40 Songs That Shaped Me

For my 40th birthday, my wife suggested that I make a playlist of the 40 songs that shaped who I am. I gotta say, this was a great trip down memory lane. I highly recommend it.

I made a Spotify playlist of all these songs, so if you like, click here to listen along.

Here they are, in no particular order. I can't even imagine trying to put these in order. 


Something About You – Level 42

Excellent melody, and of course, Mark King’s awesome bass.



The Band album cover

The Weight – The Band

I love the soulful looseness of The Band. Massively genuine.


Hello Darlin’ – Conway Twitty

An early favorite of mine, a simple, plaintive country song.


Under The Bridge – The Red Hot Chili Peppers

This was the first time I think I was blown away by clean, edge-of-breakup guitar tone.


Never Let Me Down Again – Depeche Mode

Menacing with a soaring chorus. Killer, subtle guitar.


Losing My Religion – R.E.M.

Always thought of R.E.M. as the American version of The Smiths. Bonus points to them for coming from the American south, too. I always thought that when southern folks make music that isn’t country, it’s pretty much always great.


Song For Sonny Liston – Mark Knopfler

Fantastic guitar groove. Great story. Makes me remember that so many led harsh, brutish lives through no fault of their own.


Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen

Just makes me think of being young. Great memories.


There, There – Radiohead

So many songs from Hail To the Thief I could choose from. I was 23 when this album came out and just about every song takes me back.



Paul Simon Graceland album cover

Boy In The Bubble – Paul Simon

Might be my favorite song-1-side-1. These are the days of lasers in the jungle.


Me And My Uncle – Grateful Dead

I really wish more western-era songs like this survived into modern pop culture.


Act Naturally – The Beatles

Loved this one when I was a kid. The Beatles introduced me to Buck Owens, and for that I’m grateful.


Genius Of Love – Tom Tom Club

I love the groove, and I love that it’s a slightly off-kilter song driven by two women singers.


Jeane – The Smiths

My favorite song by The Smiths.


In Dreams – Roy Orbison

Roy has my favorite voice of all time, and this song is an epic, no-chorus ascent to heaven. Bonus points to Roy for allowing David Lynch to use it in Blue Velvet.


Long Long Time – Linda Ronstadt

My God that woman’s voice could melt steel.


Drown – Son Volt

When you need a rocker, this’ll do.



The Misfits album cover

Last Caress – Misfits

It’s good to bring in the darkness every now and then. I loved this song when I was a teenager.


Isolation – Iggy Pop

Trust me, you’ll love this song. In fact, give a listen to all of Blah Blah Blah. Late 80’s to the bone, in a very good way.


Surmount All Obstacles – The Fall

Oooh yeah I like em’ weird sometimes. I remember hearing this for the first time, desperate to know what Mark E. Smith was saying.


Another Place Another Time – Jerry Lee Lewis

In my opinion the finest country singer of all time. This is a beautiful country song with pain, longing, and totally without kitsch.


Forget The Flowers – Wilco

What country music should have become.


Wild Wild Life – Talking Heads

Fun fun song. Check out the video on YouTube, it’s from a movie called “True Stories.” If you get that far, you should probably watch the movie, too.


Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – The Rolling Stones

My favorite all-time guitar riff.


All Night Long – Peter Murphy

I really love this song. This would have been a good one for Johnny Cash to cover.


Transmission – Joy Division

I kind of identified with Ian Curtis…kind of still do.


Airbag – Radiohead

So much great guitar work in this song, but man, listen for Colin Greenwood’s bass part. Freaking simple and perfect. The bass part is like a robot trying to tell you something over and over again, saying it different ways because it knows you aren’t understanding it.



U2 Achtung Baby album cover

The Fly – U2

Achtung Baby was just a massive album to me. I love the guitar solo, very heroic, very different for The Edge.


Winona’s Big Brown Beaver – Primus

Only Primus can make massively fun ear candy that is at the same time, totally unnerving. I love it. This video is unforgettable.


Sloop John B – The Beach Boys

When I was a kid, my brother had Pet Sounds on tape and this was my favorite song on it.


Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones

I listened to Exile On Main Street a ton while I was in college at the University of Missouri. Also, whenever we go to the casino, my wife gets excited and plays this song.


Fight Test – The Flaming Lips

My wife loves this album a ton. This song in particular is cool, makes me think of a young man trying to figure things out.


Wrapped Around Your Finger – The Police

One of my top 5 favorite bands. My brother and I saw them back in 2008 when they reunited, and it was a blast.


The Unforgettable Fire – U2

When I was a kid, I love the production. Sounded unlike most songs I knew at the time, very sophisticated.


The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – The Smiths

I really can’t imagine being a teenager and not listening to The Smiths.


Motorbreath – Metallica

I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t include some early heavy metal. Not my genre of choice, but I listened to this stuff a fair bit when I was in junior high.



The Dutch Uncles album cover

Flexxin – Dutch Uncles

This might be as “new” as it gets for me. Just a song I really liked for a few years. Reminds me of living in south St. Louis city for some reason.


Julie’s Been Working For The Drug Squad – The Clash

Yeah, this is a fun one. If I’m playing my vinyl records, I usually reach for The Clash first.


Give It Up – KC And The Sunshine Band

Yeah, for real. The heart wants what it wants, and this happens to be my jam. Not sure I get it either. Fun fact: it took me like 25 years to find out who wrote this song. I would hear it every now and then and just never knew who it was till recently.  (PS watch the video and see if you can replicate those dance moves sometime.) 


Return Of The Mack – Mark Morrison

Makes me think of my wife. Lots of 90’s memories wrapped up in this song. If you’re my age, you get it.


Bonus: Get Your Lies Straight – Terry Evans with Ry Cooder

I had to include this one. You can’t find this song on Spotify, and it’s not on the list, but someone did put it on YouTube here. Ry Cooder's guitar work on this track is a treat. I taped it off the radio back in the day- KDHX in St. Louis.



Epilogue (by Courtney)

Happy 40th birthday husband!  I wish for many more years of listening to good music, playing (sometimes good) music, going to great concerts and enjoying everything that life has brought our way.  

JT birthday boy



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