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Hello one and all.
The continuation of my good buddy Calvin Houston "Oates" Cherry's personalized 'list.
1. "The Only Living Boy in New York"–Simon & Garfunkel (1969)
Recorded just a few weeks before I was born, this song had a profound effect on me growing up. My father played the Bridge Over Troubled Water album frequently and I seemed to identify with its message of loneliness. I was often alone growing up, usually with just my music, books, and imagination to keep me company. The multi-layered, echo-chambered background vocals I found to be beautifully haunting.
2. "The Eagle and the Hawk"–John Denver (1971)
This song is just over two minutes in length, but its powerful message is solid and beautifully captured, nonetheless. It is a song about traveling with two majestic birds while witnessing the beauty of nature. The driving melody and soaring vocals always make me feel like I am flying with them. Preserving nature has been a lifelong passion of mine, so I have always related to this song with this purpose in mind.
3. "An American Trilogy (Live)"–Elvis Presley (1972)
I believe this is one of the most moving songs ever recorded before a live audience. Being raised in the south, I was taught to love your heritage, God, your country and Elvis. This song is the perfect mix of all the above and always brings a tear to my eye when I listen to it. As a retired Navy man, I am always compelled to stand and salute.
4. "Layla"–Derek and the Dominos (1972)
I recall hearing this song for the first time during my initial visit to a roller-skating party in elementary school. Eric Clapton wrote the blues rock beginning ("Layla"), and Jim Gordon wrote the piano driven instrumental ending ("Sunshine"), two completely different songs written and recorded separately but when merged together made the playtime over seven minutes in length. I have always been drawn and moved by the beautiful ending. Though I never learned to skate to it, I have picked out my own rendition on piano.
5. "Smoky Mountain Rain"–Ronnie Milsap (1980)
The first time I heard this song it was introduced by Casey Kasem’s chipper voice September 1980 as we drove to Tennessee one weekend to visit my grandparents. I was instantly a Milsap fan, loving how his powerful voice could be both country and pop, and soulful and bluesy. I especially fell for his piano driven melodies. In the chorus, right after he sings “Smoky mountain rain keeps on falling,” he plays a bit of thunder on the piano—the same thunder Elvis asked for when Milsap played on "Kentucky Rain" a decade earlier.
6. "(Just Like) Starting Over"–John Lennon (1980)
John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album was the first pop record I bought with my own allowance. I vividly remember hearing this song around Thanksgiving on the radio and immediately went out and bought the album because I knew he was a member of the Beatles. I loved the Orbison/Presley vocal delivery and recall crying when John was murdered just a few weeks after I bought the record. This song always puts me in a vacation sort of mood, partially because of the lyrics referencing “a trip somewhere so far away” and a flight attendant’s announcement toward the end.
7. "Theme from “Greatest American Hero (Believe it or Not)"–Joey Scarbury (1981)
My Grandpa Cherry and I used to watch The Greatest American Hero on TV and sing along with the theme song. The song is about realizing your full potential, which is something I have struggled with my entire life.
8. "Arthur’s Theme (The Best that You Can Do)"–Christopher Cross (1981)
I remember how strange these lyrics seemed to me as a child—being caught somewhere between the moon and the ground. Coupled with Cross’ tenor delivery and piano driven melody, it has been a personal favorite from this era.
9. "Queen of Hearts"–Juice Newton (1981)
This is another song that makes me think of my Grandpa Cherry. He (and Jan) loved Juice Newton, and this was his favorite of hers. I recall he and I watching Newton on an episode of Austin City Limits during my summer visit at the height of her career.
10. "Desert Moon"–Dennis DeYoung (1984)
Dennis DeYoung has got to be one of the most underrated singers on the planet. Sadly, I have only run into a few people that recall this solo endeavor which reached the Top 10 in fall 1984. Having bought the radio edit single back then I was recently ecstatic to discover that the full album version is over six minutes long! The lyric tells a story about a couple reunited at a train station where they reminisced about growing up too soon. For me it is a perfect combination of lyric, melody, and delivery. The song always gives me chills when I hear it and reminds me that dreams only die with the dreamer; and that I have a few left.
11. "Tall Cool One"–Robert Plant (1988)
This song was popular the summer I graduated high school and one of the first songs I recall dancing to. The repeated phrase “Lighten Up” has been used to describe me over the years, as I can be a very serious person at times—sometimes to a fault. This high-energy song with Jimmy Page on guitar and several Zeppelin songs sampled toward the end makes it a favorite from my school days.
12. "Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do"–Steve Winwood (1988)
Another song from my high school graduation year. I have always thought that Winwood was an extremely underrated keyboardist, and this is probably my favorite ballad of his. His lyric “Now we turn into music” is a powerful line which explains how important music is in my life.
13. "Giving You the Best that I Got"–Anita Baker (1988)
This song takes me back to my first year in the Navy. I was stationed in San Diego and just graduated boot camp. I stayed in San Diego for Radioman A School and roomed with three guys. One of my roommates had just bought this CD, and it became his bedtime ritual. Meaning he played it on repeat ALL NIGHT LONG. For quite some time I could not listen to anything by Anita; but over the last twenty years she has become a favorite of mine. Her voice calms and comforts me, and her jazzy, soulful sound I find to be effectively romantic.
14. "High Enough"–Damn Yankees (1990)
Consisting of Tommy Shaw of Styx, Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Ted Nugent of The Amboy Dukes and Michael Cartellone of Lynyrd Skynyrd, this was a power rock song that I could not get enough of. To this day, their perfect blend of high octane vocals causes me to smile proudly, reflect on why classic rock was so amazing and how much it is severely lacking in today’s music industry.
15. "Something Got Me Started"–Simply Red (1991)
This song became a favorite of mine while I was living in Sicily. The call and response “I’ll give it all up for you (yes I would)” coupled with jaunty keyboards always got me out of my seat and onto the dance floor.
16. "I’ve Been Thinking About You"–London Beat (1991)
Another song I frequently danced to in my club days in Sicily. This song is especially personal to me because it reminds me of a relationship I was in at the time.
17. "The Last Resort (Live)–The Eagles (1994)
Of all the versions of this song, the Hell Freezes Over one is my absolute favorite. The song speaks about how man destroys man—how we go and ruin a good thing by letting our mere presence pollute it. Don Henley specifically wrote the lyrics in 1976 about how we drove out the Native Americans. But decades later, not a whole lot has changed: we are still mistreating others and destroying our environment. The song always brings a tear to my eye, and the haunting harmonies at the end is chilling, especially highlighted in this live track.
Calvin H. Cherry