From Zero To 60, Part 6:

Ten Songs From My”Fifties” Years… As The Journey Continues


Over the summer, I’ve been glad to have you to join me by celebrating a song from each of “my years,” to the present. These 60 songs may not all deserve 10’s on our TNOCS scale, but they all mean something to me. And I look forward to sharing these last ten with you.

Part 6:

We started this musical memory journey when 45’s and LP’s were the big thing. We’ve made it through 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and mp3 downloads. And now we’re up to the era of streaming.


Sara Bareilles

I could not believe my ears when I heard this song. I thought, “This song will save a teenager’s life.” Bareilles’ encouragement to speak your truth – and its in-your-face video – took guts. This song deserved to be a subject of The Number Ones. Alas, we’ll have to see whether it gets a comment and rating when a very similar-sounding Katy Perry chart-topper gets a spotlight.

2013 Flashback:

  • Venus, Pandora and Pointer joined our household at Christmas.


Stay With Me (Remix)
Sam Smith featuring Mary J. Blige

Along those lines, I thought it was pretty petty, shall we say, of the lead Heartbreaker to go after songwriting credits because of similarities between this song and “I Won’t Back Down.” (I mean, the chorus of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” sounds like “Queen of Hearts,” but I don’t recall a fuss about that.)

Blige, whose great list of solo hits includes “Real Love,” “Not Gon’ Cry,” “Family Affair” and “No More Drama,” also makes the most of collaborations. This is her second in this series. And that leaves out dynamite remakes with Elton John on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and U2 on “One.”

2014 Flashback:

  • Tom and I became legally married in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Who knew that within four months, we could have married in our home state?



Working in a high school regularly reminds me that I’m no spring chicken. So I can only imagine how Madonna (born almost exactly four years before me) must feel in pop music. It blows my mind to think that this sublime ballad – up there with “Live to Tell,” “Frozen” and “Take a Bow” – never approached the pop Top 40.


Maybe Madonna couldn’t catch fire on Top 40 because Lady Gaga and Adele had become the go-to artists for sophisticated pop? I don’t know.

I do know the days of my thinking I was a contemporary Top 40 listener were done around the time this track from “25” – one I was sure would be a pop No. 1 – petered out at No. 26. 

2016 Flashback:

  • My brother, sister and I are so grateful that my dad lived long enough to celebrate the Cubs winning the World Series.


All Over Again
Leela James

In 2017, Tom’s and my 25th anniversary, I remember hearing and loving this song, realizing I felt every word of it. It made me feel a little guilty for disparaging Atlantic Starr’s “Always” and Luther Vandross’ “Here and Now” in my 20s as “wedding songs.” (I concede that, if I heard them now for the first time, I might “get” them in a way I didn’t then.)


Dad’s Old Number
Cole Swindell

This country track gutted me – a year before my dad died. It, Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos” and Scotty McCreery’s “Five More Minutes” all caught my attention within 12 months.

I don’t think I could listen to them in a playlist, but they all topped my personal chart. I think I sensed the day when their sentiments would be mine.


Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

I wasn’t sure I liked this the first time I heard it. It wasn’t because it was a ballad (I’d loved Gaga’s “Million Reasons”) or Cooper’s appearance (he certainly was better than many actors-turned-singers). Rather, the chorus and the “sha-ha-sha-ha-low” took a few listens to grow on me, much like the beginning of “Bad Romance.”
By the time I saw it in the Gaga/Cooper version of “A Star Is Born,” I was hooked. And, wow, was that Oscar performance killer?


If the World Was Ending
JP Saxe and Julia Michaels

True confessions: My personal charts took another break at the end of 2018. By 2020, I wasn’t listening to new music. A recent trip to Spotify took a while to find songs from 2020 and 2021 that resonated. This one did because of the moments that year when it felt the world truly was ending.

One thing that helped get me through was finding and becoming part of TNOCS: an oasis of kindness and affirmation in a time sorely starving for it. 


Lest I sound like an old man telling the kids to get off the lawn when it comes to today’s music, let me clarify:

It’s not them, it’s me. I know there’s still new music I’d like. I just have to spend time seeking it. Case in point: This song, which sounds great to me, though I imagine it’s played out among folks who paid attention to pop music two years ago.

2021 Flashback:

  • Our first restaurant trip in two years – before another uptick of COVID-19 kept us home again.


On the other hand: I know this song. My nieces brought Lizzo to my attention when she broke into the mainstream a few years back. When I needed a little relief last summer, her reality TV miniseries caught my eye.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of six decades!

This series helped me see that the cusp of sixty is the time to renew musical exploration.

As Lizzo says: “It’s about damn time.”

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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August 14, 2023 6:26 am

I only know 2 of the songs you’ve discussed here, but working in a school has made it easier to keep up with what’s happening on the charts. Last year, I had a student introduce me to a song by J-Hope and J Cole “On The Street”, and I’ve become aware of Lil Dirk, even if I don’t appreciate his lyrics/style.

On the other hand, I have a ten-year-old daughter who exposes me to her music, which is how I found Lizzo. “About Damn Time” crushes it.

How much longer do you think you’ll work in a school? I could retire in 2 years, but they keep me young!!

Phylum of Alexandria
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August 14, 2023 8:29 am

Thanks for this whirlwind musical tour of your life so far, Chuck. It’s striking to see 60 years condensed into just a few chapters of songs. Here’s to several more installations to come!

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August 14, 2023 9:56 am

I hadn’t heard the Sara Bareilles song until today and, wow. What a lyric. “I wanna see you be brave.” It’s not only teenagers that need to hear that. It’s a reminder to be brave and to help others be brave. An excellent choice, Chuck, thanks for picking it.

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August 14, 2023 12:41 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Sarah gets it. My favorite:


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August 14, 2023 12:05 pm

I know 5 of these songs very well. We have performed both “Shallow” and “Brave” in church. I totally concur on your thoughts on “Brave”. An essential message!

Pauly Steyreen
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August 14, 2023 12:18 pm

Thank you Chuck — this whole concept is something near and dear to my heart — the idea of music selections as a kind of autobiography. Maybe I only know two of the songs you listed here, but the point is that musical exploration can have multiple purposes. I can enjoy a new song on its own terms, but I can also through the song, reflect on my friend Chuck’s life in 2014. It’s like a kaleidoscope of meaning.

Thank you for sharing!

Famed Member
August 14, 2023 1:47 pm

Love this article, but I have to take up a bit for Tom Petty. Like many, if not most, songwriters, he didn’t own his own publishing rights. It was the publishers who actually pursued the action. Petty, however, didn’t hide behind that fact. He addressed the issue directly in the attached article.


Famed Member
August 14, 2023 6:57 pm

Great cats.

Every time I see a great cat picture, I remember this exchange between my professor and maintenance.

Context: She fed the feral cats on campus.

Maintenance: Stop encouraging them.

ProfessorJP: To what? To live?

Famed Member
August 14, 2023 10:29 pm

Nice ending to a great series. I was more impressed by the personal events in your life than the music for the last few installments, but I kind of expected that. No worries, it reflected who you are and what you felt, and that’s the most important thing.

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August 15, 2023 5:45 pm

This series was lovely – like a multi-part hug. Thanks, Chuck!

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