The 100 Greatest Songs (90-81)

90. “God Bless America”  Written by Irving Berlin, Performed by Kate Smith (1938)

“Years before John Lennon or Bob Dylan were even born, Berlin took up the challenge of penning an anthem that would inspire his fellow men to live in harmony… The song tapped into the national psyche, offering a kind of collective prayer for the unease over impending war. Within days, it was being hailed as the new national anthem… In 1940, both the Republican and Democratic parties adopted the song as their theme… ‘God Bless America’ remains one of [Berlin’s] most personal achievements.” –Bill DeMain, Performing Songwriter

89. “Losing My Religion”  Written and Performed by R.E.M. (1991)

“The [title] phrase…is a terrific, versatile bit of Southern vernacular that can add color to even the most ho-hum, familiar stories, and that’s precisely how Michael Stipe uses it on R.E.M.’s most enduring single. That ominous little mandolin figure that drives the single gives real gravity to Stipe’s free-form images about wanting to give into — to really just commit without reservation or thought, which is the gist of the idiom — a hopeless romantic crush even when crippled by the possibility of rejection and humiliation that crush might bring.” –SlantMagazine.com, “Best Singles of the ’90s”

88. “Stayin’ Alive”  Written and Performed by the Bee Gees (1977)

“The brothers Gibb’s most memorable hit, the song captures the spirit and vitality of its moment to perfection… The anthemic [song] — as much an evocatively gritty tale of working-class survival as it is a shimmering and silky dancefloor opus — proved [disco’s] universality once and for all; the infectiously insistent bass line, the soaring strings, and the piercing falsetto vocals combined elements of pop, R&B, and funk to forge a majestic groove that’s both street-smart and sophisticated.” –Jason Ankeny, AllMusic.com

87. “Stand by Your Man”  Written by Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill, Performed by Tammy Wynette (1968)

“It was a seminal moment in a career filled with them, but the recording of ‘Stand by Your Man’ has contributed considerably to the world of country music. It caused the questioning of gender roles and stirred up dialogue about how far a woman’s heart can stretch in the face of her man’s transgressions… Different perceptions surround the song, but Wynette’s portrayal of a forgiving woman evoked strength and power, lending evidence to the belief that ‘Stand By Your Man’ is till-death-do-you-part devotion rather than blind faith in a faltering love.” –Blake Boldt, Country Universe

86. “Peggy Sue”  Written by Jerry Allison, Norman Petty and Buddy Holly, Performed by Buddy Holly (1957)

“Throbbing paradiddles by innovative drummer Jerry Allison propelling it onward like a skyrocket, ‘Peggy Sue’ stands as one of Buddy Holly’s crowning achievements during a tragically truncated career. Holly’s hiccupping vocals were seldom more charming; his crashing guitar solo was a rousing barrage of savage Tex-Mex chords, Allison’s drumming brought a new dimension to rock & roll timekeeping, and the song’s chord sequence was just distinctive enough to stand tall during a year that was absolutely filled to bursting with seminal rock & roll platters.” –Bill Dahl, AllMusic.com

85. “What’s Love Got to Do With It”  Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, Performed by Tina Turner (1984)

“An impressive fusion of of-the-moment production and an old-school R&B slow jam in the Hi Records style, ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ would probably have been at least a minor hit for just about anyone, but Turner invests the song with one of the most passionate vocal performances of her career, exhibiting a maturity and control that had not previously been much associated with her fiery sex-bomb persona… [The song] was not only her biggest hit (number one for three weeks), but has since become her signature hit.” –Stewart Mason, AllMusic.com

84. “Somewhere”  Written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, Performed by Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence (1957)

“The song features a single, long-breathed melody, paced slowly and seething with desire. It begins softly, the overall contour of the music ascending, as if its sweet tones are floating toward some heavenly place. Indeed, the lyrics tell of a utopian place of ‘Peace and quiet and open air….’ When the melody is sung the second time it swells with a passionate sense of expectation as it rises nearly to the highest soprano ranges, then softens tenderly in a hushed but tense conclusion.” –Robert Cummings, AllMusic.com

83. “Shake, Rattle and Roll”  Written by Jesse Stone, Performed by Big Joe Turner / Bill Haley & His Comets (1954)

“Atlantic Records’ contribution to the birth of rock & roll, ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ was written specifically for big-voiced blues singer Turner, one of the label’s early stars. ‘Everybody was singing slow blues when I was young, and I thought I’d put a beat to it and sing it uptempo,’ Turner said. This track, with its big bounce and raunchy lyrics, topped the R&B charts; typical of the times, a sanitized cover by Bill Haley and the Comets got white America bopping.” –Rolling Stone, “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

82. “The Sound of Silence”  Written by Paul Simon, Performed by Simon & Garfunkel (1964)

“Simon wrote this as an acoustic ballad, but  Simon and Garfunkel’s first single version died. While Simon was in England, [Tom] Wilson, who was producing Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ asked members of Dylan’s studio band to add electric guitar and drums. Columbia released the amplified ‘Silence,’ which became a hit before Simon and Garfunkel had even heard it.” –Rolling Stone, “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

81. “Tutti Frutti”  Written by Richard Penniman and Dorothy LaBostrie, Performed by Little Richard (1955)

“No amount of R&B crooning prepared the nation for the kind of culture shock that greeted most of them when the needle hit the disc and Little Richard started howling on the family phonograph; there had simply been nothing like him before this. Even his own earlier sides for RCA and Peacock only gave a glimmer of the boiled-over madness that seeped from this performance. It all signaled the coming of rock & roll to the mainstream, spelling out R&R in blood red letters.” –Cub Koda, AllMusic.com

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