What's the Connection Between Memorial Day and Radio Countdowns?

If we know nothing else, we know Americans love lists. We love to rank football teams, rock albums, cars, pizzerias, movies, former girlfriends, and anything else of which there's three or more.


Because we Americans understand -- more so than any other culture -- that some things have to be better than others. And once teased, we must know the better from the other. That's why, every Memorial Day, we celebrate not just by hosting barbecues and honoring fallen soldiers, but by obsessively listening to radio countdowns.

Now I can rationalize a connection between between fallen soldiers and family barbecues... I think. Something about patriotism, and perhaps open fire.

But the connection between honoring soldiers and knowing if Iggy Azalea landed at No. 3 or No. 6? Not so much. We just love lists.

A few years back, one of my local radio stations naturally decided to count down "The Top 1001 Songs!" Their description provided no historical or genre limitations -- just "as voted by you." Without any other qualification, it simply existed as THE TOP 1001 SONGS OF ALL TIME. A high bar, to be sure.

This was their Top 5 (because, as an American, you now must know):

No: 5: "Get Down Tonight" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band
No: 4: "Hey Jude" by The Beatles
No: 3: "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones
No: 2: "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey
No: 1: "Rag Doll" by the Four Seasons

"Rag Doll"? "RAG DOLL"?

Number 1,000 was REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Loving You." Why you voted to put 998 songs between REO Speedwagon's greatest hit and Journey's greatest hit is beyond me, but such is the mysterious allure of the radio countdown.

Of course, a real "Top 1001 of All Time" would be a very random list. But given it's Memorial Day, I must do my patriotic duty. So below, I present my version of the Top 10 of all time (influenced heavily by my dislike of both country music and Elvis, my brother Paul's fourth grade piano recital, and the fact that I've been tuning out most of this year).

No. 10: "Gangnam Style" by PSY
No. 9: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
No. 8: (tie) "Hungarian Rhapsody" by both Queen & Franz Liszt
No. 7: "Fur Elise" by Beethoven (and played to small-fingered perfection by Paul)
No. 6: "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie
No. 5: "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"
No. 4: "Colored Lines" by Robin Thicke
No. 3: "Yesterday" by The Beatles
No. 2: Gregorian Chants (particularly 1-4903, 5542, and 5553)
No. 1: (tie) "Happy Birthday to You" and "Stairway to Heaven," the latter by Led Zeppelin

See? Like a true American, you read all the way to the end, despite the fact that you don't really give a crap.

But if you did stop before you got to No. 1, you're a stronger person than me. Or maybe Canadian.

Joel Schwartzberg is a humorist and author of "The 40-Year-Old Version" and his newest collection, "Small Things Considered: Moments from Manliness to Manilow".