Friday, June 09, 2006

Non-Random Ten

Paste Magazine, the latest attempt at a high-quality indy music mag, this month is running its list of the 100 greatest living songwriters. The living songwriter thing is kind of arbitrary – Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain have more enduring influence than a lot of the people on the list. Nonetheless, it’s a fun exercise.

Only a few selections are truly questionable. Chuck Berry? He wrote one song, then changed the lyrics 100 times. Unless he’s in for “My Dingaling.”) And I probably will never come around to Patty Griffin.

On the other hand, the list is full of people I’ve never heard of or who are at best vaguely familiar. Lots of late 90s/early 00s. So it goes with lists like this. In 1986, no doubt Jules Shear and Joe Jackson would be there. If it was 1996, we would have seen and the Screaming Trees and Clint Black.

While I can’t find many to knock off the list, a number of my favorites aren’t on. This week’s R10 is dedicated to them. My favorite songwriters not on the list, each paired with one of my favorite songs. In the order they occurred to me:

1. “Readin, Writin’ Rt. 23,” Dwight Yoakum
2. “You Left Me Standing in the Rain,” Bob Mould (perf. by Husker Du)
3. “Telegraph Road,” Mark Knofler (perf. by Dire Straights)
4. “Teen-Age Riot,” Sonic Youth
5. “Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking,” Ricky Lee Jones
6. “Forces at Work,” The Feelies
7. “Me, Myself and I,” De La Soul
8. “Sunflowers,” Art Alexakis (perf. by Everclear)
9. “I Don’t Want to Love You, But I Do,” Paul Kennerly (perf. by Kelly Willis)
10. “Divorce Song,” Liz Phair

Notes: In addition to being one of two songwriters in Husker Du and performing solo, Bob Mould also fronted Sugar.

Paul Kennerly is a Nashville songwriter. While rock has turned its back on songwriting factories like the Brill Building, many country still rely on professional songwriters for their material. Paul Kennerly is one of the most successful and I happen to like his stuff better than Kostas’.

Feel free to check out the list on Paste and drop in your favorite neglected songwriter.


    blogginryan said...

    There was a lengthy discussion about that list on a message board that I frequent. I disagree significantly with a substantial portion of it and believe that there were significant glaring omissions made in the name of appeasing the hipster/indie crowd.

    But what does that matter? It's a hipster/indie mag.

    k-pho said...

    How about Billy Bragg.

    I suppose I'm in the minority to suggest Robyn Hitchcock, but nevertheless...

    One of the (many) problems with the 'living' thing is it puts one in a bit of a bind about songwriting duos with one member no longer living. Obvious: Mick Jones. Less obvious: Mike Watt.

    matt said...

    75% of the names on these lists are always way subjective. take spin mags top albums of the 90's for example.

    i didn't see grant lee phillips (grant lee buffalo)on the list. maybe jeff tweedy filled that niche.

    i like alexakis but his stuff from sparkle and fade was his best, "breathin' fire doesn't look good on a resume.."

    matt r.

    Pho said...

    Thanks to k-pho's comment, I remembered to check something that had slipped my mind. The Brill Building duo of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann is so basic, I assumed one of them must be dead to not make the list. Oh no. Both are quite alive and well. The list may be subjective, but omitting the authors of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Soul and Inspiration," is indefensible.

    For that matter, the list includes Carol King, but omits her erstwhile husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin. Hard to figure.

    P.J. said...

    How about Matt Johnson? The mind, body, and soul of the The?