Posted by: John Adams | February 4, 2009

25 Songs to Remember the 90’s By: Part 4

10. One Headlight – The Wallflowers

“She said it’s cold / It feels like Independence Day / And I can’t break away from this parade.”

Bob Dylan’s boy made good with this #1 single, winner of two Grammys and easily the most unavoidable single of 1997. The lyrics are cryptic, broken and dark. Dylan would later say it was about “the death of ideas.” While it is probable that no one knows just what he meant by that, being cryptic is just one of the traits Jakob shares with his father. The other is that he’s a very good songwriter.

9. Prophet, Priest and King – Smalltown Poets

“Put down my thoughts in a letter to the President / Penciled and packaged with all due respect / Elvis commemoratives just for effect.”

There was always something special about the Smalltown Poets. An Atlanta-area group formed the same summer as the ’96 Olympics, the Poets combined a Gin Blossoms sound with unique, literate lyrics that tried to express Scriptural truths in fresh ways. That’s not necessarily anything new, but what set the Poets apart was how much they seemed to cherish theology. (“Prophet, priest and king” could be the title of a John Calvin sermon.) That theological depth, combined with their musical and lyrical talent, is what makes them one of my favorite bands of all time.

8. The Way – Fastball

“Anyone could see the road that they walk on is paved in gold…”

Fastball’s catchy 1998 single was conceived after the band read a newspaper account of an old couple who left home to attend a family reunion, but never arrived. The couple were discovered a week later at the bottom of a ravine in Arkansas. The song sketches the happiness of their last days and hints at the negative outcome of their final trip.

At the time “The Way” was released as a single, the members of the band still had side jobs. A few weeks later, the album had sold a million copies and the single had been nominated for a Grammy. The side jobs are long gone, and Fastball continues to tour and produce music to this day.

7. All For You – Sister Hazel

“Finally I figured it out / But it took a long, long time.”

Standing in a line of tradition of “90’s Frat Rock Bands” is Sister Hazel, who are somewhere between a Hootie and the Blowfish with actual musical talent and a Blues Traveller with less harmonica. Named after a nun who gave her life to serving the homeless, Sister Hazel has had no greater success than with “All For You,” which peaked at #11 in 1997. The band hasn’t ever had another bona fide hit, but they do have a large cult following that includes such notables as ESPN personality Stuart Scott.

6. Candle In The Wind ’97 – Elton John

“And it seems to me you lived your life /Like a candle in the wind / Never knowing who to cling to / When the rain set in.”

In August 1997, news of Princess Diana’s death shocked the world. Images of her mangled Mercedes, which crashed into the wall of a Paris tunnel as her chauffer (himself intoxicated) attempted to evade the paparazzi, filled TV news  reports for days. The ensuing outpouring of emotion was a worldwide phenomenon.

As such, when Elton John reworked his elegy to Marilyn Monroe into a moving tribute to “England’s rose,” his performance of the song at Princess Di’s funeral immediately became an international sensation, hitting #1 in multiple countries. The song perfectly captured the sense of life’s evanescence and the tragedy of the young woman’s untimely death.

The Guinness World Book of Records calls “Candle” the best-selling single “since records began,” but the recorded copy will have to do for the song’s fans–Elton John has said that he will never again perform it in public.



  1. i know there’s no way to prove it, but i had a typepad list going with songs i predicted would show up, and “the way” was on it! either you’re predictable or i’m just that good 🙂 haha

  2. Apparently, we both lived through the late 90’s. Does that mean you have one song left that you haven’t seen yet?

  3. I added a few more to the list, so I’ve got 3 more that I’m waiting for, although I know they won’t all make it.

  4. So, I’m liking the song list… Very good choices.

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