Friday, June 15, 2012


After lots...and lots of rhetoric below, I am going to list some of my favorite songs ever, from my childhood until the present.  That covers a lot of years!
This is an interactive page in progress  

Have fun !

It's 1963!  Picture a handsome, bright-eyed young lad sitting in his Third Grade class!  He's the teacher's prize student and friend to all of the boys in his class.  Then picture the kid sitting next to him: that's me!  In Third Grade I was taking piano lessons and learned to play "Musetta's Waltz" from Act II of Puccini's La Boheme.  

 *Click on the grey links to hear the songs.

That's it!  I was hooked!  From then on I continued to develop a strong passion for classical music. It wasn't long before I discovered Ludwig Van Beethoven, the man and his music.  He and his music share many traits - Among them: Fire, Passion, Majesty, Strong Emotions, Temper, and Tenderness.

  Ludwig Van Beethoven
This is just one of hundreds of examples I could have picked to represent his magnificent music

In addition to the 'serious' compositions of the Great Composers throughout history, there has always been a less grandiose and 'popular' (of or pertaining to the common people) musical format: The Song!  Symphonies, operas, concertos, sonatas, etc. are like the serious and studious son in a family, while songs are like his awesome, well-liked younger brother.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word "song" as "a short musical composition of words and music".  So what is short?  I did some Wikipedia research (does that count?) and found out that "You Suffer", a song by the British band 'Napalm Death' (charming), runs precisely 1.316 seconds.  The length of The Beatles' song "Hey Jude" is 7 minutes, 11 seconds.  But the average length of an American song is 4 minutes. 

Since the Elizabethan era, when "Greensleeves" and "Scarborough Fair" were at the top of the charts, the songwriter has more often connected with the average serf on the cobblestone street.

Songs are my friends!  I found the partnering of great music and lyrics to be genius.  Songs helped me to express my moods, memories and emotions better than other forms of music.

Musician:  "Hey!  You got music on my lyrics!"
 Writer:  "Well, you got lyrics on my music!"
Both:  "Hey!  That's not bad!" 

Musical Theatre: The songs that I identify with most are the products of musical theatre. I know that this is not everyone's favorite source for musical enjoyment, but I have been hooked on "show tunes" since I saw the movie "The Music Man" in 1962.  


Soap Box Moment: I really hate the term "show tunes".  With songs written by the classically trained musicians like Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Leonard Bernstein, Meredith Willson, Stephen Sondheim, and other contemporaries , the term 'tune' is demeaning. 

 I love the clever and often sophisticated lyrics that are generally associated with musicals.  Their audiences expected wit and craft from lyricists for many decades.  

Some of America's best lyricists go back to Henry Clay Work in the 19th century...

...and reached their golden era with the lyrics of Irving Berlin,  Oscar Hammerstein II, Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, continuing with Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers (he wrote lyrics, too), Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim, to name a few.

 From left: Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin

Motion Pictures: Over the years, many excellent songwriters have written songs for motion pictures.  Compositions, like the samples below, help the audience to better remember a film:

This melody had bland lyrics added by The Duprees and became known as "My Own True Love".

This iconic film song, written by Herman Hupfeld, was almost cut from the movie!

Theme from "A Summer Place" - Max Steiner
I remember hearing this Max Steiner theme often on the radio in the early 1960s.

"A Summer Place" from "A Summer Place" (1959) - Andy Williams
Lyrics to the Max Steiner theme were written by Mack Discant...ehh!

When the film was released, they put a popular title and lyrics to the Nino Rota melody; it became "A Time For Us".

Speaking of movies...throughout film history, songs have been placed in films to convey, better than words, a mood required for a scene.  Here are four of my favorites...

As the Nazis strike up a German March, the loyal French patrons in Rick's Cafe Americaine respond by singing the French National Anthem, "La Marseillaise".

Once the war is over, these boys, with their voices, could tour as a German Young Men's Chorus.

This is arguably the best satirical song written for a movie!

This traditional American folk song, sung by "The Soggy Bottom Boys" in the movie, was used as a theme for the film.  The song became its own character in the movie.

For decades, primarily in the mid-twentieth century, it was customary for movies to have a title song.  I really like the three below...

David Raskin wrote the haunting musical theme for this 1944 film.  Fans wanted a song to sing, so the excellent songwriter, Johnny Mercer wrote lyrics, and the song became popular in 1945.

Back in 1967 I told my brother, Jim, that  I wanted to see this movie.  He told me that it was for adults and the only reason I wanted to see it was because I liked the song.  As usual, he was right!

This is probably the silliest of title songs.  I could have put it in the Novelty Songs section were it not a title song.  This song, like the movie, is crazy, but fun.

Radio: Two popular songs I heard as a little kid on the radios in my Mom's turquoise 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad (Mack The Knife) and my Dad's black 1959 Thunderbird (Volare) are still two favorites.

Car memories:  I remember hearing the 1957 summer hit "Love Letters in the Sand" by Pat Boone on the radio while driving home from the beach as I sat behind the driver in the Bel Air Nomad.  One other time, when I was about four years old, Mom was talking to her friend at the front door of her friend's house.  I got behind the wheel of the Bel Air Nomad and did something.  The car began rolling backward into the street. Mom came to my rescue and all was well.

One time we were in Palm Springs as a family and I heard 'Volare' on the radio as I sat behind the passenger seat of the Thunderbird.  I ate too many Oreos and, well...let's just say that afterwards the car was no longer showroom fresh.

Another time, some years later, I was a passenger in a car when a "The Four Seasons" song was playing.  The song was "Walk Like a Man" by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.  I thought the lead singer had the strangest voice I had ever heard.  At that age I had no idea what "falsetto" was.

I was a product of the 1960s...this means Elvis, Surfer Songs, Car Songs, Folk Music, The Beatles and the entire "British Invasion".  When I was a tweenager I remember listening to the pop hits of the '60s, like "Up Up and Away" by The Fifth Dimension, on my little transistor radio. 

Side thought: I am sure more than one guy got a black eye, trying to impress a girl by asking her if she wanted to see his "Pocketful of Power".

Television: I would be amiss if I didn't admit that lots of pop songs came from television theme songs.  It's too bad that current shows have stopped doing this because mid-century TV shows were famous for some of the best loved songs that nostalgia buffs still love today.  Here are a few classics...(and NO!, I am not going to include "The Brady Bunch")...

 Eliot Daniels wrote this classic theme song, and Harold Adamson added the lyrics

This familiar song, sung by Jerry Scoggins, was written by the show's producer and writer Paul Henning.  It was originally performed by the talented bluegrass artists Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. I love TV theme songs that explain the back story of the show and characters.

Sid Ramin wrote the music to this song, and Robert Wells wrote the crazy lyrics; I would like to ask Mr. Wells if hot dogs really make a person lose control.

This iconic theme was written by Hollywood composer Vic Mizzy who scored TV shows and films in the 1960s.  My favorite movie he scored is "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken", which includes the super eerie organ music.  Here is a bit of trivia I discovered.  Ted Cassidy, reprising his "Lurch" voice, is the guy inserting the theme song with the words "neat," "sweet," and "petite." 

This is the king of all TV theme songs.  The sponsors told creator Sherwood Schwartz that they were worried that viewers wouldn't understand what seven stranded castaways were doing on this island, so he and George Wyle wrote this song to explain.  I made sure to post the video with "and the rest" characters named in the song.  Interesting note:  The Wellingtons sang the song in the "and the rest" version, but according to Russell "The Professor" Johnson, the second version was performed by The Eligibles.

Mock me if you will, but I watched this show faithfully back then, and I loved the introduction.  This show’s theme song, titled "H.R. Pufnstuf," was written by Les Szarvas.  It is also credited to Paul Simon.  Simon's credit was added when he successfully sued creators Sid and Marty Krofft, claiming that the theme too closely mimicked his 1967 song "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)".  Paul Simon loses points with me over this one. 

Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, who wrote this song, are best known for the songs they wrote for Broadway musicals, including "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Annie".

"Welcome Back (Theme from 'Welcome Back, Kotter)" (1975) - John B. Sebastian
This catchy song, written by former frontman from the 1960s pop rock band The Lovin' Spoonful, John B. Sebastian, became a No. 1 hit in 1976.  

All these songs are as cool and important to me now as they were back then.  There is nothing like nostalgia to turn pop into classic!  My favorite "friends" of all time come from all of these sources.  I love them and will always feel an emotional bond with each of them. 

And now (drum roll, please)...

...the wait is finally over, without further ado, I offer now at last, for the amusement of all, some with representative graphics, with humility, presented in chronological order...

     My Favorite Songs
      Or A Lot Of Them, Anyway

"Der Hölle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen" ("Hell's Vengeance Boils In My Heart") - (1791) Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lyrics: Emanuel Schikaneder

All right, so some of the songs I am including are arias from operas and operettas...try it, you'll like it.  In this scene from "The Magic Flute' the Queen of the Night (who is not a nice person) tells her sweet reluctant daughter, Pamina, to assassinate her the Queen's rival, Sarastro.  The Queen will curse her if she fails...(nice mom).  The aria begins at 2:10, if you want to skip the Queen's rantings. 

Mir Ist So Wunderbar (A Wondrous Feeling Fills Me) - (1805) Music: Ludwig van Beethoven, Lyrics: Joseph Sonneleithner

Some back story here: Jaquino, an assistant to head jailor, Rocco, is in love with Rocco's daughter, Marzellina.  But, Marzellina is in love with Fidelio, the young man her father recently hired. (Take a breath here).  Fidelio is actually Leonore, the wife of a political prisoner, Florestan, whom she hopes to rescue from the prison.  What a drag...pun intended!  Here the four of them sing a beautiful quartet about their feelings.

Der Erlkonig - (1815) Music: Franz Schubert, Lyrics: Based on a poem by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen - (1833) Music & Lyrics: Unknown

The Spirit Of God Like A Fire Is Burning - (1836) Music: Traditional, Lyrics: William W. Phelps (Originally sung at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in Ohio)

Praise To The Man - (1844) Music: Scottish Melody, Lyrics: William W. Phelps

Come, Come Ye Saints - (1846) Music: Traditional, Lyrics: William Clayton

Ring De Banjo - (1851) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Foster

The Battle Hymn Of The Republic - (1856) Music: William Steffe, Lyrics: Julia Ward Howe

The Glendy Burk - (1860) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Foster

The Battle Cry Of Freedom - (1862) Music & Lyrics: George F. Foot

Songs have always been strongly linked with every military conflict.  This is my favorite American Civil War song.

Here's A How-De-Do - (1885) Music: Arthur Sullivan, Lyrics: W. S. Gilbert
This is a wonderful complete scene and fans of this operetta will appreciate it; the song itself is positioned in the middle of the scene at 2:58.

Mary's A Grand Old Name - (1906) Music & Lyrics: George M. Cohan

"Mary's Grand Old Name" from "45 Minutes From Broadway" - Glen Daly

Paper Doll - (1915, 1930) Music & Lyrics: Johnny S. Black

God Bless America - (1918, 1938) Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin


Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning - (1918) Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin

What'll I Do? - (1923) Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin 

The Man I Love - (1924) Music: George Gershwin, Lyrics: Ira Gershwin

"The Man I Love" from "Strike Up The Band" - Lee Wiley with Eddie Condon's Orchestra, 1944

Serenade (Overhead The Moon Is Beaming) - (1924) Music: Sigmund Romberg, Lyrics: Dorothy Donnelly

Someone To Watch Over Me - (1926) Music: George Gershwin, Lyrics: Ira Gershwin

Old Man River - (1927) Music: Jerome Kern, Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II

"Ol' Man River" from "Show Boat" - Paul Robeson
The creators of Show Boat decided that they needed a song to close out a scene, so they dashed of this one.  An unintended stroke of genius!

Mack The Knife - (1928) Music: Kurt Weill, Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht

This original interpretation, as arranged by the songwriters, captures the 1928 Berlin cabaret sung by Kurt Weill's wife, songstress Lotte Lenya.

Bess, You Is My Woman Now - (1935) Music: George Gershwin, Lyrics: Ira Gershwin & DuBose Heyward

Todd Duncan and Anne Brown originated the roles of Porgy and Bess when the folk opera premiered at the Colonial theater in Boston on September 30, 1935.

Smile - (1936, 1954) Music: Charlie Chaplin, Lyrics: John Turner & Geoffrey Parsons

"Smile" - Performed by Nat King Cole

I'll Be Seeing You - (1938) Music: Sammy Fain, Lyrics: Irving Kahal

Over The Rainbow - (1939) Music: Harold Arlen, Lyrics: E. Y. "Yip" Harburg

"Over The Rainbow" from "The Wizard of OZ" - Judy Garland, 1955
This is another iconic film song that was almost cut from the movie!  This recording of Judy Garland's signature song is the best!

I Know Why (And So Do You) - (1941) Music: Harry Warren, Lyrics: Mack Gordon

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - (1944) Music: Hugh Martin, Lyrics: Ralph Blane

Lucky To Be Me - (1944) Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Betty Comden & Adolph Green

The Trolley Song - (1944) Music: Hugh Martin, Lyrics: Ralph Blane

 Till Then - (1944) Music: Guy Wood, Lyrics: Eddie Seiler & Sol Marcus

Carousel Waltz - (1945) Music: Richard Rodgers

The waltz has no lyrics, so by definition is not a "song", but the melody is a favorite of mine, so here it is!

If I Loved You - (1945) Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein

Better Luck Net Time - (1947) Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin

Blue Velvet - (1950) Music: Bernie Wayne, Lyrics: Lee Morris

Too Late Now - (1951) Music: Burton Lane, Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner

Ballad Of "High Noon" (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin') - (1952) Music: Dimitri Tiomkin, Lyrics: Ned Washington

Secret Love - (1953) Music: Sammy Fain, Lyrics: Paul Francis Webster

My favorite Doris Day movie and Doris Day's favorite role

Unchained Melody - (1955) Music: Alex North, Lyrics: Hy Zaret

History on this song title: In 1955, Alex North used the music as a theme for the prison film Unchained.

Glitter And Be Gay - (1956) Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Richard Wilbur


Maria - (1957) Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

True Love Ways - (1958) Music & Lyrics: Buddy Holly & Norman Petty

Recorded with the Ray Ellis orchestra on October 21, 1958, at the Pythian Temple Studio in New York City. Ahhh...those strings!

Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu)- (1958) Music & Lyrics: Frank Migliacci & Domenico Modugno

I'm not sure of the translation, but I think the guy singing is ticked off at his neighbor with the blue Ford Pinto for parking it in the spot reserved for his 1976 Plymouth Volare.

Small World - (1959) Music: Jule Styne, Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

They Were You/Try To Remember - (1960) Music: Harvey Schmidt, Lyrics: Tom Jones

Can't Help Falling In Love - (~1961) Music & Lyrics: Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore & George David Weiss

Moon River - (1961) Music: Henry Mancini, Lyrics: Johnny Mercer

What Kind Of Fool Am I? - (1961) Music & Lyrics: Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse

The End Of The World - (1962) Music: Arthur Kent, Lyrics: Sylvia Dee

Puff The Magic Dragon - (1963) Music: Peter Yarrow, Lyrics: (based on a poem by Leonard Lipton)

When I was a teenager, many people insisted that this song was rife with symbolic drug references.  I have heard Peter Yarrow, in person, insist that the song deals only with the 'innocence of youth'.

Anyone Can Whistle - (1964) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

With all the many songs written by Stephen Sondheim over the years, this is still my favorite.

Dear Heart - (1964) Music: Henry Mancini, Lyrics: Jay Livingston & Ray Evans 

There is a Spanish Trident commercial with this, catch Jack Jones before he further "launched" his career singing the title theme to T.V.'s "The Love Boat".

Feed The Birds - (1964) Music: Richard Sherman, Lyrics: Robert Sherman

It is reported that this was Walt Disney's favorite song.  The Sherman Brothers have said that often at the end of the work day he would call "the boys" (as he called them) to his office to have them sing their song for him.

Fun, Fun, Fun - (1964) Music & Lyrics: Brian Wilson & Mike Love

I had to include a surf song!  Plus, this song is based on a true story.

If I Fell - (1964) Music & Lyrics: John Lennon

It Only Takes A Moment - (1964) Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman

I posted the video from the 1969 film version of the Broadway show.  I love the set, cast and Michael Crawford's performance of this song.

Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) - (1964) Music & Lyrics: Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse

A World Without Love - (1964) Music & Lyrics: John Lennon & Paul McCartney

He Touched Me - (1965 ) Music: Milton Schafer, Lyrics: Ira Levin

In the show, the song is titled "She Touched Me".  The main character of the policeman is touched on the hand by the girl he is infatuated with.  She just happens to be the cat burglar he is after).

I Remember - (1966) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

The plot of this story centers around a group of people who hide by day in a New York department store and only come out at night...this explanation helps the lyrics make more sense.

My Best Girl - (1966) Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman

Daydream Believer - (1967) Music & Lyrics: John Stewart

Happiness - (1967) Music & Lyrics: Clark Gesner

Original cast members included Gary Burghoff, Bob Balaban and Reva Rose.

And I Was Beautiful - (1969) Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman

I Don't Want To Know - (1969) Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman

Being Alive - (1970) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

This video was made at the Original Cast Album recording session: notice the time...that's 2:18 AM!

Happiness - (1970) Music & Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse

Pure Imagination - (1971) Music & Lyrics: Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse

The children actors in this film had never seen the Chocolate Room until they shot this scene.

Broadway Baby - (1971) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

This is one of the best "pastiche" (satiric imitation of a previous style) numbers from the show.

Too Many Mornings - (1971) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

This is a quintessential example of Stephen Sondheim's penchant for writing songs about unrequited love.

Vincent - (1971) Music & Lyrics: Don McLean

 "I cannot help it that my pictures do not sell.  The time will come when people will see that they are worth more than the price of the paint and my own living."
---Vincent Van Gogh

Corner Of The Sky - (1972) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz

If'n I Was God - (1973) Music: Richard Sherman, Lyrics: Robert Sherman

The volume needs a little help on this one!  By the way, this has proven to be an excellent audition song.

Liaisons - (1973) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

This song is preceded by the scene that sets it up.  I recommend watching it at least once; the song itself starts at 2:50.  When I first was introduced to this song in the summer of 1974, I sat with a dictionary and researched the words in the lyrics that I did not know.

Night Waltz I - (1973) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

(Too bad I couldn't find a video of this song with lyrics)

Phantom's Theme (Beauty And The Beast) - (1974) Music & Lyrics: Paul Williams

My brother, Jim, reminded me about this great song by Paul Williams; he would put on his favorite songs list.  He's right, so I am dedicating this entry to him.

Soft - (1974) Music & Lyrics: Chuck Mangione

Bohemian Rhapsody - (1975) Music & Lyrics: Freddie Mercury

When I was serving part of my mission in Jacksonville, Florida the missionaries in my area "assigned" current popular songs to each missionary.  This is the song that they assigned to me.  It is a cool song in the way it's crafted, and it's also a lot of fun.

After watching this cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody", you will never think of the song in the same way again.

Bright Eyes - (1976) Music & Lyrics: Mike Batt

High Anxiety - (1977) Music & Lyrics: Mel Brooks

This parody is a left-handed compliment to Frank Sinatra's singing style and the songs of Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen who wrote many songs for Sinatra. 

Not While I'm Around - (1979) Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Excellent juxtaposition of having a sweet song appear in the middle of such a creepy scene

Leavin's Not The Only Way To Go - (1985) Music & Lyrics: Roger Miller

Someone Else's Story - (1988) Music: Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, Lyrics: Tim Rice

Another Winter In a Summer Town - (2006) Music: Scott Frankel, Lyrics: Michael Korie


Novelty songs have a style and audience all their own.  They are described as nonsense songs that are big on  humor.  They often parody another song or song style and, from what I have heard, have silly or ridiculous lyrics.  This is not to say that they aren't clever, or that they can't become a treasured classic.

Even though they were most popular int the 1920s and 1930s, they are still written today, and have a large fan base...think of Al Yankovic.

Here are some favorites as well as a couple songs I used to hear my Dad sing when I was a kid.  Again, I am posting in chronological order...

I'm Henery The Eighth I Am - (1910, 1965) Music& Lyrics: Fred Murray & R. P. Weston

This song was originally written as a English musical hall song.  Once I heard Peter Noone (Herman) say that he used to hear a relative (uncle?) sing this song and thought it would be fun to record.  Smart idea!

K-K-K-Katy - (1917) Music & Lyrics: Geoffrey O'Hara

Mairzy Doats - (1943) Music & Lyrics: Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston
When I was a little kid, my Dad used to sing this song.  One day he explained the lyrics to me while we were out in the back yard.  I still remember that!

The Irish Ballad - (1953) Music & Lyrics: Tom Lehrer
The best part of Scouting for me was learning this song and the theme to "High Noon".

Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport - (1957) Music & Lyrics: Rolf Harris

Although this song was written in 1957, the recording reached popularity in the U.S. in the early 1960s.  When I got the 45 around 1964, I had no idea what aborigines were...much less that "abos" was an abbreviation.  I always thought the dying guy said, "Let me elbows go loose..."...well, I was only ten!

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini - (1960) Music & Lyrics: Paul Vance & Lee Pockriss



Monster Mash - (1962) Music & Lyrics: Bobby "Boris" Pickett

Of course, this is my favorite of all the silly songs from the 1960s.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah - (1963) Music: Amilcare Ponchielli, Lyrics: Allen Sherman
This is the very first 45 RPM record I bought myself, at the downtown record store in Anaheim, California in 1963 (I still have that 45, by the way).

They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! - (1966) Music & Lyrics: Napoleon XIV (Jerry Samuels)
   This was a big hit with me and my friends in the summer of 1966. 

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer - (1978) Music & Lyrics: Randy Brooks

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