Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Top 20 Greatest American Standards Ever Written

OK, I'll go first and rank my list of the 20 Greatest American Standards ever written. All I ask, in return, is some input from you about songs I have missed and changes in rank from your point of view. If you think this is an easy task, just try putting your list of 20 together.

First, let's set one ground rule, in order to be considered for the list the song must be 50 years old. In my way of thinking, if a song was written over 50 years ago and is still in demand today, that qualifies it as an American Standard Evergreen. Later when I get some time, we can start to develop a list of songs written less than 50 years ago that might be the American Standards of tomorrow.

20 Greatest American Standards
1. The Nearness of You
2. You've Changed
3. Here's That Rainy Day
4. What's New
5. The Very Thought of You
6. Body and Soul
7. My Funny Valentine
8. Embraceable You
9. I've Got You Under My Skin
10. Someone To Watch Over Me
11. Over The Rainbow
12. Misty
13. All The Things You Are To Me.
14. Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered
15. It Never Entered My Mind
16. Night and Day
17. As TIme Goes By
18. I Can't Get Started
19. Lush Life
20. This Bitter Earth

Well, there is my list, subject to immediate change if some of you can come up with better selections and rankings!


  1. Hey Music Man ...,

    How'd you pick these songs? I'll take direct aim at "This Bitter Earth" (which I never heard of). I checked in iTunes and found that Etta James covered this song ..., which can't come close to competing with "At Last". Not even close.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Bassman! even though Etta James is one of my favorite singers, I don't think she covered this song as well as Gladys Knight, Dinah Washington or Nancy Wilson. You may be right about having this song in the Top 20 list, but I am just hooked on the story the lyric tell.

  3. MusicMan, regarding your top 20 some I agree are unarguable; Night and Day, Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I've Got you Under My Skin.
    Others are not of top 20 caliber; for example Misty, You've Changed, and Lush Life. Then there is This Bitter Earth, are you kidding me!
    What about:
    Isn't it Romantic- Rogers and Hart
    The Way You Look Tonight-Jerome Kearn and Dorothy Fields
    They Can't Take That Away From Me- George and Ira Gershwin.
    In the Still of the Night- Cole Porter
    All of which hands down beat This Bitter Earth, Misty and quite few others on your list. Sorry but the 20 greatest American Standards is very tough competition.

  4. Go Zelda ..., you tell MM what's right. I like your different picks for the list. This Bitter Earth shouldn't make the top 200 list, let alone the top 20 - which is hallowed and sacred ground to be there.

  5. My Dearest Zelda: Thank you for your well thought out comments. My selection of "This Bitter Earth" has been questioned by quite a few readers. I was attending a wedding of a relative this past weekend and several people at the wedding also questioned why I had this song on my Top 20 List. First, let me say this, the music site, "" has developed a ranked list of the top 1000 standards in America. They ranked the songs by the number of times they have been recorded and released by artists in America. Their felling is that the number of times a song is recorded is a clear indication of it's continued popularity. I am not taking the position that this measure is right or wrong but it is an indication of the popularity of a particular song among professional musicians. "This Bitter Earth" was not among the top 250 listed songs, so it's clear that this song while a great song does not belong on the Top 20 list. So thank you and also the Bassman for the heads up.

    However, you also questioned, "Misty", "You've Changed", and "Lush Life". "Misty" according to "" is the 56th most recorded song in the history of American Standards and has to be on the list because it's a great song and I just love it! "You've Changed" is also an outstanding song that does belong on the list. I would ask you to listen to this song being sung by Sinatra and then by a young singer, Eva Cassidy, both great covers. You can look on YouTube and see Eva singing this song live in a small club. "Lush Life" was written by Billy Strayhorn who worked with Duke Ellington for years. Listen to the recording by Johnny Hartman and the great sax player, John Coltrane and you will find that this song is poetry set to music.

    The other songs you suggested are all going on the waiting list until the Top 20 list is revised and re-published at the end of October. I agreed that they deserve a second look.


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