Today I was listening to the best song I know. I think it is the best (English language) song ever recorded.

Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone.

How do I know? What are the requirements in the “best song” category?

Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you.

1. Universal theme. Love and loss, it doesn’t get much more universal than that. Who hasn’t felt the yearning for another, the grief and pain of their absence?

I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song,

2. Simple, accessible melody. Gimmicks have no place in the best song. No digital effects, no record scratching, no clashing metal, no angsty discordant punk, you get the idea. The best song is one you can play on a single guitar or piano, with a single voice.

I just can’t remember who to send it to.

3. Simple, accessible lyrics. I’m talking plain English, folks. If it contains slang from the 70s that current kids would laugh at, that’s not it. If it contains the words “ho,” “chillin’” or “Snoop Dogg,” that’s not it either. The best song has words that everyone can understand, words that unite us rather than compartmentalize us.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.

4. Emotionally resonant. My elder daughter first heard this song when she was 5 years old. She listened intently until the song was over, and with tears streaming down her face she asked me to play it again.

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again.

5. Stands the test of time. Well, so far so good. This song’s been around for 34 years and still gets radio play.

The song is of course James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”

What’s your Best Song Ever Recorded?

Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun.
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around.
Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come.
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
but I always thought that I’d see you baby, one more time again, now.


30 thoughts on “

  1. “my bodies achin’ and my time is at hand.” Nope, I think your right, this is the one. Although, “as the moon rises he sits by his fire, thinking about women and glasses of beer” I guess you just cant go wrong with James Taylor. For timelessness, I don’t think he has an equal. Well, ok, one exception comes to mind. There was a band that sang “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a timeless classic. The name of the band escapes me though. Seems they had a few other pretty good songs. And, it would seem you got me going — lots and lots and lots of Fleetwood Mac songs come to mind. I’ll stop now. Locomotive Breath. Sexual Healing. Love Song, by The Cure. I’ll really stop now.

  2. Love James.  Love the song.  Classic. The blog gave me chills.
    Other songs I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of: Pachabel’s Cannon in D
                                                                        Counting Crowe’s– “Anna Begins”
    I’m sure there’s others, but I can’t think of them.

  3. Love love love James Taylor. So many wonderful songs to choose from. I also have a thing for Counting Crows — “Anna Begins.” And I’m a fan of Supertramp too, “The Logical Song,” of course, my all time favorite, but also “Take the Long Way Home.” Also Elton John, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” and Jim Croce, “Operator.” Love, love, love “Operator.” Actually, lots of Jim Croce songs. And don’t laugh because I know it’s kitchy, but I still like Simon and Garfunkel, “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Oh, and “Hey Jude,” the Beatles, and “Yesterday.” Oh, and “Rocket Man,” Elton John. So, so so so many songs.

  4. Wow, don’t have one best ever…but I have always loved the slyness of “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles–“…so, I lit a fire…isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood…” as the ‘narrator’ matter of factly recounts his disastrous hook-up and its aftermath. “Natural Woman” by Carole King (off  “Tapestry”) is awesome. There is a song by Evanescence that has this line in it,”…perfect by nature, icons of self-indulgence…” that rocks hard…wow, I can’t POSSIBLY narrow this down…fun topic!

  5. Can’t beat James Taylor. I kept bugging the Hallmark store in my area to find out when his exclusive Hallmark Xmas album would be on the counter this holiday and snapped it up when it finally appeared.
    Being an oldie but goodie myself I could run through reams of good/gooder/best songs and your other commentors have named some of the best.
    As for a new song on the market, I think one of the best new songs is Matt Dusk’s ‘Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad,’ Well worth  the trademark ‘best’ for now.

  6. I love that song, could not agree more.  Choosing a best song of all time is near impossible for one as addicted to music as I am.  This requires further thought – there’s one floating around in my head that refuses to present itself…

  7. Thanks for the author suggestion….I’ll have to look into him.
    As for the best song ever recorded…..oh dear….that’s a really hard question. I listen to every kind of music (well, except for rap….), so picking just one song….that’s almost impossible. But I’m sure if I think hard enough, I’ll come up with one. Hmm….as soon as I do, I’ll let you know.
    Anyway, I really like your site….I’m finding more and more of these journals that are more than just “What I Did Today” (or, more frequently….wUt I DiD 2-dAy….), and I really like them. They’re thought-provoking, and let’s face it…my thoughts aren’t provoked enough.

  8. James Taylor is one of my all-time favorite singer songwriters. And all the songs Ordinarybutloud listed get my vote. Other songs I think are The Best Ever Recorded: Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, Where Eagles Fly by Sammy Hagar, Give Me The Good Earth by Mannfred Mann, In The Hall of the Mtn King, by Grieg, Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner, Barber of Seville overture by Rossini, Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland, Starry Starry Night, by Don McLean, Round here by Counting Crows and Lie To Me by Johnny Lang. There are probably a hundred more I cannot think of at the moment.

  9. OK, I like Jame’s Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”, but for some reason it gets me thinking about that Neil Sadaka’s (probably didn’t spell right) “Laughter in the Rain”. Ooooo, I feel laughter in the rain, walking hand in hand with the one I love….. ooooooh, how I love a rainy day and the happy way, I feel insi-ide!”
    For me it’s all about the singer’s voice. Love a male singer with a voice that can melt butter! Usually that’s Paul McCartney or Freddy Mercury,depending on my mood. I don’t think I could pick just one “best song”, but if I had to ’cause there was a gun at my head it would probably be The Beatles “Yesterday”. 

  10. J.T. is GREAT!  “Fire and Rain” is his classic song about his friend who committed suicide.  I am so terrible with music, but I liked that one about New Year’s Even written by Dan Fogelberg.  DAN FOGELBERG!  My age is showing.

  11. I know I’ve heard Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” in the past but right now I just can’t recall the tune. My car doesn’t have a radio and my home entertainment center is a 10+ year-old portable radio that sits unplugged and hidden away in the closet, so I don’t listen to much music.
    In response to your question, two songs immediately come to mind: “The Beautiful Ones” by Prince, a ballad from his Purple Rain album. The second song is “Love Will Keep Us Together” by The Captain and Tennille.
    ryc: Thanks for your nice comment about my artwork. If I do get back into art, you’ll be the very first of my Xanga friends to receive a drawing. 🙂

  12. I’ve always had a penchant for the old spirituals of my people.  ‘At first I was afraid, I was petrified, kept thinkin’ I could never live without you by my side.’  Yes it’s Divas galore for some of us, and for the rest If you think this isn’t a spiritual, you’re just not paying attention.  You go miss Gloria!

  13. RYC: I agree…he will be stealing your car and chasing your daughter instead for a one night stand. hard to ignore when those who follow this music effect others and compound the problem…thanks for your view about it…

  14. I think I agree with all your criteria, and “Fire and Rain” would be in my top ten. I also like Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” although it fails my do-the-lyrics-make-sense criteria… it’s still a beautiful song. I also really like ‘Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers. “Nothing Compares 2 U” sung by Sinead O’Connor. I heard Prince sing it once, and still prefered Sinead’s version, although Prince wrote it, you know. Oh, there are so many good songs!

  15. gosh. best song ever recorded. that has got to be a difficult one. I love a lot of songs. Music is almost as important in my life as comedy. I really love Sting’s “fields of gold” but there are others that mean even more to me. I really do think five for fighting’s “100 years” is one of the most moving modern songs written as of late.

  16. Aaaahhhh….I LOVE THIS SONG! 
    I shall be humming it for the rest of the evening….
    Gotta join some of those fantastic blog rings you’ve got goin’ on!  Really enjoyed your site — must subscribe.

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