Bob Seger firmly established himself as one of America’s favorite singers in the 1970’s, with a long string of hard-driving hits that provided an honest, unflinching view of American life. With a new CD released this week – his first in over a decade – Seger’s brand of high-octane rock returns to the American music scene. In his honor, below please find a list of Seger’s ten best songs.
10. Hollywood Nights
With a rocking drum beat (actually two beats, overdubbed onto one another) and an up-tempo melody, “Hollywood Nights” tells the fictional story of a Midwestern boy caught chasing a Los Angeles starlet. A classic Seger tune, its upbeat music contrasts nicely with a poignant, heartfelt lyric.
9. Beautiful Loser
Seger’s lyrical mastery shines through on “Beautiful Loser”, the title track of Seger’s last album before joining up with the Silver Bullet Band and becoming a mainstream success. Re-released on “Live Bullet”, Seger’s first major-label release, “Loser” is another example of Seger’s ability to create memorable and relatable characters within a single song.
Combined on the live album with “Travelin’ Man”, “Beautiful Loser” was one of Seger’s biggest hits while a regional star, and shows off the talent that would soon make him a major star.
“Shakedown”, from the soundtrack to “Beverly Hills Cop II”, may not hold up as well as some of his tunes from the 1970s albums, but as Seger’s only number one single, it deserves a spot on this list. It seems ironic that it took over a decade from his first major release – and two decades from his musical debut – for Seger to hit the top of the charts, only for the success to come with a song that some fans find mediocre, at best.
7. Old Time Rock and Roll
One of Seger’s few hits that he didn’t write, I admit that I flat-out hate this song. But it is one of his most well-known songs, and in fact was named the #2 jukebox single of all time by the Amusement & Music Operators Association (behind only Patsy Cline’s Crazy). A staple of weddings and parties, “Old Time Rock and Roll” touched a nerve with Americans. And, a quick listen to a modern rock station shows that the lyrics still hold up all these years later.
6. The Fire Inside
Another lyrical masterpiece from Bob Seger, “The Fire Inside” is Seger’s most poetic song, to the point that the lyrics hold up even alone on paper. Alternately inspiring and regretful, “The Fire Inside” is one of Seger’s masterpieces, and one of his most underrated songs.
5. Against The Wind
Covered by country music megagroup The Highwaymen, among many others, “Against The Wind” is a tale of struggle against odds. A simple, beautiful tune meshes perfectly with a haunting piano solo and another classic Seger lyric. “Livin’ to run/And runnin’ to live/Never worried about paying/Or even how much I owed.” Indeed.
4. Still The Same
If Seger’s great strength as a songwriter is to capture characters in a single song, “Still The Same” is one of the purest displays of his talent. Seger claimed the song was based on an amalgam of characters he first met in Los Angeles. We all know someone to whom the lyrics match perfectly: “Turning on the charm/Long enough to get you by.”
3. Turn The Page
One of the best road warrior songs ever, “Turn The Page” is a haunting look at the flipside of fame. Currently living the road life myself, I can attest that “Turn The Page” may be the best expression of the frustration and weariness of the constant travel, the long trips, and the weak food.
Overlaid with a wailing saxophone, Seger’s own strong vocals carry this tune and make it a must-listen for not only rock fans, but rock musicians – and a few comedians.
Arguably Bob Seger’s most poignant song, “Mainstreet” is another recollection of the teenage years. This time, Seger’s main character loves a local dancer from afar, the proverbial stripper with a heart of gold. With a slow, wailing guitar reminiscent of New Orleans jazz, “Mainstreet” is a departure from Seger’s typical up-tempo works but maintains his lyrical brilliance.
1. Night Moves
The title track of Seger’s second LP, this second release led the album that made Bob Seger a star. Seger’s own website calls the track an “evocative depiction of sexual discovery and the bittersweet passage from adolescence into adulthood”. In short, the scene – two teenagers making out in the backseat of an old car – is one of the defining moments for us all, and never captured better than in “Night Moves”.
Still an American music staple thirty years after its release, “Night Moves” is a defining American song; a song that makes us remember where we were when we first heard it – or first lived it. Seger’s impressive ability to capture the American experience is never on display more than in “Night Moves”, and it earns a well-deserved top spot on this list.