10 More Big Songs That Are Turning 50 Years Old
The Who - Youtube
Hitting 50 years is no easy feat for a song, especially when the times are constantly changing and catering to the evolving tastes of the masses. To endure in pop culture in such a long period of time is an achievement not just for the song, but the artist who wrote and performed them, a testament to their greatness in the craft. With that, here are some hits that celebrate their golden anniversary this year.
“It’s Too Late” – Carole King
Unlike most of Carole King’s songs, this cut from Tapestry wrote itself rather fast. “It’s Too Late” is one of King’s signature tunes that carry a melancholic theme, usually about broken relationships and how the character deals with them.
“Aqualung” – Jethro Tull
The song is written to discuss society’s reaction to homelessness. According to frontman and flutist Ian Anderson, who wrote the number, it was “a guilt-ridden song of confusion about how you deal with beggars, the homeless.”
“Tiny Dancer” – Elton John
This Elton John hit was written by his creative partner, Bernie Taupin, when they first came to America. This is his explanation of how “Tiny Dancer” came to be: “I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met – especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in LA. They were free spirits, sexy in hip-huggers and lacy blouses, and very ethereal, the way they moved. So different from what I’d been used to in England. And they all wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They’d mother you and sleep with you – it was the perfect Oedipal complex.”
“Baba O’ Riley” – The Who
“Baba O’ Riley” showed the first major use of keyboards on a The Who song. Guitarist Pete Townshend was responsible for this, recording the synthesizer sounds on a Lowry organ. He said he wanted to create “a replication of the electronic music of the future.”
“Me and Bobby McGee” – Janis Joplin
Singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson was responsible for penning hits for various artists, but he hit the jackpot when his song, “Me and Bobby McGee”, was borrowed by Janis Joplin. “‘Bobby McGee’ was the song that made the difference for me. Every time I sing it, I still think of Janis,” he shared with Performing Songwriter in 2015.
“American Pie” – Don McLean
“American Pie” was written by Don McLean as a tribute to the tragic plane crash that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper were on. Collectively known as the “day music died”, McLean was particularly inspired by Holly so much, saying: “I loved his music. When that whole crash happened, it was a real ache in my heart. So, I ended up bringing back all those memories of 1959 and the things that happened later.”
“Maggie May” – Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart’s controversial hit “Maggie May” was written about the woman who took his virginity. “‘Maggie May’ was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival,” he admitted in a 2007 issue of Q Magazine.
“What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye stepped up to the challenge and took on a politically-charged song in “What’s Going On”. Inspired by the stories his brother told him about the Vietnam War, Gaye was adamant in making a statement. Jackson Browne talked about the song in a 2008 interview with Rolling Stone, saying: “No one was expecting an anti-war song from him. But it was a moment in time when people were willing to hear it from anybody, if it was heartfelt. And who better than the person who has talked to you about love and desire?”
“Imagine” – John Lennon
John Lennon’s “Imagine” carried a strong political message but masterfully hid it in an evocative arrangement, as he thought it would make the song more accessible and acceptable to the listeners.
“Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
Robert Plant, who wrote the lyrics, said the song was pretty open to any interpretation as he himself has had a different one every time he tried to make sense of it. He also claimed the lyrics suddenly came to him in a flash of inspiration, saying: “I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold/And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat.”