What is the greatest song of all time? We asked, you answered.

music you are what you listen to

How can one pick the best song of all time? We decided to find out. I interviewed over half a dozen people on what they believe the best song ever was, and I got some pretty frustrated and anguished reactions. To be honest, I don’t even know how I would answer this question (Do I go with Beethoven? Do I choose Tupac?) Choosing the best song of all time is in no way shape or form an objective task. The answers I received, however, are incredibly diverse and thoughtful. Check out the playlist of all the favorites at the end!

Lenny Williams

Name: Michael Adolphe

Age: 25

From: Boston

Best song ever: ‘Cause I Love You by Lenny Williams

Why:  This song is a about a man pouring his heart and soul out for a woman who no longer loves him. I think this songs speaks to everyone. We’ve all loved someone and at a point lost that someone and would want to do any thing to get that someone back. The melody in the song traps you in his emotion, the lyrics speak truth and the interlude expresses the harsh reality of love. The song is a 6 minute soulful roller-coaster thats worth listening to, wether you’re going through a break up or not this song changes you the moment you realize what it means to you. This is why I think this song is the best no question about it.

otis redding

Name: Grace Myers

Age: 21

From: Maryland

Best song ever: Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

Why: This song is simple but packs such a punch. Whenever I hear it, it transports me to my grandparent’s beach house where I spent every summer crabbing off their dock. I immediately feel relaxed. The visceral feeling the song gives you is proof of Redding’s brilliance and originality. Hearing the waves crash against earth, the seagulls, the whistling,you feel as if you are sitting there with him. This song creates a sensory experience, one I have never felt with any other song.The tone is serene but there is also a hint of sadness, which is quite interesting.It is a relatable song to all spectrums of race, gender,and sexual orientation. The song is just about someone who has experienced life’s trials but has now found peace. The song is about reflecting back on your life. Something we find ourselves doing at all stages in our lives.

judy garland

Name: Thom Duffy

Age: 55

From: Brooklyn

Best song ever: Over the Rainbow

Why: One sign of a song’s quality and power is its ability to transcend generations. Decades after Judy Garland brought it to life, “Over The Rainbow” continues to entrance listeners. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Garland’s performance of the song (often, but inaccurately, referred to as “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”) in her role as Dorothy in the “The Wizard of Oz.”

Movie goers in 1939 fell in love with the song from Garland’s opening verses — with those first two notes rising in a swoop, like a multi-colored passage to the heavens above. The song captures so many emotions: melancholy, homesickness, longing, and ultimately faith, hope and love.

glen-campbell

Name: Alec Spiegelman

Age: 33

From: Brooklyn

Best song ever: By the Time I Get to Phoenix by Glen Campbell

Why: It’s a beautiful and unexpected melody. The lyric attached has the unforced rhythm of speech. It rhymes in just barely enough places to make it memorable. In three short verses it tells a story particular enough to grab your attention, but still universal. And that very first line does double duty as a metaphor that encompasses the entire story of the song.

etta james

Name: Elizabeth Celms

Age: 32

From: Brooklyn

Best song ever: At Last by Etta James

Why: Who doesn’t swoon when they listen to “At Last”? Absolutely timeless, desperately romantic, its lyrics – vulnerable yet powerful – are an ode to the spellbinding power of young love:

At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over and life is like a song
At last the skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped in clover the night I looked at you

But it is James’ transcendent voice, swimming in orchestrated crescendo, that will weaken your slow dancing knees. It’s hard not to fall in love when listening to this timeless ballad, which is why it’s one of the best songs ever.

aerosmith

Name: Zach Edwards

Age: 23

From: Saratoga, NY

Best song ever: Dream On by Aerosmith

Why: This song was written by Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler when he was 17. It’s filled with the poetic wisdom of a young man with an unstoppable passion for creating and performing music. It marks the beginning of Tyler and his band’s historic career, and serves as a symbol for the drive of musicians everywhere to become something great by doing what they love.

lauryn hill

Name: Juliana Colangelo

Age: 24

From: New Jersey

Best song ever: Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Lauryn Hill

Why: Because it has everything: lyrically sweet and sexy, rhythmically catchy and up beat yet sultry and a song that just makes you want to try to hit those notes like Lauryn.

led zeppelin

Name: Rob Picotte

Age: 60

From: Schenectady, NY

Best song ever: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

Why: At the time it was the best guitar, energy, lyrics and well recorded song I had heard. The recording quality made it superior.

bob dylan

Name: Elizabeth Pedinotti Haynes

Age: 36

From: Saratoga Springs, NY

Best song ever: I Shall Be Released by Bob Dylan

Why: It refers to our bodies and minds as prisons from which we seek release, it speaks to a universal need to live and be redeemed, forgiven, understood, freed. I’ve always understood it as referencing Plato, and the allegory of the cave with a very poetic and human sensibility.

verve pipe

Name: Julia Kool

Age: 24

From: Saratoga Springs, NY

Best song ever: The Freshman by The Verve Pipe

Why: I like songs that tell a story.  And I like songs that reminisce. Also I love 90s alternative.

van morrison

Name: Danielle Allen

Age: 50

From: Schenectady, NY

Best song ever: Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison

Why: This song not only sticks with you it imbeds itself into your psyche. The lyrics create an imagery that speaks of love simplicity and the road to freedom.

david bowie

Name: Bill Washburn

Age: 28

From: Ellington, CT

Best song ever: Life on Mars? by David Bowie

Why: Granted, it’s not Bowie’s biggest hit by damn sight. I think it cuts way deeper than “Changes” or “Ziggy Stardust” or “Space Oddity,” though. I mean, he spent years singing to the outcasts, the disenfranchised youths, et al, but THIS is his TRUE love song to his audience. Bowie sings of a girl to whom any frustrated young person can relate, and he does it with such soaring sympathetic power that the abstruse lyrics somehow end up feeling as warm as can be. Musically, “Life on Mars?” stops just short of sheer grandiosity. Rick Wakeman of Yes plays an insane piano part and Bowie’s guitarist Mick Ronson backs it up with an undeniable string arrangement and in the end the thing is barely — just BARELY — a rock song. It sounds somehow anachronistic, but like… not just out of its time. Out of this world, too. And when Bowie holds that high B flat? Forget EVERYTHING ELSE.

But yeah. When I was 13 and I heard this song for the first time, things happened in my brain. And in my heart. No other song can touch it!

Parliament

Name: Dylan Smigoversen

Age: 23

From: Albany, NY

Best song ever: Bop Gun by Parliament

Why: Eight minutes of dirty, dirty funk explosions with the most soulful/powerful vocal I’ve ever heard. Dynamic musicianship. If I don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, I will skip it or be late for whatever I’m going to.

lupe-fiasco

Name: Daniel Twardowski

Age: 23

From: Upstate New York

Best song ever: Hip-Hop Saved My Life by Lupe Fiasco

Why: I think its a great tale of ambition, love, and support.  It shows how sometimes desired outcomes can’t always be reached even when your best efforts are put forward and things seem to be going right, however it presents the alternative (giving up)  in a way that it isn’t an option either.  Failure happens but you as a person won’t actually fail until you call it quits on yourself.  The song was written about a friend of his that passed and I think it exemplifies how someone can effect you long after they’re gone.  I was pretty down and out when I first started listening to the song and it struck me how amazingly uplifting it was for a sad song.  I think it helps remind me when life sometimes seems gray how beautiful and vibrant the underlying emotions are that go into even the most simple acts.  I can just imagine the emotion and determination in his eyes when he clicks a bic pen with a heavy heart setting out to improve his surroundings.  In a weird way it reminds me of Disney’s Circle of Life from The Lion King – which as it turns out would be my vote for second best song ever.  To sum up the bottom line of the song: You gotta keep on keepin’ on (no matter what).

nina simone

Name: Drew Levy

Age: 39

From: Albany, NY

Best song ever: Strange Fruit by Nina Simone

Why: Because in my mind it’s the most significant and affecting “protest song” in the history of American popular music.

billy joel

Name: Mary Jane Anderson

Age: 23

From: Clifton Park, NY

Best song ever: Piano Man by Billy Joel

Why: It’s a great singalong that makes everyone smile. And it’s one of those songs that you can sing seriously or with some humor and it always sounds great. Also, any time it’s used in a movie soundtrack, the movie is instantly elevated.

nirvana

Name: Brooke Gassel

Age: 33

From: Philadelphia

Best song ever: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

Why: This song and Nirvana as a band ushered in a new era of musical commentary in the form of satire and meta self awareness. This formula has been replicated in music, culture, style and writing in spades throughout the 90s, the aughts and the present time and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Not to mention the pulsing, seething and writhing masses of teenagers represented in sound and video. The song now seems utterly premonitory given the relentless current landscape of teenage hyperproduced Molly-popping pop music that shamelessly creates the space and role models for hypersexed hormonal hedonism.

miley cyrus

Name: Anna Marienllo

Age: 22

From: Albany, NY

Best song ever: Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus (22 by Taylor Swift is a close second)

Why: This national ballad is the Star-Spangled Banner for the generation of today (or millennials as the old people like to call us). It not only unites our country and our love of partying, but it encourages everyone to chase their dreams regardless of their fears. Miley enlightens us with her relatable lyrics that teach us that it’s not about what you wear to the club, or what color your cardigan is when you get to the airport as long as you have faith in yourself and move your hips the right way. She uses classic artists, such as JayZ and Britney Spears to explain the universal connection we have to one another in humanity, and how hearing a tune can make us nostalgic enough to realize that we do fit in, even when we have our doubts. Now PitUSA does the same thing for us! Just turn on a song like hers and watch the butterflies fly away.

peter gabirel

Name: Luke Garrett

Age: 20

From: Queensbury, NY

Best song ever: Red Rain by Peter Gabriel

Why: While this proves to be an arduous task picking a favorite, I can assuredly answer with a favorite song as of right now.  The answer would be, “Red Rain,” by Peter Gabriel.  The reason why I hold this as my current favorite is because of the massive drum sound the song holds.  Currently, I’m delving more into percussive songwriting, such as that heard in World music, and “Red Rain,” along with other songs from So, incorporate a large drum sound.  The vocals on this track are also extremely cathartic, which makes it impossible for me to tire of it.

queen

Name: Colin Wilson

Age: 24

From: West Hartford, CT

Best song ever: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Why: It has always been a song that’s relatable in some way to my life (and likely tons of other people’s lives), and I remember growing up listening to it on my dad’s 8 track. Whenever it’s on, all listening parties need to sing along. And its musically fantastic with all the different parts. Top notch Freddy

joni mitchell

Name: Denise Desmond

Age: 60

From: Schenectady, NY

Best song ever: You Turn Me on I’m a Radio by Joni Mitchell

Why: Most of my generation already knows that Joni is a musical genius but this song in my opinion along with Woodstock will never grow old. Today’s music cannot compare with this melody or many of Joni’s songs.

I know someone wrote about it being about a talent/singer on a radio station, but I always thought it was about her singing to a moody, long distance lover. And I always felt she had his number—It is smart and fun and her voice is perfect for this song. And it also shows how much technology has changed since the 1970’s.

And because Spotify doesn’t have “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” by Lauryn Hill (crazy, right?!) Here’s her majesty in YouTube form:

 

[images sourced from: Soul11Music, Taringa, The Growing Arts, The Boot, CNN, Boston University, Clash Music, The Metal Den, Joanna’s Visions, Bubblews, Fanart, Pop Matters, Music Bloodline, The Hip Hop Update, NPR, Musiclipse, High Snobiety, Lisa Tanner, Music Connection, Design Squish, and Tumblr.]

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