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Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween cheers to bands Blind Whiskey, The Neighbors, Faux Paw and Vaudevileins!

Blind Whiskey
By Ted Slowik

Saturday night was a whirlwind. I caught parts of sets by four bands in three different venues in three towns. After all Halloween is a busy time of year for live performers, right up there with New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day.

First up was a stop by the Downers Grove Moose to catch Blind Whiskey. They had the joint rocking with covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival, ZZ Top and others. Guitarist/vocalist Chuck Pelkie puts on a great show backed by bassist George Lales and drummer Frank Glorioso. Though I didn't get to stick around to hear them sit in with the band, it was good seeing musician friends Ron Maruszak and "Big Eddy" George Joch.

The Neighbors
On my way home to Joliet from Downers Grove, it was a quick detour over the Ninth Street Bridge in Lockport to the William Alexander Wine Bar, where The Neighbors were playing. The slim-downed lineup included Brian Barry on acoustic guitar, Nick Domberg on acoustic guitar and bongos and Andrew Becker on drums. Pops Becker was there too but no sign of Stephen! Nick's a great singer and he and Andrew and Brian do some nice harmonies together. I like their selection of tunes, from Bob Marley to Harry Nilsson. William Alexander is a fine place to hear live acoustic music, and there was an enthusiastic full house on hand cheering them on.

My only regret in seeing The Neighbors was that I missed Matt Biskie's performance as Willie Nelson at the "Under the Covers" show at Chicago Street Pub in Joliet, my last stop of the evening (Sorry, Matt!). His costume was great, though. I did catch a fun set by the middle band, Faux Paw, a quartet from Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University. They came out as Fleetwood Mac, with all four wearing black dresses and appearing as Stevie Nicks, though they shared just one blond wig among them.

Faux Paw
In addition to having a great sense of humor, they sounded great! The second half of their set they did their own music, which is a lively groove of guitar sounds layered over a comfy bed of bass and drums. Band members are bassist Stephen Freeman, drummer Tom Lageveen and guitarists Garrett Ney and Gordon Wantuch.

I picked up a copy of their self-released CD, "Too Close Is the New Too Far," which came out a year ago. I gave it a listen and like it a lot. It's got a real Wilco-like feel to it, with a nice mix and excellent recording quality. You should definitely support them by liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter and checking out their recordings and live shows. They got a nice writeup in Paste magazine as one of "10 Indiana Bands You Should Listen To Now."

Vaudevileins as Guns N' Roses
The fourth and final band I heard that evening was the beginning of Vaudevileins' set as Guns N' Roses. I love Vaudevileins and their sense of humor, and they really went all out with their commitment to capturing the look and sound of GNR. Matt Lapperre sat in on drums while regular drummer Brennan Chouinard took on Axl Rose vocal duties.

They opened with "Welcome To the Jungle" and absolutely nailed it! They posted their version of "It's So Easy," which is definitely worth checking out. They're a fantastic band who have a lot of fun, and make it fun for people who hear them. They'll reprise their show as GNR Wednesday night (Oct. 30) at Phantom Phest at Quenchers Saloon in Chicago.

My small musical contribution to Halloween this year is a cover of "Resurrection Mary," a story about a Chicago-area ghost written by the great Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame. His original is very powerful. It's a great song about a great story.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Big news to share about the CD release show Jan. 4!

By Ted Slowik

The moment I wrote "Red Rover" back in March I knew it was a song worth recording in the studio. I'm very excited to say that the completion of the debut CD "Comfort Zone" is closer than ever! It's looking like the six-song collection could be available for sale in early December for just $5 through

"Comfort Zone" is a great collection of six tunes with help from some very good musician friends John Condron, Bill Aldridge, Pat Otto and Aly Flood. There's a range of acoustic stories on the record, from the sweet love song "Red Rover" to the rocker "Hinsdale" and a bunch more. While the mixing and mastering process is moving along, Brent Moats has come up with a great design for the CD, inside and out. The front and back covers are shared here for the first time!

The best way I could think to celebrate the release of a debut CD at age 48 was to ask as many friends as possible to help make it a very special evening of music. Thanks to Triz, the CD release show will be Saturday, Jan. 4, at Chicago Street Pub in Joliet. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Corkery will open the evening with a set sometime after 9.

Lyons Township High School classmates and Suspended Animation bandmates Ron Kostka on drums and Rich Westrick on keyboards will then join me for an hour-long acoustic set of songs from the record and other originals with a special appearance by Aly Flood.

As much fun as that will be, the evening then gets even BIGGER when guitarist/singer/songwriter Chuck Pelkie from the band Blind Whiskey joins us on electric guitar while I switch to bass for the final hour. Chuck and I went to college together and worked at the same newspaper and his involvement takes the night to a higher level.

As if that wasn't big enough, the evening will be capped off with a special appearance by vocalist/harmonica player George Joch and a one-night-only reunion of the 2000s-era lineup of the Big Eddy Springs Blues Band! Yes, Big Eddy is coming out of retirement for this very special occasion, and you won't want to miss it!

That's the big news for the week. But before I forget, on Monday night I finished writing the new song "Support Joe Hosey" and uploaded the first video demo of it to YouTube. I performed it for the first time publicly Wednesday night at Tribes Alehouse Mokena and it's a fun one! It's also the quickest of any video demo I've posted to hit 200 views. It's only two minutes and twenty-four seconds long, so check it out and show your support for Joe Hosey!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cheers to Jack Be Nimble and other updates to share

By Ted Slowik

Had a great time playing a show Saturday night with Jack Be Nimble. The turnout was great at the new black box Studio Theatre at Lewis University, and the sound was fantastic. Thanks to Jo, Andrew, Keith and all the crew at the theater for putting together and pulling off a great show.

Three of the four members of Jack Be Nimble graduated from Lewis last year, and they're doing really well as a band. They write their own material, have really good studio recordings out and put on an energetic live show. They've had more than 8,000 downloads of their songs on PureVolume, and you should definitely check out "Maple Trees," "Take Me Home" and their other tunes. You can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter--they're really good, especially if you like loud, fast rock music popular with Millennials.

The show was so much fun. I played an hour-long opening set of 10 originals and two covers, and told stories during tuning changes and between songs. The audience reaction was great. The solo show is evolving nicely and is an entertaining hour of storytelling and music. It felt very special performing in front of Jo, Hannah and Noah, Mom and Liz and many friends. The show was photographed, audio taped and videotaped so as those materials are edited there could be a whole bunch of cool content forthcoming from that evening!

I played all six songs from the "Comfort Zone" EP that will be coming out soon. Bill Aldridge from Third City Sound hopes to finish the final mix soon, and the sleeve design is well underway. Then it's just a matter of mastering and pressing copies so it's looking like it'll be available for sale late November/early December.

Had hoped to get a date around then for a CD release show at the only logical place to have one--Chicago Street Pub in Joliet--but Triz is booked through the holidays. So save the date Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, will be the "official" release date. Happy to say the great songwriter and guitarist Chris Corkery is on board to open the show, and Ron Kostka will be backing me up on drums. Hoping other friends and special guest musicians are available to join the party, too,

As far as other updates, much thanks to Romanian music journalist Vlad Stoian for including my 10 favorite songs among those of hundreds of other artists and musicians from around the world on his Warmer Climes blog (I'm Warmer Mixtape #883). I think he's got a great idea for a blog with endless potential for contributions, and it's interesting to read through such a diverse selection of favorites.

On the songwriting front, the newer tunes "Molly Zelko" and "Back To You" continue to get great receptions, and Saturday night "Slowiks" and "Red Rover" went over very well. I'm making progress on a new tune called "Support Joe Hosey." I have a chorus and a couple verses and a melody at last, though not quite ready to share a rendition just yet--soon. I had an idea to write a ghost story song about Resurrection Mary, but checked first and discovered Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter already released this excellent tune back in 1996, so there's no need for anyone to try to top that! Might have to learn this as a cover someday but for now I'm just enjoying listening to it.

I'm also enjoying listening to an advance copy of a soon-to-be-released full-length album by Illinois singer/songwriter/guitarist Dylan Michael Bentley. He's got one song, "Knock, Knock," up on his YouTube channel and you should check it out. I'll be writing more about Dylan's new album in a couple weeks.

Also loving the latest bluegrass release from The Leadfoot Band. Steve Haberichter from the band dropped by open mic last week at Tribes Alehouse Mokena. Steve co-owns Down Home Guitars in Frankfort, a great music store with sales of acoustic instruments, repairs, lessons and in-store concert performances. The great flatpicker Eric Lambert is having the release party for his new collection "Maiden Voyage" at Down Home Guitars on Oct. 26, and I can't wait to buy a copy of that CD and tell you much more about Eric, Steve and the store in future posts.

So much going on! Other things in the works involving blues and writing about Chicago music history and all kinds of cool stuff, so details as they become available. Be sure to check out the Ted Slowik Music website for cool pictures, lyrics, stories and more.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Someone asked for a list of my 10 favorite songs

By Ted Slowik

Someone asked for a list of my 10 favorite songs. The thing about making a list like this is that you have to have fun with it, otherwise you could drive yourself crazy. Your 10 favorites at this moment may not be your 10 favorites a year from now, or 10 years ago.

Look for my list to join those of more than 870 other artists who talk about their favorite songs on the Warmer Climes blog, a creation of 25-year-old music journalist Vlad Stoian of Bucharest, Romania. He asked for detailed personal stories about why the songs are favorites. Thanks Brandon for connecting me with Vlad.

1. The Beatles / Strawberry Fields Forever. I first heard this when I was probably about 5 years old, in 1970 or so. I could fill a list of 10 favorites tunes with all Beatles songs, but this John Lennon number about his childhood is special in that I remember actually picking strawberries with my older brothers and sisters, running through the rows and singing this song. I love Lennon’s wit and nonsensical lyrics, and later became enthralled to learn how Lennon insisted producer George Martin splice together two different versions of the song recorded at different speeds in different keys to create the final take.

2.) Dust My Broom / Robert Johnson. There are hundreds of versions of this tune by 1920s bluesman Robert Johnson, the man who “sold his soul to the devil” down at the crossroads, though I’m partial to the Elmore James version. I like this song because of the line, “I believe my time ain’t that long,” which is a wonderful mantra. It means make the most of your time here, because it’s finite. No one cheats death. Live life to the fullest, today and every day, because all of our days are numbered.

3.) The Weight / The Band. The songwriting is credited to Robbie Robertson, though later disputed by the late drummer Levon Helm, who insisted each of the five members of The Band had a collaborative role in the words and music for this song. I love this song on many levels. The Band backed up Bob Dylan, the greatest songwriter ever, and created much great music of its own. This song is popular among cover bands—most musicians know it, so it’s a fun one to jam to. At the conclusion of the documentary “It Might Get Loud,” it’s the song that guitarists Jimmy Page, Jack White and U2’s The Edge perform together. Personally, this song was the topic of one of the last conversations I had with my brother Jim, who passed away in 2009. He loved open-wheel auto racing and was freelance writing for a racing magazine. He was covering a race in Nazareth, Pa., and phoned me one night asking me to verify the song’s opening line. I was annoyed, it was late—I think I told him to Google it, even though I knew the lyric by heart. It was one of the last times we spoke, and I’ll always regret brushing him off.

4.) God Only Knows / The Beach Boys. A lot of best-songs lists pick “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, but I prefer this track from the “Pet Sounds” album. The music is pure Brian Wilson genius, with lyrics by Tony Asher. I’m not ashamed to admit that this song is in heavy rotation on my MP3 playlist, and if I’m the least bit blue or melancholy I’ll likely shed a few tears when this one comes on. The beautifully arranged harmonies, the soaring horn parts, the chunky bass line—it’s all so PERFECT.

5.) Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner / Warren Zevon. Admittedly, Warren Zevon is my all-time favorite songwriter. This is one of his signature songs, and the last one he performed publicly (on “The Late Show with David Letterman”) before his death in 2003. In the biography written by his ex-wife, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon,” Crystal Zevon relates how the newly married couple moved to Spain in 1975 with no prospects for work. What an incredibly bohemian thing to do! That’s when Warren met “Roland” co-writer David Lindell, a former mercenary who inspired the fictitious tale. Warren is one of history’s greatest musical storytellers, and this is one of his finest works.

6.) Gimme Shelter / The Rolling Stones. Had to include a Stones track among favorites, and who could argue with this selection? It’s from the Stones’ late ’60s/early ’70s “golden era,” when Keith Richards discovered open tuning and Jagger was at the height of his vocal powers. If you haven’t heard the isolated vocals of Jagger and Merry Clayton, it’s a powerful experience. On a personal level, this was one of the few Stones songs I saw Richards perform with the X-pensive Winos in 1987 at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom with my sister, who was five months pregnant at the time.

7. The Cave / Mumford & Sons. When I first heard Mumford & Songs, I was the most excited about a band since first hearing Nirvana 20 years earlier. My son introduced me to their music, and the first time I heard this song was this high-definition video of a live studio performance before a small audience. I could see exactly how Marcus Mumford played the song on acoustic guitar, and from there I was able to figure out how to play it myself. Because when you strip away the banjo, kick drum, keyboards and other accompaniment, The Cave is truly a beautiful song about self-discovery, determination and overcoming fear.

8. Won’t Get Fooled Again / The Who. Pete Townshend composed so many great songs for The Who and as a solo artist, it’s hard to choose one. "Won’t Get Fooled Again" certainly belongs on lists of rock classics, from the innovative use of synthesizers to Roger Daltry’s epic scream and Keith Moon’s pounding drums. Of course they played it during their halftime show at The Super Bowl. Lyrically it’s an anthem applicable not just to their generation but to all generations, because after all—the more things change, the more they stay the same. And if you think this song only works as a full-power electric juggernaut in a stadium or arena, check out Townshend’s 1979 acoustic version from The Secret Policeman’s Ball.

9. Like a Rolling Stone / Bob Dylan. This song is No. 1 on some lists of the greatest songs ever, and Dylan’s widely regarded as the greatest modern-era songwriter. It’s a song that holds up well after 50 years. Great songs enable the listener to see themselves in them. They may still be a writer’s personal revelations, or some great social commentary, but the truly successful songs allow the writer and listener to connect on a personal level. For me, this songs not only encapsulates a great life philosophy (a rolling stone, after all, is temporary and fleeting but oh so much fun, and when it stops it’s going to rest for a long, long time) but ties together three huge musical influences: Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters. Muddy wrote the song that contained the line that inspired the name of the British Invasion band, one of many influenced by Chicago blues, and Dylan himself was inspired by Muddy (compare Dylan’s "Someday Baby" to Muddy’s "Trouble No More"). On the recording/production front, guitarist Al Kooper plays a mean B3 organ on this track.

10. We’re Going To Be Friends / The White Stripes. I wanted to include a nice, simple acoustic song on this list, and while I considered everyone from Jim Croce to Nick Drake I ended up choosing this Jack White number to close out the list. I love the narrative about childhood innocence, learning and play. The melody is simply beautiful, and believe me, it’s not easy to be simple, great and original. Maybe you were introduced to this song from the "Napolean Dynamite" movie, or maybe it’s on the soundtrack of a year-end video your school put together. Either way, you should be glad you heard this lovely piece. You’ll always have it as a favorite memory.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Judge Kinney was wrong; support Joe Hosey

By Ted Slowik

Sometimes judges get it wrong. Like the one in Montana who gave a one-month prison sentence to a teacher convicted of raping one of his 14-year-old students, who tragically committed suicide. The judge was wrong to impose such a lenient sentence. Everyone knows that.

Here in Will County, a judge has erred. Judge Gerald Kinney has ordered Patch reporter Joe Hosey to divulge how he obtained police reports about the grisly killing of two men in a Hickory Street home in Joliet on Jan. 10.

Kinney on Sept. 20 ordered Hosey to divulge his source, and the judge fined the reporter $1,000 outright plus $300 a day. Hosey has refused to disclose his source or sources, and the fines are on hold while the ruling is appealed. Joe could face jail time if the ruling is upheld.

Judge Kinney was wrong. Everyone should see that.

No one disputes Hosey's investigative accounts of what the alleged killers said and did in relation to the January murders on Hickory Street. This isn't about the facts of the case, or whether the defendants will receive a fair trial. This is about finding the source of the leak, and punishing that person, as the Chicago Tribune said Friday in an editorial criticizing Kinney's decision and calling for the appellate court to overturn the ruling.

The ruling will be overturned because it's wrong. Illinois has a shield law that protects journalists like Joe Hosey. The circumstances of this case fall well within the protections granted by that law. History will show Hosey was right and Kinney was wrong.

This is a First Amendment case with national implications. American journalists should not have to face the threat of jail simply for doing their jobs well. In this day and age of government intrusion into privacy, if authorities cannot determine the source of the leak, Hosey shouldn't be forced to tell.

Besides, Hosey seems like the kind of reporter who would sooner go to jail than divulge a confidential source. (The source, by the way, is irrelevant. No one should care who it is.) Kinney's contempt-of-court ruling will never achieve its intention of revealing the source of the leak. The ruling, however, forces Hosey's employer to bear the expense of defending its reporter.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, more than 500 people have signed affidavits stating they did not provide the information to Hosey. If Kinney ever finds out who leaked the police reports, that individual or individuals could face disciplinary action for violating professional attorney and prosecutorial procedures, or even criminal perjury for lying under oath.

In addition to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, numerous journalistic organizations are supporting Joe Hosey. Among them, the National Press Club, The Illinois News Broadcasters Association, Radio Television and Digital News Association.

What can you do to help? Show your support for Joe Hosey. Join the Facebook group, Free Joe Hosey. Post, share and like comments and links on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to show your support.

It's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The 15 most influential songwriting artists of all time are...

By Ted Slowik

Many songwriters are artists, and many are regarded as commercially successful. Some great ones strike that perfect balance between art and success. Millions of people write songs, but these 15 stand out as among the best of the best and major influences on countless other writers and listeners. They're described here in alphabetical order.

1. Burt Bacharach: Working with lyricist Hal David, Bacharach composed dozens of hits, many for Dionne Warwick. He's credited with 73 Top 40 songs--73! Included are such classics as "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," "Close To You" and "What the World Needs Now." Elvis Costello knows he's cool. Bacharach flourished in the Brill Building hitmaking era, when artists sang and performed songs written for them by others.  Granted, my admiration of writers like Bacharach, Carole King and others is rooted in my youth of the 1970s when I listened to Top 40 radio, but to this day I admire his mastery of the craft.

2. Leonard Cohen: If you're not familiar with this icon, you should check out his work. His credits include "Hallelujah" and "First We Take Manhattan." He's a writer admired by other writers, though nonwriting civilians certainly appreciate his work as well. Here's what American Songwriter magazine says about one of his more well-known tunes, "Bird On a Wire." Also check out this 2009 video interview Cohen did with Jian Ghomeshi of CBC. Those crazy Canadians! There's three of them among this list of 15 influential songwriters.

3. Willie Dixon: Imagine what it was like in the 1950s and 1960s at Chess Records in Chicago, when Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters,
Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter and Buddy Guy were contemporaries. That was the golden era of electric blues. Those Chicago guys (and gals like Koko Taylor and Etta James) were major influences on the British Invasion musicians like Jagger and Richards, Clapton, Page and Plant, Jeff Beck--the greatest rock heroes of all time! Dixon penned such greats as "Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Little Red Rooster," "Spoonful," "My Babe" and many others. One could argue that Robert Johnson deserves a spot on this list, though I chose Dixon because his body of work is so much greater than Johnson's limited canon.

4. Bob Dylan: No. 1 on most lists of the greatest songwriters of all time, and deservedly so. Few can match Dylan's prolific output across six decades and counting, and his words probably changed the course of history by inspiring masses during the 1960s. "Like a Rolling Stone," "Blowin' In the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" are just three examples of Dylan's profound social commentary. He was influenced by Woody Guthrie, who deserves a mention somewhere in this article. Dylan defied convention and infuriated folk fans when he went electric, and he's mastered writing in rock, country and other genres. "Poet" doesn't begin to describe the influence of Dylan's artistry, but it'll have to suffice in this brief entry.

5. Steve Goodman: Admittedly, my list is biased in favor of Chicagoans. Steve hung around with Jimmy Buffett, John Prine and others back in the day. Known on a national scale for writing "City of New Orleans" and "The Dutchman," Goodman composed many great Chicago tunes including "Lincoln Park Pirates" and "Daley's Gone." On the North Side he's known for the Cubs anthems "Go, Cubs, Go" and "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request." Steve and others on this list had an amazing gift for storytelling.

6. George Harrison: Beatle George may rank among many lists of the top songwriters of all time, but he'll always only be the
third-best songwriter in The Beatles. George's need to express his creativity and spiritualism through song was one of the reasons the band split up. The Beatles couldn't give him enough songs per album because their success relied on the Lennon/McCartney formula. Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" album and other works in the 1970s and beyond weave lovely melodies together with incredible musicianship, heartfelt lyrics and outstanding production to create a legacy of some of the finest recordings of the era. He could also make hits. Among solo Beatles George scored the first ("My Sweet Lord," 1970) and last "Got My Mind Set on You," 1987) No. 1 singles.

7. John Lennon: John, the founder of and rocker in The Beatles. He had a wit and ability to turn a phrase, combined with a knack for melodic chords and catchy rhythms. His psychedelic phase gave us such masterpieces as "A Day In the Life" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." He could bare his soul and be intensely personal on solo albums like "Plastic Ono Band," though he also gave us worldly messages like "Imagine" and "All You Need Is Love." One can only admire John's themes of peace and love and how his timeless messages continue to speak to generations of admirers. Lennon's songs were always relevant to the time, whether he was writing about the pressures of dealing with stardom ("Help!") or the love he felt for his son Sean ("Beautiful Boy").

8. Paul McCartney: How convenient that the three Beatles in this list run consecutively alphabetically! Arguably the most successful composer of all time (some lists place him behind Andrew Lloyd Webber), Sir Paul is responsible for 32 No. 1 hits and hundreds of millions of sales. The creator of "Yesterday," "Hey Jude" and many other Beatles greats, he went on to achieve success with a second Hall of Fame-caliber band, Wings, that gave us "Silly Love Songs," "Live and Let Die" and many others. A master of melodies ("Eleanor Rigby," "For No One"), Paul could always also rock with the best of them ("Helter Skelter"). He continues to write, record, perform and release material that appeals to his fans.

9. Joni Mitchell: Here's a link to a great interview Joni did recently with Jian Ghomeshi of CBC. If you get the chance you should watch the video of the hour-long interview, if you want to hear one of the greats talk about the craft. As a songwriter she's responsible for such tunes as "Big Yellow Taxi," "Help Me" and "Woodstock," and deeply personal albums like her classic "Blue." One has to admire not only her mastery of the songwriting craft, but her boldness in exploring other genres like jazz ("Coyote") and electronic music ("Dog Eat Dog"). There are many great female songwriters (Carly Simon, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Tracy Chapman) but Joni is the only woman on this list.

10. John Prine: Chicago scores again! Remember this is a list of the most influential songwriters, and Prine certainly had a major influence on his generation, especially among other writers and musicians. His most familiar works include "Illegal Smile," the oft-covered "Angel From Montgomery" and the clever "Ain't Hurtin' Nobody." He's associated with such artists as Steve Goodman and Kris Kristofferson and is among the best at creating moods and communicating sentiment through his songs.

11. Paul Simon: Who hasn't walked around humming a Paul Simon
tune at some point in their life? A favorite among writers, Simon wrote "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Mrs. Robinson," "The Boxer," "The Sound of Silence" and a host of other classics by Simon & Garfunkel. Throughout the 1970s Simon scored major solo hits with "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover," "Kodachrome" and many others. His success continued into the 1980s with "Late In the Evening," "Graceland" and much more. Simon's another writer unafraid to experiment with varied world sounds and rhythms. He's a highly successful and respected artist who certainly belongs on any list of the top influential songwriters of all time.

12. Pete Townshend: A personal favorite of mine, Townshend's work with The Who spoke to generations of adolescents. As principal songwriter in one of the greatest rock groups of all time, Townshend gave us such classics as "My Generation," "Baba O'Reilly," "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." He conceived the brilliant concept albums "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia." His solo albums like "Empty Glass" are magnificent, and he's a great example of an artist who has battled addiction and uses writing to come to terms with the demons that lurk in the "dark place." He also found success as a writer of short stories ("Horses Neck") and his nonfiction memoir ("Who I Am").

13. Muddy Waters: I scanned many "Best Songwriters" lists while researching this, and few acknowledge the contributions Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon made to modern songwriting. Muddy of course was a major influence on The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and many others, and his well-known works include "I Just Want To Make Love To You," "I'm Ready," "Mannish Boy" and "Got My Mojo Working." Muddy summed up his own awareness of his musical influence in his late-career song "The Blues Had a Baby." Eric Clapton says it all in a quote inscribed on a plaque outside Muddy's boyhood home near Clarksdale, Mississippi: "(Muddy Waters') music changed my life, and whether you know it or not, and like it or not, it probably changed yours, too."

14. Neil Young: Neil may be the most prolific writer on this list. One day before breakfast he wrote three songs for his 2006 album "Living With War" (that was his 29th Grammy-nominated album). His work is relevant, too. From "Ohio" to his present-day activism, Young is not one to sit by idly when there are causes to champion. His songs are also personal ("Needle and the Damage Done") and beautiful ("Harvest Moon"). One must also acknowledge his work as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the lasting influence Young has had on others including great writers and musicians (Pearl Jam, John Mellencamp) for more than half a century.

15. Warren Zevon: Warren is probably my all-time personal favorite songwriting artist. Classically trained, Zevon could craft beautifully melodic tunes ("Searching For a Heart"). He could also rock like few others, with his distinctive intellect and dark humor ("Werewolves of London," "Lawyers, Guns and Money"). When he got to storytelling, he's in the top tier, up there with Dylan ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," "Hit Somebody"). Warren loved writing, and he was a writer's writer--someone who befriended literary types. His genius is evident in the body of work he left.

That's my list of the top 15 most influential songwriting artists of all time. Honorable mentions go to Willie Nelson, Jeff Buckley, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters and David Gilmour, Brian Wilson, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Elton John, Van Morrison, Carole King, Richard Thompson and Chuck Berry. Feel free to suggest others and why they deserve recognition.