With this column, I introduce to the readers my daughter Brooke. Recently, Mike Thomson, Publishing Editor for the Partial Observer, asked if I kept up with pop music, knowing that I am a high school teacher. Yes, I do, but I much prefer the oldies. About this same time, Brooke responded to a previous article I had written, stating that she held the same views I did (Good Girl!), but she would have used more current illustrations to prove her point. Given that she and I both love music, it occurred to me that it might be of interest to list our "Top Eight" songs in various categories, but from the perspectives of our different generations.
Brooke is a college student at the University of Alabama and a member of the Million Dollar Band. She also marches with a drum and bugle corps during the summer, which even further broadens her musical tastes. I wouldn't say either of us have any particular musical talent, although both of us took piano lessons and played other instruments for a number of years. While we readily admit we can't carry a tune in a bucket, we certainly hear well enough to criticize American Idol participants as if we could do better.
Without further ado, we unveil the first installment of "The Most Excellent Eight at Five-Six-Seven-Eight." This month's category is "Best Chill Out Songs" – you know, those songs you want to hear on a weekend when you have the luxury of just puttering down the road aimlessly, or of lying in a hammock with lemonade in one hand and a great book in the other.
This may just be the Southern thing expressing its voice in me here, but I think the images conjured up by these lyrics are incredibly powerful. You can't help but wish you were floating down the Mississippi in a simpler time. It's considered to be the band's all-time Number One hit.
Some may argue that this should be higher on the list, but there is a slight undercurrent of uneasiness to the message that keeps me from total relaxation. I'd actually prefer to put "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding in this position, but I couldn't find my CD to create the mp3 file. Redding recorded "Dock of the Bay" on December 7, 1967; he died three days later in a plane crash along with six members of his band. The single rocketed to the top of the charts upon its release the next month, becoming both his first #1 single and million-seller.
A different kind of mood is struck here by the only song LeRoux produced that stands out from the crowd. It's particularly meaningful now, with New Orleans struggling to regain its "sassy style that will drive you crazy."
Well, could you be any more kicked back than layin' across a big brass bed? 'Nuff said.
When this category first popped into my head, this was the song that was the clear frontrunner. A beautiful Sunday afternoon to just groove along is something I cherish, and with this accompanying me on the radio, it can't be topped. This was the release that prompted the group to drop the "Young" from their name, let their beards grow, and don Nehru shirts and beads.
This first major hit for Seals and Croft actually missed a summer release (debuting in October of that year), but was immensely popular. This is the track that makes me yearn for a movie-style romantic picnic under the limbs of a vast spreading oak, complete with woven basket, champagne, strawberries, and red-checkered blanket.
2. Easy – The Commodores, 1977
Maybe I'm partial because the Commodores are Alabama boys who made a huge name for themselves, but I never tire of this tune. Like "Groovin'", the theme is a lazy Sunday, but this time it's morning and I'm thinking gourmet coffee and a big fat newspaper.
There are none any silkier than Smokey, and this is one of his best. Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis provided a rendition of this hit in the film "Duets" in 2000 – not bad, but nothing can compete with Smokey's distinctive vocals. Few tunes can make me feel as though I have genuinely slipped away from it all as this one does.
Before deciding what to include on her list, Brooke listened to my choices and commented, "This is going to be way tougher for me. People don't write songs like this anymore." With that having been said, you'll notice a few of her selections are actually from my generation.
Anyone who listens to Dave, as I love to call him, can attest to never really knowing what to expect. This song will most likely not be calming to everyone; nevertheless I suggest giving it a try. What I enjoy about this song is the real world application. He sings about a couple that does not seem to be able to hold it together, but then "The Space Between" their fights and crying is where they can laugh and love each other. This song is Number 8 because it can also have an opposite effect if not already in the mood to listen to it.
When this song hit the airwaves I liked it instantly. Enya is the only female vocalist on my list. She is one of very few female artists that can relax me completely. Her voice is steady and strong, which is exactly what I love about a male singer.
I have only recently been introduced to this artist and ended up buying his On and On album on a whim. The gentle strumming of the guitar is enough to make me forget about everything, but even the words suggest that I should. The lyrics are about the hustle and bustle of life and no matter what we do it will still go "on and on and on." What I love so much about this song is that when I actually get a chance to sit back and listen to it, I can enjoy that I'm not currently dealing with the strains of life.
Nobody sounds quite like Sting. His classic voice along with a new age sounding rhythm is enough to unwind me completely. The words don't even matter when you have a beat like that.
My favorite line in this song is "I am tempted to keep the car in drive and leave it all behind." Listening to this song while driving to class could be quite hazardous to the grade point average unless you're careful not to get swept up and follow his suggestion. I imagine it might be even worse not showing up to work. Most people can probably relate to this message; everyone feels alone and useless sometimes and this song can remind you that it's okay. It helps me.
I grew up on this song. The Best of Kansas, released the year I was born, was one of Mom's first CDs and I wore it out almost as much as she did. Unlike most soothing songs, a driving guitar beat is significant throughout the majority of it, and the words themselves are not the most pleasant. However, those peaceful chords and soft voices are all I can hear until the famous instrumental break that really gets me soaring.
2. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls, 1998
"Iris" is one of my all-time favorite songs from one of my all-time favorite bands. Although they started as a punk band and had a small following around the punk scene, they changed their style in 1995 to become what they are today. Written specifically for the movie "City of Angels," the song holds a deep message. However, it's not the message that I love – I just enjoy daydreaming for the entire 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
Wow! I have a song on my list older than any of Mom's. "Georgia" holds the deepest meaning for me of any of these, or probably any I might ever choose in the future. This summer, I will be embarking on my fourth and final adventure with Spirit Drum and Bugle Corps. Although based in Alabama now, Spirit was originally Spirit of Atlanta and, as such, chose "Georgia" as the Corps' theme song. It is still in use today. Never am I more at peace than when I am serenaded by the 64 members of the horn line blowing their hearts out after a day of exhausting rehearsal and all-out effort.
Mom's final word: I can see the generational differences here, because a few of those on Brooke's list aren't "chill out" songs for my poor old ears. However, I like some of her choices a great deal, especially "Dust in the Wind," "Desert Rose," and "Georgia on My Mind." We laughed together about the fact that she chose two Georgia-related songs – it's just a coincidence; she was born and raised in Alabama.
I'm sure some of you will have other favorite choices. Our hope is that this article helps you think about some peaceful, great memories!
Disclaimer: We own the CD's from which each of the mp3 snippets were made, and we created them ourselves from those CD's. It is not our intent to provide a free tune-sharing opportunity; instead, the recordings are provided just in case a song doesn't ring a bell with a reader and to help identify why a song was selected for inclusion in each category.