Tag Archives: music

Favorite George Michael songs (including Wham)

George Michael left quite a legacy. I think that if you asked 20 people to name their favorite George Michael songs, including Wham, you would probably get 10 different answers. I recently asked that question on social media and it didn’t take me long to get to eight different songs.

Here are the top 20 songs I selected as my favorites, in reverse order. Some good ones did not make my list. Thoughts and comments welcome. What is your favorite?

george_michael

20. Praying For Time, George Michael (1989/1990)
“Praying For Time” was the first single from Listen Without Prejudice and marked his first release after the hugely successful Faith album. It was his last number one in the US and peaked at #6 in the UK. MTV Unplugged version

19. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham! (1984)
“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” pretty much introduced the world to George Michael and Wham. It spent two weeks at #1 in the UK, three weeks in America. The “Choose Life” shorts from the video were part of an anti-drug, anti-suicide campaign. Official video

18. Heal The Pain (Duet Version), George Michael & Paul McCartney (2005/2008)
“Heal The Pain” was first released in 1991 as the fourth single from Listen Without Prejudice. I have a slight preference for the duet version with Paul McCartney from his Twenty-Five album. Video link

17. Fastlove, George Michael (1996)
“Fastlove” was the first single released by a then-new company called DreamWorks. It hit #8 in 1996 and was Michael’s last new song to hit the Billboard Hot 100 (Wham’s “Last Christmas” charts seasonally). Official video

16. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, George Michael and Elton John (1991/1992)
There is a generation who doesn’t know that “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” was originally Elton solo. The live remake outperformed the original and hit number one in February 1992, making the line, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Elton John” famous. Official live video

15. Too Funky, George Michael (1990/1992)
Later that summer in 1992, “Too Funky,” from the Red Hot & Dance album, cracked the top 10. It notably starts with a sound clip of Anne Bancroft from The Graduate. Official video

14. Freedom, Wham! (1984/1985)
“Freedom” was a #1 hit in the UK from Wham’s breakthrough album Make It Big. It hit #3 in the USA right around the time that Wham was dealing with overexposure. Freedom is one of those songs I got tired of at the time but sounds better given the distance of time. The official video was shot in China, where Wham was among the first western bands to tour.

13. Round Here, George Michael (2003/2004)
“Round Here” is from George’s Patience album and was a minor hit in the UK. It’s about his recollections of life as a child and his parents when they were young. One of my favorite of his “unfamiliar songs.” Official video

12. A Different Corner – George Michael (1985/1986)
For some, “A Different Corner” is George’s best. In the USA, this was officially George Michael’s first solo hit, even though it’s on a Wham album and Andrew Ridgely performs on it. “Careless Whisper” was really Michael’s first solo, but in America it was billed as “Wham! featuring George Michael.” “A Different Corner” has a very understated production but it’s a powerful song. Official video

11. Waiting For That Day – George Michael (1990)
“Waiting For That Day” was the third single off Listen Without Prejudice and was a disappointment commercially. It’s loosely based on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards share songwriter credits with Michael. YouTube audio

10. Careless Whisper, Wham! featuring George Michael (1983/1984-85)
It was on a Wham album. was co-written by Andrew Ridgeley, but in most of the world, it was a solo song by George Michael. Because the record company did not want people to think Wham had broken up, it was credited as “Wham! featuring George Michael” in Japan, Canada and the USA. It’s one of George’s most recognizable songs and was Billboard’s biggest hit of 1985. It has become well-known recently as the walk-up music for outfielder Josh Reddick. His unusual selection has led to baseball fans singing along as he walks up to home plate. Official video

9. One More Try, George Michael (1987/1988)
The fifth single off Faith was also his third straight number one hit. “One More Try” also topped the R&B chart and the Adult Contemporary chart. The title only appears once in the lyrics–the final three words. Official video

8. Where Did Your Heart Go?, Wham! (1986)
“Where Did Your Heart Go?” was Wham’s last single in 1986. A cover of a Was (Not Was) song, it was among Wham’s more subdued tracks. It missed the top 40 in America. Clearly not Wham’s most successful singles, but in my mind “Where Did Your Heart Go?” is among their best. Official video

7. I’m Your Man, Wham! (1985)
One of the last singles by Wham has become one of my favorites. Written by George Michael, it’s a bit of a glimpse into what we would hear on his solo album, Faith. “I’m Your Man” was also the last song Wham performed on stage, at Wembley Stadium. Here is George Michael performing it live in 1991: YouTube link.

6. Faith, George Michael (1987/1987-88)
“Faith” is perhaps George Michael’s most well-known song. It spent four weeks at #1 spanning 1987 and 1988 and was the number one hit in America for the year in ’88. The organ intro into the guitar break are as recognizable as the lyrics. It has been covered by Limp Bizkit, among others. Here is a live version from 2008: YouTube link.

5. Last Christmas, Wham! (1984)
I remember resenting all the airplay this song got when it came out. I mean, they have one hit and now they get to have a Christmas song? Pay your dues, punks. Of course. “Last Christmas” became a Christmas classic and it became one of my favorite modern holiday songs. It would rank even higher if they could remix it with the ’80s synth toned down a bit. It be a bit sadder “this year” now that George Michael passed away on Christmas Day. Official video

4. Freedom! ’90, George Michael (1990/1990-91)
The second single from Listen Without Prejudice has a similar title to a Wham song, hence the year in the title. Known especially for its video featuring supermodels and no George Michael, it seemed he wanted to blow up his MTV past. Ironic that in doing so, he had a big video hit. It hit #3 in the US and #1 in Canada. Here’s a 25th anniversary video with younger models: YouTube link.

3. Father Figure, George Michael (1987/1988)
“Father Figure” was the song that really got George Michael noticed by R&B radio. He would go on to win two American Music Awards in the Soul/R&B category. It was also his first Grammy-nominated solo song. The video really propelled its success, but the haunting R&B sound proved memorable. A #1 hit in America, “Father Figure” only reached #11 in the UK, although it is reportedly one of his most requested songs on British radio. Official video

2. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), Aretha Franklin & George Michael (1986/1987)
Probably my favorite superstar duet of all time. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” hit number one in both the USA and the UK in 1987. Despite its success, it almost seems to have become a somewhat forgotten track for both artists. Official video

1. Kissing A Fool, George Michael (1987/1988)
People. If “Father Figure” established Michael as an R&B star, the final single from Faith, “Kissing A Fool” showed that he had some crooner chops. He recorded the vocals a cappella in a single take. His phrasing and timing are impeccable. By the time “Kissing A Fool” was released, very few fans did not already own the Faith album. Still, this one reached #5 in America and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Video link

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.

Bob’s Top 10 Songs of 2014

Hard to believe that this is the sixth year already. As usual, I will be counting down my top 10 songs of the 2014. Beginning December 26, I’ll reveal my number 10 song of the year. Then two songs a day, followed by my favorite song of the year to be revealed on New Year’s Eve. There are rules, because, well, it’s my countdown. The only songs that are eligible are those that hit the Billboard Top 10 on the Hot 100 at any time during 2014. I just think it’s more fun to discuss songs that most people have heard of. In 2014, 59 songs hit the top 10. Rule #2: I eliminate any song that was in my 2013 Top 10, even if it spilled over into 2014. “Royals,” “Wake Me Up!” and “Say Something” are therefore not eligible for this year’s list.

Taylor Swift has never made my year-end top 10. Will this be the year? Or will she occupy a “Blank Space” on my list yet again? Will Iggy Azalea be “Fancy” enough to make my list?  Would it be “Rude” to leave out MAGIC!? Is it really  “All About That Bass?” And will you be “Happy” with my choice for number one song of the year?

As always, comments are welcomed. I will make an attempt to post good comments from other social media sites—this countdown is now on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Diaspora.  And what are your top songs (top 10 or not)? Feel free to congratulate, criticize or tell me I’m out of my mind (as if I didn’t know).

-Bob

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1. All Of Me, John Legend, G.O.O.D./Columbia
“All Of Me” replaced “Happy” as the number one song in the country in mid-May after six weeks at number two. John Legend’s piano ballad, inspired by his now-wife Chrissy Teigen, became his first number one single. It spent three weeks at the top and topped the charts in eight countries. Released in August 2013, it took some time to catch on. A remix was released early in 2014, but the remix is dreadful and should never have been done to this fine song. The video features Legend and Teigen and well, it’s more than a little bit steamy. Legend had performed the song several times in 2013 on television, but his January 2014 performance at the Grammys really boosted the track’s popularity.  By early March, it was in the top five and was the number three song of the year according to Billboard. Legend’s voice carries a well-written song with some memorable lines. Two gems include: “You’re my end and my beginning/Even when I lose I’m winning” and “Love your curves and all your edges/All your perfect imperfections.” Because the original recording of “All Of Me” was released too early for consideration at the upcoming Grammys, the song is only up for two, one for a live version and the other for that wretched remix.

Official video: Vevo link
Live on The Late Show with David Letterman: Vevo link
Legend with violinist Lindsey Stirling, live at the Kennedy Center: YouTube link
Grammy performance, January 2014: YouTube link
Glee version: YouTube link
Josh Kaufman version, season 6, The Voice: YouTube link

2. Happy, Pharrell Williams, Back Lot Music/Columbia
Pharrell Williams was a featured artist on two of the biggest hits of 2013. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was the number two song of the year, Billboard‘s Song of the Summer and the year’s longest-running number one single with 12 weeks at the top. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the Grammy Record of the Year and topped my year-end list a year ago. As a solo artist, Williams continued his run of success with the biggest hit of 2014, “Happy,” which spent 10 weeks at number one, was Oscar-nominated and was the number one song of the year. The song from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack was a bit slow out of the gate, but once it caught on, it became a worldwide phenomenon, going to number one in 24 countries. The catchy dance tune spawned many parodies and tribute videos, including one called “Tacky” from “Weird Al” Yankovic. Shortly after Pharrell Williams appeared at the Grammys wearing an unusual brown Vivienne Westwood hat, Pharrell’s Hat had its own Twitter account. He wore a similar hat to perform “Happy” at the Oscars, where he danced with Amy Adams and other actors in the front row. He lost on the Best Original Song category to Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go.” Hard not to sing and dance along to this one.

Official video: YouTube link
Oscar performance (recap): YouTube link
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Tacky:” YouTube link

3. I’m Not The Only One, Sam Smith, Capitol
Sam Smith had a huge breakthrough year in 2014. His first big solo hit, “Stay With Me” peaked at number two and barely missed my top 10. His followup is still on the charts, at number five to close the year. “I’m Not The Only One” covers the heartbreak of knowing that one’s partner was unfaithful. The vocals soar. It was a top 10 hit in many countries, but so far has only hit number one in South Africa. His performance of this song on many awards and music competition shows cemented Smith’s status as major vocal talent, compared frequently to Adele. Smith is nominated for six Grammys, including four major ones–Record of the Year, Song of the Year (both for “Stay With Me”), Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Sorry Iggy, I have to think 22-year-old Sam Smith is the overwhelming favorite to take the Best New Artist trophy.

Official video: Vevo link
Smith with A$AP Rocky at the AMAs: Vevo link
Damien cover from The Voice: YouTube link

4. All About That Bass, Meghan Trainor, Epic
Safe to say that one year ago, not many people had heard of Meghan Trainor, who turned 21 recently. Trainor co-wrote the song with singer-songwriter Kevin Kadish in 2013. Trainor was a songwriter at the time, and the song was offered to Beyonce and other record executives who all turned it down. Because the is about body image and suggests a “not skinny” protagonist, many singers signed to record deals were too thin to be taking on that subject matter. Kadish suggested Trainor record it and when L.A. Reid heard it, he signed Trainor as a singer in February 2014. In the United States, it hit number one in September and spent eight weeks there. It has now hit number one in 58 countries and has become one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time. While the vocals are odd, in some cases perhaps intentionally childlike, Trainor does sing the chorus well. I have to give credit for the “silicone stick-figure Barbie doll” line. To work that in without losing the catchiness is not easy. The musical sound is outstanding–this song sounds both fresh and retro. It’s clearly the most parodied song of the year and that’s saying something in a year when Pharrell’s “Happy” was also a big hit. It’s up for two Grammys and they are the big ones: Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Official video: Vevo link
Trainor with Miranda Lambert at the CMAs: YouTube link
Avi Kaplan (Pentatonix bass guy) cover: YouTube link
Trainor’s ukelele performance on Entertainment Tonight: YouTube link

5. Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran, Atlantic
Ed Sheeran’s biggest American hit to date spent only one week in the top 10 in 2014. That was the final week of 2014; “Thinking Out Loud” is still climbing headed into 2015. It’s likely to be a big hit in 2015, but I thought this song was too good to leave out of this year’s countdown. It has already been to number one in four countries, including the United Kingdom. It is apparently available is a 7-inch vinyl single, which makes it a must-buy for me. “Thinking Out Loud” is destined to become a wedding classic. There’s not much to say about the song itself. There is a very light acoustic guitar melody and the lyrics are pretty basic love song stuff. What carries the song is Sheeran’s vocal delivery.

Official video: YouTube link
Capital FM session, London: YouTube link
Sheeran on The Voice finale, December 16: YouTube link
Duet with X-Factor UK winner Ben Haenow: YouTube link

6. Turn Down For What, DJ Snake & Lil Jon, Columbia
The song has 12 words total, but mostly the repeated title punctuating an infectious groove. It became a sports anthem and party classic. It entered the Billboard top 10 in April 2014 and spent 15 weeks there, topping out at number four. “Turn Down For What” came in at number 15 on the Billboard year-end chart. I think the impact of this song goes beyond its chart performance. It will be one of the most, if not the most, remembered track of the year. Its appeal to hip-hop, dance and rock audiences and use at sporting events made it ubiquitous–it’s hard to imagine anyone in the nation not hearing this song at some point. In a year dominated by dance pop, Australian rap, sappy ballads and Taylor Swift, this song stood out and didn’t fit that mold. Its video is up for a Best Music Video Grammy.

Official video: Vevo link
Michelle Obama’s “Turnip for What:” Vine link
AT&T ad featuring “Turn Down For What:” YouTube link

7. Rude, Magic!, Latium/RCA
If ever a song quietly spent six weeks at number one it might be “Rude.” The debut hit from the Canadian band Magic! dominated the charts at the end of the summer of 2014 and prevented Sam Smith’s smash, “Stay With Me” from hitting number one. Its run at the top came between two more talked about number one singles, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Perhaps it’s the simplistic nature of the song. “Rude” is a very laid back reggae song that’s quite catchy, although the song’s understated vibe led some critics to dismiss the song quickly. It didn’t catch on right away. Released on October 10, 2013, “Rude” cracked the top 10 in June 2014 and hit number one at the end of July. It ranked at number seven on Billboard’s year-end chart. Seems people either loved or hated this one. Outside of the USA, “Rude” hit number one in the U.K,. Poland, Slovakia and Colombia. A New York Post feature suggested that Rude may be the worst number one single of all time. I liked it enough to make my top 10.

Official video: Vevo link
Unplugged on the beach in Sydney: YouTube link

8. Story Of My Life, One Direction, Syco/Columbia
One Direction spent seven non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 spanning 2013 and 2014. It peaked at number six in its first week on the chart in November 2013, It bounced in and out of the top 10 for months and lingered until April 2014. It marked a different turn for the popular boy band, who had been relying on uptempo pop songs and sappy ballads. “Story Of My Life” is a more mature song with modern folk influences. It reached number one in six very different countries: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Lebanon and New Zealand. It was considered for my 2013 top 10, but not selected and therefore qualifies for this year’s countdown. All five members of the group are given songwriter credit, along with Jamie Scott and John Ryan. Scott is a frequent collaborator on One Direction songs and fronts his own band, James Scott and the Town.

Official video: Vevo link
One Direction on X-Factor USA, November 2013: YouTube link
Glee cast version: YouTube link

9. Love Never Felt So Good, Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake, MJJ/Epic
Paul Anka co-wrote “Love Never Felt So Good” with Michael Jackson in 1983 and Jackson recorded a demo version. It would up on a 1984 album from Johnny Mathis. The Mathis album, A Special Part Of Me, spawned two adult contemporary hits in 1984, but Love Never Felt So Good was never released as a single. In 2013 as part of the Xscape project, the demo was remixed from a simple unplugged version with Anka on piano into a modern dance song. There were two versions: a solo version and a duet version that added vocals by Justin Timberlake. The duet version was released in May 2014 and peaked at number nine later that month. It hit number one in Croatia, Israel and Denmark. Two videos were released featuring classic Michael Jackson footage. There was a “live performance” on May 1 at a music awards show that featured Usher and others performing classic Jackson dance moves. Perhaps nostalgia helped put this into my top 10, but it sounds like a classic Michael Jackson song that could have fit well on the Off The Wall album.

Johnny Mathis version from 1984: YouTube link
Michael Jackson solo version video: Vevo link
Video of the duet version with Justin Timberlake: Vevo link
“Live performance” by Usher and others: YouTube link

10. Pompeii, Bastille, Virgin/Capitol
The first major hit from the British band Bastille peaked at number five in March. Actually it plateaued, spending four weeks at number five followed by five more weeks at number six. It topped the Billboard rock and alternative charts in America and peaked at number two in the U.K. Oddly enough, the song’s release coincided with the release of an unrelated movie called “Pompeii.” Both the song and the movie refer to the volcanic disaster from the first century that destroyed the Roman city. Perhaps even more strangely is that “Pompeii” (the song) was being used as a promo in movie ads, but not for the movie “Pompeii,” but for a different movie also in theaters at that time, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” Between the movie and the song, it’s likely that a new generation of school kids are very familiar with Mount Vesuvius and its famous eruption.

Official video: YouTube link
Ad for Mr. Peabody and Sherman: YouTube link
Glee cast version: YouTube link