WHERE IS THE MADNESS OF YESTERDAY?

Image result for paul simon and paul mccartney

Another first round battle in the Song Bracket features a fated match.

Paul versus Paul.

“Yesterday” versus “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?”

As the poet Shelley said, “our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

Paul McCartney and Paul Simon wrote some of the sweetest, most unforgettable tunes ever—and they both know that in song, sadness catches the sweet.

What’s sadder than a bright, but fading yesterday? Death isn’t sad. Getting old is sad.  Yesterday is sad.

Sweetness surrounds the dying to ease the pain.

With Paul and Paul into the pain we go, and ripen, and feel the sweetness flow.

So who wins this contest?   It comes down to “I’m sad now because I was happy” versus “We (a nation) are sad now, because we were happy.”

Paul McCartney wins—because he took a word—Yesterday—and made it a song almost by itself.

By comparison, the Paul Simon song is a history lesson of some kind.

The song, “Yesterday,” is quicker poison.

Yesterday advances, it’s giant shadow covering Joe DiMaggio.

 

THE TOP ONE HUNDRED POPULAR SONG LYRICS THAT WORK AS POETRY

The phatic is common to both song lyrics and poetry; music aids the lyric, condemning it to be not quite poetry forever, while poetry is its own music, condemning it to be naked without music forever.

The two are never reconciled—the standard of poetry is never–-never—reached by song lyrics, which breaks the poet’s heart, a heart which travels into music’s realm, shunning its help.  Madness and torture!  Why do the two exist–-never to meet!  Poetry and music!  Divided heart!  Divided mind!  Poor, divided mankind!

As a healing device, we list the top 100 Song Lyrics As Poetry of All Time, with the single criterion: when we hear the song, do the lyrics intoxicate us as much as the music?

Note we do not ask the song to be judged as poetry—as words on the page.   And yet—and yet—words are being judged.

The list below is not based on reading the lyrics alone on the page as if it were a poem, for this is to take the creature out of the water: we judge the lyrics with its music as poetry.

If an especially beautiful music accompanies the words of a particular song, making the words even more beautiful, we have to assume the words are responsible; the songwriter will sometimes experience this phenomenon: words inspire the music, as if the words and music were born together.  It is as if the music were an aura around the the words—words which nonetheless are not strong enough to be poetry, since they need the music.  We celebrate this paradox—in our list—of poems which are not poems.

If one were to boil down the two essential criteria they would be: 1. originality and interest and 2. strongly realized feeling or idea, but we’ll briefly comment on why for each song.

1 Perfect Day  (Lou Reed)  performed by Lou Reed   —Why: The haunting ambiguity: drug fix or romance? “I thought I was someone else, someone good”
2. Day In the Life  (Lennon/McCartney)  performed by The Beatles   –“Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”
3. The Good Life  (Distel/Broussolle/Reardon)  performed by Nancy Wilson  –A love song with a tantalizingly puzzling message
4. Coming Back To Me  (Marty Balin)  performed by Jefferson Airplane  –“Through a window where no curtain hung I saw you…coming back to me…”
5. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)  performed by Bob Dylan –“You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you”
6. America (Paul Simon) performed by Simon & Garfunkle –“Toss me a cigarette I think there’s one in my raincoat…”
7. Over the Rainbow  (Arlen/Harburg) performed by Judy Garland  –“That’s where you’ll find me”
8. Is That All There Is?  (Lieber/Stoller) performed by Peggy Lee  –A life-flashing-before-your-eyes song
9. Ruby Tuesday (Jagger/Richards) performed by Rolling Stones  –“She comes and goes, no one knows…”
10. Both Sides Now  (Joni Mitchell) performed by Judy Collins  –“I don’t know clouds at all…”
11. I Want You (Bob Dylan) performed by Bob Dylan  –“The cracked bells and washed out horns blow into my face with scorn…”
12. Forbidden Fruit (Oscar Brown Jr) performed by Nina Simone –“Eve and Adam had a garden, everything was great…”
13. American Pie (Don McLean) performed by Don McLean  –A perhaps overly sentimental tribute to Buddy Holly…”the day the music died…”
14. Lather (Grace Slick) performed by Jefferson Airplane  –A haunting lyric about growing up…”Lather was thirty years old today…”
15. She Loves You (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –“She” instead of “I” makes it a song about three people instead of two…
16. Me and Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson) performed by Janis Joplin  Best going-down-the-road song ever.
17. If You Go Away (Jacque Brel)  performed by Shirley Bassey  –One of those crushingly crushed-up love songs
18. Horse With No Name (Dewey Bunnell)   performed by America  –“The heat was hot…”  You can walk into this song…
19. Yellow Submarine (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –Intimates the ‘we’re-all-together’ spirit so nicely…
20. Jennifer Juniper (Donovan Leitch)  performed by Donovan  –“I am thinking of what it would be like if she loved me…”
21. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles –Phantasmagoria at its best.  “And of course, Henry the horse…”
22. Maggie Mae (Stewart/Quittinton) performed by Rod Stewart  –“I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school”
23. Play With Fire (Phelge) performed by The Rolling Stones  –“Well you’ve got your diamonds and you’ve got your pretty clothes…”
24. Mrs. Brown You Have A Lovely Daughter (T. Peacock) –The boy complains to the mother…different.
25. You’re Lost Little Girl (The Doors) performed by The Doors –The “little girl” is really the one in control; one can hear William Blake in it…
26. Sunny Afternoon (Ray Davies) performed by The Kinks  –“telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty…”
27. Yesterday (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –A simple, but perfect lyric: “yesterday came suddenly…”
28. Fakin’ It  (Paul Simon) performed by Simon and Garfunkle  –a  masterpiece of introspective nostalgia
29. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –“Rose and Valerie screaming from the gallery…”
30. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Bob Dylan) performed by Bob Dylan  “When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime too, and your gravity fails…”
31. Fire and Rain (James Taylor) performed by James Taylor  — a wreck of a song, in the best possible way…  “I always thought I’d see you one more time again…”
32. Irreplaceable (Beyonce, Ne-Yo, Eriksen, Hermansen, Lind, Bjorklund) performed by Beyonce  “You must not know ’bout me…”
33. Mona Lisa (Evans/Livingston) Nat King Cole –“They just lie there and they die there…Are you real, Mona Lisa?”
34. Cry Baby Cry (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“The duchess of Kircaldy always smiling and arriving late for tea…”  one of John’s best…
35. Night And Day (Cole Porter) Fred Astaire  –“in the roaring traffic’s boom, in the silence of my lonely room I think of you, night and day…”
36. As Time Goes By (Hupfeld)  Dooley Wilson  –“hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate…”
37. Ferry Cross The Mersey (Marsden) Gerry and the Pacemakers  –“we’ll never turn you away…”
38. Georgia On My Mind (Carmichael, Gorrell) Ray Charles  –“Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through…”
39. Ring Of Fire (Gilgore/Carter) Johnny Cash  –“the flames gettin’ higher…”
40. The End (Jim Morrison) The Doors  –“this is the end, beautiful friend, no safety or surprise, the end…”
41. The Times They Are A Changin’ (Bob Dylan)  Bob Dylan  –the ultimate protest/wake-up-to-reality song…
42. Everyday (White, Crisler)   Buddy Holly  –“Everyday, it’s a gettin’ closer, goin’ faster than a roller coaster…”
43. All You Need Is Love (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“There’s nothin’ you can’t do that can’t be done…”
44. This Land Is Your Land (Woody Guthrie) Woody Guthrie  –“This land was made for you and me…”
45. My Generation (Pete Townsend) The Who  –the slinging, self-righteous, celebratory anger of the 60s in 3 minutes…
46. Let It Be (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“Mother Mary comes to me…”
47. What’d I Say (Byrne/Robinson) Ray Charles  –“Tell me… What did I say?”
48. Sympathy For the Devil (Jagger/Richard) Rolling Stones  –Jagger wrote a Bob Dylan-type ballad and the Stones added mayhem..
49. Crazy (Willie Nelson) Patsy Cline  –“Crazy for cryin’ and crazy for tryin’…”
50. A Whiter Shade Of Pale (Brooker, Reid, Fisher) Procol Harum  –“and the waiter brought a tray…”
51. I Say A Little Prayer For You (Bacharach/David) Dionne Warwick –“The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup…”
52. Dream A Little Dream Of Me (Gus Kahn) Mamas and Papas  –“Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper I love you…”
53. California Dreamin’ (Phillips) Mamas and Papas  –“Well I got down on my knees and I began to pray…”
54. Hotel California (Felder, Henley, Frey) The Eagles  –“But they can never leave…”
55. Walk On By (Bacharach/David) Dionne Warwick  –“make believe that you don’t see the tears…”
56. Guess Who I Saw Today? (Grand/Boyd) Eartha Kitt  –what a beautifully constructed little urban story…
57. Lovely Rita (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“sitting on a sofa with a sister or two…”
58. White Rabbit (Grace Slick) Jefferson Airplane  –“and the white knight is talking backwards and the red queen is ‘off with her head!'”
59. My Favorite Things (Rodgers/Hammerstein) Julie Andrews  –“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”  Keatsian.
60. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Kern/Harbach) The Platters  –“Now laughing friends deride…”
61. Stranger In Paradise (Borodin, Wright, Forrest) Tony Bennett  –“If I stand starry-eyed, that’s a danger in paradise…”
62. Misty (Garner/Burke) Johnny Mathis –“When I wander through the wonderland alone…”
63. (They Long To Be) Close To You (Bacharach/David) The Carpenters –“Just like me, they long to be close to you…”
64. Ain’t Misbehavin’  (Waller,Brooks, Razaff) Fats Waller –“I’m home about eight, just me and my radio…”
65. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington/Russell) The Ink Spots –“They’d have asked me about you…”
66. I’ll Be Seeing You (Fain/Kahal) Billie Holiday –“In all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces…”
67. Mack The Knife (Brecht/Weil, Blitzstein) Bobby Darin  –“Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear…”
68. Pirate Jenny (Brecht/Weil) Lotte Lenya  –“Asking me, kill them now, or later?”
69. Tiptoe Through The Tulips (Burke/Dubin) Tiny Tim –“tiptoe from the garden, by the garden of the willow tree…”
70. What Is And What Should Never Be (Led Zeppelin)  Led Zeppelin –“and if you say to me tomorrow oh what fun it all would be…”
71. Golden Vanity (anonymous) Pete Seeger –a tearful adventure novel packed into song…”and down sunk he…farewell, farewell to the Golden Vanity…”
72. Star Spangled Banner (Key) Various Artists  –“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light?”
73. Tiny Dancer (John/Taupin) Elton John  –“Jesus freaks out on the street, handing out free tickets for God…”
74. White Christmas (Irving Berlin) Bing Crosy     Best-selling single of all-time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records
75. Barbara Allen (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –the most popular of the old ballads…”oh mother, mother go make my bed…”
76. Tenderly (Lawrence/Lawrence) Sarah Vaughan –“the evening breeze caressed the trees tenderly…”  this is not corny; this is poetry
77. Lady of Carlyle (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –another beautiful old ballad…”and for a space of half an hour, this young lady lay speechless on the ground.”
78. Take Me Home, Country Roads (Denver, Nivert, Danoff) John Denver  –a big, outdoors song, one the best…”Almost heaven, West Virginia…”
79. Winter Wonderland (Bernard/Smith) Various Artists –so many great Christmas songs, but this one is especially charming…
80. If I Had A Hammer (Seeger/Hayes) The Weavers –Pete Seeger, who cut Dylan’s cords at Newport, was Dylan before Dylan…
81. Wayfaring Stranger (anonymous) Burl Ives  –“I’m going there to see my father, I’m going there no more to roam…”
82. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) Various  –the Ur-Christmas carol…
83. Paint It Black (Jagger/Richard) Rolling Stones  –“I see a red door and I want to paint it black…”
84. Every Breath You Take (Sting) The Police –“I’ll be watching you…”
85. It’s All In The Game (Dawes/Sigman) Tommy Edwards  –“And your hearts will fly away…”
86. You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) Carly Simon –“And your horse naturally won…”
87. Killing Me Softly With His Song (Fox/Gimbel) Roberta Flack –“I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud…”
88. It’s My Party (Gluck, Gold, Weiner) Lesley Gore –“I’ll cry if I want to…”
89. The End Of The World (Shave, Smith, Pebworth, Astasio) Skeeter Davis  –“Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?”
90. Under the Boardwalk (Young/Resnick) The Drifters  –“People walking above…”
91. It’s Now Or Never (Schroeder, Gold) Elvis Presley –“Tomorrow will be too late…”
92. I Will Survive (Perren/Fekaris) Gloria Gaynor –“At first I was afraid, I was petrified…”
93. Moon River (Mancini/Mercer) Andy Williams –“we’re all after the same rainbow’s end…”
94. Paper Moon (Arlen,Harburg, Rose) Nat King Cole –“it’s only a paper moon over a cardboard sea, but I’ll believe in make-believe if…”
95. Bennie And The Jets (John/Taupin) Elton John  –“she’s got electric boots, a mohair suit, you know I read it in a magazine…”
96. Freed From The Gallows/Gallows Pole (anonymous) Ledbelly  “I think I see my mother coming, riding many a mile…”
97. She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –“she’ll be riding six white horses when she comes…”
98. Jam On Jerry’s Rocks (anonymous) Pete Seeger –“crushed and bleeding on the beach lay the form of young Monroe”
99. Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –I wish I were a little sparrow and I had wings and I could fly…”
100. Groundhog (anonymous) Pete Seeger –“We’re all going out to hunt groundhog…”
101. September In The Rain (Warren/Dubin) James Melton –“The leaves of red and brown came tumbling down, remember?”
102. Pretty Polly (anonymous) Pete Seeger   –“Leaving nothing but the wild birds to moan.”   We had to include one murder song…
103. Danville Girl (anonymous)  Pete Seeger  –“She took me to her kitchen, she treated me nice and kind…”   And one hobo song…

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