Sunday, October 14, 2012

50 Great Songs From 50 Great Years


My 50th Birthday (October 15) - For the past year, I had contemplated what kind of list I wanted to do to celebrate my turning 50. After much deliberation, I decided to go all out and create an ambitious 50 song list, consisting of one song each year that brought back the most memories for me. In addition to a short blurb about each tune, I will try to convey why each song was listed.

I have no doubt that these songs do not hold the same meanings for you. However, in some cases, those who have known me may see the correlation between the tunes and the influence some of you had on my life. If not, then please just enjoy the list regardless.


Music Charts the Week I Was Born:

#1 Single -- "Monster Mash" by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
#1 Album -- "West Side Story" by Original Soundtrack

Other Events:

1582 – Pope Gregory XIII implements the Gregorian calendar.
1863 – The H. L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship, sinks during a test, killing its inventor, Horace L. Hunley.
1878 – The Edison Electric Light Company begins operation.
1894 – Alfred Dreyfus is arrested for spying.
1939 – The New York Municipal Airport (later renamed La Guardia Airport) is dedicated.
1951 – The first episode of "I Love Lucy" airs on CBS.
1956 – Fortran, the first modern computer language, is first shared with the coding community.
1966 – Black Panther Party is created by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.
1989 – Wayne Gretzky becomes the all-time leading points scorer in the NHL.
2003 – The Staten Island Ferry boat (Andrew J. Barberi) runs into a pier at the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island, killing 11 people and injuring 43.

1962  Hey, Baby -- Bruce Channel

Delbert McClinton played the harmonica part. At one Channel's shows, he was supported by a then-unknown Liverpool group, the Beatles. John Lennon was so impressed with the harmonica intro that he asked McClinton how to play it. A year later a similar harmonica passage showed up on The Beatles "Love Me Do."

Is there a better tune for someone's first year on this earth?

1963  The End of the World -- Skeeter Davis

This tune was originally an international hit for Country artist Skeeter Davis, peaking at #2. The record achieved the unusual feat of reaching the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 Pop, Adult Contemporary, R/B and Country charts. Davis' four-chart top-ten accomplishment has never been duplicated by any other female vocalist in the history of Billboard.

I was just a year old, and perhaps my memory of the song is from a couple of years later. But this, and other songs like it, influenced my melancholic taste in music.

1964  A Hard Day's Night -- The Beatles

The title was taken from an expression Ringo used to say. In a 1964 interview with DJ Dave Hull, Ringo explained: "We went to do a job, and we'd worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and I said, 'It's been a hard day...' and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, 'Night!' So we came to 'A Hard Day's Night.'"

One of my earliest memories is hearing this song by the pool at the Arnstein Jewish Community Center, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Beatles were huge in the '60s and influenced almost every other band. I was still too young to know rock and roll from opera. But this was the age my memories began.

1965  My Girl -- The Temptations

This was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who were both members of The Miracles. Robinson wrote the lyrics, which were inspired by his wife, Claudette. In a 2006 NPR interview, Robinson explained that he wrote this with David Ruffin's voice in mind. It was the first Temptations single to feature Ruffin on lead vocals (Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams sang lead on previous Temptation's singles), and it led to a greater role for Ruffin, as he became their primary lead singer.

There were three things you heard often on Knoxville radio stations back then; The Beatles, Elvis Prestley and Motown. I suppose that's where I got my love for that style of music. The Temptations, the Miracles and even the Platters (pre-Motown) influenced my tastes as a child. I could say it was the treatment of blacks back then. But I was just a kid. Still, it did hit close to home.

1966  Cherish -- The Association

This was the followup to The Association's first hit "Along Comes Mary." The band was popular in the Los Angeles area, but gained national fame when this was released. Their keyboard player Terry Kirkman, wrote this in a half hour and incorporated it into their live act. Mike Whelan, who was in an earlier band with members of The Association, liked the song so much that he persuaded his new group, The New Christy Minstrels, to perform it as well. The Minstrels almost released it as a single before The Association.

I suppose this was the moment I started to really listen to the music my siblings played. However, the strongest memory of this song was hearing it on a road trip the next year to Florida (the first of many). Laying in the back of the station wagon and having a bladder incident on my brother.

1967  The Rain, The Park and Other Things -- The Cowsills

This was co-written and produced by Artie Kornfeld who later went on to be one of the concert promoters of Woodstock. This was the breakthrough hit for the family group, The Cowsills, who were the forerunner of The Osmonds, a group that would appear on the same record label a few years later. Unlike the Osmonds, the boys' mother Barbara also features on the recordings. The Cowsills also made many television appearances during the late 1960s and the early 1970s and they were an inspiration for the Partridge Family.

After all of these years, my memories of living in Knoxville have mostly faded (I left there when I was 6). But this song, along with "A Summer Song" by Chad and Jeremy, harken me back to walking with my sister among the Dogwood trees. It's a very strong and warm memory.

1968  I Heard It Through The Grapevine -- Marvin Gaye

This Motown classic about a man who finds out his woman is cheating on him was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Strong came up with the idea, and asked Motown writers Holland/Dozier/Holland to work on it with him. They refused to credit another writer, so Strong took it to Whitfield, who helped put it together. Marvin Gaye's version was included on his 1968 album In The Groove (later re-titled I Heard It Through The Grapevine), and after E. Rodney Jones, the Chicago disc jockey at WVON, started playing it on the air, Berry Gordy reconsidered and released Gaye's version as a single, which became even more popular and known as the definitive version of the song.

Going on 6 years old and all I see on TV are hippies in the west, race riots in the east and war overseas. I remember my father speaking at an MLK memorial service in Nashville and also the difficulty traveling with my nanny, who was black. It just didn't seem right. Any of it. I suppose that's why I'm a conservative today.

1969  Crystal Blue Persuasion -- Tommy James and the Shondells

In an interview with Tommy James, he explained: "'Crystal Blue' was interesting. First of all, I was becoming a Christian at that time, and we never thought a thing about it. We never thought that doing something semi-religious was any big deal. We didn't think of it as being politically incorrect or anything like that. We just did what felt right. I wrote 'Crystal Blue Persuasion' with Eddie Gray and Mike Vale. Eddie came up with the little guitar riff, and Mike and I did the lyrics. And it just felt very right as a sort of semi-religious poetic song, but it turned out to be one of the hardest records I've ever made.

There were three songs I considered for this year; this one, "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimension and "Traces" by Classics IV. Each one conveyed strong memories from that year. Most notably was seeing the Kennedy Space Center, soon after the Apollo 11 launch, and traveling through the remnants of Hurricane Camille. This was also the year we moved to Dallas. But for some reason, that part of my memory is mostly gone. Perhaps there is good reason for that. 

1970  The Love You Save -- Jackson 5

Like "I Want You Back" and "ABC," this was written and produced by "The Corporation": Freddie Perren, Deke Richards, Fonce Mizell, and Berry Gordy Jr. With this single, the Jackson 5 became the first act ever to have its first three chart singles top the Billboard singles chart. The original lyrics concerned traffic safety. After the song was altered to fit the style of the Jackson 5, only the title and the line "Darling, look both ways before you cross me" survived.

Oddly, the song that most reminds me of 1970 was something that harkens be back to a trip we took back to Knoxville. But the year had an interesting start. My dad gave the invocation at the Cotton Bowl Classic on January 1st, between #1 Texas and Joe Theiesmann's Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The 'Horns won the game and took the national title, with me, sick as a dog, on the sidelines trying to understand what the heck was going on (it was the first football game I had ever been to).

1971  It's Too Late -- Carole King

This intimate song is a great example of the singer/songwriter sound that King helped popularized. Over a moody melody, King sings about how she realizes her once-promising relationship is over. While she's putting on a brave face, she's feeling tormented inside. This was released as the B-side to "I Feel the Earth Move." After a few weeks of continuous airplay with "I Feel the Earth Move," many DJs all over the States decided to give "It's Too Late" an equal amount of airplay. Soon, it came to the point where everyone preferred "It's Too Late," which ended up topping the charts by May of 1971. "I Feel the Earth Move" never charted.

By 1971, I was already really into top 40 music. This particular song goes back in my melancholy list and reminds me of driving to Florida on a summer vacation. To be exact, the memory is actually of driving down I-75 in Tifton, Georgia, sad because the heavy rain we were driving through did not allow us to stop at the Howard Johnson's playground we had stopped at a year earlier. My brain clearly holds too many sad memories. 

1972  Rocket Man -- Elton John

Space exploration was big in 1972, and that was an inspiration for Bernie Taupin's lyrics; the song came out around the time of the Apollo 16 mission, which sent men to the moon for the fifth time. Another influence on Taupin's lyrics was the short story of the same title written by Ray Bradbury. The sci-fi author's Rocket Man tale is told from the perspective of a child, whose astronaut father has mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. For Elton, this was just his second top 10 single. But it was the beginning of his wild ride to fame.

I chose Rocket Man for two reasons; first, this song was everywhere and it began Elton's dominance on the charts. Secondly, it reminds me of the summer spent in Atlantic City, with my sister. While my parents and brother went to Israel (it was his turn), my sister and I stayed with my grandparents in a senior citizen hotel. It was especially rough for my then 18-year-old sister. All I can truly remember from it was the smell of cabbage they served almost daily and an old man who complained about my wearing an American flag patch on my pocket.

1973  You're So Vain -- Carly Simon

The person Simon is singing about in this song remains a mystery, as she has never made it clear who she wrote it about; rumors include Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens, and Mick Jagger, all of whom she had affairs with. Carly has been elusive and changed her story a bit when asked the inevitable question about the song (strange considering the album title). In 1974, she told Modern Hi-Fi and Music: "That song is about a lot of people. I mean I can think of a lot of people. The actual examples that I've used in the song are from my imagination, but the stimulus is directly from a couple of different sources. It's not just about one particular person."

My first airplane ride and my first visit to Israel and Europe. But more importantly, for the first time, I noticed that there were something called "girls." My life hasn't been the same since. 

1974  Lonely People -- America

This was written by Dan Peek, who was one of the three original members of America. Many of Peek's compositions show a very spiritual and searching side and "Lonely People," a call for the lonely and despairing to seek God, is one of those songs and easily his best-known. Sadly, Peek died in 2011.

"Story" songs were all the rage in '74 and probably not ironically, this was the first year I became obsessed with listening to the radio every night. It was also the year I was introduced to America, who to this day is still my favorite band. As for the song, loneliness and melancholia are once again the themes. My sister went away to college in New York and my brother to high school in Colorado. I was alone for the first time and felt it deeply. Even a second trip to Israel and Europe didn't fill the void.

1975  Magic -- Pilot

This was Pilot's first hit single. It was written by the band's keyboardist Billy Lyall and its guitarist David Paton and was produced by Alan Parsons. The song was their only Top 40 hit in the US. The band's guitarist David Paton performed (along with Pilot's other hit "January") this song as a soloist in the Countdown Spectacular 2 concert series in Australia, which occurred from August to September of 2007.

I spent many summers in Miami Beach and many of the songs I'm posting harken me back to those carefree summers. 1975, for some reason, stands out as a particularly happy summer and this song really brings me back there. This was also the year I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah. Why, oh why did platform shoes have to be the style this one year??

1976  Silly Love Songs -- Wings

This was the answer to much soul searching on McCartney's part to whether he put too much stock in "Love Songs." He once commented: "The fact is, deep down, people are very sentimental. If they watch a sentimental movie at home, they cry, but in public they won't. We don't like to show our emotions; we tend to sneer at that. And in the same way, people may not admit to liking love songs, but that's what they seem to crave." Paul wrote this in response to a post-Beatles breakup comment by John Lennon, in which Lennon claimed that the only songs that Paul wrote for the Beatles were "Silly love songs."

America's bicentennial celebration lasted the entire year and you could not escape the "Bicentennial Moment" continuously played on TV. When I look back at '76, I think of that, as well as "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "One Day At A Time." Man, I had the biggest crush on Valerie Bertinelli!

1977  New Kid In Town -- The Eagles

"We were writing about our replacements." That's what J.D. Southersaid about this song, which he wrote with Eagles members Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Souther was part of the flourishing Southern California music scene, and often collaborated with the Eagles, also cowriting their hits "Best Of My Love" and "Heartache Tonight." Souther explained: "'New Kid' emerged from our whole fascination with gunfire as an analogy. The point was at some point some kid would come riding into town that was much faster than you and he'd say so, and then he'd prove it. That's the story of life."

It was my turn to grow up and leave home. So I headed off to my sister's house in California. It was a great time to live in the Valley and a great time to be somewhat on my own. Best of all, I got tall, lost weight, met a lot of girls and the Dallas Cowboys were Super Bowl Champions. 

1978  Grease -- Frankie Valli

This was featured in the movie of the same name starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Valli was not in the film, but lent his vocals to this song written and produced by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees specifically for the movie.  This was not used in the stage production of Grease - it was written specifically for the movie, which had the highest box office gross receipts for any musical. This was Valli's second US #1 hit as a solo artist. Three years earlier, he hit #1 with "My Eyes Adored You." Previously, he had massive success as a member of The Four Seasons, which broke up in 1978, the same year this song was released. Peter Frampton played lead guitar.

After one year in North Hollywood, I moved my 16-year-old self north to a religious boarding school in the Bay Area. I was truly on my own and had seriously mixed feelings about it. No decision I ever made had the future impact that this one would. As I seem to always do, I turned to the radio to help me cope. Not a Sunday went by where I wasn't glued to American Top 40. One strong memory from this year was spending many summer nights with friends, going to see a Grease/Saturday Night Fever double feature, while on vacation in Miami Beach. It was just $1 to get in. 

1979  The Logical Song -- Supertramp

The lyrics are about how the innocence and wonder of childhood can quickly give way to worry and cynicism as children are taught to be responsible adults. It makes the point that logic can restrict creativity and passion. Supertramp keyboard player Roger Hodgson, who wrote this song and sang the lead vocals, said in a 2012 interview: "I think it was very relevant when I wrote it, and actually I think it's even more relevant today. It's very basically saying that what they teach us in schools is all very fine, but what about what they don't teach us in schools that creates so much confusion in our being. I mean, they don't really prepare us for life in terms of teaching us who we are on the inside. They teach us how to function on the outside and to be very intellectual, but they don't tell us how to act with our intuition or our heart or really give us a real plausible explanation of what life's about.

The forces of being a teenager and getting a good education began it's fruitless battle inside me. At first, I was an eager participant. But by the end of the year, I became a cynical rebel. I got my first real job (as a pool boy at a Miami Beach hotel) and my first real girlfriend (no, the others were not blow up dolls). The year ended with a road trip with my brother to Memphis. I'd never seen fog so thick in my life that December day.

1980  Sailing -- Christopher Cross

Cross wrote this song about his memories sailing every summer with a friend in Texas. The song became a classic example of "Yacht Rock," which was a term used to define a form of easy listening music favored by the rich. And what defines yacht music better than a song about sailing? On the Howard Stern radio show, Cross explained that sailing with his friend got him away from the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. Cross said that if the guy had taken him bowling and he enjoyed it, the song could have become "Bowling."

The summer of 1980 was the last summer of my youth. No more carefree days lying out by the beach, no more carefree days without working (although I did have some part-time jobs). The '70s were over, Reagan was in and life was dramatically changing.

1981  Waiting For A Girl Like You -- Foreigner

Thomas Dolby of "She Blinded Me With Science" fame played the synthesizer intro, which was very un-Foreigner, but helped make the song a huge hit. The 4 album was produced by Mutt Lange, who called in the 19-year-old Dolby after hearing his demo tape. In our interview with Dolby, he said: "It was great to work with a top band and a top producer - I was very inexperienced in the studio. And I associated Foreigner with solid hard rock and AOR radio and things like that, but they said that they had a couple of really great ballads and that they wanted to take a different approach to them. I think to be listening to commercial radio in 1981 and to hear 15 seconds of ambient music coming out on the front of the song was very unusual.

Back home from high school and trying to fool myself into believing I was college material. drove back to Dallas in J.T's Ford 150 and got my first real job at Minyard's grocery. Even had my first real car date (wasn't easy when I was at an all boy's school for 3 years). I wonder what happened to Alysson P.? I also fell in "real" love for the first time. If I only knew then what I know now....

1982  Steppin' Out -- Joe Jackson

This song is about the anticipation and excitement of a night out on the town. Joe Jackson wrote and recorded the Night And Day album in New York City, and the first side of the album describes various encounters with the city. "Steppin' Out" is the last song on side one, and takes us on a journey through Manhattan in a taxi. The video featured a housekeeper pretending she was a Cinderella figure, and was filmed over one night in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.

Still trying to do the "college" thing, I convinced my father to send me to New York this year. Because I never really was a student, I spent all my time either on the radio, where I discovered how much I really wanted to be a DJ, or out and about the city with girls. All that seemed to crash down when I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured disk in my back. But Adrian cooked me a corned beef for Thanksgiving that took the sting off. Football, food and a pretty girl. What more could I ask for? Well, maybe being able to walk again.

1983  Lawyers In Love -- Jackson Browne

Often mistaken for social satire (on '80s materialism), this was actually about nuclear détente and the way world leaders play games with the lives of innocent citizens. Lawyers In Love was Browne's most political album. Rick Vito contributed some guitar work on this track. He spent 3 years with Fleetwood Mac in the late 1980s early '90s after Lindsey Buckingham left the band.

Ah, the summer of '83. My first solo road trip (Dallas to New York), my first time back in Knoxville (in 12 years) and my first apartment (in Brooklyn). I was in love and working to support myself. But reality soon interceded and I discovered there was more to life than just getting by. So I gave it all up and moved back home to Texas. I've made some bad decisions in my life, but that wasn't one of them.

1984  Out Of Touch -- Daryl Hall and John Oates

In a 1985 interview with the New York City Tribune, John Oates, who came up with the original idea for the song and wrote the chorus, explained the importance of the lines in the song, "We're soul alone and soul really matters to me.": "'Don't lose your soul' is one of our central themes. Soul matters. Roots matter. They're the source of your power, your core, the energy that sets you apart from the molecules in the wallpaper."

Coming back to Dallas may not have been a mistake, but I was really regretting the decision at this point. I was lonely and depressed, without seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. The highlight of the year was a second Dallas-New York road trip. This time I took Ethan and Jeff (and Jeff's portable TV). Dating was a disaster that year and school was even worse. I finally accepted college was not for me. Not then, anyway.

1985  You're Only Human -- Billy Joel

After Billy Joel attempted suicide back in 1970 (by drinking furniture polish), it failed to kill him and he wrote the song "Tomorrow is Today" as the suicide note. Later on he was asked if he could write a song that could help prevent teenage suicide. Joel agreed, but the first recording concerned him because it had a dreary and depressing tone that he thought might give troubled teens the wrong message. As result he created a new version with bouncy, joyous beats and lyrics about personal forgiveness and optimism for life. During the song, Joel noticeably hesitates with one of the verse lines and laughs after it. He decided to keep this mistake in the recorded version because it seemed to be proof of his personal fallibility, as in the line "You probably don't want to hear advice from someone else - But I wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't been there myself."

Some years are really good and some are really bad. This particular year was both. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster the whole time. Took another solo road trip to NY, but this time to interview for a job, which I got. That, along with the news they were moving me to Miami Beach were the high points (plus the road trip with Ethan to get there). But the bad part was developing stomach ulcers which almost broke me. The rollercoaster ride continued when I was told my job was being relocated to Houston. Houston??? I'm amazed the ulcers didn't strike me dead at that point.

1986  Life In A Northern Town -- Dream Academy

Dream Academy members Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel wrote this song, which is dedicated to the singer Nick Drake, who was 26 years old when he died of an antidepressant overdose which may have been suicide in 1974. His work was very influential to many British musicians and songwriters, and his legend grew after his death. The band's record label didn't want to release this song, they felt it needed more drums. They refused and the song became a worldwide hit.

Living in Houston was just as depressing as I feared it would be. To add insult to injury, I worked for a sociopath who made my life even more miserable. A February conference in the northeast allowed me to spend a wonderful weekend with friends in Baltimore and another summer road trip with Ethan (back to NY) gave me some sanity. But the solo drive back brought me back to the sad realities of a lousy job and lonely life. Getting my heart broken in December added a sad epitaph. 

1987  Don't Dream It's Over -- Crowded House

Crowded House lead singer Neil Finn wrote this song. He explained in an interview with Goldmine: "I wrote that on my brother's piano. I'm not sure if I remember what the context was, exactly, but it was just about on the one hand feeling kind of lost, and on the other hand sort of urging myself on: Don't dream it's over. That one actually fell out literally, without me thinking about it too much."

Just when you are convinced you'll never be happy, life has a way of smacking you in the face. Somehow, I found my mojo and it seemed everything was going my way. Taking the bull by the horns, I forced a transfer out of Houston and moved back to New York. In the fall, I got engaged and started to make some money. In hindsight, I wasn't prepared for what would lie ahead. But at the time, I thought I was reborn.

1988  Under The Milky Way -- The Church

This haunting song was by far the biggest hit by the Australian new wave band, although they've had a long career. It was written about a place in Amsterdam called The Melkweg, which is Dutch for "The Milky Way." The Melkweg is an old factory building that houses a coffee shop, bar, movie theater and art space, and often hosts live music. It was frequented by Steve Kilbey, the band's front man. He co-wrote this song with bassist Karin Jansson.

Ready or not, there I went. I was 25 and tired of being alone. Everything was great through the summer, but disaster soon followed. My new bride had a miscarriage and I became a scapegoat at work. By the end of the year we lived in Arizona and what I hoped to be a new beginning turned into a long, hard road. As they say, from the frying pan into the fire...

1989  Closer To Fine -- Indigo Girls

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls write separately, and this song was written by Saliers, who told us it is based on real experiences. Said Saliers: "All of my songs, they're a combination of real experiences and what I observe through other peoples' behavior and experience. I was with my family in Vermont, and we were sitting in this rustic cabin, and I was sitting on a front porch and looking out into the trees, which, you know, whenever you're in such a bucolic setting, it can make you feel very philosophical. So that's how I was feeling."

Arizona was a disaster from the start. Sadly, my wife suffered a second miscarriage and after just 9 months it was time to leave the desert. We moved back to Dallas without a job and unsure what to do. It was a struggle, but we felt like we were home. For some reason, I had strong faith that all would be fine. To help ease our souls we bought a puppy. But that would be nothing compared to what we brought home a couple of years later.

1990  Blaze Of Glory -- Jon Bon Jovi

This was featured in the movie Young Guns II, starring Emilio Estevez. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, Bon Jovi wrote the song after borrowing a script from the movie from his friend Estevez. Jon showed up on the set in New Mexico with an acoustic guitar, and played the song for the film's screenwriter John Fusco, who had used "Wanted Dead Or Alive" as "Mood Music" while writing the first Young Guns. Bon Jovi played the song for Fusco, who loved it and put it in the movie. In this song, the singer is determined to fight to his death, knowing he will be remembered for his bravery.

Just as I expected, I got a good job and all was great for a month or two. That is, until I found out they were moving me (and my job) to Chicago. So much for feeling at home. The Windy City wasn't terrible, but it was very, very cold. The worst part was that although I was now working out of the Chicago office, my territory was still Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Made no sense then and makes no sense now. At least I got a company car out of the deal.

1991  I Can't Make You Love Me -- Bonnie Raitt

Producer Don Was told Spinner UK the session for this song stands out for him as a time when he stood back and watched greatness come out. Said Was: "We knew this was a great song; we had Bruce Hornsby in there playing piano with her. But when she connected to this thing, I don't even know how to describe it. But I guess it's like someone hooking you up to an electrical current; it was a physical experience to sit there and listen to it as it was going down there in the studio. And it was incredibly emotional. The only thing we ever had to change was a couple of lines where she started sobbing while she was singing. It was just an emotional thing, and she connected to the core of the song, and it was magnificent. And you can hear it today. It's tough for me to listen to that record today and not get really emotional. And I can't even relate to the song. It's, like, a woman's song. It's not what the song is about that gets me, it's some indescribable thing about the raw emotion in her performance."

What started as such promise (job-wise) once again ended in disappointment. In March, I was informed my territory was being transfered once again -  this time to Los Angeles. With a pregnant wife and no desire to work for the LA boss, I took my severance and we headed to Denver, where her parents lived (ugh). But it insured my daughter would be born safe and sound. Now I was entering fatherhood without a means to support my family. Staying with the in-laws was as horrible as you can imagine and by the very beginning of the next year, I took my talents to South Beach.

1992  Just Another Day -- Jon Secada

Secada is an American singer/songwriter of Cuban origin with a masters degree in jazz from Miami University. The album Just another Day was one of the biggest albums of 1992, selling over 6 million copies worldwide. Gloria Estefan sang backup on this. Secada co-wrote 6 songs for her 1991 album Into The Light, including her #1 hit "Coming out of the Dark." He toured with her as a backing singer before he signed to SBK Records and launched his own career with this album in 1992.

Most everything I remember about 1992 revolved around Hurricane Andrew. We evacuated, along with a million others, and finally found a hotel room outside Orlando. We celebrated my daughter's 1st birthday with the neighbors across the hall, as we were all one big, happy family - due to there being rations on water and electricity. Believe me, being in South Florida in September - with no air conditioning - is not all it's cracked up to be. 

1993  Dreams -- The Cranberries

Written by front-woman Dolores O'Riordan and lead-guitarist Noel Hogan, "Dreams" is the second charting single by The Cranberries, from their first album. Together with "Linger," these two singles forged a name for the band that carried them until the thundering (and thunderously successful) "Zombie" from their second album. These two songs ("Dreams" and "Linger") is yet another MTV-Cinderella story - the band saw only moderate success until they toured playing support for the London Suede. From there, MTV picked up their videos for the two singles and gave them heavy airplay.

Once again, we were on the move. Although we stayed in Miami Beach for almost 2 years, I jumped at the chance to take my dream job outside of Detroit. By the end of '93, I was happier than I'd ever been and suddenly found myself the father of two, when my son was born in December. I missed the ocean and hated the frigid Michigan temperatures. But it all seemed to finally be worth it.

1994  Interstate Love Song -- Stone Temple Pilots

Lead singer Scott Weiland wrote this about his relationship troubles and his growing heroin addiction. When he wrote it, he thought about what kind of a liar he had become towards his fiancé and how he had promised to stay off drugs when they went to Atlanta to record Purple, but didn't keep that promise. In Stone Temple Pilots appearance on VH1's Storytellers, Weiland explained that the band would travel in a Winnebago that pulled a trailer with their equipment. When band members wanted some quiet, they would go in the trailer with a walkie-talkie. Robert DeLeo was back there with his guitar one day when he came up with the music for the song, and he used the walkie-talkie to call to the band and play it for them.

Sometimes, everything aligns in life and you find yourself exactly where you want, and need, to be. Life 
continued to come up roses. I loved my job, adored the people I worked with, appreciated the town I was living in and was really happy. As far as I could tell, I finally found what I was looking for and felt like this made up for all the sadness and heartbreak. Sadly, that too would not last very long.

1995  The World I Know -- Collective Soul

This song has an amazingly expressive video to go with it. It's about a business man becoming disillusioned with the world and impulsively deciding to kill himself, before being saved by a pigeon who lands on his arm and cheers him up right when he was about to jump. He also draws a comparison to the ants scurrying for crumbs and the people in the streets. He ends up tossing his money to the crowd below. Anyone pondering the Libertarian moral of the above story need look no further for the explanation than to band leader Ed Roland, confirmed Objectivist, who pulled the name of the band straight out of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.

For the first time in years, I remained in the same city for the second full year in a row (sad, isn't it). My daughter had a lot of friends and we had a number of babysitters who were able to handle my son. I felt a part of a community and continued to love my career. However, there were ominous signs in the skies above. As I enjoyed everything about where life had taken me, I failed to spot warning signs telling me it was soon coming to an end, once again.

1996  Ironic -- Alanis Morissette

The London Times June 14, 2008 asked Morissette if she has worked out the meaning of irony yet. She replied: "Yes, I've now learnt the definition of irony - but the dictionary now says that it's a coincidence and bad luck, too - not that I don't deserve a little slap on the wrist for my malapropism. I always tell people that I'm the smartest stupid person you'll ever meet."

Don Henley once sang, "one day it's here, the next day it's gone." That's what I felt when my dream job was taken from me. One day I'm out looking to put a down payment on a house, the next day I'm told it's over. It stunned me and it took years to recover from it. Before I really knew what hit me, we wee once again moving, this time back to Chicago. No need for details, but this was the beginning of the end of my marriage (although we held on for another 10 years). Isn't it ironic? Don't ya think?

1997  One Headlight -- The Wallflowers

Jakob Dylan: "I tend to write with a lot of metaphors and images, so people take them literally. The song's meaning is all in the first verse. It's about the death of ideas. The first verse says, 'The death of the long broken arm of human law.' At times, it seems like there should be a code among human beings that is about respect and appreciation. I wasn't feeling like there was much support outside the group putting together the record. In the chorus, it says, 'C'mon try a little.' I didn't need everything to get through, I could still get through - meaning 'one headlight."

Another tough year. I did find work at a funeral home as a pre-need specialist. But when we started to make some money at it, the funeral directors decided to take over - and poof! I was out of work again. But by the end of the year, I went back to my first industry and took a huge cut in pay. Just great. I hated the type of job it was and I made peanuts, to boot. If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all!

1998  Bittersweet Symphony -- The Verve

Lead singer Richard Ashcroft wrote the lyrics, which are a somber look at the ennui of everyday life: "You're a slave to money, then you die." This samples an obscure orchestral version of "The Last Time," a 1965 song by the Rolling Stones. This was recorded before they got permission from the Stones to use the riff, so the Verve had to sign away most of the royalties from this in order to release it.

Bittersweet is the perfect word to describe 1998. I worked three jobs to make ends meet and while it was a lot of hours of work, it was somewhat fulfilling. The best part of the year was the birth of my twin sons. But my enthusiasm and joy were greatly tempered by the passing of my father. At times I went from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other within the same day. By the end of the year, I was seriously contemplating a new start somewhere other than Chicago.

1999  Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning) -- Vertical Horizon

Written by Vertical Horizon singer/guitarist Matt Scannell, this is a song about a guy was in love with a girl, but they broke up. Now he is reflecting on how he doesn't want her back, although she's the best he ever had. Country singer Gary Allan recorded this for his 2005 album Tough All Over, after performing it live and dedicating it to his wife, following her suicide.

In February, I decided I had enough and we moved back to Dallas, where I switched careers dramatically and and discovered I was pretty good at what I was now doing. I was making more money, living much more comfortably and now having family of 6. Life was pretty good, although in hindsight, the marriage was falling apart. But things were changing so rapidly I could barely keep up.

2000  Bathwater -- No Doubt

In this song, Gwen Stefani sings about being attracted to a guy who doesn't return her affection. His general indifference only makes her want him more, to the point that she feels subservient to him and is willing to use his old bathwater just so she can be near him. No Doubt drummer Adrian Young does some beat-boxing in this song. In the video, he appears in drag.

The stock market was flying high and as a broker, it caused business to really boom. But in September, after 18 years of dealing with pain, my back finally gave out and I had to have surgery. Actually, this first procedure wasn't successful and I needed a much more aggressive surgery in December. On the plus side, I won my inter-office fantasy football competition ($500!).

2001  Drops Of Jupiter -- Train

In an interview with VH1, lead singer Pat Monahan revealed that he wrote this song about the death of his mother. Train released their first album in 1998, and were touring that year when Monahan's mother was dying of lung cancer - she was a heavy smoker. This was before the widespread use of cell phones, and Monahan made many stops to pay phones on the tour to speak with his mom during this difficult time. In December of that year, his mother died, and in early '99 Train was working on their next album when their record company started pressuring them for a hit. Monahan returned to his childhood home in Pennsylvania, and woke one morning with the words "back in the atmosphere" in his head. Beginning a time of healing, he started to compose the song. Said Monahan: "Loss of the most important person in my life was heavy on my mind, and the thought of 'what if no one ever really leaves? What if she's here but different. The idea was, she's back here in the atmosphere."

There is only so much one can say about 2001. At the start of the year, the market started to weaken as the bubble began to burst. Regardless, after I returned from back surgery, I felt very good about my job and was moving up. But after the tragedy of 9/11, we all knew where the market, as well as our jobs, were headed. A month prior to 9/11, we traveled to NY and it was all so surreal. As for me, I started developing symptoms of what I was told was rheumatoid arthritis. This misdiagnosis almost killed me a year later. 

2002  Perfect -- Simple Plan

Drummer Chuck Comeau's parents weren't supportive of his career choice, so he and lead singer Pierre Bouvier wrote this song to prove to his parents that he made it, and to say sorry that he's not perfect.

The market crashed and my company shut down. Once again looking for a job, my wife convinced me that we should move back to New York. I had told her years ago that if she moved us back to NY I would have a heart attack. Amazing how that happens. All summer long I noticed I was slowing down and gaining weight (a lot of weight), About 2 weeks after we got there, my son almost died from blood loss, when the glass table he was standing on collapsed and cut him across the stomach. Just 2 weeks after that, on the day I was to start a new job, I suffered a massive heart attack. After a failed bypass, I lapsed into a 4 week coma that was caused by a minor stroke. As much as I felt G0d was punishing me, I recognized he was saving me as well. I received a new heart and a second chance just a few weeks later. As Billy Joel once opined, "I never claimed to be a hero and I never said I was a saint." Certainly, I wasn't perfect.

2003  Numb -- Linkin Park

This is about children who is sick of living up to the high expectations their parents set for them. The lyric "Every step that I take is another mistake to you" is about how they feel like they can't do anything to make their parents proud. This song was conceived just one week before the band entered NRG studios to begin recording the Meteora album. Built around the intro hook, the song came together quickly and almost effortlessly.

Numb is probably the best way to describe this year. While definitely improving, my brain was still swiss cheese at times. However, early in the spring, Ethan and I drove back from Texas with all my stuff that we had left behind. But Brooklyn is a hard enough place to live when you're healthy, much less recovering from a heart transplant. After weighing all the options, we decided to return to Chicago. In some ways, it was the best thing I could do for my children (for a variety of reasons). But I mourned the  move because deep down I didn't really want to return to Chicago. 

2004  Mr. Brightside -- The Killers

Killers guitarist Dave Keuning wrote this about lead signer Brandon Flowers' ex-girlfriend who cheated on him. Flowers recalled to Q magazine March 2009 how he discovered her with another man at the Crown and Anchor pub in his hometown of Las Vegas: "I was asleep and I knew something was wrong. I have these instincts. I went to the Crown and Anchor and my girlfriend was there with another guy." Flowers added that the song was "born" at the Crown and Anchor.

For most of '04, I was definitely not Mr. Brightside. In fact, I saw nothing bright about my life and I fell into a very deep depression. It seemed that every bad memory I had returned to my brain all at once. I was inconsolable and I couldn't control it. I figure that after 18 months, my brain healed to the point where I started comprehending exactly what had happened to me and PTSD (Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder) sank in. To be perfectly honest, I felt like I had awoken from a 20-year nap and couldn't accept what had happened in all that time. To ease my mind, I decided to write about my ordeal. With every chapter, tears would flow. But also a new understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be became much clearer. The only question was "how do I get there?"

2005  It Ends Tonight -- The All-American Rejects

This song details the end of a relationship, but it's not about breaking up with a girlfriend - it's not even about a girl. Written by lead singer Tyson Ritter and guitarist Nick Wheeler, Nick told us the story in a 2012 interview: "Ty was just getting really good at telling stories in songs. That one was about a dude, but he thinks it's fun to make it sound like it was about a girl or a relationship."

With the help of a good therapist (whom I really disliked, but she was good), I moved past the depression and suddenly felt I had purpose in life. My immediate goal was to save my marriage. My relationship with my children, already solid, grew stronger as well. Plus, I was able to work a real job again. I still wasn't "happy", but I was coping.

2006  Crazy -- Gnarls Barkley

Gnarls Barkley is producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and vocalist Cee-Lo Green (Thomas Callaway). This song is about losing your mind and diving into insanity, which the singer finds is not all bad. Going along with the theme of the song, the music video is done in the style of the Rorschach test, which is a psychiatric evaluation where the patient is asked what he sees in various inkblot patterns.

Sometimes, what we think we want to happen doesn't happen and yet we then realize how glad we are it didn't. I know I tried my best to fix my marriage. But sadly, it doesn't always work out the way we hope. We remained together for the course of the year, but that was mainly for the benefit of my son, who was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah in December. I now knew what to do and was learning how to do it. The moment I realized it was over, an incredible new awareness washed away my lingering depression. 

2007  Thnks Fr Th Mmrs -- Fall Out Boy

This song is about a couple who have lost romantic interest in each other, but still get together for casual sex, which is fulfilling only on a superficial level. The title contains no vowels and looks like a text message, indicating the shallow relationship. Fall Out Boy dropped the vowels as a joke when their record company requested shorter song titles.

In my quest for independence, I bought a car and took a solo road trip to my friend's wedding. The trip was enlightening and allowed me closure on a number of past memories. By mid-May, I moved out and began to start living again. As it turned out, I was right that my children were now better off and we drew even closer than before. It's amazing how being happy makes one's relationships stronger. 

2008  The Time of My Life -- David Cook

This was the coronation song and was was chosen out of 20 songs by online voters in the American Idol Songwriter's Competition. The winning songwriter, Regie Hamm, is an aspiring singer who entered the contest at his wife's suggestion - she's a big American Idol fan. The Nashville singer/songwriter has previously had songs recorded by a number of artists including Maxi Priest, Kenny Loggins and Bob Carlisle.

There were some great highs and some horrible lows this year. But they were mine and mine alone. On the positive side, I took a better paying job with better hours. On the other hand, my new boss was something of a psychopath. Now that I was separated, I started dating a college girlfriend. However, that relationship was not meant to be and it took me the rest of the year to recover. But I did and my health seemed to improve when I dated a yoga instructor a few months later. 

2009  Bad Romance -- Lady Gaga

This club banger is the lead single from the expanded version of Lady Gaga's debut album, The Fame: Monster. Lyrically the song celebrates the kind of lusty passion and desire found in a bad romance novel. Moroccan/Swedish producer RedOne helmed the song and wrote it with GaGa. He also collaborated with Lady Gaga on her smash hits "Just Dance," "Lovegame" and "Poker Face."

The year started on a sad note when my mother passed away. I also started a new relationship with someone who really caused me a great deal of drama. But for some reason (could it be love?), I let it keep happening. I really should have given it up when I had the chance. It really was a bad romance.

2010  Need You Now -- Lady Antebellum

This is the first single from Country trio Lady Antebellum's sophomore album. Group members Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, along with co-writer Josh Kear wrote this song about yearning for companionship in the middle of the night. Scott explained in publicity materials that the song, and many others on their sophomore album, "are about what we are learning as we go through the ups and downs of different relationships." She added: "All three of us know what it's like to get to that point where you feel lonely enough that you make a late night phone call that you very well could regret the next day. But you do it anyway because it's the only thing that's going to give you any relief in that moment."

Early in the year, after being assaulted by a co-worker, I lost my job when my psychotic boss ran away to Mexico without paying his bills (or our paychecks). Thankfully, my mother's inheritance allowed me to get by until a new opportunity came around. By the end of the year, I took a new position at a restaurant and within a week was given the managerial duties when the owner's brother decided to back out. Romantically, the year was filled with tremendous drama that were both put upon and caused by me. I wasn't sure which road to take, even though I made what I thought were the right choices. However, unlike Captain Kirk, I didn't know how to cheat on the Kobayashi Maru.

2011  Rolling In The Deep -- Adele

This is the first single from English R/B singer-songwriter Adele's second album 21. The song was written and produced by Adele and British producer Paul Epworth, who is best known for manning the boards for Bloc Party and Florence and the Machine. Adele describes the single as a "dark bluesy gospel disco tune." On this revenge song, Adele lays into a former boyfriend. "It's me making a bit of a statement," she told Q Magazine. "People will hear it and go, Wow, she ain't mucking around."

I wasn't supposed to be in charge of the restaurant. But once I was thrust into the position, I did all I could - in spite of the lack of financial backing - to make it work. Sadly, the restaurant went belly up in the summer and I moved on to yet another job. For other reasons, my heart was broken in two and I entered a now 2-year period of very limited dating. Healthwise, I began dealing with pain in my left leg and an increasing number of gout attacks. Suddenly, the joy of the past few years seemed to be slipping away.


2012  Home -- Phillip Phillips

Southwest Georgia native Phillip Phillips attended Lee County High School in Leesburg before graduating from Albany Technical College with a major in Industrial Systems Technology. Phillips auditioned in Savannah, Georgia for American Idol with a performance of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." He advanced to the final despite being taken to a doctor for possible kidney stones after the Top 13-performance night. Phillips was declared the winner after a record breaking total vote count of 132 million in the finale on May 23, 2012.

Well, we've come to the end of the list. I feel very fortunate to have made it this far. In fact, after the transplant, I really didn't expect to have the extra years I've been given. But whether it be God's will, or sheer dumb luck, here I am. Physically, it hasn't been the easiest year, what with having knee replacement surgery and a new back herniation. But these are just bumps in an otherwise intense, and often times, painful road. Yet my optimism remains and my search for happiness and strength continues. My children keep me grounded, although they also drive me insane. But I suppose that's what kids do. Now my daughter is 21, my oldest son is 18 and my twins are 14. Life goes quickly. But thankfully, it goes on.

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