3 Eternal Classic Rock Songs by R.E.M.

If you were to tell fans of R.E.M. in the 1980s or ’90s that one day the band’s music would be considered classic rock, they might have packed up their college radio stations and moved even further underground. But that’s just what happens with time. Life moves on, the Earth continues to turn. And if you’re lucky, some of those songs from your favorite band live forever.

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Here below, we wanted to highlight three R.E.M. songs that are, in a word, eternal. Yes, these are a trio of tunes that can come on the radio at any time and they will be well received by any music listener. Three songs from the Athens, Georgia-born group that will last for as long as music does.

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind R.E.M.’s “Imitation of Life” and How They Were Inspired by a Film They Hadn’t Seen]

“Losing My Religion” from Out of Time (1991)

Little did R.E.M. lead guitarist Peter Buck know what might happen when he put down his guitar and picked up a mandolin for a little something new. This iconic song from the band’s 1991 LP Out of Time, which is born of Buck’s noodling, is about loss and tragedy of the heart. But the sound of it combined with lead singer Michael Stipe’s vocals and the monastic music video gave it a feel of Biblical proportions. It’s orchestral and deep, virtuous and defeated. On the track, Stipe sings,

Oh life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spot-light
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

“Everybody Hurts” from Automatic for the People (1992)

With strings written by former Led Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, this song is about one of the things all human beings share amongst one another—pain. Sometimes that’s the beauty of music. We want it to signify our individuality, but sometimes it’s OK for it to galvanize. We want to know there is commiseration and empathy out there. And this song lets us know we are not alone when it comes to sad pangs in our heart. In this way, it’s truly timeless. Sings Stipe,

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along

“Shiny Happy People” from Out of Time (1991)

Another from the band’s popular 1991 LP Out of Time, this song does something of the opposite of the one above. Instead of focusing on our shared sadness, it highlights joy and happiness. Featuring vocalist Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, this track, which also includes mandolin, puts a grin on your soul. Stipe called it a “bubblegum song” and Pierson called it a song about “spreading love.” It’s goofy and meant to be positive from a band that is known for being (perhaps a little too) cerebral. On the track, Stipe sings and company,

Everyone around, love them, love them
Put it in your hands, take it, take it
There’s no time to cry, happy, happy
Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines
Gold and silver shine

Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing

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Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

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