Timeless Songs Hall of Fame

Music is timeless, knows no cultural boundaries and is the pillar of our cultural arts.  Some songs are also timeless – but definitely not all songs.  What songs make the Timeless Songs Hall of Fame?  What is the criteria for said Timeless Songs Hall of Fame?  What truly makes a song “timeless”?

All I can say is that after countless hours on Youtube I am ready to make some tough calls on which songs deserve to be considered timeless (would this have been possible without Youtube?  No, no it would not).

Before we can begin with the inaugural inductees (and I know there are going to be thousands-ish of songs that fit this criteria and apologize if I miss out on your personal choice) we need to get some ground rules out of the way first:

Rule #1) The Song has to be good – This seems like a pretty logical step to take in choosing timeless songs, but some people’s definition of “good” is a little bit looser than others.  While “Romeo and Juliet” by Taylor Swift may have been popular…it is not timeless.  It is also not good.  “Since You Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson – a much better chance of winding up on this list.

Rule #2) The Song has to be able to come out and be a hit in any time period – The major reason for this: songs become very dated when you can hear specific references or the reflections of a particular time period.  Henceforth we will refer to this as the Kanye West / Eminem / Gangster Rap Rule.  Loving your Bugatti will not mean anything a thousand years from now.  Apologies to Flo Rida.

Rule #3) Whenever you hear the song you listen all the way through – You know those times you do not want to turn off the car because of the song currently playing and your innate desire to hear it all the way through?  These are those songs.

Rule #4) No specifics – Specifics ruin the whole time period thing, and if you are dropping the name of “Russell Wilson” before he has even completed his third season in the league I can guarantee your song is not making this list.  If Russell Wilson becomes one of the most memorable human beings in the history of the world I will stand properly corrected.  Another example: Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” which mentions Brad Pitt.  Heartbroken I cannot include this song.

Rule #5) Could said song be used in a movie trailer? – A key make or break rule for those songs that are on the edge of making it.  Take some of the newer songs like anything by Demi Lovato – they may sound okay now, but in ten years they will not carry a movie trailer under any circumstances.

Rule #6) Can the song support multiple versions or survive in different genres? – Take Avcii’s great “Wake Me Up” (which set an unintentional record last year when I heard it for more than 180 straight days while driving to work), this song already has multiple versions! One of them is straight club music, and the other is a freaking country song!  If not for being in contention for the most random thing ever Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” / Country version “Gin and Juice” could have made this list.  If ever there was one song I never thought could be made into a country tune…it was a song about living in South Central in the eighties.  Again, how has more not been made of this?  Until you have heard a country singer refer to himself as “Snoop D-O-double G” or say “kick a little something to the G’s” or “we gonna smoke an ounce today” or even “rolling down the street smoking endo sippin on gin and juice, laid back”; I am not sure you have properly lived.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Inaugural Entrants to the Timeless Songs Hall of Fame are as follows (from time to time on this blog songs will be added to the list but the criteria will remain the same):

Changes (Tupac) – A stunningly powerful song, and almost more relevant today than when it was released this is a brilliant rap song with a social conscience that transcends era (and was sadly incredibly prescient).  For Tupac this was climbing Mount Everest and the song proved he had something to say…and could drop a wicked beat.

Imagine (John Lennon) – Probably the most widely played song from John’s post Beatles career, this is a thoughtful meditation on how to change the world that is applicable today and is as far reaching as any other tune.  As long as organized religion and war play a part within our world, this song will be timeless.  How many more masterpieces did John Lennon have in him?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) – When you hear this song on your IPOD or phone or even on the radio it is impossible not to turn off; in fact, you may immediately replay the song two or three more times.  The message is clear, beautiful and inspiring.  Believe in the power of love, period.  This will be used as a first dance song for as long as there are first dance songs.

In the Air Tonight (Phil Collins) – A haunting melody that has captivated listeners for decades and has improbably managed to shake the eighties off of it.  The iconic images this song conjures are those of the pilot episode of Miami Vice…but, it was also used in the Colin Farrell Miami Vice which basically proves its timelessness.  Additionally, you can play this before any situation to pump yourself up…or cool down.  Not many songs can make the same claim.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole) – One of the most beautiful versions of one of the most beautiful songs ever written, there is no description that can do justice to this one.

(Brief Editor’s Note: When you search these songs on Youtube the recommended listens are all the other songs on this list.  Timeless, I told you!)

Hurt (Johnny Cash) – Every once in a while a song gets covered in a way that is better than the original.  Sometimes it is much better than the original.  In this case, the NIN original was a good song – until it got completely destroyed by an aged Johnny Cash who turned it into a song that radiates pure, heartbreaking pain.  If you ever want to know what pure anguish is like in musical form, this is the timeless song for you.  Yet, it is also one of the most incredibly beautiful songs ever, aided by Johnny’s once-in-a-generation timbre.

Tiny Dancer / Rocket Man (Elton John) – Anyone could remake these songs (and many, many, many have from My Morning Jacket to William Shatner?!! have); literally anyone.  The lyrics are poignant and you can sing it with your buddies (I have) and it could have come out at any time.  I challenge anyone to listen to the first few bars and change the station or stop listening, it simply cannot be done.  Put these in any movie trailer, drama to comedy and they work.  Just try and stop them.

What I Wouldn’t Do (Serena Ryder) – Bear with me for a second because I can hear people slapping the keyboard and yelling “what!?  Serena bloody Ryder?  What I Wouldn’t Do?  This guy is a complete idiot, how can a relatively new, CANADIAN, song be timeless already?”  Prepare to have your mind blown because I am going through this one point by point.  Firstly, be glad I did not include anything by Celine Dion.  Secondly, it is a great song.  Try and stop yourself from replaying it immediately.  It could be in any movie trailer, is not specific in any way and could – and this is the tough one – could be covered by the right artist. This is a wonderful song about love and loyalty and in a few short years it has become one of my favorite songs of all time.  Listen to it three or four times in a row and then tell me it is not timeless – it is.  This song holds up, and despite Serena’s pretty individual talent it could be covered one day, though I doubt the version would be better (then again, William Shatner covered Elton John).

So there you have the first bunch of songs with many, many more to come.  I invite your nominations and reasoning on any songs I have not yet mentioned.

Songs I am still figuring out how to include:

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)

Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)

Eric Clapton

Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac)

Sound of Silence / I am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)

I Want it that Way (Backstreet Boys) – Editor’s Note: Not a joke.

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Ray Rice and the Enabling of Athletes

By now most people have seen the video of Ray Rice sucker punching his wife and then dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.  It is horrible, and terrible to think that someone could do something like that to someone they love.  The NFL had previously suspended Rice for 2 games, which led to a change in domestic abuse policies within the league, and in the wake of the new video suspended Rice indefinitely.  Seeing no other choice the Ravens cut Rice, a move which seemed to stagger coaches and teammates who spoke with nothing but high praise for a man we had just seen throw a haymaker at a defenseless woman. 

Where does this come from?  How have we come this far? 

Part of the blame has to fall with the College systems which continually enable athletes and has repeatedly covered up their transgressions behind the power of their institutions and armies of lawyers.  Take the case of Jeramy Stevens (whose wife, Hope Solo is in some hot water too) a man who committed such reprehensible acts while a Washington Husky and then Seattle Seahawk that is astounding he is not in prison (and all the more ironic his wife may be soon).  In fact his entire 2000/2001 team was the subject of an excellent book Scoreboard, Baby which is a frightening look at the power of universities to cover up horrible crimes.  Another excellent book is Jeff Benedict’s recent The System which takes an intricate look at all facets of the college game and contextualizes the corruption within brilliantly.  The bottom line: accusers come forward and the colleges do whatever it takes to get them to go away.  Money corrupts absolutely and the way these universities protect their players (who are often pro prospects) is deplorable. 

Another example: Jameis Winston – a Heisman winner whose alleged rape was covered up, made to disappear and has now reappeared due to increasing evidence.  Are all of these allegations true or anywhere close to true?  No chance, famous people always have to worry about future cash grabs, but when there is a big difference between the exception and the rule.  More often than not it seems these athletes and their behavior is covered up to keep the dollars flowing into University coffers – often at the expense of poor students who have no chance against armies of lawyers and huge offers of money to keep silent (The “Kobe Bryant” approach).  It should be noted the US Military has a similar problem of abuse and cover up. 

Where does it stop?  The NFL is the richest and most powerful of all sports leagues, and is facing a myriad of problems from concussion lawsuits through growing substance abuse problems.  There is no single straw which will break their back, the NFL is simply too powerful and popular, but a cumulative effort may force the resignation of commissioner Roger Goodell (whose leadership has been pretty bad). 

One of the greatest things about a democratic society is the right to a fair trial and the NCAA and major sports leagues have rarely given their members anything resembling “fair justice”.  Laughably even when fair trails are given, the punishments are often ludicrously light in order to keep athletes on the field even as the evidence against them is overwhelming (take Greg Hardy a classic case of he said / she said for which he missed virtually no time).  The worst case of all (aside from Kobe): Ray Lewis whom we seem content to pretend did not murder someone in cold blood.  He likely did (or knows who did) and now, more than 14 years later there has been no arrests in the crime and a case that should have become OJ for a new generation has quietly vanished.  Ray Lewis (allegedly) killed a guy, had his blood on him and was in the Superbowl a year later.  Horrible. 

Should we even be surprised by the Ray Rice situation, or should we just shrug and accept it as a “part of the game”.  The enabling needs to stop at the collegiate level in order to break the cycle that has filtered through to the pros, the athletes simply do not know better because they have always been “allowed” to get away with things normal people would be sentenced to life in prison for. 

Athletes must take responsibility for their actions and we must all speak out.  The time for change at all levels is now and we must demand reform, not simply continue to accept the status quo. 

What the NF-EL!

September and the NFL season have crept upon us very quickly – and a very interesting season is almost here. 

The most important question first:  Why is Colin Kapernick shirtless on the cover of SI when no other QB is?

Kidding – Who will be the NFL Champion?

The title winner will come from one of these teams: San Diego, San Fran, Seattle, Denver, Green Bay and New England.  Which one?  I believe the winner will either be San Fran or New England (Frisco’s time or Brady’s last hurrah). 

The best football book of the offseason is…League of Denial which details just how awful concussions are (worse than we could possibly imagine).  Read this book for a full understanding of just how horrible the legacy of the game may be. 

The MVP will be – Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning (either the young gun or the old men will take it).  My pick: Rodgers comes in strong.

The most overrated storyline will be: Johnny Football not being on the field.

The most underrated story will be: Josh Gordon suspended for a year for marijuana while Ray Rice skates with two games for beating his wife unconscious.  Goodell has changed the policy but way, way too late.

Surprise Team – The Bengals will surprisingly win their division and a playoff game!  The Chargers will be good!

Not a Surprise Team – The Giants will suck (sorry Just Ross) and look to draft a QB and possibly hire (gulp) a new coach.

Boldest Predictions – Philip Rivers will earn his new contract / RGIII will not last the season as the Skins QB / Tony Romo will lead Dallas to the Playoffs / Atlanta will again fall short / Joe Flacco is not that good / Tom Brady is