Top 50 Favourite Songs: Tom Sawyer

This was fun but really hard. I made the job easier by taking hip-hop off the table from the start: as with jazz, I like listening to it but don’t feel qualified to judge. But even from that narrower field, choosing just 50 songs from across more than six decades is bound to be unrepresentative. On the other hand, representative would mean leaning hard on Hall of Fame artists, and there would be enough of those to fill all 50 slots, mostly from the now distant past. So in the end I left out Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis (!), Ray Charles (!), Professor Longhair, The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, country music in general, and on and on. I wanted some classics, for sure, but also good records made by not-necessarily-great artists, favourites of no real historical significance, and at least a nod to the post-heyday rock and pop of the past three decades. Even so, the songs I decided on still skew to the boomer in me.

I won’t say anything about the songs themselves for now. Hopefully, there will be time for that if our lists get a good discussion going.


All Kinds of Time,” Fountains of Wayne (2003)
“Another Nail In My Heart,” Squeeze (1980)
“Belle,” Al Green (1977)
Big Sky,” The Kinks (1968)
“Bizarre Love Triangle,” New Order (1986)

“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon and Garfunkel (1969)
“Bright Side of the Road,” Van Morrison (1979)
Carl Perkins’ Cadillac,” Drive-By Truckers (2004)
“Cynical Girl,” Marshall Crenshaw (1982)
“Daisy Glaze,” Big Star (1974)
“Dancing On My Own,” Robyn (2010)
“Down By the Water,” P.J. Harvey (1995)
“Expecting to Fly,” Buffalo Springfield (1967)
“Get Ur Freak On,” Missy Elliot (2001)
“Gimme Shelter,” Rolling Stones (1969)
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper (1983)
“Good Vibrations,” Beach Boys (1967)
“Green River,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
“Harmony Hall,” Vampire Weekend (2019)

“Helter Skelter,” The Beatles (1968)
“I Can See For Miles,” The Who (1967)
“I Feel Love,” Donna Summer (1977)
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye (1968)
Independence Day,” Elliott Smith (1998)
“Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin (1975)
“Kiss,” Prince (1986)
The Laws Have Changed,” New Pornographers (2003)
“Little Hitler,” Nick Lowe (1978)
“Louisiana 1927,” Randy Newman (1974)
Mendocino,” Sir Douglas Quintet (1969)
“More Than This,” Roxy Music (1982)
“Mr. Tambourine Man,” The Byrds (1965)
“Night Moves,” Bob Seger (1976)
“Nowhere Man,” The Beatles (1965)
“Overnight Sensation,” The Raspberries (1974)
Paper Rings,” Taylor Swift (2019)
“Promised Land,” Chuck Berry (1964)
“Radio Free Europe,” R.E.M. (1983)
“Rock Steady,” Aretha Franklin (1972)

“Rosalita,” Bruce Springsteen (1973)
“Shakin’ All Over,” Guess Who (1965)
“Shoot Out the Lights,” Richard and Linda Thompson (1982)
“Still A Fool,” Muddy Waters (1951)
“Such A Night,” Dr. John (1973)
“Superstition,” Stevie Wonder (1972)
Sweet and Dandy,” Toots and the Maytals (1968)
“They Don’t Know,” Tracey Ullman (1983)

“Visions of Johanna,” Bob Dylan (1966)
“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” Elvis Costello (1979)
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” Dusty Springfield (1966)


Tom Sawyer is a copy editor in Edmonton, Alberta, who remembers when the Beatles were still making new records.


Have a Top 50 Songs list of your own? We’re open for submissions. Details here.


2 thoughts on “Top 50 Favourite Songs: Tom Sawyer

  1. A couple of cool curveballs here. Aretha, Randy and Raspberries, in particular, are new to me and sound great. Sort of expected to see Sloan or Rhett Miller in the mix, but man can’t survive on power pop alone.Would be interesting to see your list with hip-hop/jazz (other than Missy) included.

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