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500 Greatest Songs of All Time

Rolling Stone’s definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

By Jay-Z

A great song doesn’t attempt to be anything — it just is.

When you hear a great song, you can think of where you were when you first heard it, the sounds, the smells. It takes the emotions of a moment and holds it for years to come. It transcends time. A great song has all the key elements — melody; emotion; a strong statement that becomes part of the lexicon; and great production. Think of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Queen. That song had everything — different melodies, opera, R&B, rock — and it explored all of those different genres in an authentic way, where it felt natural.

When I’m writing a song that I know is going to work, it’s a feeling of euphoria. It’s how a basketball player must feel when he starts hitting every shot, when you’re in that zone. As soon as you start, you get that magic feeling, an extra feeling. Songs like that come out in five minutes; if I work on them more than, say, 20 minutes, they’re probably not going to work.

Read Jay-Z’s full essay here.

76

The Beatles, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

Writers: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer: George Martin
Released: Feb. '67, Capitol
9 weeks; No. 8

Lennon often considered "Strawberry Fields Forever" his greatest accomplishment with the Beatles. The song, a surreal kaleidoscope of sound, was the first track recorded for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (although it was released as a single instead). The lyrics are a nostalgic look at Lennon's Liverpool childhood and an expression of his own pride. Said Lennon, "The second line goes, 'No one I think is in my tree.' Well, what I was trying to say in that line is, 'Nobody seems to be as hip as me, therefore I must be crazy or a genius.'"

Appears on: Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol)  

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