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  • What's the Best Song-Pre 1940s Edition

       December 02, 2005

    Due to a couple of requests, we'll be moving back in time in our quest to choose the best song of all time and we'll be revising the voting procedure a little bit. Instead of just choosing your favorite, you can now rank the choices. Hopefully that will allow us to do some more accurate polling.

    The candidates for the pre-1940s best song are:

    • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, by Fisk Jubilee Singers
    • When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, by Chauncy Olcott
    • West End Blues, by Louis Armstrong
    • Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin
    • In The Mood, by Glenn Miller
    • Back in the Saddle Again, by Gene Autry
    • Can the Circle be Unbroken, by The Carter Family
    • Over the Rainbow, by Judy Garland
    • God Bless America, by Kate Smith
    • The Entertainer, by Scott Joplin

    Click here to place your vote.
    (opens in new window)

    For more information and previous results in our Greatest Song competition, click here.

    Update: The polls are closed and "Rhapsody in Blue" is our winner.

    Posted by at December 2, 2005 02:07 AM

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    #  December 1st, 2005 8:20 PM      james
    wait a minute, shouldn't there be a requirement that the artist have actually written the song?

    From the last edition, Bing Crosby didn't write White Christmas, Irving Berlin did.

    This time, the Carter Family didn't write "Will the Circle be Unbroken," it's an old spiritual.  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:21 PM      james
    i think that swing low sweet chariot is a spirirual, too  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:28 PM      kris
    No, why should it? For example, Aretha Franklin didn't write Respect (Otis Redding did). Elvis didn't write the lyrics or the music for Heartbreak Hotel. We're judging the performance, not the songwriting. At least that's how I'm looking at it.  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:37 PM      james
    your first poll post was entitled "What's the Best Song of All Time?" that made me think that you were talking about songs and songwriters.

    more accurately, it should have been titled "What's the Best Performance of All Time?"

    "Will the circle be unbroken" has probably been recorded by over 100 different artists. So what you're saying is that in your poll, i'm only voting on the Carter family performance (which blows), and the Statler Bros performance (which rocks) is irrelevant. Right?  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:39 PM      kris
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:41 PM      james

    what % of people living today do you think has heard Kate Smith sing "God Bless America?"  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:42 PM      kris
    anyone who is a Philadelphia Flyer fan, or hell, a hockey fan, has heard the Kate Smith version  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:45 PM      james
    so, like 1% then?
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:46 PM      james
    make that 1.0000001%, im gonna download it. but im not gonna become a flyers fan. (sorry, daddy)  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:46 PM      kris
    An interesting chapter was added to the Kate Smith- God Bless America story in the twilight of her 50-year career. Officials noted that when the national anthem was played at the opening of Philadelphia Flyers' hockey games, the fans were not properly respectful, while they listened more quietly to Kate's record of God Bless America. Furthermore, a statistician noted that they won most games when the latter was played. Fans were given a surprise on October 11, 197 3, at the season opener, when Kate Smith walked across the red carpet on the ice to sing her anthem in person. They beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0. Announcer Gene Hart commented that Kate "brought chills and a standing ovation of three minutes. It fully met the ultimate definition of the word triumph." At critical games Kate was driven down from New York to repeat the favor. When the Flyers clinched the championship and won the Stanley Cup by defeating the Boston Bruins 1-0, even the Bruins skated over to shake Kate’s hand. She was called their talisman and good luck charm; she loved the free publicity! She repeated the role the next season, and the Flyers defeated the New York Islanders to retain the Stanley Cup. In 1987 they erected a bronze statue in memory of their "rabbit's foot" or "secret ice weapon," who had died the previous year.

    They still will play the video of her singing it before big games.  
    #  December 1st, 2005 8:52 PM      james
    the song was written by irving berlin in 1918. there is an OK chance that smith's 1939 performance is no longer covered by copyright, but i'm not sure. (go sonny bono! you rule! (not really))

    Here's an MP3 of Smith's 1939 Performance  
    #  December 1st, 2005 9:01 PM      kris
    she kicks all kinds of ass on that song  
    #  December 1st, 2005 9:19 PM      james
    she does. i kinda wish i'd have voted her higher now.  
    #  December 1st, 2005 9:41 PM      kris
    I'm going to start the 1950s poll on Monday. I'm excited about that poll. I think it has by far the best selection of songs. I'm surprised, as I didn't realize that I liked 50s music.  
    #  December 1st, 2005 10:21 PM      james
    there are so many 50's songs that are groundbreaking, from a musical history perspective. i think you should post a list of proposed songs here in the comments and let people add/criticize.
    #  December 2nd, 2005 2:24 AM      TheUnabrewer
    The distant whirring sound is Robert Johnson spinning in his grave.  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 9:09 AM      kris
    Well maybe he shouldn't have sold his soul to the Devil  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 10:31 AM      james
    hey! our poll is broken!!! wtf?  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 10:32 AM      james
    ok, i'll write a poll application later today. i was gonna stay in tonight anyway. post specs/requests here.  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 11:10 AM      kris
    I'd like 10 choices. I don't need an instant runoff, but I'd like them weighted like this:

    1st place-15 points
    2nd place-10 points
    3rd place-8 points
    4th place-7
    5th place-6
    6th place-5
    7th place-4
    8th place-3
    9th place-2
    10th place-1

    I want 1st and 2nd place votes to count for relatively more.

    Highest overall point total wins.  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 11:13 AM      kris
    wait-it shouldn't be that rigid. a point system that would give a higher percentage to the first and second place rankings no matter how many choices there are  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 11:24 AM      kris
    the poll is working again  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 11:46 AM      james
    im drawing up the tables now. interesting problem: how shall i deal with non-votes? for instance, if a poll presents 10 choices, and the taker only ranks 5 of them?

    option 1 is that the poll doesnt allow that - it makes you rank everything. that could be annoying to the taker, and would lead to skewed results. people would rank choices they really didnt care about.

    option 2 is that the software assign random values to each of the unranked choices. that alleviates the annoying part, but still leads to erroneous and skewed results.

    option 3 is that the unranked choices don't get a value at all or they get the lowest value - eg they all get "0" or "1".

    i think 3 makes the most sense, but you'd have to understand that that's how the poll works in order to properly understand the results.

    i suppose i could make it an option, but i probably won't implement that right away. what do you think?  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 11:48 AM      kris
    option 3-they can all get a value of "1". that's fine with me  
    #  December 2nd, 2005 10:30 PM      Daddy
    I get CHILLS down my spine when I see Kate Smith sing "God Bless America".

    BTW, when they resurrected her via video during the 1987 Finals, the Edmonton Oilers of Gretzky-Coffey-Messier-Curry-and everybody else (y'know the dynasty?) spanked 'em HARD.

    #  December 2nd, 2005 11:32 PM      james
    ok, i didn't write the poll thingy tonight. but you know what i did do? i wrote a whole freaking IP locator service. i have a site where i really need to know what country people are coming from.

    so, where my logs used to say :

    46 23:24 1
    45 23:23 2
    44 23:22 1
    43 23:20 1
    42 23:19 1
    41 23:19 1
    40 23:18 1
    39 23:15 1
    38 23:13 2
    37 23:13 2
    36 23:12 1
    35 23:11 1
    34 23:11 1
    33 23:10 1
    32 23:08 1
    31 23:06 1
    30 23:06 1
    29 23:03 1
    28 23:00 1
    27 23:00 1
    26 22:59 1
    25 22:58 1
    24 22:57 1

    they now say
    46 23:24 1    UNITED STATES
    45 23:23 2 CANADA
    44 23:22 1 INDIA
    43 23:20 1 UNITED STATES
    42 23:19 1 LITHUANIA
    41 23:19 1 UNITED STATES
    40 23:18 1 UNITED STATES
    39 23:15 1 CANADA
    38 23:13 2 UNITED STATES
    37 23:13 2 UNITED STATES
    36 23:12 1 UNITED STATES
    35 23:11 1 UNITED STATES
    34 23:11 1 UNITED STATES
    33 23:10 1 UNITED STATES
    32 23:08 1 CANADA
    31 23:06 1 CANADA
    30 23:06 1 UNITED STATES
    29 23:03 1 INDONESIA
    28 23:00 1 CANADA
    27 23:00 1 UNITED STATES
    26 22:59 1 UNITED STATES
    25 22:58 1 UNITED STATES
    24 22:57 1 AUSTRALIA

    and by "logs" i mean custom-written-by-me tracking programs and what-not.

    with this, ive been able to deduce some killer stats about how people in different countries use search engines to find my sites.

    in one report, for instance, i take the referer search terms and run them against a wordlist - would it surprise you to learn that folks outside of US/Canada are much more likely to use a verb as the first word in their search phrase than US users are? from my stats, it's true.

    also, i see that different geographical areas have the same misspellings, i.e. they use a single "l" when they should a double-l. of the l v ll misspellings, 90% are from out of the US. many of the omitted l's look to be coming from eastern europe, but that's something im just eyeballing.

    interestingly enough, US users seem to be more prone to misjuxtapositions than they are misspellings. (is that word?) for instance, they don't say "pontiac sunfyre," they say "pontiac fire sun."

    people out of the US do the former (that is, misspell) at an 70-30 rate. that is, of all of the misspellings, 70% are from outside of the US. people in the US are reponsible for the latter at a 90-10 rate. that is, of the juxtapositions, 90% are from users WITHIN the US.

    fascinating, isnt it?  
    #  December 3rd, 2005 1:52 AM      kris
    i'm fine with this current poll as long as it doesn't break

    i'm ashamed to admit that i rooted for those 87 Flyers. I liked Scott Mellanby  
    #  December 3rd, 2005 2:13 PM      Daddy
    I'm ashamed to admit that I debated forsaking game 7 in the 87 finals to go to a Megadeth show.

    I didn't go. I watched the game. I should've seen Megadeth. I heard Dave Mustaine trashed his drummer's kit and there was a screaming match (on stage) just after the encore that led to Gar Samuelson's ouster.  
    #  December 4th, 2005 12:08 AM      mbrlr
    Where *are* the blues in this list? I wouldn't necessarily argue for Robert Johnson (well, yeah, I would) but no blues? And no, Louis Armstrong's song, brilliant man though he was, doesn't count.  
    #  December 4th, 2005 12:18 AM      mbrlr
    The Carter Family's not even in the running! Anathema sit!

    And, y'all...dear lady though she was and as much as I may, despite what you think, generally agree with the basic premise of the song...Kate Smith's "God Bless America" version is pure, unadulterated treacle. That it's listed as one of the choices and nothing by *any* of the pre-50s blues artists is here is just unfathomable.

    #  December 4th, 2005 9:36 AM      kris
    In the 1960s, the Beatles don't have a song in the critics top five, so I'd have to pick one song for the list. I think that's crazy, so I've decided to give them their own category. So now we have:

    1. pre-1940s
    2. 1940s
    3. 1950s
    4. 1960s
    5. The Beatles
    6. 1970s
    7. 1980s
    8. 1990s
    9. 2000s

    I think we should have 10 songs in the finals, so any thoughts on what a 10th category should be?  
    #  December 4th, 2005 10:38 AM      Daddy
    Category 10?

    Goofy Greats.  
    #  December 4th, 2005 10:41 AM      Daddy
    Lately, I've been gettin' a wild hair and listening to KROKUS. Yes, they're still alive. I've listened to "The Blitz" once a day for the past week.

    Hey, there's your Category 10:

    #  December 4th, 2005 11:39 AM      kris
    I've got it. Category #10 will be songs that people think I should have included. So, it'll have Robert Johnson and I'm sure there will be 9 more songs that I've overlooked as we move along. Plus, that'll give people an incentive to keep commenting  
    #  December 4th, 2005 12:15 PM      james
    all beatles songs sound the same. there is hardly a need for a whole beatles catgory.  
    #  December 4th, 2005 12:43 PM      kris
    yes. i've often confused Please Please Me for The Long & Winding Road  



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