- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

National Review’s John J. Miller has a fun and intriguing list of the 50 “greatest conservative rock songs” in the magazine’s current print edition.

At first blush, compiling such a list seems like a fool’s errand: it’s bound to come off like a badly contrived ideological scoresheet. But Miller, a great reporter no matter his politics, finds a happy, quality-first balance that defines conservatism broadly (but not so broadly as to erase its meaning) while accounting for the fact that the songs’ composers are decidedly not conservatives.

Miller writes in the introduction to the list that conservatism may be understood best as a temperament: “What makes a conservative rock song? The lyrics must convey a conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values. And, to be sure, it must be a great rock song … In several cases, the musicians are outspoken liberals. Others are notorious libertines. For the purposes of this list, however, we don’t hold any of this against them.”

And the winner is …

The Who’s anthem of post-revolutionary disillusionment “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”: Burkeanism via Pete Townshend, for sure.

Coming in second is the Beatles’ “Taxman” (self-explanatory) followed by the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil, which Miller calls the “’Screwtape Letters of rock” for its allegorical history of all the evil the Devil hath wrought. Lynyrd Synyrd comes in fourth with their Southern-pride riposte to Canadian Neil Young, “Sweet Home Alabama.” And rounding out the top five is the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” a sweet-tempered reverie about a future of married contentment.

Miller later (and rightfully) notices the traditionalism of the Kinks’ Ray Davies (I humbly make a similar case here) and, inescapably, credits the Randian Objectivism of Rush lyricist-drummer Neil Peart.

Check out the rest of the list on newsstands now … and prepare to give your iTunes account a nice workout.


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