Top 50 Favourite Songs: Paul Woods

I discovered how many songs I love, and how hard it is to narrow it down to just 50. Looking through themed discs I had created over the years for a series of music-sharing meetups with a couple of friends, I came up with an initial list of about 250. Trimming to 50 seemed impossible at first. The first cut got me to around 100 must-haves. I then decided to be ruthless; this is what I came up with, but I would definitely be unhappy if these were the only 50 songs I could listen to ever again.

I limited myself to one song per artist, although there is at least one cover of a song by an artist who also made the list. I toyed with the idea of no cover versions, but the covers I chose would be high enough (if I were to attempt a ranking) that leaving them off the list seemed silly.

This is in alphabetical order—trying to do even a top-10 ranking would have been too painful. As it is, I am already appalled at myself for having overlooked some songs that definitely should have been on at least the longlist, if not the top 50.


“A Change is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke
Abraham, Martin and John,” Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Another Girl, Another Planet,” Only Ones
“Big Nuthin’,” Roches

“Billboard on the Moon,” Dirk Hamilton
“Black Cow,” Steely Dan
“Boogie Ooogie Oogie,” A Taste of Honey
“Concrete and Clay,” Unit Four Plus Two
“Days Aren’t Long Enough,” Steve Earle & Allison Moorer
Die Die Die,” Avett Brothers
“Does He Love You,” Rilo Kiley
“Don’t Stop Me Now,” Queen
“Dreams,” Brandi Carlile

“Eli’s Coming,” Laura Nyro
“Everyone Says Hi,” David Bowie
“Family Affair,” Sly & the Family Stone
“Family Tree,” TV on the Radio
“Feel Like Going Home,” Charlie Rich

“First of the Gang to Die,” Morrissey
“Fred Jones Part 2,” Ben Folds
“Games People Play,” Spinners
“Goodbye to Love,” Carpenters
“Heaven (live),” Talking Heads
“Hitsville U.K.,” Clash
“I Want You Back,” Jackson 5
“If You Really Love Me,” Stevie Wonder
I’m a Wonderful Thing, Baby,” Kid Creole & the Coconuts
“I’m Waiting for the Day,” Beach Boys
“Jack & Jill,” Raydio

“Just One Victory,” Todd Rundgren
“Kicks,” Paul Revere & the Raiders
“Levi Stubbs’ Tears,” Maggie Holland
“Memory Lane,” Elliott Smith
“Oh What a World,” Rufus Wainwright
On the Radio,” Regina Spektor
“One Day Like This,” Elbow
“One Less Bell to Answer,” Fifth Dimension
“Oxford Comma,” Vampire Weekend
People Who Died,” Jim Carroll Band
“Pretty World,” Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

“Redemption Song,” Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer
“Running Up That Hill,” Kate Bush
“Soft Parade,” Doors
Sour Suite,” Guess Who
“Space Cowboy,” Steve Miller Band
Street Life,” Roxy Music
“There’s A Place ,” Beatles
“Turn Down Day,” Cyrkle
“You Bowed Down,” Elvis Costello


Paul Woods is a lifelong lover of pop music (especially 1960s and ’70s vintages), a journalist and the author of three books. He has worked as a reporter, editor, newsroom manager and senior executive at the Canadian Press news agency, executive editor of the Toronto Star, executive director of the National Newspaper Awards, and as an instructor in Ryerson University’s schools of journalism and continuing education. His latest book, Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History, tells the story of the 1991 Toronto Argonauts. It is available from bookstores and via the publisher, Sutherland House.


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