Justin Kalifowitz, president, Downtown Music Publishing
As a radio single, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” had everything stacked against it: it was cynical, angst-ridden, and six minutes long. Yet the magical combination of electric guitar, organ chords, and Dylan’s poetry challenged all prior notions of what popular culture could sound like.
Carly Rae Jepsen, singer/songwriter
Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” In 1965, he shocked, offended, and excited people with this six-minute-and-13-second-long tune. It was a whole new type of rock and roll!!!
Rhett Miller, lead singer, Old 97s
Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” changed the game with an electric rhythm guitar, a six-minute-plus running time, and lyrics that break down the fourth wall by asking, over and over, “How does it feel?”
Rodney Crowell, singer/songwriter
Louis Armstrong’s 1928 recording of Joe “King” Oliver’s “West End Blues” distilled the myriad elements struggling to define early-20th-century jazz and blues, and became the template for future compositions. And without Elvis Presley’s version of “Heartbreak Hotel,” chances are Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Freddie Mercury, Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, and Tom Waits—to name but a few—might have settled for a more sanitized version of rock and roll.
Jon Caramanica, music critic, The New York Times
The moment Steven Tyler pokes his mic stand through a wall in the video for Run-DMC’s 1986 version of “Walk This Way” and finds the rappers staring back at him, miffed and incredulous. The right answer is probably the first time a white guy ripped off a black song, but this reversal had teeth, and punch, and legs.
Laura Jean Grace, lead singer, Against Me!
Music is still feeling the aftershock of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which hit at the peak of MTV’s and radio’s power on the populace. Love it or hate it, I don’t think you could find anyone who could say “I’ve never heard that song.”
Macy Gray, singer, The Way (out this summer)
“Dreams,” by Fleetwood Mac, is a song of heartbreak and loss, which everyone can relate to—and Stevie Nicks’s voice singing the words is something very special.
Baauer, DJ, “Harlem Shake”
“Africa,” by Toto, has a really ’80s vibe but also feels entirely timeless. As the world ends and buildings crumble all around us, it will be playing from space and will make perfect sense.
John Carter Cash, singer/songwriter
“Amazing Grace,” originally a poem by John Newton, has uplifted millions. It begs us to consider that although we are trapped in our human condition, through God’s grace we are forgiven.
Walter Martin, multi-instrumentalist
Unintelligible lyrics, missed cues, sloppy drum fills, off-key vocals—where do you think all the cool bands got these great ideas? Not from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not from Blonde on Blonde. The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” is rock and roll celebrating its beautiful (and brilliant) dumbness.