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The Best Songwriter That Ever Lived : RadioPotato

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Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

The Best Songwriter That Ever Lived


Who is the best songwriter of all time and what makes them the best?  Although I have some theories on how to manipulate songs to make them blockbuster hits, the subjectivity is the true discussion.

Some people have a natural gift at picking up the lyrics of songs and singing every last line as if they were the one singing it onstage. I am that big fan at concerts that knows none of the words. I mumble lip sync until the chorus swells where my lyrical footing is briefly found and then quickly vanishes. Miraculously, I don’t even LIKE Bon Jovi but happen to know the lyrics backwards and forwards to Slippery When Wet. Not that I’m proud of this…

There are so many songs that take a couple hundred spins on the iPod before I figure out what the song is about. “Beg, Steal, or Borrow” by Ray LaMontagne (I often wonder if this song is autobiographical). “I’m Gonna Hate You When I Go” by Slow Runner (a gorgeous depiction of am impending break-up). “To Whom It May Concern” by The Civil Wars (painfully exquisite love letter to your future perfect someone).

Obviously, these examples are from newer artists.  There are the immediate go-to legendary musicians like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney that are considered to be the best songwriters of all time, thanks to this NPR article published a few years back.  But what makes somebody the best?  Is it a well worded time-capsule that Dylan is famous for?  Is it the clever twist of a rhyme that has catapulted Eminem to global unprecedented respect from the black AND white community?  Is it the melody intertwined that escalates a songwriter’s credibility?  As well respected as Leonard Cohen is for his songwriting and musical collection, it wasn’t until Jeff Buckley’s reworked and heart-tugging version of “Hallelujah” that it became the showstopping closer for artists merely attempting to cover Buckley’s version.

So who’s the best?

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About the author

Allison Hare wrote 138 articles on this blog.

A modern-day dame with a bionic ear for discovering emerging artists and a penchant for live shows. Admitted radio junkie



13 Responses to “The Best Songwriter That Ever Lived”
  1. Ironshef says:

    Another great article, Allison. Thought provoking, for sure.

    I’m gonna run with Prince as my pick. He might not be on the minds of many as one of the greatest, but the dude wrote a ton of kick ass music for himself and others, has command of multiple instruments and was so envied by the industry as a songwriter that it forced him to change his name to a symbol.

  2. Shiek Yerbouti says:

    Honestly, I’m not even close to qualified to coming up with someone.

    I’m one that doesn’t look at the overall big picture side of things. I just look at how I connect with someone I like.

    I’ll take one in particular who I’ve been a fan of since 1999. I saw this artist grow, and because we’re similar in age, though their music and their lyrics, I just connect on that level, because a lot of times, what they’re going through, I’m going through, whether growing up, love gained and love lost, stuff like that.

    That’s how I personally connect with it. How I relate to it.

  3. Matt says:

    Personally, I don’t think Lennon and McCartney have ever been equaled in their ability to combine perfectly beautiful hooks, arrangements, melodies, harmonies or anything else related to crafting a song. Anyone who has come after them has merely attempted to mold their skills after The Beatles….even if they don’t even realize it. Considering the relatively short time the group was together, it is an even more amazing feat.

    Now, that being said, Billy Joe Armstrong sure has a knack for songwriting also.

  4. Allison Rizk says:

    Dear Shiek (love the name, btw). You never mentioned WHO the artist is that you felt so connected to. Do tell.

  5. Shiek Yerbouti says:

    You’re gonna laugh, or make fun of me for it, it’s ok, I get made fun for it all the time, it’s ok, doesn’t change my feelings. And though his public persona, has become kind of a joke. But it’s John Mayer.

    But, take away the public persona part, and like I mentioned above, we’re similar ages, and I just connect with his music in terms of love, love lost, growing up and growing old.

    I guess it’s simple things, but when you’re 23-24, going through the loves, going through that quarter-life crisis and I found his music at that time and it just simply stuck with me to this day. Despite his diva-persona, I still connect with his music (though I find his current album to be a disappointment) and I can separate that from the other.


  6. Major Sturm says:

    Bob Marley is the most conscious singer and songwriter I have ever heard or seen. His music is spiritually driven and powerful which makes makes you know that your time is good spent listening to this music, which makes you want to be strong, standup for yourself and others, and be the best person possible.

    The way he phrases his words into his songs are haunting, uplifting, joyful and vigorous. He attacks the human consciousness with truth. The timelessness of his poetry in his music is simply profound and mind-blowing. “Redemption Song”, “Running Away”, “War”, “Jah Live”, “Crisis”, “Zimbabwe”, “shes gone”, positive vibrations, are all songs i recommend listening to.

  7. Allison Rizk says:

    Great point! I didn’t even think of Bob Marley but he does kick some serious ass, no doubt! Thanks for posting the comment-

  8. Jake C. says:

    I’m pretty sure I’m the greatest songwriter who ever lived.

  9. Allison Rizk says:

    Dear Jake,

    I’m pretty sure you are a punk.


  10. Everyone_stares says:

    I would have to contribute Sean Hayes and the Wood Brothers as some great folk musicians with a talent for words. Sean Hayes has me glued to his every word on the 4 albums I have. I am about to bite the bullet and fly out to Cali to see him as it looks like he never ventures to the east coast. Locally I have to go with my good friend Ben Trickey who happens to be playing Thursday at the Earl. He was voted best local singer/songwriter in Atlanta last year in creative loafing.

  11. Allison Rizk says:

    Sweet! Thanks for the comment. I just started downloading your suggestions- 🙂 THANK YOU!

  12. salahedien says:

    bob marley I think must be included best reggae song writer

  13. nick says:

    I’m sorry and I know this is old but u guys should listen to conor oberst bright eyes…his lyrics are just mind blowing haha

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