I know many here concentrate on composing their own music. But I’m sure all of us still play the songs of others when we practice or rehearse or just noodle around, right?
Which songs gave you the most satisfaction/thrill/excitement when you figured them out? Could be just because you love the song, or it has a difficult arrangement, or perhaps was written for one instrument but you made it work some other (e.g. piano tune transposed to guitar or vice versa).
I’m sure the list is very long for many of us-- definitely is for me. But here are a few examples, let’s see yours! And do you still get that thrill when you find your way to a song like that?
Stairway to Heaven: Yeah, the total cliche, but when I got it down cold in about '74 it earned me some cred with the cool kids. I was such a complete and total dork as pre-teenager, never one of the “in crowd”, but that opened many social doors.
Several Leo Kottke tunes, such as The Fisherman, Vaseline Machine Gun, The Ice Miner, Owls. I owe most of my ability on steel string acoustic to trying to emulate Leo’s playing, and studying his work really broadened my musical horizons.
Bruce Cockburn (that’s COE-burn): Pacing the Cage, The Whole Night Sky, and (just yesterday!) If A Tree Falls. Bruce is an incredible guitarist as well as a songwriter of towering ability, and in many songs uses slightly alternate tunings, like double-drop-D. If A Tree Falls came up on my shuffle yesterday and I had one of those “aha” moments where I could just see how it is played all of a sudden.
Eric Clapton’s Lonely Stranger (from his Unplugged album). Worked it out with my beloved brother-in-law Bob, and it became one our highlight numbers whenever we played together. Those days are pretty much over now, sadly, as Bob has been struck down with early-onset dementia and can hardly play anymore. So having this and other songs we have featured keeps him alive in my heart.
Neil Young: My My, Hey Hey. Neil is a totally formative influence on my playing, and this one came together quickly not long after that album came out. A bunch of other Neil tunes could be listed here too… I mean, I named my first steel string acoustic “Neil”!
Paul Simon’s American Tune. A beautiful but very challenging song to play. In fact, I haven’t played it in many years, so I will have to re-learn it all over again… Another one of his that I have never been able to master is Peace Like A River, from his eponymous debut solo album. It has this killer solo/break that continues to baffle me-- I know where on the neck it is, but I just can’t get it…
OK, that’s enough from me! And yes, this does still happen, the thrill is not gone… e.g. yesterday’s breakthrough on If A Tree Falls…