Top 5 Songs for Piano - Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, The Band, Elton John, Clapton's Derek & the Dominos

Endless Highway appears on the live double album Before the Flood by Bob Dylan & the Band from their 1974 tour.
Endless Highway appears on the live double album Before the Flood by Bob Dylan & the Band from their 1974 tour.

Why is it that the 5 songs I most enjoy playing on piano were written in that brief period between 1970-1974?

The best songs, like these my favorites, touch a nerve and transport us to a deeply felt, musical emotion.

Wistful, searching, reflective. Resigned, aching, accepting. Worn but wiser, seizing life’s sorrow and joy. These are my top five.

Layla, from the album 'Layla and other assorted love songs' by Derek and the Dominos, recorded in December, 1970.
Layla, from the album 'Layla and other assorted love songs' by Derek and the Dominos, recorded in December, 1970.

1970: Layla

Written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon

Performed by Derek & the Dominos (Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Duane Allman)

An achingly beautiful tale of regret and hope, Clapton’s haunted masterpiece was written as he realized he’d fallen in love with his best friend’s wife. From Duane Allman’s scorching intro and slide guitar, to Clapton’s desperate vocals and Jim Gordon’s heartfelt piano solo, this one gets me every time.

Moonlight Mile, released on the Sticky Fingers album, 1971.
Moonlight Mile, released on the Sticky Fingers album, 1971.

1971: Moonlight Mile

Written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

Performed by the Rolling Stones

Written in 1971 when the Stones were still stretching to new creative peaks, Mick Jagger's evocative lyrics take us inside the somber existence of life beyond the stage. Lead guitarist Mick Taylor, taking a song sketch started by Keith Richards, turns the song and his own virtuoso performance into an unforgettable six minutes captured on vinyl.

The sound of strangers sending nothing to my mind.

Just another mad, mad day on the road.

I am just living to be lying by your side.

But I’m just about a moonlight mile on down the road…

Oh I am sleeping under strange, strange skies.

Just another mad, mad day on the road.

My dreams are fading down the railway line.

I’m just about a moonlight mile down the road.

Little Martha appears on the Eat a Peach album released in 1972.
Little Martha appears on the Eat a Peach album released in 1972.

1972: Little Martha

Written by Duane Allman

Performed by the Allman Brothers Band

While living in Macon, Georgia in the early 1970’s, the Allman Brothers often frequented the local cemetery, imagining the lives and stories behind the names etched on ancient tombstones. Duane wrote this instrumental song for a 12 year old girl, Martha Ellis, whose tombstone he came across at Rose Hill Cemetery. Wistful, free, and joyful, it resonates even more knowing that Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident two weeks after recording Little Martha, at the age of 24.

1973: Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

Written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Performed by Elton John & his band (Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone, David Hentschel)

Back when Elton John was still new to his success he put out the double album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in 1973. Double albums were a bit of a risk, as they cost more than most kids’ allowance and required a substantially larger body of quality work to fill. At 11:07 in length, Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding took the listener to new heights and remains Elton John’s masterpiece.

Swirling gusts of wind and a deep, majestic church organ solemnly lay down the opening bars, music for a friend lost. Elton’s piano comes in and takes us on the complicated journey of both celebrating a life and letting it go.

Funeral for a Friend segues into the defiant Love Lies Bleeding, where Elton picks up the pace and dares his ex-love to move past their unhappy ending: "It doesn’t seem a year ago from this very day, you said ‘I’m sorry,honey, if I don’t change the pace; I can’t face another day'. And love lies bleeding in my hand. Oh it kills me to think of you with another man…You’re a bluebird on a telegraph line; I hope you’re happy now.” On the solo, the catchy riff pulls back from the edge just before careening over the precipice.

1974: Endless Highway

Written by Robbie Robertson

Performed by the Band (Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson & Garth Hudson)

After being plucked, in 1960, from a series of local Toronto bands at the age of 15, Robbie Robertson, with the other young members soon to follow, joined Ronnie Hawkins’ group The Hawks which became Canada’s best, most electrifying bar band. Commuting between Arkansas & Toronto in Ronnie Hawkins’ white Cadillac convertible, The Hawks worked incessently.

Bob Dylan recruited the seasoned group to back him on his 1965/66 world tour as he morphed from folk troubadour with Blowin’ in the Wind, to electric warrior. Facing angry crowds, interested only in their acoustic hero, Dylan & The Band, as they became known, faced boos from the crowds each night as they toured the US, Europe and beyond, nailing masterpieces such as 'Like a Rolling Stone'.

Returning to the US exhausted, Bob summoned the Band to upstate NY for laid back basement jam sessions while he recuperated from a motorcycle injury. The Band emerged with their first album, “Music from Big Pink”, in 1968 featuring their hit The Weight, and their second album, the masterpiece, “The Band” in 1970. By 1974, after fourteen years on the road, the disenchanted, world-weary Robbie Robertson wrote Endless Highway.

Although the version released in 1974 on the live album "Before the Flood" plays at a moderate beat, the lyrics hint at the somber crossroads Robbie was fast approaching, looking into his past and staring down an uncertain future.

Take a silver dollar, put it in your pocket. Never let it slip away. Always be a man, not a boy gone astray…

I sing by night, wander by day. I’m on the road & it looks like I’m here to stay.

You’re gonna walk that endless highway. Walk that highway ‘til you die.

All you children going my way, better tell your home life sweet, sweet goodbye.

Robbie Robertson left the Band in 1976, leaving it fractured, never to return.

Live version of Endless Highway featuring Rick Danko on vocals

Early version of Endless Highway with Richard Manuel on vocals

While my playing’s not much compared to these artists, I enjoy indulging my creativity, playing these five at home. Melody-driven pieces work best on piano; a melodic track like "Little Martha", released with only guitar parts laid down, still translates well to piano. Other great songs, like Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" or Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Crossfire", are just better suited for the guitar.

Either way, I’ll take these five songs from the 1970s anytime, with or without my piano.

Which of these 5 songs do you like the most?

See results without voting

Here's where you can purchase these songs & albums

Eat A Peach
Eat A Peach

Allman Brothers Band, includes Little Martha

Before The Flood
Before The Flood

Bob Dylan & the Band, includes Endless Highway

Little Martha
Little Martha

Allman Brothers Band

Sticky Fingers (Remastered)
Sticky Fingers (Remastered)

Rolling Stones, includes Moonlight Mile


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Comments 8 comments

TTC12 profile image

TTC12 5 years ago

These are great songs. Music reaches into our very soul and can change our lives for the better.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

You are so fortunate to be able to play the piano! It must provide you endless hours of pleasure.

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago Author

Yes, music can take you beyond your immediate world. I sometimes play for hours - probably drives the neighbors crazy!

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....your rock my world big time with this life affirming labor of love and I will most definitely post this priceless hub bouquet of music to my Facebook page with a direct link back here - love all of your selections and in particular love the Band - I saw that tour back in 1974 when Bob Dyland and the Band came to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto - more people here at the Hub have got to see what you do and do so well ..... like ALASTAR PACKER, HYPHENBIRD, VINAYA GHIMIRE ....and so many more

lake erie time ontario canada 7:48pm

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago Author

epigramman, thanks so much. I'm impressed that you caught the 74 dylan/band tour - that would have been amazing! I always liked when they did "One Too Many Mornings" - wistful and intense.

Page 22 months ago

Hi, do you know what songbook has Funeral for a Friend? My 10 year old son wants to learn it on piano. He's learning Eric Clapton's Glad right now for a school talent show. He plays by ear and notation and is a unique kid!

acc12 profile image

acc12 22 months ago Author

Page - The vintage Goodbye Yellow Brick Road songbook; I found mine on Ebay. Love to hear of your son's talent & interest!

Page 22 months ago

Thank you!

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