September 21, 2021

Rolling Stone Magazine Top 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time

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Are you ready? Cue the trumpets for a fanfare. Rolling Stone Magazine has announced their new list of the top 500 songs of all time. Like nominations to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there are bound to be many lively discussions about who and what made the list.

Almost everyone will find fault with the list in some fashion, but let’s take a little closer look anyway. One might very well say, I wouldn’t not have picked these songs. However, it has been 17 years since the last time Rolling Stone took a survey of a cross section of writers and musicians (including some Classic Rock stars) to compile their list. There’s no way you would have made the same selections this year as you would have made back then. There are bound to be a lot of changes.

With a different set of selectors, it should not come as a great surprise that there were differences in the lists. And there certainly were major changes. Changes that Classic Rock fans will not agree with.

About 50% of those songs on the last list didn’t make the cut this time. It was the Classic Rock songs that took the biggest hit.

Many would see these cuts as unthinkable. Many of songs that were in the middle of the list last time, were dropped. About one third of the new top 100 weren’t even on the last list. The newcomers included a wide range of music that didn’t do well in the last voting. Hip Hop, Country, Reggae and even some Latin Pop music took their place.

They beat out many all-time Classic Rock favorites that were dropped like “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones, “I Love Rock N Roll” by Joan Jett, “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses, “Pink Houses by John Mellencamp, “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk this Way” by Aerosmith, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd “Roxanne” by The Police, “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin, “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young , “We will Rock You” by Queen, “Another Brick in the Wall part 2 by Pink Floyd, “Another Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company, “White Room” by Cream and “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones.

These classics were dropped and replaced by songs done by Lil Wayne, Solance, Lizzo, Kanye West, The Weekend, Selena, 50 Cent, Jay-Z , Carly Rae Jepsen, Beyonce and many others. Songs like “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee (50), “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G (32), “Royals” by Lorde (30), “Runaway” by Kanye West featuring Pusha (25), “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce featuring Jay-Z (16) and “Hey Ya!” by Outcast (10) were all first timers on the list.

Meanwhile “Hotel California” by The Eagles went from 49 to 311, “Light My Fire” by The Doors went from 35 to 310 and many that had been near the top before didn’t score well or were dropped. “Kashmir” (114), Stairway to Heaven” (61) by Led Zeppelin, “Hey Jude” (89) by the Beatles dropped. While some songs that did fairly well in 2004 like “For What it’s Worth” by The Buffalo Spring (63), “The Times They are A-Changin;” by Bob Dylan (59), “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful (216), “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC (254), and “One Way or Another” by Blondie (298), “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie (282), “Born in The USA” by Bruce Springsteen (280), “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane (278), “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” by U2 (272), “Dance to the Music” by Sly & The Family Stone (225), “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young (216), and “Should I Stay or Should I go” by The Clash (228) didn’t even make it on to the 2021 list.

While Classic Rock took a real beating, some other very important all-time favorite songs also got dropped. “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge (54), “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard (56), “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash (164), “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going on” by Jerry Lee Lewis (61) and “Wild Thing by The Troggs (261) were all dropped.

It would be easy to just dismiss the list as being completely off base. How could some of these great songs be left off any list? Isn’t Rolling Stone Magazine supposed to be a Rock magazine?

That was certainly the intention of the founders of the magazine when it first started in 1967. What better place than San Francisco to start a Rock magazine during the “Summer of Love”. Not only were the Bay Area bands hot, but a whole new wave of British music was starting to explode, and fans were eager to find out more about their new favorites.

The name itself came from a combination of the great blues tune by Muddy Waters “Rolling Stone” and “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. The Dylan song went from being number one on the 2004 list to number four on the current list.

The youth of the 60’s and 70’s also had a real interest in the politics of the day. From the very beginning Rolling Stone did write about political topics. As time went on, politics became as important as the music. At first there were more and more new readers.

The desire to push their political agenda led the magazine to make some changes that got them in trouble. They were caught writing a sensational story that was poorly researched and was presented as factual. It wasn’t.

This led to loss of street cred and to tumbling sales and canceling subscribers. There was even talk of the magazine going under. But new blood was pumped into the iconic name. New owners and new writers.

With stories like the 2004 the top 500 best song of all time, the readership started to grow again. To the point where now they have close to a million in circulation.

Rolling Stone still writes about classic artists, but they also are aware of an emerging audience to different types of music. It is a matter of business. They must stay current or die.

Are they just reflecting the times? When the 2004 poll was taken the results were published as “The Top 500 Best Songs of All time.” Despite this name, best music of all time, there were no songs on the list written by Bach or Gershman or Jelly Roll Morton. There are none by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman or Charlie Parker. It was the best of what Rock had to offer.

The latest is labeled as The Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. There is a subtle difference. The times are different.

If you don’t like what they publish, you don’t have to read it. When all is said and done, it must be said that Rolling Stone is no longer a Rock magazine. As the Rolling Stone website points out in the links on the top of their homepage, they are an entertainment and political magazine.

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