I recently picked up a Rolling Stone magazine. It was never known to be a source of country music information, but for some reason they decided to name “The 25 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.”
I knew that I would disagree with some of their selections, but I read it anyway. There isn’t a bad song on the list:
I Walk the Line — Johnny Cash (1956)
Crazy — Patsy Cline (1961)
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry — Hank Williams (1949)
He Stopped Loving Her Today — George Jones (1980)
Standing on the Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9) — Jimmie Rodgers (1930)
Stand By Your Man — Tammy Wynette (1968)
You Don’t Know Me — Ray Charles (1962)
Mama Tried — Merle Haggard (1968)
Jolene — Dolly Parton (1973)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys — Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (1978)
Man of Constant Sorrow — Stanley Brothers (1951)
I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail — Buck Owens (1964)
Blue Moon of Kentucky — Bill Monroe (1947)
Settin’ the Woods on Fire — Hank Williams (1952)
It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels — Kitty Wells (1952)
Wichita Lineman — Glen Campbell (1968)
New San Antonio Rose — Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (1940)
All My Ex’s Live in Texas — George Strait (1987)
Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) — Loretta Lynn (1966)
The Gambler — Kenny Rogers (1978)
Can the Circle Be Unbroken — Carter Family (1935)
Walking the Floor Over You — Ernest Tubb (1941)
If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time — Lefty Frizzell (1950)
Mean — Taylor Swift (2010)
Take This Job and Shove It — Johnny Paycheck (1977)
Yes, this is a great list. But if you’re going to boldly select the 25 greatest country songs ever, how do you leave out: “Hello Darlin’ ” by Conway Twitty? Nothing says “country” like Conway.
Conway not only failed to make the Rolling Stone top 25, they didn’t include any of his songs in its expanded top 100 list either. Believe it or not, they also excluded “Flowers on The Wall” by the Statler Brothers
You may have noticed that there’s a huge gap in the Rolling Stone Top 25 list. There’s nothing between 1987 (George Strait’s “All My Ex’s”) and 2010 (Taylor Swift’s “Mean”). So in their opinion, Taylor Swift is the only artist who achieved greatness in country music since 1987? Ever heard of Alan Jackson? He didn’t crack the top 100 either.
1992’s “Chattahoochee” was one in a long string of hits for Jackson, who dominated the airwaves along with Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Randy Travis, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Shania Twain, Don Williams, Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, and many others who got little or no mention on the Rolling Stone Top 100, much less the top 25. They even left out Hank Williams Jr. If anyone has led a country music life, it’s Hank.
Most unbelievably, one of the greatest country songwriters of the 20th century was totally snubbed by Rolling Stone: Kris Kristofferson. Any, or all of these songs could have been included: “Why Me, Lord?” “For the Good Times.” “Me and Bobby McGee.” My personal favorite is “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” recorded by Sammi Smith in 1971:
It begins with, “Take the ribbon from my hair…” Every single element is spot-on perfect.
The strings, the voice, the lyrics, and the mood. You can hear the yearning, and the despair. How Rolling Stone could ignore Kristofferson is a mystery to me.
To sum up, Rolling Stone has about as much business picking the best country songs as, I do. I have absolutely zero experience in the country music business.
In the ’80s, I had my one and only offer to work as a country music deejay, and I backed out at the last minute. I never got to play a country song on the radio. But I grew up on rural Sand Mountain in Alabama, which gives me “dirt road cred” to argue with Rolling Stone. And besides, “Swingin” by John Anderson didn’t make their list. I rest my case.