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Thirty of the Best Song Lyric Lines of All Time

. . . or a little insight into how I misspent my youth . . .

By John Oliver SmithPublished about a year ago Updated 2 months ago 8 min read
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Encouraged by various posts I have seen on Facebook and other social media platforms, I have decided to compile a list of some of my favourite song lyrics from tunes I have heard and sung-along-to over the years. The list that follows is constructed in no particular order and with no definite theme in mind. In fact, I may have even forgotten some of the best ones. This list just happens to be the list from this moment. If I were to compose such a compilation in a year’s time or while on my way out of this world, the items contained therein would likely be at least a little different.

I have chosen songs which contain lyrics that I either identified with or that I thought were catchy or funny or profound in some weird and wonderful way at some point in my life. I have not selected lyrics because they contain any sort of obscure vocabulary but rather for the ideas within or because of the artistry of the images they convey. I could have picked just about any song by Joni Mitchell for the color of her words. I could have called on many different Roger Miller tunes because of the comic joyfulness he included in most of his lyrics. I might, at another time, choose song lyrics which contain odd words such as “particularly” or “superficial” or “litigate”. . . but for now, for this go-round, I have centered on the language of my life. These are the lyrics I find myself singing while I work or while I drive or walk to work or while I am showering when I get home from work. They are the lyrics that go through my head as I play and as I close my eyes and relax. These are lyrics from songs that I have in all my playlists and that I turn up the volume on the car radio to, when I drive around. I hope you recognize a few of them and, of course, I hope you enjoy all of them.

1. From Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me (lyrics & music by Fred Neil – 1966) (recorded by Harry Nillson) “. . . (I'm) going where the weather suits my clothes . . .”

2. From Total Eclipse of the Heart (lyrics & music by Jim Steinman – 1983) (recorded by Bonnie Tyler) “Once upon a time there was light in my life, but now there’s only love in the dark. Nothin’ I can say – a total eclipse of the heart.”

3. From Doolin’ Dalton (lyrics & music by Don Henley, Glen Frey, Jackson Browne & JD Souther – 1973) (recorded by The Eagles) “Well the towns lay out across the dusty plains like graveyards filled with tombstones, waitin’ for the names.”

4. From And When I Die (lyrics & music by Laura Nyro – 1968) (recorded by Blood, Sweat & Tears) “Now troubles are many. They’re as deep as a well. I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell.”

5. From Both Sides Now (lyrics & music by Joni Mitchell – 1968) (recorded by Judy Collins) “Moons and Junes and ferris wheels. The dizzy dancing way you feel, as every fairy tale comes real. I’ve looked at love that way.”

6. From Sweet Baby James (lyrics & music by James Taylor – 1970) (recorded by James Taylor) “And as the moon rises, he sits by his fire; thinking about women and glasses of beer, he closes his eyes as the dogies retire and sings out a song which is soft but it's clear - as if maybe someone could hear.”

7. From Sweet Baby James (lyrics & music by James Taylor – 1970) (recorded by James Taylor) “There is a young cowboy he lives on the range; His horse and his cattle are his only companions. He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons – waiting for summer, his pastures to change.”

8. From Goodbye Stranger (lyrics & music by Rick Davies – 1979) (recorded by Supertramp) “It was early morning yesterday. I was up before the dawn. And I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be movin’ on.”

9. From Late in the Evening (lyrics & music by Paul Simon – 1991) (recorded by Paul Simon) “When I learned to play some lead guitar, I was underage in this funky bar , and I stepped outside and smoked myself a J. When I come back to the room, everybody just seemed to move and I turned my amp up loud and I began to play, and it was late in the evening, and I blew that room away.”

10. From Steel Rail Blues (lyrics & music by Gordon Lightfoot – 1966) (recorded by Gordon Lightfoot) “I went in town for one last round and I gambled my ticket away. And the big steel rail won’t carry me home to the one I love.”

11. From If You Want to be Happy for the Rest of Your Life (lyrics & music by Carmela Guida, Frank Guida, Joseph Royster – 1963) (recorded by Jimmy Soul) “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. So, from my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.”

12. From You Done Tore Your Playhouse Down Again (lyrics & music by King Biscuit Boy – 1971) (recorded by King Biscuit Boy) “Your eyeballs they look like a road-map and they’re lookin’ two different ways. You got your wig in one hand and your teeth in the other and you haven’t looked this good in days.”

13. From Seeds & Stems Again Blues (lyrics & music by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen – 1971) (recorded by Commander Cody) “Well, my dog died yesterday and left me all alone. The finance company dropped by today and repossessed my home. But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to losin’ you. And I’m down to seeds and stems again too.”

14. From Lonesome LA Cowboy (lyrics & music by Peter Rowan – 1973) (recorded by New Riders of the Purple Sage) “I been smokin’ dope, snortin’ coke, and tryin’ to write a song. Forgettin’ everything I know ‘til the next line comes along.”

15. From The Pilgrim – Chapter 33 (lyrics & music by Kris Kristofferson – 1971) (recorded by Kris Kristofferson) “He’s a poet, he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, he’s a pusher, he’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned. He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction – taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.”

16. From Truckin’ (lyrics by Robert Hunter & music by Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir & Phil Lesh – 1970) (recorded by The Grateful Dead) “Sometimes the lights all shining on me; other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me – what a long strange trip it’s been.”

17. From Wichita Lineman (lyrics & music by Jimmy Webb – 1968) (recorded by Glen Campbell) “I know I need a small vacation, but it don’t look like rain, and if it snows, that stretch down south won’t ever stand the strain.”

18. From Gentle on My Mind (lyrics & music by John Hartford – 1967) (recorded by Glen Campbell) “It’s knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk, that makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch.”

19. From Somebody Slap Me (lyrics & music by Roger Murrah & Bob McDill - 1997) (recorded by John Anderson) “I’ve found a girl who’s got her own money. She’s so good-lookin’ that it ain’t funny. She’s got herself a beauty-school diploma; runner-up to Miss Oklahoma. She looks uptown but she ain’t really. She’s into football and she likes my chili. Somebody slap me. I said, somebody slap me – can’t be this happy. I said somebody, slap me.”

20. From Honey I’m Home (lyrics & music by Shania Twain - 1998) (recorded by Shania Twain) “Honey I’m home and I had a hard day; pour me a cold one and oh, by the way – rub my feet, gimme me something to eat, fix me up my favourite treat. Honey, I’m back, my head’s killin’ me. I need to relax and watch TV. Get off the phone, give the dog a bone. Hey, hey, hey, honey I’m home.”

21. From Teacher, I Need You (lyrics & music by Bernie Taupin & Elton John – 1973) (recorded by Elton John) “I was sittin’ in the classroom, tryin’ to look intelligent, in case the teacher looked at me.”

22. From Desperado (lyrics & music by Don Henley & Glenn Frey – 1973) (recorded by The Eagles) “Don’t your feet get cold in the winter-time – the sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine? It’s hard to tell the night-time from the day.”

23. From Nashville Cats (lyrics & music by John B. Sebastian – 1966) (recorded by The Lovin’ Spoonful) “Well there’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two guitar pickers in Nashville and they can pick more notes than the number of ants on a Tennessee ant-hill.”

24. From Chug-a-lug (lyrics & music by Roger Miller -1964) (recorded by Roger Miller) “4-H and FFA – on a field trip to the farm, me ‘n’ a friend sneak off behind to this big ol’ barn, where uncovered a covered-up moonshine still, and we thought we’d drink our fill, and I swallowed it with a smile – I run ten miles . . .”

25. From A Boy Named Sue (lyrics by Shel Silverstein & music by Johnny Cash – 1969) (recorded by Johnny Cash) “But I busted a chair right across his teeth and we crashed through the wall and into the street – kickin’ and a gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer.”

26. From Like a Rolling Stone (lyrics & music by Bob Dylan – 1965) (recorded by Bob Dylan) “Once upon a time you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you? People call, say, ‘Beware doll, you’re bound to fall.’ You thought they were all, kiddin’ you.”

27. From Sam Stone (lyrics & music by John Prine – 1971) (recorded by John Prine) “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where the money goes. Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose. Little pictures have big ears. Don’t stop to count the years. Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.”

28. From If I Had a Rocket Launcher (lyrics & music by Bruce Cockburn – 1984) (recorded by Bruce Cockburn) “Situation desperate, echoes of the victim’s cry – if I had a rocket launcher, if I had a rocket launcher, if I had a rocket launcher – some son-of-a-bitch would die.”

29. From I Heard It in a Love Song (lyrics & music by Toy Caldwell – 1977 ) (recorded by The Marshall Tucker Band) “I ain’t never been with a woman long enough for these here boots to get old, but we’ve been together so long now, they both need resoled. If I ever settle down, you’d be my kind, now it’s a good time for me to head on down the line.”

30. From In My Life (lyrics & music by John Lennon & Paul McCartney – 1965) (recorded by The Beatles) “There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed – some forever – not for better. Some are gone and some remain. All these places have their moments, with lovers and friends I still can recall. Some are dead and some are living. In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

And there you have it – the song lyrics that keep me putting one foot in front of the other and that keep me thinking my happy thoughts. Play on!!!

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About the Creator

John Oliver Smith

Baby, son, brother, child, student, collector, farmer, photographer, player, uncle, coach, husband, student, writer, teacher, father, science guy, fan, coach, grandfather, comedian, traveler, chef, story-teller, driver, regular guy!!

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  • John Oliver Smith (Author)about a year ago

    Damn!! Forgot the Rodeo Song. Oh well, next time I guess.

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