Enough with the deliberation. Time to end the hand wringing. Without further adieu, here are my votes for the TEN best contemporary popular songs for WXPN-FM's Annual Countdown, in order of release date.
1. 1967 - RESPECT - Aretha Franklin
Nobody does R&B like Aretha--not then, not now. Aretha, you are the queen of my Motown-loving heart. Props to Otis Redding for the songwriting credits on this one, too.
2. 1968 - WITCHITA LINEMAN - Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell didn't write this tune--Jimmy Webb did--but Campbell made it a hit. He felt it, he breathed it, he owned it. It carved a place in my soul when I first heard it, and many decades later, it still moves me.
3. 1970 - LAYLA - Derek and the Dominoes
For a whole year after I heard this song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, I fervently wished I had been named Layla. Need I see any more than that about this mindblowing song?
4. 1972 - SUPERSTITION - Stevie Wonder
You can rock out to it; you can take a social lesson from it. It's a stunning piece of work, just like so many other songs Stevie recorded around that time. This song grabs me in the gut from the opening drum beat in anticipation of an exciting and incredible musical journey each time I hear this song. Can you believe this dates back to 1972? It's like I just heard it yesterday.
5. 1973- JOLENE - Dolly Parton
Other artists have recorded this tune, but Dolly wrote it, and gosh darn it, if she doesn't also sing it the best though she never got enough credit as a songwriter. I mean, her breasts were more heralded than her musical gifts. You rock, Dolly, even if you don't know it at the time of this taping.
6. 1977 - JUST THE WAY YOU ARE - Billy Joel
There are so many Billy Joel tunes I could have chosen ("Always a Woman," "New York State of Mind"), but this one is ubiquitous. It was a Grammy Song the Year. It's a Gale Martin Song of My Lifetime.
7. 1982 - BEAT IT - Michael Jackson
Michael wrote this song, Quincy Jones produced it, and the music world changed as a result of "Beat It." It offered a powerful West Side Story-esque vibe/message for the Big Hair generation, including me. The Michael Jackson who remade himself from child star was at his prime and simply an incredible performer.
8. 1982- ALWAYS ON MY MIND - Willie Nelson
It's not Willie's song, but every time I hear him sing this, it moves me to tears. Like Jackson, he had become a caricature of himself later in his career, he is authentic in this gifted rendition.
9. 1991- WALKING IN MEMPHIS - Marc Cohn
I never tire of hearing this song. Love the ambiguity of the key, the blue notes, the lyrics, the reflection combined with urgency, the back-up gospel choir, the plantive piano riffs. Perfection!
10. 2002- LOSE YOURSELF - Eminem
As an anthem for the downtrodden who are ambitious to do something, to be something the world will respect you for and remember you for, it just doesn't get any better than this. This is from the movie 8 Mile, which is a powerful and incredible film. Gritty but affirming just like this anthem.
It was interesting to me that recording artists today are expected to be the songwriters of their own hits whereas that wasn't the norm decades ago. Renditions or "covers" as they now call them can also be powerful, as Willie Nelson proved with his version of "Always On My Mind."
There were so many others that I could have and should have mentioned on this list. Thankfully, my husband's list is less idiosyncratic and fills in my gaps (yes, he has the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles). If you disagree with my choices, why don't you make your own list and vote yourself?