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About How Music
  REALLY Works!

  
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   About the Gold
   Standard Song List
 
   ► What is the GSSL?
   ► How to Fast-Search
   ► How to Find Lyrics
   ► How to Hear Recordings
   ► Origin, Biases, Limits
   ► About the 14 Genres
   ► 50 "Bad" GS Songs
   ► 117 Funny GS Songs
   ► 25 Children's GS Songs
   ► One Song in a Million
   ► Offensive GS Songs


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    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

    Top

 

  
  Origin, Biases, and Limitations of
  the Gold Standard Song List
 


PAGE INDEX

Origin of the Gold Standard Song List

“How Come My Favorite Song Isn’t on the List?”

Gold Standard Song List Selection Criteria, a. k. a. Biases and Limitations (and Exceptions)

  1. Purpose: Educational, Not “Definitive”

  2. No Rank Ordering

  3. One Genre per Song, Regardless of Crossover Interpretations

  4. Popular Music, Not Classical

  5. Date Composed: 1900 to 1999—no Earlier, No Later

  6. English-language Songs of the 7 Main English-speaking Nations

  7. No Music Industry Involvement or Consultation

  8. Selections Not Based on Record Sales or Chart Rankings

  9. Totally Obscure Songs Excluded

  10. No Songs Without Songwriter Attribution

  11. Never Mind “Offensiveness”

  12. Secular, Not Sacred

  13. No Christmas Songs

  14. Songs for Adults, Not Children

~ • ~ • ~ • ~

ORIGIN OF THE GOLD STANDARD SONG LIST

  • In 2001, Roedy Black Publishing Inc. commissioned the H.U.M.S. Committee to draw up list of outstanding songs of the English-speaking world in all major genres.
      

  • Although the original list (about 1,000 songs) was never published or named, it served as a resource of examples that were cited throughout How Music REALLY Works, 1st Edition, which was published online at Roedy Black Publishing’s CompleteChords.com. website.

  • In 2002, Roedy Black Publishing asked the H.U.M.S. Committee to expand the list to 5,000 songs. It would serve as a major resource for readers of How Music REALLY Works, 2nd Edition.
      

  • This time, the list would have a formal identity: the Gold Standard Song List, or GSSL.

  • The H.U.M.S. Committee was given a set of guidelines—that is, biases and limitations—for song selection, to ensure the quality and practical value of the list, and to keep it from expanding to an impractical length.

  • For the most part, the H.U.M.S. Committee followed the selection criteria. However, in the spirit of independent-mindedness, they made some exceptions, which the publisher accepted (see below).
      

“HOW COME MY FAVORITE SONG ISN’T ON THE LIST?”

  • This website contains the H.U.M.S. Committee’s final version of the Gold Standard Song List. A few things to note:

1. Exclusion of "Eligible" Songs. Given the guidelines listed below, the H.U.M.S. Committee did its best to include as many of the greatest, most beautiful and influential songs as possible within each genre. Inevitably, though, some songs that you personally consider great and important— and also satisfy all the selection criteria— are not on the list.

How come?

Some possibilities:

  • The H.U.M.S. Committee simply didn’t think the song was good enough to warrant a spot on the list.
      

  • A song may have been well-known in one country, or within a specific community of fans, but unheard-of everywhere else, and unknown to the H.U.M.S. Committee.
      

  • Great song, but simply not enough room on the list. At first, 5,000 songs seems like a lot, but when you’re trying to represent 100 years and 14 genres, 5,000 songs ain’t all that many. To get the GSSL down to 5,000, the H.U.M.S. Committee had to reluctantly chop hundreds of fine songs that met all the selection criteria.

2. Glaring Omissions. If you feel that something terribly important is missing from the list, send an email to Roedy Black Publishing. We’ll forward it to the H.U.M.S. Committee in Sweden:

hums@roedyblack.com

If you propose to add a new title to the GSSL, another song on the list will have to be removed, so you will need to suggest both the title to be added and the title to be removed.

4. Errrrors. If you spot what you believe to be a factual error on the GSSL, please let the H.U.M.S. Committee know. We’ll forward your email to the H.U.M.S. Committee in Sweden:

hums@roedyblack.com

You will need to provide evidence of the error and correction. For example, if you think a certain song was composed in 1945, and the GSSL lists it as having been composed in 1942, you will need to provide evidence of your claim (other than your insistence that “my Dad said it was 1945 and he always tells the truth”). Without evidence, the H.U.M.S. Committee will probably not take your claim too seriously and will instead crack a few more beers and resume jamming.
  

GOLD STANDARD SONG LIST SELECTION CRITERIA, A. K. A. BIASES AND LIMITATIONS (AND EXCEPTIONS)
  

1. PURPOSE: EDUCATIONAL, NOT “DEFINITIVE”

  • The Gold Standard Song List's main purpose is educational—a resource for readers of How Music REALLY Works!, 2nd Edition, which cites a large number of the GSSL songs as examples to illustrate excellence in various aspects of songwriting and performing.

  • Songs were selected both for intrinsic excellence in the context of the genre and for their educational value to songwriters and performers seeking to improve their skills in various genres of popular music.

  • Songwriting doesn't get any better than the songs on the GSSL. However, the GSSL is emphatically not intended as a comprehensive or definitive list of the 5,000 “greatest songs of all time.” See Hypothetical Lists of Great Songs.
      

2. NO RANK ORDERING

  • If you happen to love jazz intensely but hate country music (like jazz great Buddy Rich), you might wonder how hundreds of country songs found their way onto the same list as hundreds of jazz songs, since, in your estimation, all jazz songs are obviously superior to all country songs.

  • Lots of musicians betray genre snobbery.

  • The H.U.M.S. Committee was instructed not to make any attempt at rank-ordering the songs. Instead, they merely selected the songs for their excellence and educational value within the context of the genre.
      

3. ONE GENRE PER SONG, REGARDLESS OF CROSSOVER INTERPRETATIONS

  • Every song on the GSSL is associated with only one genre, even though many have been recorded by artists working in a variety of genres.
     

  • For example, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “My Favorite Things” is listed on the GSSL as a “Jazz” song instead of a “Musical/Film” song. That’s because John Coltrane’s 1961 interpretation inspired a host of recordings and performances by other jazz artists. The many jazz interpretations of “My Favorite Things” have eclipsed the popular Julie Andrews rendition from the filmed musical, The Sound Of Music.

  • Although every song has only one associated genre, the same does not apply to songwriters. Even if a songwriter’s material usually fits one particular genre, he or she may have several songs on the GSSL, each in a different genre. A number of great songwriters (e. g., Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell) have songs in three or more GSSL genres.
      

4. POPULAR MUSIC, NOT CLASSICAL

  • The Gold Standard Song List focuses on popular music, as distinct from the formal compositions of conservatory-trained composers, usually called “classical music” or “contemporary music” or even “art music” (including opera).

  • EXCEPTIONS: The H.U.M.S. Committee did include a few “classical/contemporary” compositions (20 in all) on the GSSL. These pieces have become widely known even among those who claim they never listen to classical music.
      
    Many 20th Century “classical” pieces, such as Ravel’s “Bolero” (1929) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” (1900) have had numerous interpretations by popular musicians.
     
    The GSSL identifies these modern classical pieces in the “Genre” column as “Classical/Contemporary.”
      

5. DATE COMPOSED: 1900 TO 1999—NO EARLIER, NO LATER

  • A database of 5,000 songs spanning a full century comprises a resource of sufficient size and scope to include a generous sampling of high-quality material in all the major genres of popular music.

  • Some songs usually associated with the turn of the 20th Century do not appear on the GSSL because they were written in the 1890s, such as Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” one greatest of all ragtime songs.
      

  • At the other end of the century, excellent songwriters whose careers began in the late 1990s (e. g., Kanye West and Jack White of The White Stripes), have few or no songs on the GSSL because the list has no material composed after 1999.

  • In any case, the age of a song hardly matters. Only excellence matters.
      
     

  • In fact, the older the song, the more likely it’s a song most people regard as a timeless classic. (The GSSL contains nearly 1,200 songs composed between 1900 and 1949.)

  • Classic plays such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and classic ballets such as Tchaikowsky’s Swan Lake transcend time, place, and interpretation. So do classic songs, such as Gershwin & Heyward’s “Summertime,” written in 1935. Like Hamlet and Swan Lake, “Summertime” has never lost its appeal and today is known and performed the world over.

  • NOTE: Many songs on the GSSL written in the last quarter of the 20th Century will not become classics of their genres. More time must pass (several decades) to know for sure. Some of these songs will undoubtedly fall away and be forgotten. Selecting songs for the GSSL from the late 20th Century that might become classics was necessarily a matter of educated guess work.
     

6. ENGLISH-LANGUAGE SONGS OF THE 7 MAIN ENGLISH-SPEAKING NATIONS

  • The GSSL is limited to English-language songs from the seven main English-speaking nations: USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica.

  • As for songs with lyrics in other languages, doing justice to a century’s worth of, say, Spanish-language or French-language or Portuguese-language popular songs would require a separate “Spanish” or “French” or “Portuguese” Gold Standard Song List.

  • "English-language-only" also meant excluding non-English-language songs written by citizens of the 7 English-speaking nations, such as:

  • Songs with lyrics in North American aboriginal languages

  • All of the French-language popular songs of Quebec

  • Spanish-language songs by Hispanic-American songwriters

  • French-language Cajun songs.

  • Songs composed by Americans dominate the GSSL for two main reasons:

  1. Roughly 70% of the citizens of the above-named 7 countries are Americans; and
      

  2. African American and, to a lesser extent, Jewish-American musicians and songwriters created most of the main popular music genres that emerged in the 20th Century. See About the 14 Genres.

  • The population of the 7 main English-speaking countries amounts to just 6.5% of the world’s population. But the popular music of these countries has influenced popular music globally far beyond all proportion indicated by population.

  • EXCEPTIONS: The H.U.M.S. Committee did include some classic non-English-language songs on the GSSL, such as Gilles Vigneault’s “Mon Pays” and Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va.” Also, the GSSL has quite a few songs that originated outside of the 7 English-speaking nations, such as Weill & Brecht’s 1928 classic “Moritat vom Mackie Messer” (“Mack the Knife”), Francisco Repliado's "Chan Chan," Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose," and a number of dance/electronica songs.
      

7. NO MUSIC INDUSTRY INVOLVEMENT OR CONSULTATION

  • The Gold Standard Song List was created without any influence by music media professionals such as reviewers of records and concerts, and without any input from song publishers, record labels, professional musicians, producers, etc.
      

8. SELECTIONS NOT BASED ON RECORD SALES OR CHART RANKINGS

  • While some songs on the GSSL were #1 smasheroo hits at one time, most were not. Billboard magazine’s chart rankings were not consulted in creating the GSSL. Some songwriters who have had lots of multi-platinum-selling records have little or no representation on the GSSL.
      

  • The quality of a song usually correlates weakly with Billboard chart status. Instead, factors such as long-term staying power and appeal, influence on songwriters and musicians, and multi-genre crossover interpretations better indicate whether a song has classic potential.
      

9. TOTALLY OBSCURE SONGS EXCLUDED

  • Elitists and snobs obsess over obscure music, as if obscurity equals quality. It doesn’t.

  • In any case, a list of thousands of obscure songs would defeat the purpose of the GSSL. It exists to educate songwriters and performers about songwriting excellence by providing information on great songs that people can get their hands on.
      

  • Recordings of the overwhelming majority of GSSL songs are available without much difficulty at legal download websites such as iTunes or Puretracks, or from retail outlets.

  • EXCEPTIONS: Okay, the GSSL does have a few obscure songs. Not many, though.
     

10. NO SONGS WITHOUT SONGWRITER ATTRIBUTION

  • Many traditional folk, blues, country, and gospel classics are widely known and performed today. Songs such as “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”
      

  • No one knows who composed the first versions of these traditional songs, or exactly when (certainly well before 1900). So these songs, despite their widespread appeal today, and obvious status as classics, do not appear on the GSSL.

  • EXCEPTIONS: In some cases, a particular individual was responsible, during the 20th Century, for transforming or adapting a traditional song profoundly enough to warrant “co-authorship” with “traditional.” These songs are listed on the GSSL with “/Traditional” as co-writer, like this:

Williams, Big Joe/Traditional
  
Carter, A. P./Traditional

The GSSL lists more than 40 songs that name a 20th Century songwriter as having modified a “traditional” song.
 

11. NEVER MIND “OFFENSIVENESS”

12. SECULAR, NOT SACRED

  • The H.U.M.S. Committee was asked to keep the GSSL secular. No hymns, no New Age, no sacred songs generally.
      

  • This guideline does not reflect a bias against religion or against sacred or spiritual music. In truth, the world’s religions have inspired the creation of massive quantities of superlative music. So much great music that, in the 7 English-speaking countries alone, there would need to be separate “Sacred” Gold Standard Song Lists for each of several major religions.

  • EXCEPTIONS: Despite the “secular” selection criterion, the H.U.M.S. Committee decided to include a total of 40 religious songs, primarily gospel songs such as "Peace In The Valley" and "Touch The Hem Of His Garment," because gospel music has significantly influenced secular popular music, especially in America.
      

  • Songwriters usually associated with secular genres of popular music (e. g., Hank Williams, Sr., Paul Simon, Bob Dylan) wrote most of these songs, which the GSSL identifies in the “Genre” column as “Gospel” songs.
      

13. NO CHRISTMAS SONGS

  • As with sacred songs, quantity presents a problem with respect to Christmas songs. There are so many excellent Christmas songs—carols as well as non-sacred Christmas songs—that a separate list (the “Christmas” Gold Standard Song List) would be required.

  • EXCEPTION: The GSSL includes “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, a Christmas song too widely known and loved to be left off the list.
         

14. SONGS FOR ADULTS, NOT CHILDREN

  • As with sacred songs, Christmas songs, and foreign-language songs, there are just too many brilliant songs for children—certainly enough to warrant a “Children’s” Gold Standard Song List.

  • EXCEPTIONS: The H.U.M.S. Committee did include some children’s songs on the GSSL, but did not specifically identify them on the list. Nevertheless, here's a list of  25 Children's Gold Standard Songs.

 


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