Friday, March 16, 2007

The Greatest Rock Song of All Time

Rock and roll music originated in the American South in the early 1950s and then quickly spread throughout the rest of the country and ultimately the world. By the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, rock and roll had become what many thought was the most popular genre of music in the western world. It has largely maintained a very high level of popularity since then, despite evolving over time into various sub-genres that are now lumped together under the generic term “rock”.

In the more than 60 years since rock and roll burst onto the national and international music scene, there have been literally thousands upon thousands of rock songs recorded (performed in English but also in many other languages) that we have loved, liked, were indifferent to, found pretty irritating, outright hated, or had a wide range of other responses to. The vast majority of these songs made absolutely no lasting impression on our musical psyches. But a small percentage did stand out in the crowd in a positive way, some so much that they were head and shoulders better than all the rest. And an even smaller percentage of those were so great that they have stood the test of time and entered the pantheon of greatest rock songs ever, depending on whom you ask, of course.

But of all the great songs, which one truly rises above all the rest to claim the title of “greatest rock song of all time”? The answer is part of what appears to be a never-ending debate and there’s certainly no shortage of people willing to offer up their candidate. No doubt you have your own personal choice but for now let’s consider what some other folks think.

If you like poll results, you’ll be interested to learn that The Rock and Roll Report said that in a 2004 poll conducted by Planet Rock, a digital radio station in Britain, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was voted by over 70% of respondents as the greatest rock song ever recorded. Not so fast, chimed in “Eric” when he saw the list with Stairway to Heaven sitting at the very top, saying that he has “for many years declared to all who would listen to me that the best rock ‘n’ roll song of all time is Louie Louie by the Kingsmen.” But the editors of DJ Zone Magazine agreed with the Planet Rock poll results and think Stairway to Heaven is the all-time best.

Not to be outdone, Rolling Stone Magazine compiled its own list in 2004, getting a lot of input from a lot of people, and Stairway to Heaven didn’t even make it into its Top 5 (in fact, it didn’t even make it into its Top 10). The number one spot went to Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. However, “Drifter” posted a comment in which he heartily disagreed with their choice of Dylan’s song, asking pointedly: “In what sense is Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan—working in the folk-song mode—even a rock and roll song?” Good question.

John Lennon’s Imagine was number 1 in Virgin Radio’s list of All Time Top 500 Songs published in 2004. Imagine that? And in 2000 MTV’s music video sister cable TV station VH1 ranked (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones at the very top of its list of 100 Greatest Rock Songs. While two of “Todd M.’s” friends (“Chuck C.” and “Hank S.”) agreed with VH1’s choice of number 1, many of his other friends didn’t, with a range of choices for the top spot, including songs such as The Beatles’ Let It Be, Cinnamon Girl by Neil Diamond, Voodoo Chili by Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze (also by Hendrix), Hound Dog by Elvis, and various other selections in what turned out to be a pretty eclectic list of choices for best rock song of all time.

Now what does all this prove? Well, not very much except that everybody has an opinion of what they think is the all-time greatest rock song, and these opinions are pretty darn subjective. Even different polls will come up with different songs at the top, proving that it’s very difficult to gain a consensus on this subject or practically anything else, for that matter. Nonetheless, these lists are fun to make and fun to read and ponder. If nothing else, they bring back fond or not so fond memories of the many songs that we have encountered along the way and which have become an indelible part of our life experience.

So what’s your own personal choice for the Greatest Rock Song of All Time?

Copyright © Terry Mansfield. All rights reserved. Anyone may publish this free reprint, free content article online or in print as long as the entire contents of the article and accompanying resource box are left unaltered, including any hyperlinks (which must be active and clickable), and the author’s byline is included

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