...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Top 100 Living Songwriters

Paste Magazine has an article this week trying to pin down the top 100 living songwriters. Now, I am a list gal myself, but would not wish upon myself the task of quantifying the best living songwriters.

But, being the ever-emboldened music writers that they are, they rose to the challenge:

100 T-Bone Burnett
99 Outkast
98 Jay Farrar
97 Josh Ritter
96 Jimmy Cliff
95 Patti Smith
94 Sam Phillips
93 Joseph Arthur
92 Alejandro Escovedo
91 Drive-By Truckers
90 Nick Cave
89 Victoria Williams
88 Parliament
87 Lyle Lovett
86 Sam Beam (Iron & Wine)
85 David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones)
84 They Might Be Giants
83 Fleetwood Mac (Buckingham, Nicks, McVie)
82 John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats)
81 The Flaming Lips
80 Pink Floyd
79 Stephen Malkmus (Pavement, Silver Jews)
78 Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices)
77 Bruce Cockburn
76 Will Oldham aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy
75 Ron Sexsmith
74 Over the Rhine
73 Julie Miller
72 Michael Jackson
71 Vic Chestnutt
70 Alex Chilton (Big Star, The Box Tops)
69 Merle Haggard
68 Allen Toussaint
67 Conor Oberst
66 Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black/Black Francis) (Pixies, The Catholics)
65 Bill Mallonee (Vigilantes of Love)
64 Andy Partridge (XTC)
63 Richard Thompson
62 Sting
61 John Hiatt
60 Jimmy Webb
59 Jack White
58 Sly Stone
57 Morrissey
56 James Brown
55 Dolly Parton
54 Aimee Mann
53 James Taylor
52 Paul Westerberg
51 Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham
50 Public Enemy
49 Cat Stevens
48 Gillian Welch / David Rawlings
47 Sufjan Stevens
46 David Byrne
45 Jackson Browne
44 Al Green
43 Ryan Adams
42 Loretta Lynn
41 Ray Davies
40 Burt Bacharach & Hal David
39 Led Zeppelin
38 Kris Kristofferson
37 Smokey Robinson
36 Beck
35 Steve Earle
34 John Fogerty
33 Pete Townshend
32 Leiber & Stoller
31 Carole King
30 John Prine
29 Tom Petty
28 Robbie Robertson
27 Radiohead
26 REM
25 Chuck Berry
24 Jeff Tweedy
23 Elton John / Bernie Taupin
22 Lucinda Williams
21 Lou Reed
20 Van Morrison
19 Patty Griffin
18 U2
17 Holland - Dozier- Holland
16 David Bowie
15 Willie Nelson
14 Stevie Wonder
13 Paul Simon
12 The Rolling Stones (Jagger/Richards)
11 Randy Newman
10 Prince
9 Joni Mitchell
8 Elvis Costello
7 Brian Wilson
6 Leonard Cohen
5 Paul McCartney
4 Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan
3 Bruce Springsteen
2 Neil Young
1 Bob Dylan

Thoughts? Objections? Grievous omissions?


At June 06, 2006 8:07 PM, Blogger SL said...

In general, I'd say they've got a pretty good list here. I do have a few objectiions and observations though:

1) The facts that REM and Radiohead are right next to each other shows a lack of thought. The connection is obvious since Radiohead used to want to be very much like REM, but they don't sound a stinking thing like each other. It's a lazy comparison, and a lazy grouping. It's like saying Nirvana and Pearl Jam right next to each other.

2)Also, how did Conor Oberst beat Sam Beam (Iron and Wine)? Nobody has more Bright Eyes music than me, but come on! Beam's song-for-song ratio of great ones is infinitely higher than Oberst's. If I wrote 1000 songs a week, I'll bet 2 of them would be pretty good.

3)Beck is one of my favorites, but for incredibly stupid reasons. I have hours upon hours of unreleased, unmixed, remixed and official album material from him, but he does not belong that high on the list.

4)The fact that Josh Ritter, David Bazan, and Ryan Adams are on this list make it look suspiciously "hip", don't you think? Those are all great musical acts, but they haven't been writing the greatest of material for very long now. If you're going to say someone is truly great they need to back it with some consistently great output for a period of time.

Just my opinions. Obviously I expect people to disagree, and that's cool. I don't know it all, so don't take my words as set in stone.


At June 06, 2006 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patti Smith @ 95 seems EXTREMELY unfair.

At June 06, 2006 9:24 PM, Blogger mimo70 said...

And the dead?

Here's a short list of my favourites, in no particular order...

Blaze Foley
Buddy Holly
Townes Van Zandt
Johnny Cash
Gram Parsons

"Legs to walk
Thoughts to fly
A restless tongue to classify
All born to grow and grown to die"

"Rex's Blues" - Townes Van Zandt

"At my window
Watchin' the sun go
Hopin' the stars know
It's time to shine

Aloft on dark wings
Soft as the sun streams
At days decline"

"At My Window" - Townes Van Zandt

Pretty words...pretty words.

At June 06, 2006 9:33 PM, Blogger Marc Morrison said...

Neil Finn comes to mind right away (he wasn't on the list, right?).

At June 06, 2006 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Tweedy is 19 spots higher than Ryan Adams.


At June 06, 2006 10:56 PM, Blogger Trini said...

Where is Ray LaMontagne? Outkast, really? Come on. How does Josh Ritter make it but not Ray LaMontagne or Damien Rice?

I was pleased to see Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Patty Smith and Leonard Cohen and Sam (Iron and Wine).

At June 06, 2006 10:58 PM, Anonymous Howard said...

Paul McCartney and no Lennon!?

At June 06, 2006 11:08 PM, Blogger craiye said...

There's no Lennon because it's the greatest LIVING songwriters. Made the same mistake myself...

This list bothers me. Where's Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder?
Mason Jennings?
Billy Corgan?
Pete Yorn?

Eddie and Billy should be on there. You CAN'T tell me that Outkast is better at writing songs then Pearl Jam or the Pumpkins. Oasis along with those two previously mentioned wrote the defining songs of the 90's, but I guess that doesn't matter...

At June 07, 2006 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Vedder/Gossard. I discredit this list.

No Corgan, either. WTF.

At June 07, 2006 12:42 AM, Blogger Ledbelly said...

at first i tought, no Muddy waters, no Willie Dixion. no Johnny Cash, no Gram Parsons. but remember people, some of you mentioned some of those people. but then again it is Living people only. So my first objection would be no Pearl Jam, or howevery you wanna break the band down. pearl jam should be in the top 10, if not top 5. Now, i think we can talk a little more prefrence then blantent oversight. frank black- why cant we have this man on here? next, he may be sorta new, apperian in just 1999 but Jim James diserves a spot. Yo La Tengo needs to be on here almost as much as pearl jam. The Black Crowes, and possably M. Ward. I'm sure their are more i could ad to my list, but thats what i've got for now- along with my crappy spelling

At June 07, 2006 4:18 AM, Blogger jeffro said...

"Pink Floyd" comes in at only #80? I'll just say "they should be "a bit higher up on the list."

At June 07, 2006 4:21 AM, Blogger T. Carter said...

Billy Bragg should be in here somewhere; I'm not sure who I'd knock out, but still ...

At June 07, 2006 4:24 AM, Blogger Woodland Bear said...

What about Guy Garvey from Elbow? Not the most famous choice, but to miss him out when he's the best British songwriter in years is criminal.

At June 07, 2006 6:21 AM, Anonymous RJ said...

I really dislike these lists. Especially ones that are so subjective.
Since they are opinion, they are essentially not worth the paper they are written on. (or 1's and 0's they are computed with.)
Who's to say that this list of 100, which happen to be all english language, are any better than say, some french, german or japanese songwriters? Shouldn't it be listed as 100 living english speaking songwriters?
And don't get me started on them being actually ranked from 1 to 100. If you're going to do lists like these, at least leave them as a whole, for people to sift through and create their own personal order.
I can think of a dozen artists easily that I would put on a list like this, in place of many who are on it, but it's pointless.
My personal favourites are just that.

At June 07, 2006 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Billy Bragg would easily replace Conor Oberst.
This list is heavily Boomer-ized, therefore you see very little finesse regarding newer writers.

At June 07, 2006 9:54 AM, Anonymous Brendan H. said...

I'd add Rhett Miller, Billy Bragg and possibly even Josh Rouse. The Pearl Jam folks make sense too. I'd lose (or at least severely lower) Robbie Robertson. And c'mon, Paul Westerberg deserves higher than #52!

At June 07, 2006 10:00 AM, Blogger Tim Young said...

It's stoopid making these kinds of lists!

At June 07, 2006 10:48 AM, Blogger Cool Hand Luke said...

These lists are crazy tuff. I agree that there may be some inclusions here that aren't yet deserved. I really enjoy Josh Ritter, but I'm not sure he has been around long enough to know if he can remain consistently this good.

The glaring omission for me is James McMurtry.

At June 07, 2006 8:45 PM, Anonymous Ian said...

I'm glad to see Dave Bazan and Sam Beam. However, No Pearl Jam= bad list, you could even just throw Eddie on there and I would be fine. Also, I would put Joseph Arthur much, much higher on this list, top 25 at least. My other additions would be Peter Gabriel, Ian "Jethro Tull" Anderson and Ray LaMontagne in favor of some of the other indie darlings.

At June 07, 2006 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with 90% of those included on the list, but some of them have just not paid their dues yet. And the order is a little out of whack. And by song, do they mean in its state at the end of the production, or the stripped down, raw song itself? Kris Kristofferson should definitely be higher on the list, along with Jagger/Richards. Neil Young is incredible, of course, but number 2 is a bit much for a self-admitted simple man. I believe Garcia/Hunter were not included . . . and of those newer artists included, I am pleased to see Ryan Adams on there. When I first saw the topic of this entry, I looked away and scrolled down to make sure number one would be who I hoped it would be . . . yes sir, Bob Dylan. As long as they have number one right, I can overlook the rest, I guess.

At June 07, 2006 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil Diamond??

At June 08, 2006 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

eddie vedder?

At June 09, 2006 4:33 PM, Blogger Side3 said...

The Good= Seeing Brian Wilson in the Top 10

The Bad= the living half of the Lennon/McCartney team only comes in at #5? No way.

Prince better than John Fogerty or Ray davies? Doubtful...

At June 10, 2006 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

without Van Morrison in the top 3 this list is a total waste of time - lost all credibility. move on.

At June 11, 2006 7:05 AM, Blogger Philco Brothers said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At June 11, 2006 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pleased to see Ryan Adams on there and surprised he was so high. The man doesn't get the credit he deserves because he pushes a lot people's buttons - people just don't seem to care for him as a person and discredit his music at the same time.

How about Patty Griffin? Lesser known than many of the people on the list, but amazing never the less. We could have this discussion forever.

At June 11, 2006 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

never mind, i'm an idiot. patty griffin is on there. now i feel better.

At June 12, 2006 1:31 AM, Blogger Wallaaaaa said...

Joseph Arthur no where on the list...now THAT is a tradgedy.

At June 12, 2006 4:51 AM, Anonymous lism. said...

#43 my ass, especially with U2 so high. No complaints with #1 though.

At June 13, 2006 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply put, a better list could have been developed by a group of three year olds. Maybe its just me, but do people consider word play and punning undesirable? Maybe it shows a lack of intelligence on the part of the audience. Honestly, no dave matthews? Pink Floyd taking up the rear? Dont get me wrong, there are some great acts on this list, but really the order, especailly top ten seems as though they had names on the wall and threw darts to decide who went where. Call me crazy, but I guess intelligent rock is a bad thing???

At June 13, 2006 12:47 PM, Anonymous tundrahoop said...

how about canada's Gordon Lightfoot and Detroit's own Bob Segar?

At June 21, 2006 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh Rouse, Sam Beam, Vedder, LaMontagne? I'd even consider Brian Weil.

At June 22, 2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Larry F. said...

It's good to see Andy Partridge on there, but Ray Davies at only 41?
Come on, is there a more perfect pop song that "Waterloo Sunset"?
Not to mention "Days", "Lola", "You Really Got Me", "A Well-Respected Man" and I could go on and on.
He should be in the top ten, if not the top five, at least.
It just proves my theory that the Kinks are the most criminally ignored great band from the British Invasion.

At June 22, 2006 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the blatant omition of possibly THE greatest lyricist out there today: Dave Mathews. I know what you're thinking: "hell no!" but come on, listen to the albums "Everyday" and "Busted Stuff" and you'll know why. Lyrics don't have to rhyme and/or make sense to be absolutly mind-blowing.
Oh yeah, John Mayer too. He's vastly underrated as far as I'm concerned. Just because he started out sort of popish. Listen to "Split Screen Sadness" or "Come Back to Bed" if you please.

At June 27, 2006 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to make a list like this is fucking absurd but whatever catches our attention i suppose. I was stoked to see ryan adams and patty griffin so high, but would have loved to have seen jrouse,evedder, and jim james of mmjacket. I am a tad indifferent to Beck (possibly due to his ego bullshit and his recent concert i saw in which he fell to pieces). But ooooo well...Jeff Tweedy: deserved top 10.

At July 13, 2006 2:03 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At July 13, 2006 2:04 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At July 13, 2006 2:07 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

A list of the 100 greatest living songwriters is so difficult as to broader on the adsurd. This is particularly true when your list notes only english speaking songwriters; thus it's inappropriately named and connotes arrogance.

That said, it is interesting that no Black female songwriters are listed. What about Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman. I also feel that Gil-Scott Heron, David Gray and Dave Matthews has earned a place on any top 100 living (english speaking) songwriters!

At July 17, 2006 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this list try to tell us that Adam Duritz is dead?

At August 16, 2006 10:11 PM, Blogger M.Clem said...

Where the heck is James MErcer (Shins), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie) and Colin Meloy (The Decemberists)?

At May 19, 2007 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think springsteen and mccartney should be in top 10.
Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are the best of all

At May 24, 2008 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cmon man outkast?? really?
man, what happened to OASIS?
what happened to sid vicious?
pearl jam?
cmon and paul mccartney at #5??
he deserves more


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