As a musician and lifelong music-lover, I have attempted to introduce my kids to as much music as possible–from listening to playing. Fortunately, so far, I haven’t annoyed them too much with my music-selection and constant music analysis.
Both kids have a love of music, and play instruments… quite well actually. While I don’t take credit for that in any way, I do hope that the music that my wife and I have exposed our children to has made a positive impact on the depth of their appreciation.
Some context: I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s… back when 8-tracks turned to cassettes, and vinyl 45’s and 33-1/3’s turned to CD’s. Back when we would listen to a whole “side” of an album over and over again, and knew exactly (and expected) which song was coming next. And we knew and appreciated the “B-side”.
And, music was easier to digest as a whole… we weren’t bombarded by millions of song choices like we are today.
Whether they represent a certain time or musical innovation, there are some songs that are just classics. So my focus on this post is to write about what I think are songs every kid should hear, experience, and know… sort of like a music history lesson. These are just 15 of my picks from a list that started with about 60 songs.
What are your picks?
“American Pie” – Don McLean
This song is an American classic. It’s about “the day the music died”… when in 1959, music legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash.
“In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins
I remember back in 1984 when the TV show Miami Vice debuted, and they played this song to set the perfect mood for the feeling of the show. Using a popular song in that way was relatively new to TV. And, who doesn’t like to air-drum to it??
“Hey Jude” – Beatles
No matter what you might think about the Beatles, there is no disputing their importance in planting the seeds of pop/rock music as we know it. There are too many Beatles songs to choose from, so I decided to choose one of my favorites.
“Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne
At one time, Ozzy was best know as the guy who bit the head off of a bat, and parent should be concerned if their children listened to his music. Who would have believed back then that he would become a popular and mostly-beloved TV star, welcomed into so many homes on his TV show “The Osbournes”. This song represents a time in music when hard rock was evolving and “scary” to parents.
“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
This is a beautiful song about being positive and optimistic in life… a message for which we all could learn a lesson. It’s one of my favorites.
“Lights” – Journey
Being a piano/keyboard player, I was a huge fan of Journey back in the 80’s. Apparently, I’m not alone as they have sold over 75 million records, making them one of the world’s best selling bands of all time. I chose Lights because it is a great song with a great melody and bluesy feel.
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar
What can I say… Pat Benatar knows how to rock! Having a daughter, I think it’s important for her to know that girls can rock just as much as boys can. Rock on!
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds
Probably best know as the song from the John Hughes film “The Breakfast Club”, this song represents a generation of 80’s culture.
“Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi’s album “Slippery When Wet” is a rock’n’roll classic. There are a few songs that I could choose, but who doesn’t like to sing along with this song?
“Horse With No Name” – America
The style of this song captures the great folk sound of the early 70’s — it’s one of my favorites. It’s also one of my kids’ favorites.
“Piano Man” – Billy Joel
One of the things I like about 70’s music is the great story telling. Billy Joel does an excellent job of sharing his experience as a piano-lounge singer for six months in 1972. Now, I realize that a bar-theme might not be the most kid-appropriate topic — but hey, back in the 70’s kids didn’t wear seat belts either.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
This song showcases Freddie Mercury’s amazing songwriting talent and Queen’s amazing singing talent. The song was released twice: first in 1975 and then in 1991 following Mercury’s death. And, who doesn’t love the use of the song in the car scene from the 1992 movie Wayne’s World?
“Tiny Dancer” – Elton John
I’m including this song for similar reasons that I included Billy Joel… great story telling. There are certainly many other Elton John songs I could pick.
“Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones
Like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones are equally influential to the roots of rock’n’roll. The mood of this song effectively paints a picture of tension and war, which was fitting for the time period when it was released in 1969.
“Jack & Diane” – John Cougar
I loved early MTV… when it was really “Music Television” offering 24 hours of videos, with VJ’s to guide you through the music selection. This song in particular reminds me of that time; and what a great time it was.