This would be too easy if it was listing songs that tear apart other artists, but we wanted tributes instead. It was Sam’s idea and, as such, only he could think of 5. I’ll throw in an honorable mention though.
Sam’s Top 5
5. David Bowie- Queen Bitch(About The Velvet Underground)
While their are few refrences to the band in the lyrics themselves, Bowie has stated on many occasions that this highlight of the pre-Ziggy Stardust era is squarely about his love of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground. Bowie has written many songs about his idols, such as Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan, yet the somewhat controversally named “Queen Bitch” is by far the most catchy and recognizable of his string of tribute songs.
4. Neutral Milk Hotel- Naomi(About Naomi Yang)
This fuzzy masterpiece is a song about singer, Jeff Mangum’s fictional relationship with the bass player from Galaxie 500. 17 years after the songs release, and 11 years after the band’s breakup, Naomi Yang herself would create a video for the song, adding yet another layer of ambiguity to the already cryptic lyrics.
3. Stevie Wonder- Sir Duke(About Duke Ellington)
This one doesen’t need too much of an introduction. Wonder creates his tribute to the legandary jazz composer utilizing extensive horn arrangements one of the finest vocal melodys ever concieved.
2. Pavement- Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence(About R.E.M.)
What this song lacks in technical proficiency it makes up for in originality and humor. The lyrics describe civil war general William Sherman’s march through the state of Georgia, and coming face to face with the state’s most successful rock band. The song is one of the few that always make me laugh throughout. It may be a bit sacreligious to place a joke song above a Stevie Wonder Classic, but where would music be without a little comedy?
1. The Replacements- Alex Chilton(About Alex Chilton/Big Star)
There are many parallels between Replacements songwriter Paul Westerberg and his hero Alex Chilton. Both led severely under appreciated bands that would come to be influential decades later on countless artists, and both had an eye for heavy, yet heartfelt songwriting. This skill is most successfully displayed in “Alex Chilton” in which Westerberg imagines a perfect world in which “Children by the millions scream for Alex Chilton when he comes around”. The song led to a new generation of fans discovering Chilton’s music, which eventually led to his resurgence in the 1990’s. Chilton unfortunately died unexpctaedly a day before he was scheduled to perform with a reunited Big Star. Yet it was this song that would allow him to live out his last remaining years with the respect and admiration he always deserved.
Billy’s Honorable Mention:
Primus - Lee Van Cleef
I heard this song on WONY towards the end of the semester, and was blown away. The distinctly Les Claypool rhythm is funky enough, but the lyrics touched me deep. I love Clint, but I also really love me some Lee. Enough said.