Favorite Songs Around The World

Friends from Jakarta to Jamaica and beyond offer five choices of current favorites

The following lists of five favorite songs have been submitted by friends around the world. We asked not for five all-time, ultimate favorite songs, but five songs currently at play in the soundtrack of their lives.

These are lives led across vast oceans and expanses of land, but connected by this force that forever flows through all of us, the power of song.  It’s a testament to the recognition that although our world is increasingly a Tower of Babel, teeming with so many disparate cultures and languages that it’s often hard for people to understand each other and to be understood, that song remains one of human’s most reliable unifying forces. From Jakarta to Jamaica, from Indianapolis to Israel, from Beijing to Baltimore and beyond, songs connect our fragmented, disconnected lives.

Even now, some twenty years into this 21st century, songs still matter as much, if not more than ever. They bring joy, revelation and a breadth of meaning to our lives. They remain timelessly consequential and significant in our timely world of inconsequence and insignificance.

Videos by American Songwriter

While so much information is daily disseminated on such a vast level every day, and so much of it is rapidly transformed into disposable trivia, great songs remain great, they exist beyond the perpetual gray static of everyday, and provide genuine inspiration that permeates even the grim fabric of existence. They remain timeless in the timely context of our briskly passing lives.

Starting with Dan Lilly, a U.S. Customs Agent who lives in Vancouver, and his first choise, “Last Kiss Goodbye” by the late great Jeff Buckley.

Jeff Buckley

Dan LillyVancouver, Canada. U.S. Customs Agent.

  1. Jeff Buckley, “Last Kiss Goodbye.” Amazing song by a talent taken from us much too soon.
  2. Fruit, “Almost Lost My Way.” A trio from Australia. Rich vocals and harmony. A really nice song.
  3. Jonatha Brooke, “Ten Cent Wings.” A nice simple, honest song.
  4. Matthew Good, “Blue Skies Over Bad Lands.” One of my faves by one of my fave musicians.
  5. Rickie Lee Jones, “Night Train.” You listen to it. Then you’ll know why it’s one of my top five.

Philip Dray. Jakarta, Indonesia. Teacher.

  1. The Hollies, “The Air That I Breathe.” The best harmonies I have ever heard on record.
  2. Dusty Springfield,  “I Only Want To be With You.” Reminds me so much of growing up in the sixties. If she wasn’t being played on vinyl she seemed to be always on the TV. A greatly underrated artist.
  3. The Beach Boys,  “Heroes and Villains.” Amazing thumping beat and the stunning vocals… it has to be one of the most original songs of the sixties.
  4. Paul Simon, “The Late Great Johnny Ace.” Haunting… The death of John Lennon and a fifties pop singer and linked through dreamy music, wistful lyrics and a mellow cello.
  5. Bruce Springsteen, “Independence Day.” Probably the best song ever written about a father and son relationship.

Kathy Archbold. London England. Artist.

  1. Bob Dylan , “If You See Her, Say Hello.” It goes straight to my heart.
  2. Evan Dando, “Rudy With A Flashlight.” Does anyone have a better voice than his? An absolutely gorgeous version of Rainer Placek’s song.
  3. Wilco, “Shot In The Arm.” Grown up, realistic and still joyous; the pain of being alive.
  4. Cure, “Just Like Heaven.” As short and intense as the adrenalin rush when life is treating you good.
  5. Joe Strummer, “Unknown Immortal.” From the Walker soundtrack. Poignantly prophetic song from an immortal, much missed songsmith.

Tonio K., Los Angeles, California, USA. Songwriter-Artist.

  1. Randy Newman, “Great Nations Of Europe.” Put it on for Thanksgiving and can’t stop listening.
  2. Bob Dylan, “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” and “Nettie Moore.”  Messages from another world.
  3. Beck, “Nausea.” The only current  I’m currently into on a repeat basis.
  4. Jose Alfredo Jimenez, “Cuatro Caminos.” Realized it’s the song from the end sequence of The Wild Bunch. Not this version, but the song. (Jimenez is great; what would we call him, the Mexican Hank Williams?)
  5. James Brown,  Live At The Apollo.  Just count the whole album as one song ( it sort of is); have had it on the CD turntable for a couple of months now …Coincidence?

Frank Yu. Beijing, China. Microsoft Program Manager & Radio D.J.

  1. Pink Martini, “Que Sera Sera.” The most existential and most beautiful  version of this song; all pain, no gain.
  2. Metisse, “Boom Boom Ba.” I first heard this zippy song on the TV series “Dead Like Me,” with its mix of dark comedy and tragedy but in this case fun.
  3. Dagon Tabernacle Choir, “Carol of the Old Ones.” I really love the Ukranian “Carol of the Bells,” which in itself was an edgy Christmas carol. This version sings about the impending doom of the mankind and the coming darkness; great Christmas antidote.
  4. OST, “Wild Signals,” Close Encounters of the Third Kind Collectors Edition. This song depicts the first conversation between man and aliens using music as a communication tool.
  5. Gary Jules, “Mad World.” Soulful. Once you hear it you can’t forget it.

Steve Jenkins. Reading, Berkshire, England. Free-faller.

  1. Tom Petty, “Free fallin’” Just love it, everything about it and I guess ’cause I’m a “bad boy” too.
  2. Traveling Wilburys, “End of the Line.” The Wilburys at their best.
  3. Syd Barrett, “Bob Dylan Blues.” Knew the lyrics long before it was released and it sounds just as I imagined it would.
  4. Tom Petty. “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” One of my favourite Petty numbers. It’s just delivered so effortlessly.
  5. Paul Zollo & Art Garfunkel. “Being In This World.” A great song, great lyrics and I dig the philosophy behind the title.

D.H. Almarzouqi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Human Resources Analyst.

  1. Damien Rice, “The Blower’s Daughter.” His voice is raw and  pure.
  2. R.E.M. “E-bow The Letter.” The lyrics.
  3. Smashing Pumpkins, “Stand Inside Your Love.” The lyrics.
  4. Frank Sinatra, “As Time Goes By.” It’s Ol’ Blue Eyes – need I say more?
  5. Billie Holiday, “It Had To Be You.” A classic, a legend.

 Bouvet Forclaz. Buenos Aires, Argentina. E-designer.

  1. Ace Cannon, “Summertime.” The best inside 500 versions that I have listened to this song.
  2. Dusty Springfield, “The Look of Love.” I love the sensual voice that she has here.
  3. Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Always cheers me up.
  4. The Eagles, “Hotel California.” All on the rip of this guitar.
  5. Astor Piazzolla, “Cité Tango.” I’ve got this one in my blood.

Rafa Garcia. Madrid, Spain. Web Developer.

  1. Marvin Gaye, “What´s Going On.” Marvin always found the smoothest way to sing the most beautiful things.
  2. The Beatles, “A Day In The Life.” When talent and ambition crossed their paths, music became a new religion.
  3. Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven.” A symphony for the 20th century.
  4. Van Morrison, “Listen to the Lion.” For personal and sentimental reasons, I want to ride on one of Van´s song when I´m just dust.
  5. Camarón de la Isla, “La Leyenda del Tiempo.” The perfect mixture of our amazing Flamenco music and the poetry of Lorca, sung by the best cantaor that ever existed.

Jeff Wilson. Redlands, California, USA. Illustrator, Photographer &  Bassist. 

  1. Victor Wooten, (Bass Solo), “Amazing Grace.” Unlike so many solos, Wooten chooses a melody that is instantly recognizable and moving; it’s a tomb of techniques and mastery.
  2. Oso Rey, “Red Road Blue.” A long-time favorite because of its sweet melody and lyrics.
  3. Gooding. “The Everyman.” The climax of this song is a soaring, sad electric guitar that punctuates the driving nylon-stringed acoustic beneath it. And the lyrics are terribly depressing.
  4. Herbie Hancock, “Cantaloupe Island.”
  5. Bucksworth. “Where’d My Town Go (Temecula).” Moving and well-written. 

James Wm. Dawson. Toronto, Canada. Data Architect.

  1. John Lennon, “Imagine.” Speaks to a better place.
  2. Gordon Lightfoot, “Christian Island.” Speaks to a really nice place.
  3. Louis Armstrong, “What A Wonderful World.” Speaks to a better place.
  4. Judy Garland, “Over The Rainbow.” Speaks to a better place.
  5. Various Artists, “Oh Canada.” Speaks to a wonderful place.

Big Al Davies. Wales, UK. Office Worker & Musician.

  1. Nick Drake, “River Man.” The strings and poor, poor, late lamented Nick Drake, if you haven’t heard this then go and download now.
  2. The Beatles, “Two Of Us.” They were splitting when they did this but Lennon and McCartney are still able to sing together.
  3. Martin Newell, “The Wicked Witch.” A very late song against Margaret Thatcher but a good reminder that she was an evil witch, and a great song with a nursery rhyme chorus.
  4. John Martyn, “Solid Air.” A song about Nick Drake and as fragile as the inspiration.
  5. Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London.” I love the piano, the lyrics, well all of it, but why didn’t this song get into the movie American Werewolf in London?

Rob Pongi, Tokyo, Japan. “Computer Geek” & Producer.

  1. Deerhoof,  “Wrong Time Capsule.”
  2. detroit7,  “Kiss The Moon.”
  3. The Red Hot Chili Peppers,  “Don’t Forget Me.”
  4. David Bowie, “Everyone Says ‘Hi.’”
  5. Shonen Knife, “Chinese Disco.”

Paul Collins. Orlando, Florida, USA. Musician.

  1. Bob Dylan, “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later).” This song really grabs at the idea that indeed sooner or later the truth of life has to be revealed.
  2. Leonard Cohen“Famous Blue Raincoat.” My hair still raises when I play this song.
  3. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. “Wheels of Steel.” If you listen to this song and do not start to dance then you’re not a friend of mine.
  4. Led Zeppelin, “Poor Tom.” This is a great song which highligts Johns off-beat drummin’ style. And there is a great harp ending.
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Stairway To Heaven.”

Kasper TornbjergAarhus, Denmark, Student.

1. Scissor Sisters, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.”  I was charmed by this song the first time I heard. The sheer irony that this song makes you move your feet gets me every time.
2. Joan As Police Woman, “Eternal Flame.” This song is wonderfully off. It sounds like it shouldn’t work at all, but it really does.
3. Razorlight,  “Hold On.” Perfect for a sunny morning. Really lifts your mood.
4. Spoon, “The Way We Get By.” The most criminally overlooked band in the world. This song has been continually rocking my world for the last year.
5. The Streets, “Never Went To Church.” It’s really quite moving. You’ve got to love Mike Skinner’s frank lyrics.

Sergio Godoy. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  1. Dolly Parton, “Here You Come Again.” She’s always fun to listen to and her voice amuses me.
  2. Nelly Furtado, “I’m Like A Bird.” I like her voice and the lyrics.
  3. Madonna, “Jump.” It tells me something very special about transition and not been afraid of changes.
  4. Ella Fitzgerald, ” I Love Paris.” Easy and romantic.
  5. Nina Simone, “”Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” I always feel sad listening to this song but I keep coming back to it.

Alex Marinica. London England. Film and TV Student.

  1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” When I first heard this song, I just felt all warm and special inside.
  2. Broken Social Scene, “Cause = Time.” It’s just one of those songs that makes you feel it’s never gonna end, and the funny part is you want to believe it.
  3. Sufjan Stevens, “Come on! Feel the Illinoise.” Let’s just say I have a deep appreciation for the musical arrangement.
  4. LCD Soundsystem, “Losing My Edge.” If you ever lived in a metropolitan city while still in your 20s you’ll know what this is all about. Art school self-indulged socialites rejoice.
  5. The Brian Jonestown Massacre“Mary, Please.” Who said hard drugs only do harm? Here’s Anton Newcomb’s magnum opus to prove you wrong.

John Koenig.  Waldorf, Maryland. Law Enforcement Office & Photographer.

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Simple Man.” Just kind of grabs you at your roots.
2. Eagles, “Hotel California.” Who wouldn’t want the lady who ran the joint?
3. Black Crowes, “She Talks To Angels.” The song is the addiction.
4. Jimmy Buffett, “A Pirate Looks At 40.” Nothing wrong with living in a fantasy world.
5. Nirvana, “The Man Who Sold The World.” (Written by David Bowie) Who wouldn’t want to meet the man who sold the world?

Yoshi Allal, Tel Aviv, Israel. Artist.

  1. Yehudit  Ravitz, “Ga’agua.” Timeless, inspirational and real.
  2. Bob Dylan, “I and I.” Genius. Old Testament and Rastafarianism in the same song.
  3. Frank Sinatra, “In The Wee Small Hours.” Smoky, sexy romance.
  4. Nurit Galron, “Apres Nous la Deluge (Acharenu Ha-Mabul).” Archetypal song of life in Tel Aviv, of romance amidst the curfews and the chaos.
  5. Schlomo Gronich, “Mooh.” Beautiful song of exodus,  from Ethiopia to Israel.

Marie Leaf. Gore, Oklahoma, USA. Photographer.

  1. Leon Russell, “Back to the Islands.” Relaxing, therapeutic, hypnotic and I love it.
  2. Tom Waits, “Jesus Gonna Be Here.” The song of redemption, forgiveness with lyrics only Tom Waits could write. I would go to church if Tom Waits preached there.
  3. Audioslave. “What You Are.” A personal favorite for personal reasons.
  4. David Allan Coe, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” Written by Steve Goodman (and John Prine), this is the perfect country song. It has so much meaning to me I would have to write a short story about it, honestly.
  5. Wet Willie. “Keep On Smilin’.” Makes me smile and dance.

Barabeke. Montreal, Canada. Artist.

1. The Beatles, “Free as a Bird.” Lovely hallucinated ode to boundless liberty.
2. Nino Rota, “Amarcord.” Sorry for Morricone, but indeed the best Italian composer of film scores was Nino Rota.
3. – Zucchero (Sugar) Fornaciari, “Così Celeste.” Was my favorite in Christmas time, totally in the mood.
4. Raimundo Amador, “Yo Me Quedo En Sevilla.” Memories of many noches de flamenco y blues.
5. Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All.” Great melody, great execution, greatest lyrics of all.

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