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Readers Respond to Jacquelyn Mitchard's '16 Songs You Must Own'

What you had to say (our ears are still ringing)

Perhaps if Jacquelyn Mitchard's essay had been titled "My Favorite Songs: How Do They Compare to Yours?" (thanks for the suggestion, Koalabelle), we wouldn't have gotten so many angry comments and Facebook posts about our story, "16 Songs Everyone Over 50 Must Own."

Nobody, especially at our age, likes to be told what to do.

But it wasn't only the headline that got readers riled up. People complained about everything from the pokiness of our website (we're working on it!) to the lack of songs with "Linda" in the title ("the name with the most songs written about it!!!," according to, you guessed it, Linda on Facebook.)

Mostly, though, Mitchard's greatest sin seemed to be that she left out the music you love — the music you listened to under the covers with a transistor radio, at a dance hall or a disco, in a dorm room with towels stuffed under the door, in a Ford Mustang, a hooch in Vietnam, or at a rally for peace or civil rights. As AARP community member fishface33 says: "Songs are like pizza. We all have our favorite." And, for the most part, Mitchard failed to name that tune.

Some of you, like malocclusiontenfour (a dentist CB radio enthusiast?), had your own lists to offer (see "36 more"), but many of you simply had one big beef: Why was (fill in the blank) left out?

Sometimes it was a single song, like Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" or Don McLean's "American Pie." Others regretted the absence of an artist (Bob Dylan was on many lists), a group (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is clearly a favorite, as is the Band, Cream, the Grateful Dead, the Police) or a style of music (Motown, by a mile).

Mitchard couldn't win for losing. When she did pick a popular artist or group, like the Beach Boys, Beatles or Elvis, writers criticized her song choice. Her attempt to move things toward the 21st century (Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise") was greeted with scorn ("Forget the disco and rap crap") equal only to that of those who expressed hostility or at least ambivalence about music from the more-distant past. Madriver's note about this was wistful: "I'm over 50, but have to say you've captured some of the music my parents listened to. I'm not sure how I feel about that."

In fact, the upper end of the AARP demographic felt mostly left out, a sentiment voiced by penstamon. "Were the writer really concerned, there certainly would have been a 'Stardust' on the list (which is still considered the greatest song ever written), as well as an 'All the Things You Are,' etc. Maybe there would have even been room for a 'My Funny Valentine,' too. That would have been a nice touch."

In your own lists, there were fewer mentions of Bruce Springsteen than we might have expected. The outraged musical theater fans mostly sat on the sidelines, and we didn't hear from a single reader lamenting the lack of Louis Armstrong, considered the father of jazz. 

Finally, not all of you were molto furioso about Mitchard's picks. Indeed, the kindest comment may have been this one: "Sweet 16 array of music, gracia."

Whether that was gracia as in "grace" or as in an abbreviated "thanks," we'll take it. Thanks for caring enough to write and keep the comments coming.

These are excerpts from some of our favorite lists submitted by readers:


  • "Oh Happy Day" (Edwin Hawkins Singers, 1967)
  • "Old Time Rock and Roll" (Bob Seger, 1978)
  • "Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night, 1970)
  • "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (Procol Harum, 1967 or Annie Lennox, 1995)
  • "Home Again" (Carole King, 1971)
  • "Still Crazy After All These Years" (Paul Simon, 1975)


  • "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman" (vocal by Aretha Franklin, 1967)
  • "You've Got a Friend" (James Taylor, 1971)
  • "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love?" (The Spinners, 1972)
  • "More Than a Feeling" (Boston, 1976)
  • "Just What I Needed" (The Cars, 1978)
  • "The Prayer" (vocals by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion, 1998)

Cindy (Facebook)

  • "The Candy Man" (vocal by Sammy Davis Jr., 1972)
  • "Hello" (Lionel Ritchie, 1984)
  • "I Will Always Love You" (Dolly Parton and Vince Gill, 1995)
  • "More Than a Woman" (Bee Gees, 1977)
  • "The Way We Were" (vocal by Barbra Streisand, 1974)
  • "Just the Way You Are" (Billy Joel, 1977)


  • "Stardust" (Hoagy Carmichael, 1927)
  • "Blue Bayou" (Roy Orbison, 1963, Linda Ronstadt, 1977)
  • "Minnie the Moocher" (Cab Calloway, 1931)
  • "Save the Country" (Laura Nyro, 1969)
  • "I Feel Free" (Cream, 1966)
  • "Fixin' to Die Rag" (Country Joe & the Fish, 1967)


  • "Do You Believe in Magic?" (The Lovin' Spoonful, 1965)
  • "The Year of the Cat" (Al Stewart, 1976)
  • "Tears of a Clown" (Smoky Robinson, 1967)
  • "Ohio" (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1971)
  • "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (vocals by The Byrds, 1965)
  • "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (The Rolling Stones, 1965)


  • "My Generation" (The Who, 1965)
  • "Yesterday" (The Beatles, 1965)
  • "As Tears Go By" (The Rolling Stones, 1965)
  • "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (Bob Dylan, 1964)
  • "What's Goin' On" (Marvin Gaye, 1971)
  • "Respect" (vocal by Aretha Franklin, 1967)

You may also like: AARP's Top 10 Albums for Grownups in 2011.