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March 03, 2017


There goes Cole Porter.

Exactly! It was in fact Cole Porter I was thinking of...

Also, I was trying to exclude pure, perfect skill with words (e.g. Irving Berlin and say Puttin on the Ritz) to let in songs written, as it were, sincerely from the heart and to engage the heart.

I defer to cleek


Two singer-songwriters who meet your all your criteria:
Tom Lehrer and Georges Brassens.

Neither of them is a household name, I grant you, although Brassens may well be the Dylan of the Francophone world. But for me personally, their songs encapsulate most of my outlook on politics, philosophy, and everything.


Tom Lehrer was wonderful, I grant you, but I think personally that his appeal is mainly intellectual, which to me makes him incomplete when considering the very top floors. Have never heard of Georges Brassens, but will search him out. Perhaps 10 is too many, in any case, the top 3 seems more doable.

Paul Simon
Jackson Browne
Randy Newman
Townes van Zandt
Tracy Chapman
A hundred more tied

Hi Marty, thanks for playing. I see you accept my friend's top three - very interesting. I rate them all very highly too. Hadn't thought of Kristofferson, although I had a fierce crush on him in my youth. I don't know many of his songs, with the exception of the wonderful Me and Bobby McGee and Sunday Morning Coming Down. I think I would have put Paul Simon in there somewhere, and Randy Newman is a genius too, of course. I was also pretty sure Ray Davies of the Kinks should be up there, but I don't know how well known they are in the States (although I bet the Count knows all about them!) Jackson Brown: I know hardly any of his songs, except Running on Empty. Interesting biographical note though: when Leonard Cohen was obsessed with Nico, who would have nothing to do with him sexually (probably the basis of One of Us Cannot be Wrong), she told him she liked pretty boys and was therefore having an affair with Jackson Browne. Tower of Songwise, I also have a soft spot for James Taylor, whose album Sweet Baby James was/is a longtime fave of mine. And I'm guessing many people would put Joni Mitchell very high on the list as well. That's all I've got, but then, as must be obvious, I'm no muso.

In no particular order, ten more:

Joni Mitchell
Smokey Robinson
Pete Townschend
Chrissie Hynde
James Brown
Ray Davies
Neil Young
David Bowie
Brian Wilson (wrote enough of the lyrics to make it)
George Harrison
Marvin Gaye. #11

Some guilty pleasures:

Laura Nyro
Jimmy Webb
Elvis Costello
Curtis Mayfield
Paul Westerberg

Look em up, they still fill up the jukeboxes:

Bert Bens
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (one for the music and one for the lyrics, but together they were the glue for pop music)

Chuck Berry for good measure and because Lennon said so


Gotcha cross-posting on a couple of those. My mother, somehow, I guess because she said to the record store person at the time "my son likes something called the British Invasion, whatever that is", left me the Kinks first album under the xmas tree, the most exciting present she ever gave me, outside of maybe the visible brain model several years before that.

I was 13.

If she was here, she'd say "THAT was from Santa Claus"

I still have that piece of worn vinyl.

Its interesting that Ray Davies would have been very high for me, the Kinks were very well known in the circles I ran in and my best friend was a huge fan, but I kind of skipped anyone that was primarily associated with a band. Thus discounting Glenn Frey and Don Henley together AND separately. I love James Taylor, and know most every song he wrote. I felt he wasn't quite better than Tracy who's music I don't know as well but filled a spot in my emotional life. I grew up in the era of the singer/songwriter in a family of them (well friends and family) so I like this game.

As for the top three, I wasn't thinking through ranking them but Dylan and Kristofferson are my top two hands down.

*WARNING: This part was mixed in but OT so if interested I moved it down here

Then there is Crosby, Stills , Nash, Young and all the people they wrote with, the world was in a constant state of hopeful change, politically and culturally. We saw the future as bright and the music reflected that hope. Both in the words and the integrated musical styles of, say, Paul Simon.

All of whom were influenced by the beat poets of the 60's, words were allowed to express things, as the Eagles put it, that we couldn't say out loud. A tradition that I think struggles today. Since there are no limits on what can be said people don't seem too rely on music to make these statements. But I am old so I might be missing them.

Neil Young - of course! Pete Townsend, maybe, but not quite in my top 10. Bert Berns: I'd never heard of him, but this is partly why I proposed this game - just looked him up: Twist and Shout! Piece of My Heart! Fab, Count, many thanks.

Also Van Morrison should be in there somewhere, and maybe Mike Scott of the Waterboys? I came late to the latter, but Fisherman's Blues is a great album. But maybe to true musos like some of you, these should also be in the guilty pleasures category....

Thanks to anybody who contributed (which doesn't mean you should stop now!) It's been a somewhat melancholy day for various reasons, and this game has turned it rather brighter. Marty, I went to see a very early gig of Crosby Stills and Nash at the Albert Hall, they hadn't long been a band and I seem to remember it as being pre-Young. They were wonderful, but not as good as they became with him. Yes, from memory, the future did seen rather brighter then.

Good night to all.

my personal favorite songwriter-per-se is probably john prine. next would be cohen, especially from "i'm your man" on - he started to let his sense of humor show, and he is funnt as hell.

other personal favorites not yet mentioned are becker and fagan, and joe henry, who i don't think a lot of folks are hip to. more folks should hear him.

stevie wonder, people will be playing his stuff 100 years from now. jeff tweedy, "jesus etc" is one of my favorite songs ever. on the folkie tip, greg brown, richard shindell, ferron.

fun topic!

Brian Wilson
Benny Anderson
Both should be in the mix somewhere.

I am stunned I left out John Prine.....

Taylor and Morrison, of course, but after their early stuff, too much repetition of a good thing.

But you won't find too many albums like Sweet Baby James and Astral Weeks that captured moments in time and for me, at least, can still conjure them when I'm in the mood.

Al Green.

Billy Joel, though I hated his early stuff.

For a certain kind of solid American pop song .... Tom Petty.

Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell.

Somehow Mud Slide Slim ended up being my favorite James Taylor album. And yes, over the years the albums became similar and it was a song here and there that captured something special.

Couldn't resist a further peek. I've never heard of Prine, he seems to have a huge discography. could someone please recommend say three of the best or most representative songs (hard to define I know), and I'll listen tomorrow. Still reeling from Benny Anderson, wj, if you mean the guy from Abba!

I had a crazy crush on Laura Nyro, actually a girl who played Laura Nyro's songs for me in her dorm room, but they've kind of melded in memory. I got to see Nyro in a small outside venue in Boulder, Colorado just a few years before her untimely (aren't they all) passing.

She was kind of in Carole King's shadow back in the day, but she came out of that street corner acapella urban genre of singing the living shite harmony out of stuff, back when black girls were doing it but the white girl got the job at the Brill Building doing it professionally.

Her voice, almost always against a fully mic-ed (spelling?) piano only, was incredibly erotic to my tin-eared teenaged sensibilities, like a sloe-eyed girl singing from a fourth floor urban fire escape to the lonely boy in the street below.

Her cover of "Walk On By" kills me.

Let me put it this way. When I learned decades later that she was a lesbian, I thought, well, if I ever ran into her, I could adjust my hetero male self and get with the program.

Johnny Cash was never my favorite for his own stuff, but I really like his late in life nearly Biblical covers of others' songs.

Anyway, these names we are throwing out are Mt. Rushmore anthemic sources.

I'd like to hear who some younger folks believe are great song writers of recent vintage.

I'll bet cleek and Russell have some hot names not yet mentioned.

Leon Russell could write a song.

I was wondering when Johnny Cash would be mentioned.

Willie Nelson?

A nation ignoramuses and fraidy cats.


Johnny Cash was never my favorite for his own stuff, but I really like his late in life nearly Biblical covers of others' songs.

Off to youtube!

Still reeling from Benny Anderson, wj, if you mean the guy from Abba.

But I like ABBA....


(John Prine) My Dad loved to play Paradise when we would spend Saturday nights sitting around with guitars and trade songs. His Dad grew up in Appalachia so I think it was special to him, and then me. Spanish Pipedream was one of the first songs that was "our" song with a distant but fond memory. Hello in there is awesome and , of Angel from Montgomery has been covered(Bonnie Raitt did it best) by everyone that didn't get to sing it with him. And that covers one album or so.

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, Jerry Jeff, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Townes van Zandt and the gang were a distinct breed that told wonderful stories. Maybe cowboy poets is too much but if you get a chance to listen to Guy Clarks Randall Knife then its hard to say they ain't.

Prine: Blue Embrella, Souveneirs, Christmas In Prison, A Good Time, Far From Me. That last is John Prine's favorite John Prine song.

Paradise is one of my favorite songs in the world, a buddy of mine would do that song and I'd sing the high harmony.

another buddy of mine, very good songwriter in a kind of alt-roots-rock style, somehow snagged a ticket to the new england PEN songwriters award ceremony at the kennedy library here in Boston last year. the honorees were prine and tom waits, who should also be on the list. performers were elvis costello, john mellencamp, and rosanne cash. peter wolf was in the audience. my buddy just turned 50, it was fun to watch him turn into a total teenage fan boy.

the story goes that prine was the co-writer of city of new orleans, but he gave his share of the rights to steve goodman. because goodman had health problems and needed a hand.

cowboy poetry :

IMO that is 100% right on, TX has one of the richest songwriting traditions in the world. to marty's list i'd add robert earl keen and townes van zandt. van zandt ended up in TN but he was TX born, and he would absolutely be on my short list. pancho and lefty, tecumseh county, and on and on.

This could go on for days.

I don't know all that much popular music after, say, 1990. cleek is your man, I really don't know too many people with an equally encyclopedic knowledge of what's out there.

cleek has really really good taste.

Leon Russell could write a song.

I love his work. I saw him and Eric Clapton several years ago at the Royal Albert Hall. Part of the excitement was the Royal Albert Hall itself, but it was a mighty good concert.

I'm glad, Count, that you acknowledged Laura Nyro. She was one of the most important musicians to me in my formative years. Joni Mitchell too. Both represented feminism in a very sensual way, which was not the "look" of feminism generally back then.

ah, i'm an idiot, you already got van zandt.

calling all cleeks! jump in man.

Joe Henry, if you don't already know his stuff.

Also, too: Warren Zevon. Everybody knows "werewolves", which is kind of an entertaining party trick, but check out "Indifference Of Heaven" or "My Shits Fucked Up".

I was glad you added Robert Earl Keen. Among many I love The Road Goes on Forever.

late to this party, i guess ...

Gillian Welch ? i'm not sure how much David Rawlings contributes to the songs they do under her name - which potentially violates the 'individual' rule.

all of my other big names (Young, Simon, Mitchell, Bowie, Costello) have been covered.

these might be controversial:

Lucinda Williams
Robyn Hitchcock

Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain had the potential.

Sy Flembeck

though you might not know it if you only know Loser and Devil's Haircut, Beck can write a hell of a song.

Tanya Donnely (Breeders, Belly, solo) is a great songwriter. she's been quietly releasing album after album of her lovely melodic rock, for many years.

Fiona Apple. she had a couple of hits in the late 90s, and if that's all you know of her, you've missed out of several fantastic albums. she's a force of nature.

Liz Phair showed great promise, but kindof fizzled.

russell, i am humbled.

Sy Flembeck

Best Fiona Apple album after her first?

Best Fiona Apple album after her first?

i can't do it. they're all equally good, IMO.

i keep trying to say B.O.B. M.A.R.L.E.Y., and FYObWi keeps eating my comment and then blocking the name i used.

Saw Fiona Apple years ago in a small gymnasium at Simpson College in Iowa. She was amazing.

Oh, you snooty elitists, I just can't compete.

Say Weird Al's VERY FIRST concert tho. That's good for some geek cred, isn't it?

As far as more recent singers are concerned, it's a bit early to tell, but I'd keep an eye on Sara Bareilles. Anyone who can recast a Type Ia supernova as a love story has a storytelling future.

LJ--I don't want to nterfere in the music discussion, but maybe tomorrow I will reply on NYT propaganda and also sapient' s link from a couple days ago about Yemen, which I didn't see until now.

Leon Russel, Leon Redbone and Jason Mraz are my top three
after Bob.

but what about Lyle Lovett?

Britt Daniel is a great songwriter. he's the main force behind Spoon.

Leon Russell could write a song.

He certainly could, A Song for You is absolutely wonderful.

I'm so delighted by all these nominations, and have already started (Prine: Paradise and Far From Me, Warren Zevon: Indifference of Heaven). Re Zevon: I did only know Werewolves of London (an eerie description of everything my friends and I used to do around London at the time), but found Lawyers Guns and Money because of the site (also from links here) and loved that, partly because of its perfect Hunter S vibe.

I'm going to keep following up and listening: what a blast.

In the meantime, re Cowboy poetry, a) you have me revisiting things I haven't thought of for years (Hobo's Mandolin), and b) you may be interested to hear I was reading a piece on Scandinavian expressions (the UK is currently experiencing a huge bout of Scandimania), and discovered that a Norwegian word for "crazy" is "Texas". "Helt Texas" means "total craziness" or peak mayhem, and so on incrementally. The section finishes:

Indicative, perhaps, of the powerful impact American culture had on those Norwegians who grew up watching westerns.

i have a buddy who occasionally works in a rockabilly band in norway. apparently they love rockabilly.

another really good songwriter (IMO) who mostly flies under the radar is Aimee Mann. anything from her solo work is good to very good.

I really like Alyssa Bonagura as a youngish songwriter.

I never did comment on russell saying that John Prine is supposed to have co-written The City of New Orleans, that is a wonderful song.

And the sons of Pullman porters

And the sons of engineers

Ride their Daddies' magic carpet

Made of steel

Just wonderful. And so moving:

Good morning, America, how are you?

I said don't you know me -
I'm your native son.

I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans,

I'll be gone ten thousand miles fore the day is done.

It's lyrics like those that, (don't mock me too much) despite everything, make people love America.

Actually, mock me as much as you like, I meant it.

Josh Homme, if you like harder stoner-rock sort of stuff.

I suppose russell is right, this could go on for a while. I have a ton of Rickie Lee Jones in my playlists. She does write quite a bit with other people but her early stuff Last Chance Texaco, Coolsville, and Danny's All-Star Joint just touch on what she's done over the years.

Christ, I'm now listening to things I haven't heard in about 45 years from one of Tom Rush's albums in 1963. Oh the pleasure! But just possibly this is going too far.....

Music, the knife without a hilt.

Thanks Donald, I'll make a new post tonite (basically "NYT propaganda or not, you decide" with a minimal write up) unless you want to put something on the front page. Get in touch with me by 9 pm Japan thru the kitty.

It doesn't need a new post unless you want it. I definitely don't want front page status--I feel like I'd have to work harder on it than I want to.

I'm still stunned that the GOP is advancing a bill through Congress that would let your employer (effectively) demand your DNA, like they own you. Which, I guess, is the goal. FREEDOM!

I have to wonder. Since our elected officials, including the members of Congress, work for us (at least nominally), shouldn't we be able to demand their DNA? Could be vastly amusing.

I found this on poor Charles and Milo pretty good.

Thanks, I'll put something up now, you'll see it is a very minimal post. Other regulars, if a front page post seems like too much, if you ask nicely, I'll can put a similar minimal post for other topics you'd like to talk about.

I'm still stunned that the GOP....

Well, they are shameless. Why would such behavior stun you?

A couple more songwriters....

Woody Guthrie?
John Lee Hooker?

Well, they are shameless. Why would such behavior stun you?

But usually there's some, not particularly subtle, benefit in view. While this invasive and offensive to us, that isn't usually enough of a motivation in and of itself. So what are they getting out of it? (Which I suppose is the same as asking what I am just too dense to see.)

... members of Congress, work for us (at least nominally), shouldn't we be able to demand their DNA?

Now why would I want their DNA? Klingon DNA, now that would be worth something.

[Sorry, I have been watching Voyager lately.]

wj, I guess the DNA thing is about risk analysis and thus saving money. If a job applicant's or an employee's DNA shows increased probability for certain maladies, (s)he will not be hired (or quickly fired resp.) before costs are incurred (costs for the DNA testing would land on the person tested obviously). Biotech companies could also be interested in the DNA sequence itself (since genes can be patented). So, there would be corporate beneficiaries that would 'invest' in Congress pushing such a bill. Plus it's another step back to the ownership society where the boss owns the subordinates. Some of the old communist anti-capitalist propaganda is seen as the ideal to strive for by some capitalists. Wage slavery is so much better than the old literal owning with its cumbersome obligations (moral or otherwise).
Just one step up from mandatory blood donation.

So what are they getting out of it?

Money. It's always about the money.

if the government, at any level, were to require DNA testing for anything, folks would go postal.

if for-profit corps do it, meh. no biggie.

sometimes i think the red/blue divide is about which of the two institutions you prefer to be governed by.

pro tip: government ain't the only big brother.

i have a buddy who occasionally works in a rockabilly band in norway. apparently they love rockabilly.

i don't know Norwegian rockabilly, but i know of a fun Danish rockabilly band called Powersolo:


the downside of relying on manual tranny to prevent carjacking:


Phil Lynott (Someone has to represent the rockers.)

BTW, the other plus to having a right-hand-drive car (manual or not), is the ability to put a mannikin in the left hand seat, with a Trump mask on it, just in case you get caught by photo-radar or red light cameras.

Woody Guthrie: in a league of his own.

Someone has to represent the rockers: rockers always welcome, but what this exercise/game has taught me is that the stuff that really grabs me by the throat and shakes me is folk-y, to a greater or lesser extent. Sorry (a bit) for the sentimentality, y'all.

GftNC, regarding Jackson Browne, I recommend his song, the Road

A different take on the road, from Louden Wainwright III. [Maybe not in my top 10, but he's good too.]

It's also harder to find rockers who write both lyrics and music. They tend to be far more band oriented, often with a singer who writes lyrics and a guitarist or some combination of band members putting music to the lyrics (or the other way around - give the singer some music to write lyrics for). What's also common is that multiple members of a given band write songs, whether producing both lyrics and music or not, whether doing it individually or teaming up in different combinations.

You have a few people who essentially are the band, like Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age or Paige Hamilton of Helmet, and who more or less write everything - at least lyrics and main melody/guitar parts. Billy Corgan's another one, from (the) Smashing Pumpkins.

At any rate, there are very few singer-songwriters meeting the criteria from that scene, so very, very few, if any, who would be likely to be among the best.

Neil Young is a guy I'd say can stand with one foot on the folksy side and one foot on the rocker side, crazy genius that he is.

What happens when you take a (huge!) flying saucer, and it spends a few centuries gathering dust in Saturn's rings?

Maybe I should do a write-up for National Enquirer or something....

ral, The Road is a good song, but it turns out it's not by Jackson Browne but by someone called Danny O'Keefe. Re Loudon Wainwright III, I used to love his stuff, and saw him in concert a few times. He's very talented, that's for sure, but I agree that he's not anywhere near top 10 category, something to do with the tone of most of his stuff maybe?

Klingon DNA, now that would be worth something. Agreed!

But consider if we find a couple far right members of Congress with a genetic disease. Which will be inherited by his kids. Which kids will, as adults, be unable to get insurance or even jobs (because of the potential insurance costs) themselves if the DNA thing passes.

As we saw with the whole discussion around gay marriage, making the issue real by showing it impacting someone who is family is one way to bring around people who you thought would never get on board. Not all of them, of course. But a fair number.

As we saw with the whole discussion around gay marriage, making the issue real by showing it impacting someone who is family is one way to bring around people who you thought would never get on board.

There's a diagnosis for people like that I think.

I love the smell of freedom in the morning.


There's a diagnosis for people like that I think.


Donald is not alone!

The CBO has pegged the near-term surplus population at 14,000,000!

The CBO has pegged the near-term surplus population at 14,000,000!

That's gonna leave a mark.

Semi-relevant drive-by (plus it's still an open thread):


I was thinking narcissist or sociopath. The inability to be empathetic unless something impacts you personally. GOP leaders maybe?

(Sadly, having wandered into the current top thread against my better judgement, I'm inclined to say my link would have been just as relevant there. *sigh*)

re: upper middle class.

here's what Pew thinks the ranges are for middle class in the US:


Pew, which defines middle class as adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median ($55,775 as of 2016), details the national middle-income range for various household sizes.

Household of one: $24,042 to $72,126

Household of two: $34,000 to $102,001

Household of three: $41,641 to $124,925

Household of four: $48,083 to $144,251

Household of five: $53,759 to $161,277

oops. wrong thread. doesn't really matter - same people here as there.

That's gonna leave a mark.

only we've returned to the world where facts matter.

Apparently, we missed the real menace, Canadians.


what makes the difference in what "middle class" means in various places in the US is what a house costs.

Ugh, how delightful to know that it isn't just evil American manufacturers who secretly collect information from their customers. ;-)

I wonder how much difference there really is in non-housing product prices around the US. It can't be as variable as that chart (although state by state comparison is likely a tad bit misleading and should be more granular for a real analysis).

And how much nimbyism/opposition to dense development contributes to the high cost of housing, and not just single family homes.

This is a good blog for those kinds of issues (dense development, public transit, green spaces, etc.) in the DC area:


Ugh, how delightful to know that it isn't just evil American manufacturers who secretly collect information from their customers. ;-)


Although sometimes I wonder about this data collection thing by big business. It is a horrible invasion of privacy and if used to target specific consumers for blackmail and other nefarious purposes it is criminal, but how much money could such information really be worth (and not just in this, uh, very specific case).

It's like businesses all of a sudden think they can make giant profits by purchasing and mining data because....they can target their sales better and/or maybe cross sell? Is it that accurate and profitable?

I have to guess in a lot of these cases they collect this information because they can and assume they can figure out how to make money off it later.

And oh hey look, someone got their hands on at least part of Trump's 2005 federal 1040.

It's like businesses all of a sudden think they can make giant profits by purchasing and mining data because....they can target their sales better and/or maybe cross sell? Is it that accurate and profitable?

My guess is that this kind of data mining has some value. But at the moment it's mostly just a matter of it being the latest management fad.

Give it a couple of years, and companies will be doing a little of it. But not at the current massive and invasive level. Instead, it will be on to the next fad.

Fad. That was the word I was looking for.

data mining and targeted digital outreach arguably put trump in the white house, see also cambridge analytica.

so, there's that.

google's ad business is worth about $60B-with-a-B per year.

What's google's market share?

Here's a link to the first two pages of Trump's 2005 form 1040:


Wondering why he overpaid his 2004 taxes by so much. And I thought Melanias last name was Trump? Maybe she changed it since then. Wonder which parts of the AMT he ran afoul of

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