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Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams Top Rolling Stone’s List of ‘Greatest Country Songs’

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Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

By Radio.com Staff

Ranked lists of any kind are a tough proposition. And so it goes with Rolling Stone Country‘s new list of the “100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.”

At first glance, the list is pretty straightforward. Coming in at No. 1 is Johnny Cash‘s “I Walk the Line,” followed by such equally undeniable classics as Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Hank Williams‘ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “George Jones‘ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and Jimmie Rodgers‘ “Standing on the Corner.”

The list goes on to include songs by legends like Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, the Carter Family, Ernest Tubb and Kitty Wells, as well as songs from relatively less-well-known artists such as D.L. Menard, O.B. McClinton, the Mississippi Sheiks, the Flatlanders and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

It also includes plenty of today’s hitmakers, among them Taylor Swift (at No. 24, “Mean” is the list’s first song from a contemporary artist), Eric Church, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley.

Related: Top Ten Male-Female Country Duets

Kacey Musgraves makes the list, too, but for “Follow Your Arrow” and not “Merry Go Round.” And it’s exactly at such a point that lists like this begin to splinter. What were the criteria that left “Merry Go Round” off the list? And now that we think about it, who decided that “Mean” or the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” (sitting pretty at No. 26) was ‘better’ than Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces,” Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” or Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty”?

And omissions? It doesn’t take long to find them. Why no songs by Miranda Lambert? “The House That Built Me” is easily among the previous decade’s finest singles. And what about Keith Whitley, Vince Gill, Conway Twitty or Kris Kristofferson? Songs like the latter’s “Me and Bobby McGee” or Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” had to have been high-ranking contenders.

These sorts of arguments, of course, are among the key reasons lists like this exist. Fans love to argue about who or what is the ‘greatest,’ and we’re quick to pounce when something doesn’t sit right with our personal aesthetics. So while much of this list is agreeable and not terribly surprising, we’ll give props to Rolling Stone for finding enough points of provocation to keep the conversation interesting.

 

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