beyonce and Prince dominate Top 40

You’ve never seen a Top 40 chart ever that was so dominated by two artists. In 1964, the Beatles had seven of the top 40 songs in April 1964, including the entire top five. That top five record may stay around a few more years or decades. However, both Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift have matched the seven simultaneous top 40 hits.

That is, until this week. You may not find it surprising that Prince has eight songs in the top 40 for the week ending May 14, 2016. His untimely and tragic death  brought back a lot of his catalog. So yes, Prince has broken the Beatles’ record with eight top 40 hits this week. Incredibly, in the same week, Beyonce also broke the record with eight top 40 hits of her own. Clearly her Lemonade album is generating a lot of buzz and a lot of downloads.

So here is the record setting Top 40, courtesy of Billboard.com.

Last week’s chart position in parentheses.

1. (1) Panda, Desiigner
2. (3) One Dance, Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla
3. (2) 7 Years, Lucas Graham
4. (17) Purple Rain, Prince and the Revolution
5. (5) I Took A Pill In Ibiza, Mike Posner
6. (4) Work, Rihanna featuring Drake
7. (6) Work From Home, Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign
8. (20) When Doves Cry, Prince
9. (8) Pillowtalk, Zayn
10. (-) Formation, Beyonce
11. (-) Sorry, Beyonce
12. (7) No, Meghan Trainor
13. (-) Hold Up, Beyonce
14. (14) Don’t Let Me Down, The Chainsmokers featuring Daya
15. (9) Love Yourself, Justin Bieber
16. (13) Stressed Out, twenty one pilots
17. (10) Me, Myself & I, G-Eazy x Bebe Rexha
18. (-) 6 Inch, Beyonce featuring The Weeknd
19. (12) My House, Flo Rida
20. (29) Little Red Corvette, Prince
21. (15) Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande
22. (23) Needed Me, Rihanna
23. (28) Kiss, Prince and the Revolution
24. (11) Cake By The Ocean, DNCE
25. (39) Let’s Go Crazy, Prince and the Revolution
26. (16) Never Forget You, Zara Larsson & MNEK
27. (41) 1999, Prince
28. (-) Don’t Hurt Yourself, Beyonce featuring Jack White
29. (18) Low Life, Future featuring The Weeknd
30. (22) Oui, Jeremih
31. (21) Sorry, Justin Bieber
32. (19) 2 Phones, Kevin Gates
33. (-) Raspberry Beret, Prince and the Revolution
34. (24) Middle, DJ Snake featuring Bipolar Sunshine
35. (-) Freedom, Beyonce featuring Kendrick Lamar
36. (26) Close, Nick Jonas featuring Tove Lo
37. (-) Pray You Catch Me, Beyonce
38. (-) All Night, Beyonce
39. (-) I Would Die 4 U, Prince and the Revolution
40. (25) Pop Style, Drake featuring The Throne

There are Beyonce songs at #41 and #43, so had Prince not died, Beyonce would have 10 of the top 40!

I could only imagine how Casey Kasem would have counted this down if he were alive and doing his weekly countdown. A lot of current artists took big chart tumbles this week to make room for 16 Beyonce and Prince songs.

State Songs: Alabama – Georgia

I’m participating, well sort of, this was my idea, in an exercise to name your favorite song that references each of the 50 states. Say what? Okay, you can pick one song for each state, but you can’t use a song more than once. So if you use a song like “I’ve Been Everywhere” or “Sweet Little Sixteen,” you can only use it for one state.

Other rules? The name of the state does not have to be mentioned in the lyrics, but there must be a clear reference to a place in the state. You cannot use “Fly Me To The Moon” for Pennsylvania just because there happens to be a Moon, Pennsylvania. Likewise, “White Cliffs Of Dover” is not about a place in Delaware.

Some states are harder than others. The hardest states don’t have a lot of choices. Another category of hard states involves too many choices. In any case, here is my list for the first 10 states, alphabetically.

Alabama: Glory – Common & John Legend (2014/2015)
From the film Selma, this Oscar-winning song was released in December 2014 and peaked at #49 in 2015. Oddly enough, Selma was only nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Original Song. I guess that means the movie was good in spite of acting, directing, screenplay and cinematography. It is a very good song, but I’m not sure how it single-handedly carried Selma.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUZOKvYcx_o

Alaska: North To Alaska – Johnny Horton (1960/1960-61)
From the John Wayne movie of the same name. Johnny Horton had already had an Alaska song with “When It’s Springtime In Alaska (It’s Forty Below)” in 1959. I don’t think he ever lived there, however. “North to Alaska” was released in August 1960. Horton was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident in November of that year, a few weeks before this song peaked at #4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3tAJS0wpRY

Arizona: Get Back – The Beatles with Billy Preston (1969)
I guess I’d rather leave my home in Tucson, Arizona than be on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. The Beatles spent five weeks at #1 with “Get Back” in 1969 with a song in which they shared credit with Billy Preston. Written and sung by Paul McCartney. Here is his 2005 Super Bowl performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgcW21U1VTs

Arkansas: We’re An American Band – Grand Funk (1973)
“Last night in Little Rock….”
Grand Funk’s first number one hit in 1973 mentioned both Little Rock and Omaha but I’ll use it for Arkansas. Written and sung by Don Brewer and produced by Todd Rundgren. Here’s a live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMsIrKjSM6Y

California: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding (1967/1968)
Recorded shortly before Redding died in a plane crash, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” became the first posthumous #1 single. It spent four weeks at #1 in spring 1968 and won two Grammys. There are no clips of Redding singing this song, as he never performed or lip synced it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTVjnBo96Ug

Colorado: Rocky Mountain High – John Denver (1972/1973)
John Denver wrote songs about Alaska and West Virginia and became a cult hero in Baltimore when one of his songs became a baseball anthem. Still, Denver is most associated with Colorado, thanks in part to “Rocky Mountain High,” which spent four weeks in the top 10 in late winter 1973. Here is a live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op9ND6-c-Dg

Connecticut: Connnecticut – Judy Garland and Bing Crosby (1945)
There wasn’t much to choose from here. The Ben Folds song (“Kylie From Connecticut”) is okay, but this state is so weak in music references that I actually considered that song by Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse (google it). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI5X0jYnIJ4

Delaware: Back In The U.S.A. – Chuck Berry (1959) or Linda Ronstadt (1978)
There’s a reference to Delaware, sort of. The shores of the Delaware Bay are good enough for me. This might have been the toughest day–Connecticut and Delaware are pretty weak. I know the Perry Como song well but I just couldn’t do it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcI8AiCO9cU

Florida: Key Largo – Bertie Higgins (1981/1982)
Treacle alert. I did consider going with “Ice Ice Baby” here but I’ll admit that I’ve always liked this easy listening classic. It spent four weeks in the top 10 in April 1982. Higgins never again cracked the top 40. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25sfPl6FJQ8

Georgia: Midnight Train To Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips (1973)
A lot of fine choices for Georgia–Ray Charles, Brook Benton, Charlie Daniels–but this R&B classic wins it for me. Spent two weeks at #1 and four weeks atop the R&B charts in late fall 1973. Here is a live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pHhItkhc7o

Any thoughts or better ideas?

Bob’s Top 10 Pop Songs of 2015

Running a bit behind, but for the seventh year, I’ll be counting down my top 10 songs of the year. My favorite song of the year will be revealed on New Year’s Eve. I do have some rules–I’m funny that way. The only songs that are eligible are those that hit the Billboard Top 10 on the Hot 100 at any time during 2015. I’d rather discuss songs that most people heard, even if there may be songs you or I like better. In 2015, 55 songs hit the top 10. My other rule is that I eliminate any song that was in my 2014 Top 10, even if it’s eligible in 2015. “All About That Bass,” “I’m Not The Only One” and “Thinking Out Loud” were in last year’s top 10 so those songs are not eligible this year.

Taylor Swift has never made my year-end top 10. Will this be the year? Or will we continue with our “Bad Blood?” How high will I place Adele? Should I just “Shut Up And Dance?” Dare I say, Bieber had a pretty good year?

As always, comments are welcomed. I’ll try to cross-post interesting comments from other social media sites—this countdown is now on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  And what are your top songs (top 10 or not)? Feel free to comment or slam me–I get a lot of that.

-Bob

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1. Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, RCA.
Before Adele was setting all kinds of sales records late in 2015, “Uptown Funk” was destroying a few chart records. A tribute to retro funk and Prince’s Minneapolis sound, the songwriters included the Gap Band, whose classic “Oops Upside My Head.” was one of several inspirations for Ronson and Mars. The song debuted at number one in the UK in December 2014. In America, it hit number one in mid-January and got a bit comfortable there. With 14 weeks at number one, “Uptown Funk” is the longest-running number one song of this century and is tied for the second-longest run of all time. Its 21 weeks in the top three beat a record held by Santana w/ Rob Thomas, and with 25 weeks in the top five, that tied the record held by Le Ann Rimes (“How Do I Live”). Among other accomplishments, its success prevented Ed Sheeran (“Thinking Out Loud”) and Maroon 5 (“Sugar”) from hitting number one. It has already been parodied by Alvin and the Chipmunks, who recorded “Uptown Munk.” So what made this song so special? It seems to have captured the essence of funk into a catchy and highly danceable package. Its long run at number one is well-deserved.

Official video: Vevo link
Baltimore Orioles 2015 Opening Day video: YouTube link
Ronson and Mars on The Voice: YouTube link
SNL performance: YouTube link
Glee cast cover: YouTube link
Fleur East on X-Factor: YouTube link

2. Hello, Adele, XL/Columbia.
Adele seemed to be everywhere after her musch anticipated 25 album came out this fall. The album shattered sales records and the lead single is still the number one song in America. Lionel Richie once did a piano-based ballad called “Hello.” Adele’s piano ballad of the same name is a bit more bombastic, the kind of song people like me belt out with her. I recently heard a college band playing “Hello” at a bowl game, impressive as the song was released in late October, when the current college football season was more than half over. It has hit number one in 27 countries, including a three-week run in her native country. In America, it’s still number one for nine weeks and counting. Its run at the top has so far denied Justin Bieber number one status for his huge hit, “Sorry.” “Hello” was written by Adele with producer Greg Kurstin. Kurstin also played piano on the record, while Adele played drums.

Official video: Vevo link
Jimmy Fallon, Adele and The Roots with classroom instruments: YouTube link
Demi Lovato cover, live in Seattle: YouTube link
Adele live at the NRJ Awards: Vevo link

3. FourFiveSeconds, Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney, Westbury Road/Roc Nation.
Between the three of them, they have won 47 Grammys. Wilson Phillips makes an uncredited appearance singing backup–no Grammys but five nominations. The star-studded hit was written by a large team headed by McCartney and West. It’s Rihanna’s vocals that truly shine. Kanye West holds his own and McCartney’s guitar playing is outstanding. The song was released in January and topped the charts in Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Sweden. In Am erica, it spent eight weeks in the top 10, peaking at number four shortly after a performance at the Grammys. Three distinctive instruments are heard–it’s Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) playing organ. It’s not McCartney on bass; that’s actually hip-hop producer Mike Dean. McCartney handles the acoustic guitar. I like the cross-genre strength of this track. There’s a little folk, a little soul and a Rihanna’s gospel-influenced vocal.

Official video: Vevo link
One Direction cover: Vevo link
Grammy performance: YouTube link
Kanye live at Glastonbury: YouTube link

4. Shut Up And Dance, Walk the Moon, RCA.
Walk the Moon is a Cincinnati-based band that had some modest success with its first album, called Walk The Moon. The band’s second album, Talking Is Hard spawned its breakthrough hit single, “Shut Up And Dance.” I don’t think I’m alone in stating that I like this song but I’m not quite sure why. It’s somewhat repetitive with silly lyrics but very infectious. The lyrics are apparently based on a true story. Singer Nicholas Petricca was at a bar, he has having trouble getting a drink and his girlfriend got him out on the dance floor. She was actually wearing the backless dress and beat up sneaks described in the song. Petricca told an interviewer that the song has “become and anthem for the dork who is 100 percent me.” “Shut Up And Dance” was released in September 2004. It took a while to crack the Top 10 in late April 2015. It spent 17 straight weeks in the Top 10 before it headed down the charts, only to rebound for another week at number 10 in September, almost a year after its release. On the Billboard Rock Songs chart,, “Shut Up And Dance” was number one for a record 27 weeks.

Official video: Vevo link
Live on the Honda Stage: Vevo link
Live at Austin City limits: YouTube link

5. Want To Want Me, Jason Derulo, Beluga Heights/Warner Bros.
In a bit of a departure for Jason Derulo, the first single off his Everything is 4 album was more of a pop song than is found in his usual R&B repertoire. His falsetto on the verses is no departure, a smooth R&B vocal. Derulo shifts down to his normal register for the 1980s-style chorus. Released in early March, “Want To Want Me” hit the Billboard Top 10 in May and spent nine weeks there, including two weeks at number five. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, “Want To Want Me” spent four weeks at number one in June. For a mild disclaimer, I will point out that one of the songwriters is a friend of a friend. Mitch Allan, who grew up in Baltimore County and is a Randallstown High School graduate also co-wrote Heartbeat Song for Kelly Clarkson, which missed the top 10.

Official video: YouTube link
“Duet” video with Leona Lewis: YouTube link
Derulo on Idol Sverige (Swedish Idol): YouTube link
Derulo with contestants India Carney and Kimberly Nichole on The Voice:
YouTube link

6. Ex’s & Oh’s, Elle King, RCA
Elle King is 26 years old and had some minor success in the music industry. “Ex’s & Oh’s,” co-written by King and Dave Richard Bassett, is by far her biggest hit. The video premiered on May 1 and by June, the song had topped the Billboard rock chart and later the alternative chart. The single was released to pop radio in late September and peaked at number 10 for one week at the end of November, although it is still in the top 20. The lyrics suggest her treating men like men stereotypically treat women. The video echoes that theme, featuring men wearing very little. It’s a high energy song with a very catchy rhythm. “Ex’s & Oh’s” is up for two Grammys in the rock category, for best performance and best song. I predict a chart rebound if she is chosen to perform at the Grammy ceremony on President’s Day.

Live on Today in February: YouTube link
Official video: Vevo link
From Jimmy Kimmel Live: YouTube link
Ellie Lawrence cover on The Voice: NBC link
King with finalists on the German version of The Voice: YouTube link

7. Sugar, Maroon 5, 222/Interscope
Maroon 5 songs are usually hit-or-miss for me and lately there have been more misses than hits. The first two releases from 2014’s V album (“Maps,” “Animals”) were underwhelming to me, to say the least. The third single, “Sugar,” is the gem on the album. Mike Posner orginally wrote it for himself but Adam Levine heard it and wanted it for Maroon 5. Posner refused, but when Posner changed labels and his album project was scrapped in favor of more recent material, he decided to give it to Levine. Levine did some re-writing and Posner was reportedly happy with the outcome. Maroon 5 released it in January 2015 along with a video in which they crashed a bunch of Los Angeles weddings. The footage is great, but I can’t help but think it was way more staged than it seemed. By the end of January, “Sugar” debuted in the top 10 for the first of 21 consecutive weeks. It was only the 68th song ever to have spent 20 or more weeks in the top 10. For four weeks in the spring, it was at number two behind “Uptown Funk!” A remix featuring Nicki Minaj was released in March. “Sugar” did top the charts in Lebanon, Slovakia, South Africa and Turkey.

Official video: Vevo link
Remix with Nicki Minaj (audio): YouTube link

8. Fight Song, Rachel Platten, Columbia
Rachel Platten is a 34-year-old overnight success who first recorded “Fight Song” in 2014. Columbia Records built an EP around it and released the single in mid-February. It took a slow and steady climb to reach the top 10. It finally did so in mid-July and spent 10 weeks in the top 10, peaking at number six for a week in late August. Platten co-wrote the song with Dave Richard Bassett, a songwriter who had worked with other artists, but finally had a big hit with “Fight Song,” and later with Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s.” The song is reportedly about Platten’s struggling to get a break in the music industry and her unwillingness to give up. In that sense, the popularity of “Fight Song” proved successful for both songwriters. Hard to imagine not hearing this song–it has been used in commercials and other inspirational settings. It was even bigger in the UK, where “Fight Song” spent a week at number one in early September.

Video:Vevo link
Platten & Benton Blount on America’s Got Talent:
NBC link
“Live version” video:
Vevo link

9. Style, Taylor Swift, Universal Studios/Republic
People who know me know that I’m not a Tay-Tay fan. That said, “Style” is by far her best song. Swift used to write all of her songs solo, but wisely dumped that for her Red album in favor of “co-writing,” primarily with Swedish hit machine Max Martin. She continued her co-writing strategy for her more recent 1989 album. “Style” originated from a beat line written by Ali Payami. Martin seems to have wrote it with Swift’s strengths in mind. The song is more about timing than about hitting notes. The staccato sections require good timing, not great pitch or range. Of the first four singles from 1989, “Style,” the third single, was the only one not to hit number one. “Style” was released in February and spent nine weeks in the top 10 in the spring, peaking at number six. Although other singles were more successful, I think “Style” will have more staying power. Just ignore the cringe-worthy “slicked-back white T-shirt” lyric. I have no doubt Tay-Tay wrote those lines herself.

Official video: Vevo link
Ryan Adams cover (audio): Vevo link

10. Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey), The Weeknd, Universal Studios/Republic
The Weeknd was Billboard‘s top singles artist of 2015. “Earned It,” from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, was not one of his two number one hits, but was his most mainstream effort of the year. It hit the charts in February and spent 18 straight weeks in the top 10, peaking at number three. The song is played twice in the movie, and was one of two top-five hits from the film, along with Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do.” For those unfamiliar with this breakout artist, his name is Abel Tesfaye and is from suburban Toronto. Apparently there is another Canadian band called “The Weekend,” so Tesfaye dropped an E to make “The Weeknd” his pseudonym. He co-wrote “Earned It,” and was reported to have been the primary writer.

Video with film scenes: YouTube link
Explicit video version: Vevo link

 

 

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