Like movies, songs provide a global shared experience, as people listen, dance, or sing to their favorite tunes. The greatest songs not only endure because of this shared experience, they also contribute to the English lexicon, providing words and phrases that evoke an era as well as succinctly express certain feelings, situations, or complex issues. Some song lyrics are so well known, that people use them who have never heard the original song. Consider these famous lyrics: “You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave” from Hotel California by The Eagles; “You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes you might find /
You get what you need” from You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones); or “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got / ‘Til it’s gone / They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot” from Big Yellow Taxi by Jon Mitchell, to name just a few. The editors of Sputnik Music got together and compiled a list of the “100 Greatest Song Lyrics.” Like any list it has some glaring omissions; nevertheless, below are the top 50 from that list (artist, album title, followed by lyric). What lyrics are they missing?
1. Neil Young, My My, Hey Hey: It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.
2. Bob Dylan, Blowin’ In The Wind: How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? Yes, and / how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died?
3. The Beatles, All You Need Is Love: All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.
4. John Cougar Mellencamp, Minutes To Memories: An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind.
5. Bo Diddley; Creedance Clearwater Revival; Eric Clapton, Before You Accuse Me: Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.
6. Bob Dylan, Its Alright, Ma: Bent out of shape from society’s pliers, cares not to come up any higher, but / rather get you down in the hole that he’s in.
7. Fleetwood Mac, Oh Well: Don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to.
8. Semisonic, Album: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
9. Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes: Fear is the lock and laughter the key to your heart.
10. Frank Sinatra, My Way: For what is a man? What has he got? If not himself – Then he has naught. / To say the things he truly feels And not the words of one who kneels.
11. Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: Heard ten thousand whispering and nobody listening. Heard one person starve, / I heard many people laughing. Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter.
12. Rush, The Pass: All of us get lost in the darkness, dreamers learn to steer by the stars.
13. Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer: All lies and jest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.
14. The Beatles, The End: And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
15. Woodie Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land: This land was made for you and me.
16. 2 Pac, Me Against The World: Even the genius asks questions.
17. Kool Moe Dee, Knowledge Is King: Evil feeds off a source of apathy, weak in the mind, and of course you have to be. Less than a man, more like a thing, no knowledge you’re nothing, knowledge is king.
18. Led Zeppelin, The Battle Of Evermore: The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath.
19. Wilco, Ashes Of American Flags: All my lies are always wishes.
20. Rush, Freewill: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
21. Ramones, Got a Lot to Say: I got a lot to say, I got a lot to say, I got a lot to say. I can’t remember now, I can’t remember now, I can’t remember now.
22. mewithoutyou, Oh, Porcupine: And all I ever want to say for the rest of my life, Is how the light is GOD! / And through I’ve been mistaken on this or that point,That light is God.
23. Boston, Peace of Mind: I understand about indecision, but I don’t care if I get behind. People living in competition, all I want is to have my peace of mind.
24. Bob Dylan; The Byrds, My Back Pages: I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
25. Simon and Garfunkel, El Condor Pasa: I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.
26. Anthrax, Schism: If we were blind and had no choice, would we hate each other by the tone of our voice?
27. Bob Seger, Feel Like a Number: Im not a number damnit. I’m a man.
28. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here: We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl.
29. Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Jefferson Airplane, Wooden Ships: If you smile at me I will understand, cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.
30. The Eagles, Desperado: Freedom, well, that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone.
31. The Righteous Brothers, Rock and Roll Heaven: If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand. If there’s a rock and roll heaven, well, you know they got a hell of a band.
32. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fortunate Son: It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no Senator’s son, son. It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one.
33. Misery Signals, In Summary Of What I Am: And all the great things that I will never do.
34. Janis Joplin, Me And Bobby McGee: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing ain’t nothing, but it’s free.
35. U2, Zooropo: Get your head out of the mud, baby. Put flowers in the mud, baby.
36. Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’: You better start swimming or sink like a stone, cause the times they are a-changing.
37. Eric Clapton, Tears in Heaven: Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.
38. The Moody Blues, The Best Way To Travel: Thinking is the best way to travel.
39. Marvin Gaye, What’s Goin’ On: War is not the answer, because only love can conquer hate.
40. La Dispute, New Storms for Older Lovers: I guess love?s a funny thing, the way it fades away without a warning and when it’s gone oh it’s gone. It aint ever coming back.
41. Pink Floyd, Time: Then one day you find, ten years have got behind you. / No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
42. Bob Dylan, I and I: The swift don’t win the race. It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth.
43. Simon and Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence: The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.
44. The Rolling Stones, Far Away Eyes: The preacher said, you know you always have the Lord by your side. And I was so pleased to be informed of this that I ran twenty red-lights in his name.
45. Elvis Presley, Can’t Help Falling in Love: Take my hand, take my whole life too, but I can’t help falling in love with you.
46. Radiohead, There, There: Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there.
47. Misery Signals, Ebb and Flow: In dreams, I’ll promise you’ll never be alone, how much I wish your voice could send me home.
48. The Who, Baba O’Riley (“Teenage Wasteland”): The exodus is here the happy ones are near, / let’s get together before we get much older.
49. The Yardbirds, Spoonful: It could be a spoonful of diamonds, could be a spoonful of gold. Just a little spoon of your precious love satisfies my soul.
50. Golden Earring, Twilight Zone: Where am I to go, now that I’ve gone too far?
For further reading: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/list.php?listid=61442