Rolling Stone magazine recently published a special issue listing the “500 Top Songs of All Time.” The list was top-heavy with tunes that include scorching guitar solos, “influential” lyrics, game-changing genres, etc. But almost all the chosen 500 appealed to market segments. Rolling Stone overlooked the song that appeals to everyone – and has historical significance, hot jamming, et al.
Ten Reasons Why “When The Saints Go Marching In” Should Top the List of “Best Song Ever”
1. Everybody likes “The Saints.” (With the possible exception of New Orleans musicians who are tired of it being requested.) When the song comes on, you never hear anyone complain. If a “best song” should have anything, it should have universal appeal.
2. It has been recorded by artists such as: Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Al Hirt, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, Phish, Mahalia Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Kingston Trio, Fats Domino, Earl Scruggs, Mexicali Brass, Benny Goodman, George Winston, Trini Lopez, St. John Children’s Choir, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, B.B. King, Van Morrison, Pete Seeger, Dr. John, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Judy Garland, Bill Haley & The Comets and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
3. It transcends musical styles, having been successfully recorded in genres as diverse as: funeral dirge, Dixieland, funk, rock, gospel, folk, country, soul, infantry march and even techno.
4. The first time you ever hear it, you can sing along by the second chorus, enhanced by its insistent call/response structure.
5. It is the only song to have an NFL franchise named after it, and to be adopted as the team’s anthem.
6. Its infectious and joyous melody inspires countless second-line dances, even at funerals, and is why it’s still a venerable and a dependable closing number for bands at jazz festivals.
7. It has linked generations of musicians, spanning close to 100 years, and is just as popular among current New Orleans brass bands, such as ReBirth Brass Band, as ever.
8. It has its roots as a spiritual/religious song about obtaining salvation at “the end of times,” but is also a joyful celebration about overcoming difficult times in the secular world.
9. From the opening bars it’s instantly recognizable, as well as being easy to play, sing, improvise on and remember the lyrics to.
10. It inspires dizzying jazz improvisations, which keep building and building until culminating in a final ecstatic paroxysm. – Stan Sinberg
Stan Sinberg is a freelance writer based in San Francisco who spends frequent time in New Orleans.
These were the Top 10 songs in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 list.
1) “Like A Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
2) “Satisfaction,” Rolling Stones
3) “Imagine,” John Lennon
4) “What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye
5) “Respect,” Aretha Franklin
6) “Good Vibrations,” Beach Boys
7) “Johnny B. Good,” Chuck Berry
8) “Hey Jude,” Beatles
9) “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana
10) “What’d I Say (Live in Berlin, 1962),” Ray Charles