Iconic Songs of the Last Decade

I was listening to The Band’s album Music From Big Pink earlier this week, and something struck me about the song “The Weight.” Trust me, you know the song. It goes a little like this: “I pulled into Nazareth / Was feelin’ about half past dead / I just need some place / where I can lay my head.”  Ring a bell yet? No? Try this:


In the song, The Band, originally consisting of Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Levon Helm, draws from a familiar cast of characters and American mythology to tell a universal story set in the town of Nazareth, PA. First released in 1968, “The Weight” only reached #63 on the U.S. charts, but has since achieved iconic status. It has become an American standard in a way few songs have accomplished. Indeed, Rolling Stone lists it as the 41st greatest song of all time. 

Further cementing its iconic status, check out a very small sample of the artists  – across genres, of all ages – who have covered the song:

  • Van Morrison
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Black Crowes
  • Little Feat
  • Grateful Dead
  • Travis
  • Old Crow Medicine Show
  • Gillian Welch
  • The Staple Singers
  • Joan Osborne
  • John Denver
  • Deana Carter
  • Weezer
  • Lee Ann Womack
  • Cross Canadian Ragweed
  • Diana Ross, the Temptations and the Supremes
  • The Allman Brothers Band
  • The Marshall Tucker Band
  • Panic at the Disco
  • Aaron Pritchett

Songs with enduring power like “The Weight” are few and far between, and seem to be even more so nowadays. So tonight’s discussion asks:

What songs of the past decade have enduring power? What songs will we be listening to and hear covers of in the next 50 years?

For fun, here’s a version by Gillian Welch & Old Crow Medicine Show:



  1. As far as country songs go, I think “Long Black Train” will be around for a good long while. Probably more in gospel circles than anywhere else, though.

  2. I think a song like “Bless The Broken Road,” based on songwriting alone makes it a candidate for something that will be remembered. Also Cash’s version of “Hurt” will likely be remembered too. as for anything else, I don’t know if anything will be too remembered.

  3. It is interesting “The Weight” only made it to #63; I expect that most of the songs that people would choose as being enduring will be smaller hits, perhaps number one songs but most likely something that didn’t quite make it to that level, or made it to that level despite being different from what else was on the radio. I only recently discovered the Gillian Welch & Old Crow Medicine Show version.

    “Long Black Train” seems like an excellent example, can’t help but agree with that choice. I would say that ” You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” will endure–the first time I heard the song I thought it already had endured 50 years, since it seemed so timeless. Patty Loveless’ version seems the ultimate for me, but Darrell Scotts version is excellent as well.

  4. I was going to mention “Hurt” as well. I stopped only because while I think it will endure, I have my doubts about the second half of that question. I doubt many will be brave enough to try and cover it.

  5. Ooh! I didn’t even think of “Harlan”. Can I still Bill’s answer? I already think it’s a modern classic. I, too, thought it’d been around for awhile before I learned about Darrell Scott. I should mention that Kathy Mattea and Brad Paisley (though Brad’s is probably the weakest) do good versions of it as well, though Patty’s is the definitive version for me so far.

  6. I’d say ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. I know a rock band already covered it, but the words and message is timeless. I’d throw in Martina’s ‘Independence Day’ and Tim McGraws ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ as well.

  7. Alan Jackson’s “Remember When” and “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” and Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel”…I know there’s many more, but that’s all I can think of right now…

  8. “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks is an incredibly powerful song that I think may wind up having added eerie significance as the song that was at #1 for the band when ‘The Incident’ happened. It certainly should endure on its own merits, in any case. We haven’t heard it covered yet, but I think that is because it is too closely identified with the Dixie Chicks and their particular story. As time passes, perhaps some artists will attempt their own versions.

    I think “Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss will also endure and be covered down the road by artists in country music and in other genres. And perhaps “Stay” by Sugarland will also last.

  9. I’ve heard “Travelin’ Soldier” covered already… by the Dixie Chicks, in fact. Bruce Robison recorded the original version in 1996.

    “Whiskey Lullaby” has already been recorded at least four times – Paisley/Krauss, Bill Anderson, Jon Randall, and Melonie Cannon – so I’d say that one’s already well on its way too. Good picks.

  10. And ironically the Dixie Chicks were planning on recording “Whiskey Lullaby” before Paisley. They had first dibs on it and put it on hold for their new album after “Home.” Brad only grabbed it after they went in a different direction with Taking the Long Way.

    You have to give them credit, the Chicks do have good taste in picking songs. They also recorded “Angry All the Time” by Bruce Robison for Home before they found out that Tim McGraw had grabbed it. That’s another song I might add to the list.

  11. I would’ve loved to have heard the Chicks’ rendition of “Whiskey Lullaby!” I bet that would’ve been amazing, though I think Brad and Alison did a phenominal job with it!

    I’m not sure if anyone has covered it yet, but I think Carrie’s “Before He Cheats” has a good chance at being around for awhile. I also think Lee Ann’s “I Hope You Dance” is a good choice along with Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train.” I can’t really think right now since its late so I’ll just repeat those ones…haha

  12. here are a few I believe will be around for a while:
    -“I Hope You Dance” Lee Ann Womack
    -“Before He Cheats” Carrie Underwood
    -“Jesus Take The Wheel” Carrie Underwood
    -“Independence Day” Martina McBride
    -“You’re Still The One” Shania Twain
    -“Fancy” Reba McEntire
    -“Is There Life Out There” Reba McEntire
    -“The Greatest Man I Never Knew” Reba
    -“Travelin’ Soldier” Dixie Chicks
    -“Breathe” Faith Hill
    -“No One Else On Earth” Wynonna
    -“Suds In The Bucket” Sara Evans
    -“Little Good Byes” SHeDAISY
    -“Don’t Worry Bout A Thing” SHeDAISY
    -“She’s In Love With The Boy” Trisha Yearwood

  13. I also concur with “Whiskey Lullabye” by Brad/Krauss, Jackson’s “Where Were You”, and “Long Black Train” by Turner

  14. @ Matt B.

    Also–“Fancy” was first a hit for its original writer, Bobbie Gentry, in the winter of 1969-70.

    As for iconic songs of this first decade of the 21st century–well, I would like to think that the final track on the Chicks’ TAKING THE LONG WAY, “I Hope”, is iconic. Maybe the Chicks shot their wad with Natalie’s Bushwhacking, but the fact is that this decade has seen so much horror, belligerence, death, and war. By contrast, Hope seems to be in lamentably short supply. It may seem naive to think “I Hope” is “Imagine” for this decade, but if we can’t hope, dream, imagine, and then make real, where are we then? I’d like to think of that song as a catalyst.

  15. It’s a tough question to answer, because I can think of a lot of singles I think will last, but not necessarily a lot of songs that savvy artists will want to go back and cover. “Long Black Train” is definitely one, but I’m going to have to do some real thinking to come up with others. Good topic!

  16. Just off the top of my head, the mention of OCMS makes me say “Wagon Wheel” will be lasting and covered by many artists. Songs like “Where Were You” and “Independence Day” won’t be covered again because of the lasting impact that they’ve already made.

    Its interesting you mention the chart position of “The Weight” though (great song btw, not my favorite one from the group, but certainly up there). A song that slowly grows into “iconic” is more likely to be covered because more layers are added to it, rather than a huge number one that is set up for decline after its radio airplay is over. A lot of what’s on radio though right probably won’t be covered again just because the nature of the songwriting and production doesn’t lend itself to a lot of interpretation. An artist isn’t likely to cover a song unless they feel they can add their own touch to it

  17. Yeah, I agree with “Wagon Wheel” too. I think Russ is on to something. I think the songs that will be “iconic” are those that kind of sound timeless rather than the ones that were major hits. That’s why songs like “Wagon Wheel” and “Harlan” seem like they’ll be around in different forms over time., even though they weren’t massive hits.

  18. I really don’t think pop music really ever becomes iconic – it’s just music, after all. If I had to label songs as iconic they would be Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” or Bing Crosby’s recording from 1932 of “Brother Can You Spare A Dime”

    There are are a lot of meaningful songs, many of which reach only a small audience. Perhaps the best of the last 30 years was Judy Aron’s “Aging Parents” , but she sold her cassette mainly at live performances. Judy is a folk/Klezmer singer

  19. I concur with You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive…

    And I believe Patty’s version is definitive, even though Darrell Scott wrote it, it has become Patty’s signature song, and no one can sing it with as much biographical convicition as Patty Loveless can.

    I was readling the liner notes to Patty’s Mountain Soul today, and I noticed that the author of the song, Darrell Scott, also plays banjo and dobro on Patty’s version. Not a bad endorsement, not bad at all.

    There’s already evidence of the iconic nature of “Harlan”, in that Brad Paisley and Kathy Mattea have also done excellent versions of the song.

    Further evidence…Patty’s version of “Harlan” was featured clealy as background music for the recent ABC news special about Appalachia, Children of the Mountains ( I think that was the title).. The producers of the show could not have picked a better song than “Harlan” for their program, or a more appropriate singer than Patty Loveless for the honor.

  20. Leeann, my post echos and endorses yours, for sure…regarding “Harlan”…You said it, “definitive” is the word to describe Patty’s version, no doubt.

  21. Oh sorry Matt B.
    then I guess the ones that I listed from this decade I maintain, and I’ll add “Stay” by Sugarland and “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride to my list.
    Also, I dont have that much of a taste for the male country singers. sorry.

  22. “Let Me Let Go” could be very interesting if covered by a male artist. Faith even did a slower, “torchier” version of it already, but I’m partial to the original. It’s my favorite song by her, and I could see someone else adding some new twists to it someday.

  23. When I first heard it, I thought “Believe” by Brooks & Dunn would be a monumental song… it’s not commonly covered since it’s so slow-tempo (not great for a live performance at a bar, trying to win over fans) and that hurts it… but I guess time will tell!

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