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The Best Parts of the Best Songs – Ever – Amen

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I have a confession. Come close so I can whisper it into your little ear. Ready?

I can’t write when music is playing
.

Laugh all you want, but this is an affliction. Especially when trying to write a heartfelt post about my favorite songs of all time. At this very moment Bruce Springsteen’s "Atlantic City" is playing, and all can think about is doing a job for some mobsters in New Jersey. And who "The Chicken Man" may be.  

The inspiration for this post was found on my new webcrush - Retrocrush. Titled “The Fifty Greatest Song Parts,” these cool guys had the gall to list their favorite pieces of songs. Narrowing song parts was hard for me, and finding the songs was a freakin’ exercise in futility. Listening to Tenacious D at the moment. Can’t stop laughing. Must keep looking. “Be ye angels? Nay, we are but men… ROCK!”

So here is my lovingly assembled list, one that could easily be revised in six months. In fact, it will be revised in six months.  Click on the titles to hear MP3 audio of the listed songs.  Enjoy. 

21. Selena – The opening lines of "The Cumbia Medley". Where she slowly sings “Como La Flooooooorrrrrr….” Makes me proud to be from south Texas.

20. Opening trumpets in the theme from Rocky – "Gonna Fly Now". Until the disco backbeat kicks in. This is my cue to put down the jump rope and stop trying to train for my future nonexistent lightweight boxing matches. Who am I kidding? Middleweight.

19. Rufus and Chaka Khan – "Tell Me Something Good". I don’t care what anyone says, a lot of great music came out of the seventies. I’d dirty dance to this song stone cold sober. No lie. Guess my favorite part. Hint: it sounds dirty.

18. Boston – crazy scream from "More Than A Feeling". This guy’s voice makes the angels weep. The best part is when he sings “I closed my eyes and she slipped awaaaaaaaaayyyyyy! She slipped awwwaaaaaayyyyyy!” And then, I swear to Freddie Mercury, his voice blends into a guitar sound and you can’t tell which is which! He’s a miracle. A miracle on earth.

17. Violent Femmes – count off in "Kiss Off". Sing it with me now: one, one, one 'cause you left me, two, two, two for my family…

16. ZZ Top/John Lee Hooker – "La Grange". I loves me some ZZ Top. Which is why my husband calls me “Kristi Dirt.” As in “Joe Dirt.” As in “Kristi likes white trash music.” He sucks. The best part of this song is John Lee Hookers little “A hah hah hah… ”

15. Janis Joplin – her “woh-a-wohs” in the live version of "Ball and Chain". Janis could sing some blues. I have a theory that Axl Rose is the love child of Janis Joplin and Robert Plant. I wish I could test my theory with the scientific method.

14. Blondie – "Heart of Glass". Debbie Harry’s “oooh oooh woh oh oh.” Something like that. Debbie was hardcore glamor punk. And she still rocks her little heart of glass out. Love her!

13. Loretta Lynn – "Fist City". You’ve gotta give props to Loretta. Favorite part? Maybe “Close your face and stay outta my way if ya don’t want to go to fist city.” Or perhaps, “Cause I’ll grab you by the hair a your head and I’ll lift you off a the ground…” Check out Loretta Lynn for more advice on keeping your man and his mistress in line.

12. Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – "Stay". My favorite part is the falsetto guy. You remember this from Dirty Dancing, don’t you? Yes you do. This is my stripper song. I mean my sexy song. I mean a song I like.

11. Dave Matthews Band – "Two Step". The best part of this song is the first line, “Say my love, I came to you with best intentions…” I haven’t listened to much of Dave Matthews since this album. This was my favorite of their songs.

10. Neil Young – "Harvest Moon". *WARNING* The rest of this list may run into sentimental gibberish. I can’t help it. My favorite part of this lovely little ditty is the phrase “I’m still in love with you, I wanna see you dance again…” Lovely, lovely, lovely.

9. Charlie Daniels Band – The fancy fiddlin' in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". I have a family connection with Charlie Daniels. Ask me and I’ll tell you all about it.  This fiddlin' makes me wanna do a hoe-down.

8. Smashing Pumpkins – "Mayonnaise". This song is so perfect. So very perfect. The best part is the crescendo towards the end when Billy gets going… ”Out of hand and out of season, out of love and out of feeling…” Oh Billy… come back to us. We miss you.

7. Bruce Springsteen and "Thunder Road". Springsteen is a genius. An ever-loving genius. And the proof is in these lyrics. Here’s a link just so you can revel in his poetry. Phrases like “waste your summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets” and “we’re riding out tonight to case the promised land.” But my favorite, the one that gets me every time is “You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re alright.” Oh Bruce, you’re making me blush. Dylan’s got nothing on Bruce.

6. Otis Redding – The opening line in "I’ve Been Loving You Too Long".  “You were tired, and you want to be free.” I became minorly obsessed with Otis Redding last year. I just couldn’t stop listening to songs like this. After listening to this, I’m thinking of starting my obsession up again. If I were a soul singer who died in the sixties, I’d like to be Otis Redding.

5. Joe Cocker – "Darling Be Home Soon". Another recent obsession. In fact, I’d love to see Mr. Cocker live someday. Once you get past "You Are So Beautiful" and the John Belushi impersonation, you find the whitest soul man around. Michael Bolton should take notes. The best line in this song is, “I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdle.” And this song, when played during the right days of the month, can reduce me to tears.

4. The Beach Boys – "God Only Knows". You have no soul if this song doesn’t stir something in your heart. The break in the middle is weak, but the words are haunting. “…the world could show nothing to me, so what good would living do me?” And the part at the end, with the echoes singing the same thing over and over again, yeah… Mr. Wilson was definitely on his way to crazytown. Genius crazytown.

3. George Gershwin – The lifting melody in the middle of "Rhapsody in Blue". I’m ashamed to say that I first heard this song on Fantasia, Part Two. I can’t describe my favorite part, as there are no lyrics. About eleven minutes into it is the prettiest piece of music I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s worth the wait.

2. Loretta Lynn and Jack White – "Portland, Oregon".  “Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz. If that ain’t love, then tell me what is, uh-huh.”   Picturing Loretta Lynn and Jack White making out in a seedy bar gives me chills.  But the song is good.  Dang good.  "Sloe gin fizz works mighty fast when you drink by the pitcher and not by the glass, uh-huh."  My kind of lady. 

2 and a half. John Mellencamp – "Ain’t Even Done With the Night".  This song probably wouldn’t be on my list six months from now. But at the moment, I’m not sure why, I think it’s super-cool. “I don’t even know if I’m doing this right…” with the little hand claps in the background are my favorite. My husband hates John Mellencamp. He’s going to be calling me “Kristi Dirt” all day tomorrow for this. Oh, and "The Authority Song" is totally rock-n-roll, so I'm linking it as well.

Drum Roll, Please! (I hate that phrase. I don’t know why I wrote it.)

1. Nat King Cole – "O Holy Night". Betcha didn’t see that coming, did you? I’m full o’ surprises. If you’re talking about the songs that move you, the ones that can bring you to tears in the middle of a grocery store or elevator, this is it for me. “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees. O hear the angel voices. O night divine, O night when Christ is born.” It’s the “Fall on your knees” part that hits me in the gut.

For me, hymns are among the most powerful music in the world. Maybe it's because the subject matter is so above earthly sentiments, or maybe because the author is hoping to save your mortal soul. Either way, a good hymn can knock the Jesus back into me when I need it.

Compiling a list like this is more fun than getting drunk at your kid's fifth birthday party. So what song parts knock you on your knees?   


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About Kristi Harrison

  • Mark Saleski

    this is interesting. i often enjoy tunes in this way, much like how i appreciate poetry: not necessarily as a whole, but for one part of a whole.

    Thunder Road: my favorite song. the first bit kills me. “the screen door slams. mary’s dress waves…”

    i’ll have to think of some more.

  • irv

    “And who “The Chicken Man” may be.”

  • http://Here-idaho.com Kristi

    Thanks for the Chicken Man link…my visions of Colonel Sanders getting blown up were way off base.

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