NPR Names Century’s 100 Most Significant Songs

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In an exercise sure to start arguments among music lovers, National Public Radio has created its list of the 100 most important American musical works of the century.

The list started with 300 songs suggested by a group of producers, artists and experts familiar to NPR. In mid-October, NPR allowed the public to vote on the selection. More than 13,000 listeners cast their votes online and through the mail.

A panel of 15 musicians considered the same 300 songs. Classical conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, singer-songwriter Aimee Mann and jazz saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom were among the panelists. Their votes and those of listeners were combined in the final list.


The works, listed alphabetically, don’t necessarily represent a performer’s best effort. They are pieces that signaled a breakthrough, revealed a new voice or captured the mood of an era.

“Obviously, any list is going to lead to some debate, and that’s certainly important and fun,” said Michael Abrahams, an NPR spokesman.

NPR will air a feature on one piece each Monday for a year on “All Things Considered.” Other works will be featured on NPR programs such as “Weekend Edition Sunday” and “Performance Today.”

National Public Radio’s 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century:

* “Adagio for Strings”: by Samuel Barber (1938).

* “Ain’t That a Shame”: by Antoine “Fats” Domino and Dave Bartholomew, as performed by Fats Domino (1955).

* “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”: by Irving Berlin (1911).

* “All or Nothing at All”: by Jack Lawrence and Arthur Altman, as performed by Frank Sinatra with Harry James and His Orchestra (1939).

* “Appalachian Spring”: Aaron Copland (1944).

* “As Time Goes By”: by Herman Hupfeld (1931).

* “Back in the Saddle Again”: by Ray Whitley and Gene Autry, as performed by Gene Autry (1939).


* “Blowin’ in the Wind”: by Bob Dylan, as performed by Bob Dylan (1962).

* “Blue Moon of Kentucky”: by Bill Monroe (1946), as performed by Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys (1954).

* “Blue Suede Shoes”: Carl Perkins, as performed by Carl Perkins (1955).

* “Body and Soul”: words by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, music by Johnny Green (1930), as performed by Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra (1939).

* “Born to Run”: LP, Bruce Springsteen (1975).

* “A Chorus Line”: musical, words by Edward Kleban, music by Marvin Hamlisch (1975).

* “Coal Miner’s Daughter”: by Loretta Lynn, as performed by Loretta Lynn (1970).

* “Crazy”: by Willie Nelson, as performed by Patsy Cline (1961).

* “Django”: John Lewis, as performed by the Modern Jazz Quartet (1954).

* “Dream a Little Dream of Me”: words by Gus Kahn, music by Wilbur Schwandt and Fabian Andre (1931).

* “Drumming”: Steve Reich (1971).

* “Fiddler on the Roof”: musical, words by Sheldon Harnick, music by Jerry Bock (1964).

* “Fine and Mellow”: by Billie Holiday (1940), as performed by Billie Holiday with Mal Waldron All Stars on “The Sound of Jazz” (CBS-TV, 1957).

* “Fire and Rain”: by James Taylor, as performed by James Taylor (1970).

* “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”: Earl Scruggs, as performed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys (1949).

* “4:33”: John Cage (1952).

* “Give My Regards to Broadway”: by George M. Cohan (1904).

* “Gone With the Wind”: film score, Max Steiner (1939).

* “Good Vibrations”: words by Mike Love and Brian Wilson, music by Brian Wilson, as performed by the Beach Boys (1966).


* “Graceland”: LP, Paul Simon (1986).

* “Grand Canyon Suite”: Ferde Grofe (1931).

* “Great Balls of Fire”: by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer, as performed by Jerry Lee Lewis (1957).

* “The Great Pretender”: by Buck Ram, as performed by the Platters (1955).

* “Guys and Dolls”: musical, by Frank Loesser (1950).

* “Hellhound on My Trail”: by Robert Johnson, as performed by Robert Johnson (1937).

* “Hello Dolly”: by Jerry Herman, as performed by Louis Armstrong (1964).

* “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”: by C.D. Martin and C.H. Gabriel, as performed by Mahalia Jackson (1958).

* “Hoochie Coochie Man”: by Willie Dixon, as performed by Muddy Waters (1954).

* “Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel”: by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley, as performed by Elvis Presley (1956).

* “I Got Rhythm”: words by Ira Gershwin, music by George Gershwin (1930).

* “I Walk the Line”: by Johnny Cash, as performed by Johnny Cash (1956).

* “I Wanna Be Sedated”: by the Ramones, as performed by the Ramones (1978).

* “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”: by Hank Williams, as performed by Hank Williams (1949).

* “In the Mood”: words by Andy Razaf, music by Joe Garland (1938), as performed by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra (1939).

* “Goodnight Irene”: by Lead Belly and John Lomax (1936).

* “Kind of Blue”: LP, Miles Davis (1959).

* “King Porter Stomp”: Jelly Roll Morton (1923).

* “Ko Ko”: Charlie Parker, as performed by Charlie Parker (1945).

* “La Bamba”: by William Clauson, as performed by Ritchie Valens (1958).

* “Let’s Stay Together”: by Al Green, Willie Mitchell and Al Jackson, as performed by Al Green (1971).

* “Light My Fire”: by John Densmore, Robert Krieger, Raymond Manzarek and Jim Morrison, as performed by the Doors (1967).


* “Like a Rolling Stone”: by Bob Dylan, as performed by Bob Dylan (1965).

* “A Love Supreme”: LP, John Coltrane (1964).

* “Mack the Knife”: words by Marc Blitzstein (after Bertold Brecht), music by Kurt Weill (1928 and 1956).

* “Maybellene”: by Chuck Berry, as performed by Chuck Berry and his Combo (1955).

* “Mood Indigo”: by Duke Ellington, Albany “Barney” Bigard and Irving Mills, as performed by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (1930).

* “My Fair Lady”: musical, words by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe (1956).

* “My Funny Valentine”: words by Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rodgers (1937).

* “My Girl”: by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, as performed by the Temptations (1964).

* “Night and Day”: by Cole Porter (1932).

* “A Night in Tunisia”: by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli (1944), as recorded by Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra (1946).

* “Oklahoma!”: musical, words by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Richard Rodgers (1943).

* “Once in a Lifetime”: by David Byrne, Brian Eno and Talking Heads, as performed by Talking Heads (1980).

* “One O’Clock Jump”: Count Basie, as performed by the Count Basie Orchestra (1937).

* “Oye Como Va”: by Tito Puente (1963), as performed by Santana (1970).

* “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”: by James Brown, as performed by James Brown (1965).

* “Peggy Sue”: by Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly and Norman Petty, as recorded by Buddy Holly (1957).

* “Porgy and Bess”: opera, words by Ira Gershwin and Dubose Heyward, music by George Gershwin (1935).


* “Psycho”: film score, Bernard Herrmann (1960).

* “Purple Haze”: by Jimi Hendrix, as performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967).

* “Rapper’s Delight”: by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, as performed by Sugar Hill Gang (1979).

* “Respect”: by Otis Redding (1965), as performed by Aretha Franklin (1967).

* “Rhapsody in Blue”: George Gershwin (1924), orchestrated by Ferde Grofe, (1924, 1926 and 1942).

* “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock”: by Max Freedman and James Myers, also known as Jimmy De Knight (1953), first recorded by Bill Haley and his Comets (1954).

* “Round Midnight”: words by Bernard Hanighen, music by Thelonius Monk and Cootie Williams (1944).

* “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”: by Bobby Troup, as performed by the King Cole Trio (1946).

* “The St. Louis Blues”: by W.C. Handy (1914), as performed by Bessie Smith (1925).

* “Show Boat”: musical, words by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Jerome Kern (1927).

* “Sing, Sing, Sing”: by Louis Prima (1936), as arranged by Jimmy Mundy and performed by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (1938).


* “Singin’ in the Rain”: film musical, by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown (1952).

* “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”: by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper, as performed by Otis Redding (1967).

* “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: words by Kurt Cobain, music by Nirvana, as performed by Nirvana (1991).

* “Stand by Your Man”: by Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill, as performed by Tammy Wynette (1968).

* “Star Dust”: words by Mitchell Parish, music by Hoagy Carmichael (1927).

* “Symphony of Psalms”: Igor Stravinsky (1930, 1948).

* “Take Five”: Paul Desmond, as performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959).

* “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”: by Thomas A. Dorsey (1932).

* “Take the ‘A’ Train”: by Billy Strayhorn, as performed by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (1941).

* “Talking Book”: LP, Stevie Wonder (1972).

* “Tapestry”: LP, Carole King (1971).

* “Theme From ‘Shaft’ ”: by Isaac Hayes, as performed by Isaac Hayes (1971).

* “This Land Is Your Land”: by Woody Guthrie (1940).

* “Tom Dooley”: traditional, as arranged by Dave Guard and performed by Kingston Trio (1958).

* “The Velvet Underground and Nico”: LP, the Velvet Underground (1967).

* Warner Bros. cartoon music: Carl Stalling (1936 to 1958).

* “We Shall Overcome”: by Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, Pete Seeger (1960), from C. Albert Tindley’s Baptist hymn “I’ll Overcome Some Day” (1901).


* “West End Blues”: words by Clarence Williams, music by Joe Oliver, as performed by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five (1928).

* “West Side Story”: musical, words by Stephen Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein (1957).

* “What’d I Say”: by Ray Charles, as performed by Ray Charles (1959).

* “What’s Going On?”: by Al Cleveland, Marvin Gaye and Renaldo Benson (1970), as performed by Marvin Gaye (1971).

* “White Christmas”: by Irving Berlin (1942), as performed by Bing Crosby (1942).

* “Wildwood Flower”: by Maude Irving and J.P. Webster, as arranged by A.P Carter and performed by the Carter Family (1928).

* “Wizard of Oz”: film musical, words by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and music by Harold Arlen (1939).