Five timeless rock songs

By mbrooks on April 2, 2019
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: An image of the late Freddie Mercury is projected onto a screen while Adam Lambert + Queen perform onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There are a handful of songs that still feel fresh despite their release 20, 30, or 40 years ago. These songs are frequently featured on oldies stations, modern pop stations, and have enjoyed a healthy renaissance due to online streaming and digital purchasing.

The fact that some songs have found an audience among music devotees whose parents or grandparents were young when the song was released shows how some music can have a sound and message that is practically immortal. It helps that these songs largely avoid the musical conventions of the day that, carried into the present, can make a song feel dated.

Africa, Toto

I bless the raaaaaaaiiiiiins down in Arrrrrkansas

Some phrases the 1981 song Africa have become utilized as an internet meme, but the catchy lyrics, widely-appealing tune, and a song that doubles as a love ballad makes Africa one timeless song.

The central theme of the lyrics were based on the band’s desire to bring attention to the plight suffered by the people living in Africa. Famine, drought, diseases caused widespread suffering in that area of the world, and still does in too many places.

According to an interview in The Guardian with Dave Simpson, the band’s writer, he was fascinated by the missionaries who would bless the villagers, the crops, and the rain.

This epitome of soft rock “Africa” was far and away Toto’s biggest hit, topping the Billboard in the United States for a single week in February, 1983.


Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears

No, we’re NOT Duran Duran..

This 1985 rock song is unusually political for a chart-topping tune. This is not so surprising given the agenda-heavy style of work from Tears for Fears. One of the song’s writers, Chris Hughes, told Southern California Public Radio that an earlier version of the song had the much darker lyrics “everybody wants to go to war.”

The song begins on a sour note, declaring that “this is your life” and “there’s no turning back.” The Big Brother seems ever-present in this semi-fictional world. The ones who rule the world will, “even while [you] sleep . . . will find [you] acting on your best behavior.” The rulers WILL find you being obedient, suggesting an awful “or else” situation. The song declares that, individually, we have responsibility to “make the most of freedom and of pleasure” because the rulers of the world, who could be anybody, will certainly bring ruin and oppression on the world because “nothing ever lasts forever.”

The ominous warnings of an ever-possible dystopian society aside, it’s such a fun song!


Piano Man, Billy Joel

Who’s ready for HOT CROSS BUNS!?


Even if you have never been in a place like the one described in Piano Man, this song will make you feel like it is a second home to you. The lyrics are filled an array of people that are described in such brief depth you may feel like you know the person’s whole story. And no person is better described than the title character, the “piano man.”

The cast of colorful gents, and the waitress who used the situation to gain knowledge and practice her skills, may describe someone we know, or a part of ourselves. From the man who wanted the piano man to bring back a memory that was sad and sweet, “I knew it complete,” when he wore a younger man’s clothes to Paul who was talking to Davy in the Navy, the place was filled with people whose stories are told in song. They each recognized their location and situation in life was not enviable. It was the piano man who brightened their lives for just a moment, just as songs have a magic power to do.

The “Piano Man” is a song that celebrates songs. The song has a nature about it that could describe today just as well as describing a scene in 1973.

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

I can’t joke about Queen.  I don’t dare.

If there was ever a song that was six songs in one, Bohemian Rhapsody is it. It is has a soft rock intro, a ballad, a small opera, a bit of hard rock, a classical coda, with a dose of progressive pop rock.

The many layers of the song is seen in the many analyses written about it. The song has been stripped down, studied, investigated, and even a part of college curriculum.

Bohemian Rhapsody saw a renaissance with its place in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World. It became widely introduced to the modern generation through a film of the same name. Mixed all these together and the result is a strong contender for one of the greatest songs of all time.


Eye of the Tiger, Survivor

Really?  You REALLY think I wrote this song?

Originally written for the movie Rocky III, this is theme song easily associated with training montages, marathon runners, and a mostly-squeaky clean song for kids dance parties.

It is the eye of the tiger. It is the cream of the fight. It is also a quintessential American rock song with its call to rise from the dust and from rags to achieve greatness through work, determination, and sacrifice. Even though tigers aren’t normally associated with America.

Motivating athletes, both amateur and professional, the lyrics are an anthem of force, an oath of strength. It’s also a cool song that kids and teens and young people and middle-aged people can enjoy. It is a rock song for the ages. If music isn’t banned in one hundred years, Survivor may be considered the Mozart of classical rock music.

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