The 50 best songs of our boomer generation

This is fun: Hawthorne, New Jersey’s retired editor and writer Alan J. Paul has put together a list. It’s a list full of memories. And for baby boomers, good vibrations. He calls it “The 50 Best Songs Of My Generation.”

I have been working on “The 50 Best” for the past year or so, but the list remains fluid for the simple reason that I keep remembering other songs I’ve loved over the years and have to make adjustments. I purposely decided to limit the list to only one song per artist or group, since it would have been overrun by the likes of the Beatles, the Stones, Billy Joel, and a generous handful of others.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

My other caveats were that there had to be a certain level of musical sophistication to the selections, and I tried not to include one-hit-wonders (though there have been several that I’ve liked, in spite of myself).

It is only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve come to realize the extent to which music has shaped, enriched, described, and defined my existence. This, then, is the soundtrack of my life, to this point in time. Let me know if there are any songs you think I might have overlooked, or others that really have no right being on “The 50 Best Songs of My Generation,” for whatever reason.

  1. Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
  2. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
  3. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
  4. The Stones

    The Stones

  5. Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
  6. God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
  7. Imagine (John Lennon)
  8. Baba O’Riley (The Who)
  9. Billy Jean (Michael Jackson)
  10. Hotel California (The Eagles)
  11. Suite Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
  12. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
  13. Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)
  14. Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
  15. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
  16. Light My Fire (The Doors)
  17. Cowgirl In The Sand (Neil Young)
  18. Crosby, Stills & Nash

    Crosby, Stills & Nash

  19. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant (Billy Joel)
  20. Fire And Rain (James Taylor)
  21. You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (The Righteous Brothers)
  22. Can’t Stop Believing (Journey)
  23. Respect (Aretha Franklin)
  24. American Pie (Don McLean)
  25. The Prayer (Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion)
  26. Follow (Richie Havens)
  27. Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds)
  28. Losing My Religion (REM)
  29. Ray Charles

    Ray Charles

  30. Every Breath You Take (The Police)
  31. Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
  32. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  33. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
  34. Up On The Roof (The Drifters)
  35. Georgia (Ray Charles)
  36. Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
  37. California Dreamin’ (The Mamas And The Papas)
  38. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
  39. House Of The Rising Son (The Animals)
  40. Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
  41. Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
  42. That’ll Be The Day (Buddy Holly & The Crickets)
  43. Bye Bye Love (The Everly Brothers)
  44. Earth Angel (The Penguins)
  45. Alan J. Paul, writer and editor.

    Alan J. Paul, writer and editor.

  46. Come Go With Me (Del Vikings)
  47. Will You Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles)
  48. Oh What A Night (The Four Seasons)
  49. Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
  50. The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby)
  51. Don’t Be Cruel (Elvis Presley)
  52. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)
  53. Don’t Know Much (Aaron Neville & Linda Ronstadt)
  54. The Barricades Of Heaven (Jackson Browne)

There’s a “COMMENTS” section down below. Let me know if you’re on my musical soundtrack.

49 Comments

  1. Although it was mentioned in the title headline I was surprised to see that GOOD VIBRATIONS was not on the list. The technique in which Brian Wilson did the splicing and editing that was done was DECADES ahead of its time.
    It is frequently referred to as one of the best engineered recordings of all time.

    1. Good point, John. That would have been my second Beach Boys song. Brian Wilson’s genius would have required several inclusions, had I chosen to have more than one song per artist or group.

  2. I would add David Crosby’s original recording of “Laughing” that included cameos from an unprecedented gathering of icons in rock — background vocals by Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young. An unbelievable and unrehearsed soaring pedal steel guitar riff at the end by the late Jerry Garcia. “Laughing” was featured on Crosby’s album, If I Could Only Remember My Name,” a phrase many in the boomer generation were asking at the time.

    I would also add “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I thought it sort of a theme about the loss of American lives in the Vietnam War … lives that held so much potential and promise in our world. The piece ended:

    A bullet had found him
    His blood ran as he cried
    No money could save him
    So he laid down and he died

    1. Completely forgot about ELP, David. Senior moment… And CSN(Y) is/are my all-time fave. Could have had a dozen of theirs on this list.

  3. When a Men Loves a Women, Dock of the Bay, something by the Supremes, DownTown, Something by Dusty Springfield. I didn’t see Santana on the list.

    I don’t consider Queen and Journey to be part of the boomer generation music. I know I was in my early to mid 20’s when they were popular.

    1. Good songs/artists, Sandy. And, just for the record, I consider my generation to be the one I’m currently living in. Thanks for the feedback.

    2. Sandy, the Baby Boomer generation is officially anyone born between ’46 and ’64. A person born in 1964 graduated in 1982. Queen and Journey both came into popularity before that. Besides, were you really all done with current music by your mid 20’s?

  4. Nicely done for the most part! No. 23 completely baffles me cos I have never heard it and am not sure the artists are representative of us in any way. Not enuff Motown or Soul music. What about Marvin Gaye’s cover of “I HeardI It Through The Grapevine”? IMHO, a glaring miss is not including “Somebody To Love” by The Jefferson Airplane. You got Blind Faith dead solid perfect but no Cream? Enuff for now but all in all, a worthy endeavor, well executed, giving us much food for thought.

    1. All good points. Just understand that this list is only one man’s opinion. It was fun to do, but very difficult, and I’m so glad that it has inspired a bit of discussion. Thanks!

    2. These omissions are duly noted, Uncle Al; there are difficult choices to be made when one puts a number on a list. Some of my faves might not be yours, and vice versa. Do yourself a favor, though, and You-Tube “The Prayer,” as performed by Bocelli and Celine; it’s a classic, no matter the generation. Thanks.

  5. There is so much terrific music of the baby boomer generation. And, Alan is correct — this is his top 50 list. We invite you to come up with your own personal list of hits, check our submission guidelines, and give us your own take on the music of the boomer generation.

    Has anyone mentioned Hendrix? Or, “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos. Or, my personal favorite, “Mustang Sally” by the late great Wilson Pickett.

    David

    1. Thanks, David. As previously mentioned, you are a gentleman and a scholar. And good lookin’ besides. ‘Purple Haze,” for sure; and who could forget the Flamingos? (Well, I guess I did.)

      1. Alan,

        Hey, you limited your list to the 50 best when we all know there are hundreds of memorable, meaningful and terrific songs and pieces of music.

        How about we just kibitz away until someone decides to have a best 51-100 songs?

        And, yeah, I think I am still devastatingly good-looking even though I might be an audience of one.

        David

      1. You a) have mentioned some greats but I’m a little disappointed that Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, and others are left out.

  6. Excellent work Alan! While all of us would add a song or two, a list like this (as David indicated) is intensely personal; a reflection of your personal journey through life. I applaud the hair-splitting it took to narrow it down to 50!

    1. Thank you, Denver. (Probably should be a John Denver song on here…) It started out as a Top-10, and I was finally forced to cut it off at 50, so that I could resume my relatively normal life.

  7. Alan: I think you struck a chord.

    Here’s are some of my favorites:

    A Horse with No Name – America
    It’s Too Late – Carole King
    Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
    Your Love is King – Sade
    Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane
    It’s in His Kiss – Betty Everett
    For What’s it’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
    Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
    If – Bread
    All of a Sudden My Heart Sings – Mel Carter
    Sunlight – The Youngbloods
    Easy to be Hard – Three Dog Night
    All I See is You – Dusty Springfield
    This Magic Moment – Jay and the Americans
    One Less Bell to Answer – The 5th Dimension
    Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
    Outside of a Small Circle of Friends – Phil Ochs
    Slow Hand – The Pointer Sisters
    Ferry Across the Mercy – Gerry & the Pacemakers
    Leader of the Pack – The Shangri-Las
    When I Die – Motherlode
    Good Morning Sunshine – Oliver
    Changes – David Bowie
    Footloose – Kenny Loggins
    A Beautiful Morning – The Rascals
    Reach Out I’ll be There – The Four Tops
    Flashdance – Irene Cara
    Boogie Wonderand – Earth, Wind & Fire
    Wing Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
    Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
    You’ve Got Your Troubles – The Fortunes
    Indian Reservation – Paul Revere & The Raiders

    1. While I love all of Alan’s list, I feel like Ria’s was spot on for me with 1 exception. Where is Janis Joplin? LOVED Me and Bobby McGee or Mercedes Benz!

  8. This list should not have been limited to one song per group. Both the Beatles and the Beach Boys clearly had more than one song that should have made the list. Great idea, but flawed results.

    1. Don’t agree that the results were flawed, Jeff. I chose the parameters of my list because I wanted to include as many of the artists I loved as possible. As you point out, had I not chosen these constraints, the list would have been mostly Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, etc. This worked for me, but I understand that it wouldn’t work for everyone. Thanks for the feedback!

    2. Yes,that is. And where is Dee purple,Doors,the who,The animals,Aretha Franklin,James Brown?And others All these above they give us diamonts for ever and ever. Alan , believe your 50s more lovely songs memories should be 100 or 150 .

  9. Great list! Mine would have to include The Weight by The Band or something from Lynyrd Skynrd. But, yours is pretty good.

      1. Unfortunately, it’s what we Boomers do, Sam. I mean forget. It’s why my 50 Best is an ongoing project. Thanks.

  10. Great lists, team.

    If the goal is to list songs that were anthems of the generation – widely known and loved — I couldn’t improve much on either Alan’s or Ria’s list. I do agree that Janis and Gracie need to be there.

    The music that I listened to more than most of those songs, though, was music by artists who never really caught on with the general public, like the great songwriter (and, IMHO, equally great singer/pianist) Laura Nyro; singer/songwriter Steve Goodman (“City of New Orleans,” “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”); Paul Butterfield; and more.

    Great discussion, but the question will have a different answer for each of us, and it may even be a different question for each of us!

  11. Freebird!

    If I stay here with you girl
    Things just couldn’t be the same
    Cause I’m as free as a bird now
    And this bird you cannot change…

    (…and suddenly I’m back at my high school gymnasium dance…)

  12. Some monumental songs, similar to Davis H’s suggestion of ELP’s “Lucky Man”,
    are noteworthy too:
    Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida”
    And
    Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”.
    Unique beyond measure.
    To this day, still hear about Alice every year on the radio on Thanksgiving Day, no matter where I am in. America!

    1. In A Gada Da Vida played non-stop, full volume on the stereo in my college fraternity house, Cindy. How could I forget it? Ditto Alice’s Restaurant; a true classic. Thanks!

    2. I wish Boomer Cafe had a “Like” button. I would “Like” so many of these replies. Thanks for the memories – In A Gadda Da Vida and Alice’s Restaurant – milestones!

  13. Love the list Alan, although mine might be a bit different. Your list, and the suggestions in the comments, gives me lots of ideas for my next music purchases!

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