Monday, January 23, 2012

Songs I Wish I Wrote

As a songwriter, there are many writers I admire and a lot of songs I've heard and said to myself, "I wish I wrote that." I just found a list I started some years ago. I hate top 10 lists, so here's more or less my top 13, excluding Beatles songs of which there are many I wish I wrote (yes, even "Get Back"). Not exactly in order, and I'm sure I've missed some obvious favorites. But I would have been happy to have written any of these songs.When I used to do gigs, my wife thought for years that I wrote "To Make You Feel My Love" and a couple of John Mayer songs. But I owned up and gave credit to Bob and John.
  1. Something So Right (Paul Simon)
  2. More Than You Know (Billy Rose)
  3. Let’s Stay Together (Al Green, Al Jackson Jr., Willie Mitchell)
  4. Your Song (Elton John-Bernie Taupin)
  5. To Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan)
  6. Stop This Train (John Mayer)
  7. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (James Taylor)
  8. Marie (Randy Newman)
  9. America (Paul Simon)
  10. Wild Horses (Mick Jagger-Keith Richard)
  11. Crazy Love (Van Morrison)
  12. Take It Easy (Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey)
  13. Winning the Battle, Losing the War (Kings of Convenience)
While I aspire to writing the smart love song (see: Paul Simon), I can see I have a soft spot for the sappy love song too. Oh well.


Craig said...

Hmm, an interesting concept and a good list. Funny, I can't say I have a song I wish I wrote. I do have a list of songs I admire for their construction/chord progressions (which makes them interesting to play) -- such as Goldfinger, Walrus, Strawberry Fields, and even Town Without Pity -- but I think that's a different idea than what you're after here.

FlyingSinger said...

Thanks. One interesting thing for me is that these are all songs that I have performed or (in theory for a couple) could perform solo. They are "songs" and not records (though they also have been very good records). This is the sense in which "I wish I wrote it" makes some sense to me. They are songs that can stand alone apart from their original arrangements or recordings, in others' performances (including mine). There are many records I like where the writing and the recording or performance are too intertwined for "I wish I wrote that" to make sense. "Purple Haze" is a Jimi Hendrix record. "Carey" (and many others) by Joni Mitchell. Many Led Zep songs. And of course many Beatles songs (they have both kinds!).

Of course this is all very subjective. There have been good covers of Joni Mitchell songs. Probably Hendrix and Led Zep too. But I really do think "I wish I wrote that" about some songs!

FlyingSinger said...

Ha! Every spammer says "this is not spam." But I will give you the benefit of the doubt, Craig.

Wonders of technology: sitting at my desk at work listening to Ravel's "Daphne et Chloe" through headphones on my iPod (Ravel was no slouch in the chord progression department, BTW). Quickly search for "Cinnamon Girl" (4600 songs, it's in there). Yes, you are right, that bridge is a lovely harmonic surprise. Harmonic surprise is one of the keys to good songwriting. You have to stay familiar enough to be comfortable and surprising enough to not be boring. And you don't need the harmonic and orchestral palette of Ravel to pull it off. If you're good you can do it with 3 or 4 chords.