For music aficionados like me who love a lot of music, it would seem to be a difficult choice. But for me it wasn't. Once I got this premise in my head, it only took a couple of seconds to come up with an answer. Over the long haul, one song immediately stood out in my mind as my favorite of all time, and the one I would choose to listen to if I only had time for one more song before I died.
It is . . . wait for it . . . Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin. It is three songs in one and has a little bit of everything that I enjoy in music. It opens with an almost folksy acoustic guitar introduction that is a short song all in itself, expertly played by Jimmy Page and sung by Robert Plant, complete with trilling, rolling triplets accompanied by ringing chords, without any percussion or bass. Alone acoustic begins in the center and after the first verse of the introduction, it moves to the left stereo channel and a beautiful twelve string joins in unison in the right channel. (The only way to listen, enjoy, and study good music is through headphones, where you can hear and identify every instrument and pick apart each one’s role in the song.)
There follows your traditional rock sound in the second and middle part of the song, with drums and bass added, the left stereo channel filled by the crunchy, distorted electric guitar sound I love so well, and the right continuing on with an acoustic. In the middle of this passage is the must-have guitar solo that used to be the staple of a good song and a good recording. It pans constantly from left to right and back with seemingly no plan or reason, as if the engineer had just gone nuts at the mixer board while mastering the song.
The last part is another short mini-ballad, this time of a very soft electric sotto voce with no accompaniment that crossfades with the middle rock part of the song. This last guitar’s volume is quite low and its reverb set so that it sounds very far away, as if in an echo chamber. It is at once both chilling and haunting, and hearing the song for the first time you think it is over and this last guitar will fade out to nothing, only for it to come back from the nether regions of the void with keyboards fading in in the background for what every good songs needs, a great ending. Just absolutely gorgeous, from beginning to end.
I can, and have, listened to it over and over again. In fact, if I’m sitting with a guitar in my hand and nothing special in mind to play, somehow the opening of this song naturally comes to mind and I begin to play it, and then the rest of the song automatically follows to its completion.
After hearing and loving this amazing composition, performance, and recording one last time, I believe I could lay down and die happy. Years ago when I first thought of this question, I asked a friend of mine what he would choose, and he said he couldn’t pick just one. When I told him my overwhelming choice he said, “That’s not a bad one to have if you have to have one.”
That is the song I would chose if I could only pick one to hear one last time before I die. What would yours be?