Songs to Hear Before You Die

About a month ago, I was in a bookstore and found myself browsing through a thick book entitled “1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die“.

As is true with many books that try to put together a list of any form of popular art, I liked a few of their recommendations, and I felt that some of their recommendations were pretty, well, off.

The biggest crimes, in my opinion, committed by this list, were:

  1. Including “Fix You,” by Coldplay. This song was the primary reason why I considered the album X & Y to be the worst album of the year 2005. I liked the song “Speed of Sound” but the rest of that album, well, was awful. “Fix You” was the worst of the worst songs on that album.
  2. Including the horrible cover of “Because the Night” performed by 10,000 Maniacs at MTV’s Unplugged show, while completely ignoring the original version performed by Patti Smith after Bruce Springsteen wrote it for her.
  3. Completely omitting artists like Harry Chapin and Phil Ochs.

In response to this list, I set out to put together a playlist that is composed of songs that I feel as though everyone should hear before they die.

I gave myself a few rules up front. First, the final list would have a nice, round number of songs. Second, no two songs by the same artist. I was willing to treat a solo career of a musician as separate from the career with a band. That said, I actively bypassed any “supergroups” if I already had two members of the “supergroup” represented somewhere else.

I finally got down to a list of 150 songs. This is probably more songs than any of the individual contributors to the book I saw, came up with, and I concede that.

This is a point-in-time list. Three songs on this list were first released to the general public since the start of this year. If I were to make this list a year from now, I have no sense of how different the list would actually be.

I figure that the average person will know a fair number of the songs on this list. But I sincerely doubt anyone (other than me and anyone else with direct access to my music library) actually knows all of the songs on this list.

If you were to play the entire list of songs without pausing it, it would take 10 hours, 59 minutes, and 38 seconds to go through the whole thing.

These are songs that get stuck in your head, make you think, make you get up and dance, or just move you.

My intention is to take some or all of these songs and write short blurbs on them in future blog entries, but for now, I’m just going to list the songs and who performed them. So, without further ado, here’s the list of songs I think you need to hear before you die. This list is sorted by Artist, the way iTunes sorts things, except that I grouped the showtunes together at the end, directly before the songs in Russian.

Song Title Artist
Sister Moon 4 Way Street
Big Balls AC/DC
Wonderful Adam Ant
Rolling In The Deep Adele
Wise Up Aimee Mann
Year of the Cat Al Stewart
Don’t Follow Alice in Chains
Idol Amanda Ghost
You Know I’m No Good Amy Winehouse
Whore Anet
Viva Annette Farrington
Heat of the Moment Asia
Away Athenaeum
Across The Universe The Beatles
Get Your Shit Together Beth Hart
Someone’s Daughter Beth Orton
Ain’t No Sunshine Bill Withers
Close To The Borderline Billy Joel
It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) Bob Dylan
Everything Feels Wrong Bree Sharp
Lost In The Flood Bruce Springsteen
Barely Breathing Caroline Lost
Persuasion Cathy Verric
Every Time It Rains Charlotte Martin
(Damn These) Hungry Times Cousteau
Alaska Highway Dan Bern
It’s Only Life Danielia Cotton
The Mountain Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer
Golden Years David Bowie
A Walk On The Moon Dayna Manning
Summer Skin Death Cab for Cutie
When The War Came The Decemberists
Foolin’ Def Leppard
Change (In The House Of Flies) Deftones
Innocente Delerium Feat. Leigh Nash
Rainbow in the Dark Dio
Sing The Dresden Dolls
Reasons For Living Duncan Sheik
Train Song Eliza Carthy
Tiny Dancer Elton John
I Want You Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Lose Yourself Eminem
The Last Time I Saw Sadie Emma Townshend
Off Key Choir Emmet Swimming
Black Dog Smile Feathermerchants
Dice Finley Quaye
Criminal Fiona Apple
Get a Little Folk You Harder
Shoe George Hrab
Tainted Love Gloria Jones
The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald Gordon Lightfoot
Lonely Machine Gramophone
Holiday / Boulevard of Broken Dreams Green Day
100 Years of Solitude Greg Greenway
Close Your Eyes Grey Eye Glances
Sniper Harry Chapin
Escape Tonight He’s My Brother She’s My Sister
Tell Me How Headboard
Asking For It Hole
I Ain’t Afraid Holly Near
Stretch Hungry Lucy
Straw Into Gold Idina Menzel
Need You Tonight INXS
Lullaby James
Lover, You Should’ve Come Over Jeff Buckley
River Jen Chapin
Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull
Not Me Jimmy Tuckett
The Confessor Joe Walsh
Working Class Hero John Lennon
Sugar Candy Julia Greenberg
Important Karen Kosowski
This Woman’s Work Kate Bush
Play One For Me Kathleen Lague
Crazy Kidney Thieves
25 Back Then Lauren Christy
Who Are They To Say Leah Andreone
Going To California Led Zeppelin
I Hear Lennon
Anchor Liz Sarafianos
Snowflake Malachai
Coma White Marilyn Manson
My Mistake (Was To Love You) Marvin Gaye
Flowers In December Mazzy Star
Plateau Meat Puppets
Stay Michelle Featherstone
All Things Dull And Ugly Monty Python
Little Lion Man Mumford & Sons
Everybody Got Their Something Nikka Costa
the becoming Nine Inch Nails
About a Girl Nirvana
Sister Nixons
Hard to Handle Otis Redding
Because The Night Patti Smith Group
Release Pearl Jam
Crucifixion Phil Ochs
Everything Is Everything Phoenix
Light & Day / Reach For The Sun The Polyphonic Spree
Telephone Song Poor Kids Without Cable
Sour Times Portishead
Don’t Stop Me Now Queen
3’s & 7’s Queens of the Stone Age
World Leader Pretend R.E.M.
Karma Police Radiohead
Every Little Thing About You Raul Malo
Casualties Red Delicious
Under My Thumb Rolling Stones
Limelight Rush
Let’s Be Natural The Rutles
Dancing Queen San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
Ice Sarah McLachlan
Filthy/Gorgeous Scissor Sisters
Go Fuck Yourself Sharon Groom
Goodnight Moon Shivaree
My Overflowing Ashtray Heart Silverman
Disarm Smashing Pumpkins
Blood and Roses The Smithereens
Kool Thing Sonic Youth
Rubberband Man The Spinners
Alcoholic Starsailor
Sex Type Thing Stone Temple Pilots
They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!!
They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!
Sufjan Stevens
The Damage Tapping The Vein
La Tempete Tara MacLean
Love, Love, Love Teddy Goldstein
Black Eyed Boy Texas
Always disappear. Things in Herds
This Side of Brightness Thursday
Great DJ The Ting Tings
You Got Lucky Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Yes, Anastasia Tori Amos
I Don’t Wanna Fly Treana
time i never had two weeks from tomorrow
All I Want Is You U2
Old man in the window Under Feather
I’ll Wait Van Halen
White Houses Vanessa Carlton
Villains The Verve Pipe
Gravity Vienna Teng
Fell In Love With a Girl The White Stripes
Pictures Of Lily The Who
Dear God XTC
Destiny Zero 7
Walking In Space From Hair
La Vie Boheme From Rent
Wig In A Box From Hedwig And The Angry Inch
I Believe From The Book of Mormon
Женщина Которая Поёт (The Woman Who Sings) Алла Пугачева
(Alla Pugacheva)
Арбатскый Романс (Arbat’s Romance) Булат Окуджава
(Bulat Okudzhava)
Посещение Музы или Песенка Плагиатора
(The Visit of the Muse or Song About the Plagiarist)
Владимир Высоцкий
(Vladimir Vysotsky)

So… How well do you know these songs?