By Tom Ehrich

Now the other shoe falls in an ongoing discussion between my son William and myself over a matter of great significance.

Namely, which are the greatest rock songs of all time.

I published my list in July. (Click here to read.)

Now William, a college junior, has sent me his list. Annotated, to explain what constitutes greatness.



WilliamTop 10 Songs

By Will Ehrich

"Tracks Of My Tears" - Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Opening with a delicate guitar lick like a touch to the cheek, Smokey begins his classic love song shy and ends in proud melancholy.

"Let’s Stay Together" - Al Green

With what is perhaps one of the sexiest songs ever written, Al Green ushered soul music into the 1970s.

"Soul Man" - Sam & Dave

With an infectious guitar lick and loud-and-proud trumpets in the true soul fashion, Sam and Dave wrote a song that embodies what it is to live and breathe soul.

"The Weight" - Aretha Franklin

A testament to the tightly-knit music world: Aretha, with slide guitar played by Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers, covered and improved upon a song written by Bob Dylan’s one-time backing band, namely, The Band.

"Sweet Wanomi" - Bill Withers

Written by one of the most underrated heroes of soul, “Sweet Wanomi” feels like what it is: a boy from rural West Virginia in love in the big city of Los Angeles.

"Shotgun" - Jr. Walker & the All Stars

The sax! Good God, the sax!

"Please, Please, Please" - James Brown & the Famous Flames

In one of the first soul songs ever written, the wild, piercing voice of James Brown flaunts its effect and sheer power.

"The Love You Save" - Joe Tex

"I’ve been taken outside, and I’ve been brutalized, and I always had to be the one to smile and apologize." An anthem calling on people everywhere to hold strong and true to love in the midst of hate and civil strife.

"That’s Where It’s At" - Sam Cooke

The Father of Soul tells a story of classic love. “Knowing that time will pass, but hoping that it lasts - that’s where it’s at.” Simple yet endlessly wise.

"Try A Little Tenderness" - Otis Redding

The notoriously crass trumpets of the Stax house band for once mourn, croon, and sway. The piano taps out an unforgettable theme. And out of a soft soul mist arrises the fiery Otis belting out a demand for understanding.

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