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10 Great Songs of Longing and Loss

I have had a lifelong love of music. For me, music is memory and memories make us who we are.

Music helps us travel back through time. Listening again to a song, we are back in the moment when it meant so much to us. We might have felt sad then but, with the passage of years, we can now look back with a wry smile. So yes, this is a personal list because each of these songs meant a lot to me once. They are still important because they are a part of the experience that, for good or ill, has made me who I am today. This is why you wouldn't have chosen the same list. Nevertheless, I hope that you enjoy the tracks. They are, after all, great songs.

I'd like to thank Misbah and Shauna who took the trouble to point out one or two drawbacks with the original version of this article. Thanks, guys - you are very kind. You will have the opportunity to vote on your favorite track in the poll at the end of the article. I'll revise the list from time to time - so do come back and see if there's anything new.

1. "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" – Sandy Denny

Tragically, this song's writer, Sandy Denny, died at the age of 31. In 2007, the version that she sang on Fairport Convention's 1968 album Unhalfbricking was voted the favorite folk track of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners.

Given her early death, the title is sadly ironic. Curiously, the last song that she sang live was this one.

Sandy Denny sang on the Led Zeppelin track Battle of Evermore and was the only guest singer to feature on a Zeppelin album.

Fairport Convention started out in 1967. They have changed the line-up many times but are still going strong.

2. "Year of the Cat" – Al Stewart

This 1976 song is probably Al Stewart's best-known number. Stewart has been a feature on the folk-rock scene for more than 50 years. He appeared at the first-ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970 and, as a young man in London, shared a flat with Paul Simon. He also knew Yoko Ono before she got together with John Lennon. London, in those days, was the place to be.

Al Stewart is still performing.

3. "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" – Al Green

Originally written by Barry and Robin Gibb for The Bee Gees, this song came out in 1971. The original version is wonderful, but I particularly like Al Green's cover. Beautiful.

Al Green became an ordained pastor after a girlfriend committed suicide. He is still performing today.

4. "What a Fool Believes" – Doobie Brothers

It's hard to believe that the everlasting Doobies started as a house band in a venue in California that was especially popular as a hangout for local chapters of the Hells Angels.

The Doobies have a wide repertoire that cuts across genres. Still fresh after all these years.

Michael McDonald wrote and sang this song. To prove that the rock world is a small one, McDonald had a long-lasting relationship with Steely Dan.

5. "Diamonds and Rust" – Joan Baez

New Yorker Joan Baez worked with many of the top names on the sixties folk scene, not least amongst them Bob Dylan. She has made great cover versions but is no mean songwriter herself. This 1975 song shows her considerable talents. Our video includes lyrics if you'd like to sing along.

It's not hard to work out who the song is about. Her relationship with Dylan was always a close one.

6. "Impossible Germany" – Wilco

Wilco was born out of the ashes of the country-rock band Uncle Tupelo in 1994. During the group's first ten years, the lineup had frequent changes. But, in 2004, the group found the formation that suited their innovative style.

This track is one of my favorites. It features some great guitar work.

7. "Missouri Birds" – John Stewart

John Stewart is probably best remembered today as the man who wrote Daydream Believer a number one hit for The Monkees. Stewart was a prolific songwriter with a fine ear for a good tune and simple, heartfelt lyrics. This song has been a favorite of mine since it first came out.

John Stewart was 68 when he died of a stroke in 2008. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease the year before but had continued performing.

8. "Reelin' in the Years" – Steely Dan

Upping the tempo a little with this one. Steely Dan were craftsmen. Fine musicians who never put a note in the wrong place.

Each Steely Dan album was different but the quality remained the same - always excellent.

Founded by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in 1971, the band stopped live shows in 1974 to concentrate on studio work. This involved using a variety of supporting musicians as they chose the best available for each track.

9. "The River" - Bruce Springsteen

I saw Springsteen way back when he brought "the River" tour to London. It was one of the best live concerts that I've ever seen. No, I'll change that - it was the best, pure and simple. A full half-century after he first rose to fame, he's still going strong, and still puts the same energy into his act.

10. "I'd Rather Go Blind" – Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa

A stunning live version of the Etta James song. Beth Hart puts so much energy into this that you wonder where she gets it from. Joe Bonamassa looks like an accountant rather than a rock guitarist.

Both musicians frequently work with other stars and have independent careers. The result of the two getting together is spectacular.

That's It

A list like this could go on forever. Limiting it to ten tracks must leave out an enormous number of equally worthy numbers. For this reason, I will change the listing occasionally.

A quick thank you to Neil Cartwright who pointed out a slip in an earlier version and made some very interesting comments on my Facebook page.

As I say, I'll be changing the list regularly. Keep an eye on it.

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