By Lin Brehmer

Bobbi of Mount Prospect wrote,
Hi Lin- The greatest song ever written: define

The greatest song ever written. This is a phrase I use.
It began in 1984 when I was the music director of WXRT.
My boss and I would have music meetings every week. Before we settled down to determine what new songs would go into the music library, we would send our intern Phil across the street to Nick’s for chocolate milkshakes. Milkshakes and objectivity were required for each music meeting. When we reached the point of audio exhaustion, my boss would try to wrap up our meeting and I would have to say, wait a minute, you have to hear one more thing because this is the greatest song ever written. After a few weeks of this, my credibility was shot but
Sometimes my exuberance was rewarded by the eventual ascendance of the song into classic status.

Sometimes my pick to click was a cult hit.

And sometimes the mantle of greatness was appreciated by me and me only.

You just have to understand that our favorite songs are victims of circumstance and just like morning DJ’s, they can be replaced.
The greatest songs do share some virtues. They can define our state of mind. Like the first song I ever played on the xrt morning show.

The greatest songs can express our existential horror

Or our greatest joy

These songs can explode in our consciousness like a volcano spewing molten rock into the air.
In 1971, I saw a band play a new song on a stage in New York and by the time the song reached the scream, I was already thinking. This is the greatest song ever written.

At the Double Door in 1995, a very famous Chicago band played a rare club date to showcase music that would be on their next album.
When I heard the singer intone

I could tell from the way the song went up my neck like fingernails painted blood red, I could tell at that moment, this song would rule all others.
But a song from long ago can transform like some colorful caterpillar into an artwork with wings as the song flutters its wings and reaches a new summit.

There are times when the greatest song ever written is tacitly acknowledged by the songwriter because it becomes his encore.

And you agree that it’s the greatest song because something about the song is arresting. Because you’ve never heard someone play a guitar like that or because it has lines you’ll never forget.

For me the greatest song ever written is a signpost, a mile marker in our psyche. And the greatest song can distill a cultural revolution into a cry for help. Gimme Shelter will always define the end of the 60’s but its power comes from how it will always define us.

But we must reserve the right to hear a song on any day and say to anyone who will listen to us,
You know what? This song has got to be the greatest song ever written.

and so on.


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