'Werewolves of London'
Co-written by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel (who has worked with Keith Richards, James Taylor and Stevie Nicks) and Warren Zevon, the 1978 single features Fleetwood Mac's bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. The notable playful piano melody fits well with chorus refrain ("Ah-ooo!") and the bizarre lyrics: "I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's / His hair was perfect." Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett and even Adam Sandler have all covered the tune, which was Warren Zevon's only successful single.
'The Way It Is'
Written by Hornsby, The beautifully composed piano-driven song references the civil rights movement: "Well they passed a law in '64 / To give those who ain't got a little more / But it only goes so far / Because the law don't change another's mind." Generation Y may recognize the piano medley, which was heavily sampled in Tupac's 1998 single 'Changes.'
'Maybe I'm Amazed'
Initially featured on McCartney's eponymous 1970 album, the piano song was never released as a single. The live track from the Wings' 1976 Tour of America however, became insanely popular -- reaching No. 10 on the Billboard Pop charts. The romantic song is dedicated to McCartney's late wife Linda.
'Walking in Memphis'
Singer/Songwriter Marc Cohn wrote this after seeing an Al Green sermon in Memphis. The lyrics emphasize a "spiritual awakening" in the world of blues and soul rock. The piano driven song -- with elements of Billy Joel melodies and Bruce Springsteen vocals -- grew in popularity on both the US and UK charts, resulting in a Best New Artist Grammy win for Cohn in 1991. A 2008 live performance of the song proves that Cohn's still got it.
I don't even need to dwell on this favorite. Written in 1971 on a white grand piano (alongside Yoko) while at his estate in Tittenhurst, England, the song's piano melody is so simplistic, chills linger as Lennon sings about world peace and love: "Imagine there's no countries / It isn't hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace." Almost 40 years later and this prolific song is still classic. 'Rolling Stone' agrees: They ranked the song No. 3 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
According to frontman Chris Martin, the song's repeating, pulsing piano riff was inspired by the band Muse. 'Clocks' was not even supposed to be featured on 'A Rush of Blood to the Head,' but once Martin played the haunting tune on a keyboard for lead guitarist Johnny Buckland, Buckland had worked out a chord progression. Lyrics soon followed, and the album was delayed two months to include the song. 'Clocks' won Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards and is considered their biggest hit to date.
'Let It Be'
Inspired by a dream McCartney had of his mother, the song's lyrics evoke subtle religious imagery. The piano melody -- written in the key of C Major -- features a series of cadences and inversions, which set the mood of the song. There are three versions in existence: two are official releases (the single, and the 'Let It Be' album track) and the third (an unofficial track from the aborted 'Get Back' album) is the least tampered with, and only available illegally. The other two had much work -- overdubbed with string orchestration and guitar.
'Lean on Me'
The lyrics stem from Withers' childhood memories growing up in the coal-mining town of Slab Fork, WV. The fond memories of community were vapid once he moved to Los Angeles, which inspired him to write this song. The piano intro grabs you immediately, followed by Withers soulful, R&B vocals. The song reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.
Penned by Bernie Taupin, the lyrics are about Taupin's first wife Maxine Feibelman, a seamstress for John's band. Taupin's romantic lyrics paired with Paul Buckmaster on strings and Rick Wakeman on the organ help the song, but the backbone is John's breathtaking piano melody. This piano song -- featured on John's 1972 'Madman Across the Water' -- only reached No. 41 on the US Pop chart, but was revived after it's inclusion in the Cameron Crowe flick 'Almost Famous.' Ben Folds, Tim McGraw, and even Dave Grohl have covered this tune. Check out Grohl's acoustic cover on Kilborn.
Sometimes the best songs have the simplest melodies. If you take out the lyrics, which reference people's unfulfilled dreams and disappointing lives, this 1973 tune is quite repetitive. But Joel's intentions of the song -- to be a distraction to those who feel miserable -- turned out to be quite effective. The piano riff and spliced harmonica sound are so beautiful, jovial, and almost romantic, you "forget about life for a while," and start singing. Go on: "La la la, de de da / La la, de de da da da."