Monday, June 22, 2009

The thirty-eighth best living songwriter

To compile any kind of "best'' list is to invite an argument. Which is why you might want to lace up some boxing gloves before joining a conversation as flammable as the "100 Best Living Songwriters.''

At least you can't kick dirt on the graves of dead artists. I suppose it should be considered an honor -- and a relief -- just to make that list. That said...

Just suppose a guy like Kris Kristofferson sits down with the old Paste magazine in which the list was originally published. And, out of curiosity, he starts looking for his name. (Kristofferson, after all, fufills the necessary requirements. He not only is a songwriter; he is still alive. In fact, he turns 72 today.)

Kristofferson scans the list, reading name after name, and finally (thank God!) he finds himself at No. 38, sandwiched between Smokey Robinson and Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham.) We'll overlook the fact that Bonham, the Zeppelin drummer, had been dead 22 years before Paste was born and 26 years before the list appeared.

To get to his name, Kristofferson had to go past Jeff Tweedy (No. 24), Radiohead (No. 27), Beck Hansen (No. 36) and 34 other songwriters whose credits do not include "Sunday Morning Coming Down'', "Me and Bobby McGee'' and "Help Make It Through the Night.''

I guess you know where I stand on this one.

For the curious, or others who may have forgotten, here was Paste's Top 10:

1. Bob Dylan
2. Neil Young
3. Bruce Springsteen
4. Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
5. Paul McCartney
6. Leonard Cohen
7. Brian Wilson
8. Elvis Costello
9. Joni Mitchell
10. Prince

There isn't a lot worth picking at near the top, unless you think maybe Paul Simon deserves to be in that group (I do; he's at No. 13.)

Some may consider this a "dead'' argument. After all, today's top Paste's lists include "The 17 Best Romantic Comedies of the Decade'', "10 Writers to Follow on Twitter'' and "10 Funniest Twitterers.'' The target is forever moving; there's new stuff to sift through every day.

I just thought, it being Kristofferson's birthday and all, we should go back and clear up this obvious slight. Now let's have a beer for breakfast.


  1. OK, it is a disgrace for Kristofferson to be # 38 on that list.

    Also, any list that doesn't include Jagger-Richards and Chuck Berry in the Top 10 is an outright fraud. Just think for a second of the songs those guys wrote.

    This is why these lists are idiotic.

  2. How about a list of the 100 Best Songwriters Whose Names You'll Never Hear In Today's Corporate Music Wasteland?

    Sounds like an interesting read. Got a link?

  3. Kristofferson's WAY too low.
    But so is Radiohead, at least musically (can't tell if music or lyrics could for more here).
    And Chuck Berry's a god, but an argument can be made that "My Ding-A-Ling" should keep anyone out of the Top 10.