18. Stop! In the Name of Love, The Supremes

Polished commercial perfection and deeply expressed emotion don’t often come together, but when they do, as they do here, it is a gem. The Motown rhythm section chugs along with Southern-school marching band precision and the Supremes are given a readymade dance move, with gloved hand extended at every “Stop!” But then, before each verse, […]

19. I Wonder Why, Dion and the Belmonts

A Morse-Code barrage of “din-din-dins” announces one of the great bass lines in rock, a line that flares and swoons but never lets up. The last “din” in the opening line morphs into the first word of “don’t-know-why-I,” with each word adding a singer to the mix, in harmonic thirds. All join together then for […]

21. Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight & Pips

Silky-smooth and warm-hearted, this song tells a tale of love that chills me every time: “I’d rather live in his world…than live without him in mine.” This is to Motown as Bonnard is to the Impressionists; it incorporates the innovations but adds the veneer of a later decade. The Pips in the background echo the […]

22. Don’t Be Cruel, Elvis Presley

This is the first song whose opening bars made me run to my room, close the door and sing along – yes, often in front of the mirror – pretending, or hoping, to be a rock star. I am not ashamed: Elvis had that effect on many, and Don’t Be Cruel is the quintessential Elvis. […]