This is based on my own limited listening history and preferences. These are beautiful songs written in the last several decades that have staying power, touch the human soul and heart, and have a transcendent quality to them. Songwriters are credited in (parentheses).
#1 – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) – Jeff Buckley version. This is also quite literally the biggest song since Leonard wrote 80 verses for it and used many of them to adapt the song for different performances.
Imagine (John Lennon)
One Love (Bob Marley) – It’s reggae, it’s gospel, it’ll lift you up no matter what.
Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury) – Okay we’ve all heard this one a lot, but it’s still amazing.
Hide and Seek (Imogen Heap)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison, Lewis Merenstein)
Time to Say Goodbye
(Con te partirò – music by Francesco Sartori, lyrics by Lucio Quarantotto)
Three Little Birds (Bob Marley)
Bad (Bono, U2) – Yes, if you’ve never heard this song, listen to it. It is lyrically deep, soulful and spine-tingling. It is U2’s most underrated song and one of their two best, but out-shined by other more commercial songs.
Who Wants to Live Forever (Brian May)
Sunshine on My Shoulders (John Denver, Dick Kniss, Mike Taylor)
Stir It Up (Bob Marley) – Forget I Shot the Sheriff. This is the best reggae artist ever doing one of the best R&B/soul songs you’ll ever hear. Here he is with The Wailers in a perfect live performance in 1973 at The Old Grey While Test. We just don’t get performances like this anymore.
The Prayer (David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa, Tony Renis) – Andrea Bocelli with Celine Dion.
Such A Woman (Neil Young) – Surprised? Listen — it is Neil Young’s very best. You won’t hear a more tender love song.
Moondance (Van Morrison, Lewis Merenstein)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Bono, U2)
You Raise Me Up (lyrics by Brendan Graham, music by Rolf Løvland )
Brand New Day (Van Morrison, Lewis Merenstein)
You’ll notice three songs from Van Morrison’s Moondance album. Its songs are so good, the musicianship so impeccable that anyone’s collection is missing something huge without it. It has old school improvisation and a spontaneous feel entirely lacking from today’s recordings. You could almost pick any of its songs at random and put them on a list of top songs of the 20th century.
You’ll also notice three by Bob Marley, probably the most important performing musician of the 20th century.
Positive Vibration (Bob Marley) – The best live version that I first heard years ago from a cassette tape I no longer have. Youtube has everything!
What do you think are the greatest songs of our lifetime?
ADDITION 6/11 — I had the feeling I was leaving out a Paul Simon song, but I’ve never listened to him … but Sound of Silence as sung by David Draiman of Disturbed.