13 Beats: Oldies but Goodies

I’ve always been told I’m an old soul, and my admiration for old music validates this point. The fact that old songs continue to be appreciated decades after their release best epitomizes the cultural impact of the genre. Here are some of the most notable oldies from the late twentieth century.

1.”Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Stevie Nicks’ voice, in my opinion, remains one of the most beautifully unique in musical history – especially in the song “Landslide.” The mellow guitar strumming connected with her hushed singing in this song evokes a melancholy feeling as one grapples with development and change. This song perfectly encapsulates the evident difficulties that come with growing up.

2. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Elton John (1973)

Known for his eclectic persona, Elton John continues to be a prominent force in the music industry. With his ability to change the intensity of his singing while simultaneously and purposefully including musical breaks to shift the tone of the song, the audience goes through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the three minutes and 12 seconds. This song expresses the feelings as one changes their life course and the sense of freedom one feels after doing so.

3. “Sunny Days,” Lighthouse (1972)

Written during a time of political and social movement and change, this song encapsulates rock ‘n’ roll and overall feelings of bliss felt while in the sunshine, which is best described with the lines “And yet, there’s nothin’ better for your soul/ Than lyin’ in the sun and listenin’ to rock ‘n’ roll.” The singer describes his perfect, sunny day and his ability to see past recent hardships as the good times outweigh the bad. 

4. “Wild World,” Yusuf/Cat Stevens (1993)

The most recently released song of the bunch, “Wild World,” was written and released by Cat Stevens in 1993. The wild world in his eyes describes his entrance into the pop culture world. Following his near-death bout with tuberculosis, his experience reminded him of what he should prioritize in life, which he describes as his family and loved ones. The simplicity of the lyrics and instrumentals of this song makes the message imminent and digestible to the listener.

5. “Brown Eyed Girl,” Van Morrison (1967)

Any person can appreciate the feel-good nature of this classic love song. The repetition of “Shalalala” always makes me smile and truly encapsulates the joy of falling in love. “Brown Eyed Girl” describes the joy of innocent, naive love and the contentment this type of admiration brings upon lovers.

6. “Dirty Work,” Steely Dan (1972)

The first time I heard this song was at the end of the first episode of season two of the show “Euphoria,” I fell in love with Steely Dan and all his music. The song grapples with the artist’s self-hatred surrounding his decisions in this unfortunate situation, and as the story unfolds, the listener truly understands the implications of an adulterous relationship.

7.”Going to California,” Led Zeppelin (1971) 

“Going to California” best encapsulates the devastating realization of lost dreams that morph into mere fantasies. The band Led Zeppelin is better known for its hard-hitting lyrics and songs, but something unique about this song, in particular, is its gentle and soft listen. The acoustic guitar quietly plays throughout the piece as the lead singer, Robert Plant, describes how naive he was as an aspiring musician.

8.”Romeo and Juliet,” Dire Straits (1980)

Best described as a musical version of a twentieth-century Romeo and Juliet love story, this lengthy six-minute song sung by Mark Knopfler describes an internal battle between the heart and the brain. Knopfler describes his helplessness as he loves his significant other more than she loves him back.

9. “My Girl,” The Temptations (1965)

“My Girl” is the model song representing the Motown era, a time in which soul music emerged in Detroit, Michigan. Giving voices to marginalized groups that were often overlooked, the music produced during this period displayed many detrimental societal problems. The instrumentals of this song evoke a romantic, somewhat heavenly tone as the singer describes his passion. Whoever this song was written for must’ve been an exceptional individual!

10. “Fire On the Mountain,” The Grateful Dead (1978)

“Fire on the Mountain” appears on the Grateful Dead’s album “Shakedown Street,” which houses the song named after the album, another one of my all-time favorites. “Shakedown Street” reminds me of summers spent outside, which the lyrics in the song describe. An electric guitar shines throughout instrumental breaks, acting as a connector between other verses. The acoustic guitar remains a constant as the song and lyrics progress.

11. “Roxanne,” The Police (1978)

The English rock band “The Police” took the world by storm in the 70s and 80s for their unique musical storytelling abilities. The powerful lyrics connected with an intense electric guitar piece enlighten the audience on the band’s early days playing in lackluster bars and restaurants and their eventual road to stardom.

12. “Under Pressure,” Queen (1981)

This song will for sure please any crowd it’s played to, regardless of the ages of those present. Starting with an iconic bassline, almost anyone can recognize, the song soon progresses into a melody describing one’s internal debate surrounding love and its many possibilities.

13.”Sister Golden Hair,” America (1975)

To top off the list, this song remains one of my absolute favorites, especially as the seasons change and summer approaches. Although the music sounds upbeat, more saddening topics are interwoven within the lyrics surrounding depression and a sense of hopelessness. Gerry Beckley, the song’s writer, says “Sister Golden Hair” alludes to the fast-paced nature of America and our inability to sit back and enjoy the current moment without worrying about the future. The song’s ability to describe such diverse human emotions while simultaneously telling a story clearly pleased audiences as it soared to the top of billboard charts soon after its release.