We’ll preface this by saying that if not biased, this is a very personalized list. Even if you don’t agree with the choices, odds are you have certain songs you can listen to over and over. If you don’t like the ones here, please feel free to leave your favorite tune you never tire of in the comments below. Here are our top ten songs we never get tired of:
10. Phil Collins – “In the Air Tonight”
Before it was ever a joke in The Hangover, this unforgettable song was Phil Collins’ first solo single, and the topic of a musical urban legend that made its way into an Eminem song. As it turns out, “In the Air Tonight” is NOT about a man who does not save another man from drowning. In fact, Collins himself has said on record that he is not sure what the song is about – just that he was angry and going through a divorce when he wrote it. Haunting and moving, the song has enjoyed a lot of pop culture exposure, being sampled in many hip hop songs, featured in many advertisements, and on the soundtracks of movies like Risky Business, The New Guy, The Hangover, and it was on the pilot episode of Miami Vice. That’s history. For us, it’s just good music.
9. Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir”
There are a number of Led Zeppelin songs that could go on this list. “Ramble On” could be here just as easily. What makes “Kashmir” so great is not only its general awesomeness as a song, but the fact that the band loved it as well. Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham all had good things to say about the song. In fact, the liner notes to The Complete Studio Recordings state that bassist and keyboard player John Paul Jones said that “Kashmir” showcased all of the elements of the distinctive Led Zeppelin sound. Ranked #140 in Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” the song was also sampled by Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy, aka P Diddy, aka Diddy) in the song “Come With Me” that appeared in the 1998 film Godzilla. Jimmy Page was OK with this, and even performed with Combs in an SNL performance of the song. No sample or cover could ever take the place of the original.
8. Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine”
A true classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was written by Bill Withers in response to the film Days of Wine and Roses, starring Jack Lemmon. The movie, also starring Lee Remick, centers on a couple that struggles with alcoholism. It garnered a lot of positive critical comments, and both Lemmon and Remick were nominated for Academy Awards. The movie impacted Withers, who said that the couple in the movie reminded him that you could miss things that are not good for you, and that is what the song is about. It was the B side for a song called “Harlem,” but DJs played “Ain’t No Sunshine” and it became Withers’ first hit. The song has been covered by over 144 different artists, but they are nothing compared to the original.
7. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
Originally written and performed by Leonard Cohen, this song didn’t truly reach the public’s ear until 1991 when Velvet Underground founding member John Cale performed it on a Leonard Cohen tribute album called I’m Your Fan. It was this cover that more closely resembles Buckley’s version of the song, which by far the most popular version. The cover appeared on Grace, Jeff Buckley’s debut album, and he did not live to see it get popular, nor for his album to go gold. Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang also covered the song, and many hopeful artists including Season 9 American Idol winner Lee DeWyze have performed the song on various talent programs. It’s Buckley’s version, however, that does that melty thing to our hearts.
6. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – “Falling Slowly”
Speaking of Lee DeWyze (we swear he’s not why we like these songs, though he does seem to have good music taste), he performed this soaring duet with Crystal Bowersox in that same season of American Idol, but though the performance was good, it did not hold a candle to the original. Written during the production of the movie Once, the song won a 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for a Grammy. The original, written and performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, is a beautiful and heartbreaking tune.
5. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
One of the newer songs on our list, it seems like the world just can’t get enough of this song, or Adele’s amazing voice. Off of her second studio album, this was the first of Adele’s songs to make it big in the U.S., and we can’t wait to hear what she does next. In the meantime, we’ve heard this song performed on Glee, American Idol, The Voice, and an 11-year-old’s album as a cover. Nobody, but nobody, sings it like Adele. We have a friend who says she wants to marry Adele’s voice. Get in line.
4. Metallica – “The Unforgiven”
Surprised to see a Metallica song on this list? This song, an experimental tune by Metallic on their fifth studio album, explores the ballad in a whole new way. Traditionally, slower Metallica songs were heavy on the chorus with standard melodic verses – think “One” from And Justice for All-but the band decided to switch it up and make the verses heavy, and the chorus melodic. Turned out rather nice, and it made a lot of people who would have never given Metallic a chance sit up and pay attention. Go Metallica. Hope your reported new album has something fresh to offer.
3. Bob Marley and the Wailers – “Redemption Song”
The album version of this is a lot peppier, but the version that hits our heart the hardest is the acoustic version. Have you ever wondered how many people on YouTube manage to spell “acoustic” wrong? It’s a lot. This song, written after Bob Marley’s diagnosis of malignant melanoma that would take his life at the age of 36. His wife has told biographers that Marley was already in a lot of pain and was struggling with the thought of his impending death at the time the album was written and recorded. That pain, and that message that we must “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery” created one of the most respected and revered songs to date. Bono of U2 carries it with him as a sort of credo, and many musicians, including the late Joe Strummer, covered the song in live performances, and in recordings.
2. The Beatles – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
How do you pick just one Beatles song for this list? Well, you don’t, as you’ll see with the number 1 pick, but this song, written by George Harrison for the “White Album,” is inspired by the I Ching in that Eastern thought supposes that everything is connected, while Western thought promotes the coincidental nature of being. Harrison was studying the ancient Chinese text and decided to take its advice – he picked up a random book, saw the words “gently weeps” and started writing. It’s been covered by just about everyone, and Harrison performed it solo after The Beatles broke up, but the original recording is the best one.
1. The Beatles – “Come Together”
This song, written and sung by John Lennon, is the first song on 1969’s Abbey Road, arguably the best Beatles album ever, and if we ever write a list of albums you can listen to all the way through, over and over again, it would probably be number one. Lennon wrote the song after seeing the campaign materials for Timothy Leary’s gubernatorial pitch in against Ronald Reagan for the governor’s seat in California. Leary’s campaign came to an end when he went to prison for possession, but the “Come together, join the party” tagline stuck in John’s head and he wrote the song. Some people like to think that each verse references a different Beatle, and others think the cryptic lyrics are simply about John himself. The most famous cover of the song is by Aerosmith, as they performed it in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but the song was also covered by notable artists and bands like The Supremes, Tina Turner, Eurythmics, Michael Jackson, Soundgarden, Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin (huh?), and Tom Jones. Nothing beats the Abbey Road album version. Nothing.