1. "Georgia On My Mind" Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael was a soulful, gifted writer and singer. This song is so simple and beautiful. Jazz guys usually mess this song up by adding complicated jazz chords or as they call them "substitutions." Listen to Ray Charles' version¾he got it right.
2. "Carolina On My Mind" James Taylor
I was working in NYC and riding in a car with an agent from William Morris when I first heard this song. When asked, the agent said "It's a kid named Taylor we just signed." I think I said, "Looks bad for me," The agent replied "No kidding," or something to that effect.
3. "Old Fifty-Five" Tom Waits
I was backstage at an open-mike night at the Troubador in L.A. when I heard Tom singing this to himself. He has an unusual voice and I remember thinking the song was very unusual as well. This song was later recorded by the Eagles and is, I think, a classic. Troubador audiences were very tough and first Tom, and then I, failed to amp them up that night.
4. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" Hank Williams
Hank Williams had terrible luck with women. He finally succumbed to alcohol at age 29. This is the saddest, loneliest song I sing. Some women will do that to you.
5. "Vincent (Starry, Starry, Night)" Don McLean
When I first heard "American Pie" I thought Don McLean was a great songwriter and an inspiration to all of us trying to write music to survive. Then I heard "Vincent" and realized that he wasn't one of us. He's actually from another planet. What an incredible song.
Bruce Innes has written and performed music full-time since college. He has recorded and performed around the world and has written songs for country, pop, folk and blues artists. He moved to the Wood River Valley nine years ago.