Not Only Your Mama’s Music: My Favorite Songs of Our Parents’ Generation

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Entertainment

Upon graduation from high school in 2007, I earned the senior superlative titled “Born in the Wrong Decade.” Perhaps my hippie skirts and peasant blouses had something to do with garnering such a distinction — but one of my long time claims to fame is the fact that I was raised on The Beatles, The Boss and The Piano Man.

Here are a few of my previous generation playlist picks — from their preteen years to their 20s.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1961)
Written by Carole King (who later went on to record a version) and her then husband Gerry Goffin, Will You Love Me Tomorrow is, of course, featured on the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing. But listen to any “oldies” station long enough and you’ll hear it played. First recorded by the Shirelles, this classic earworm is a quintessential girl group anthem (complete with shoop-shoop backup vocals) of the ’60s—and they don’t make tracks like it anymore.

In My Life (1965)
It was difficult to pick just one Beatles track to include as part of this compilation. And I know you’re thinking of someone special you can share this song with as you read this text—that’s what it can evoke from you. The instrumental, music box-style bridge sounds like your childhood — and the comfort of that person whom you know you’ll never lose affection for.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (1966)
Dusty Springfield, of Downtown and I Only Want To Be With You fame, produces this anthem that, if we millennials look through our archives of those who we truly loved but never had a chance with, we could relate to.

Gimme Shelter (1969)
My father loves Mick Jagger, so I didn’t have a prayer of not throwing a Stones track into this list — they’re engrained in me. I loved Gimme Shelter before I knew a) what the words were and b) what the words meant. And whether or not we choose to deal with reality, the lyrics are unfortunately relevant today.

Baba O’Riley (1971)
When I first heard Baba O’Riley, I actually thought the title of the song was — you guessed it — Teenage Wasteland. And I’ll be honest, I had to research the meaning behind the title for the purposes of this article. According to, The Who named the song Baba O’Riley as a tribute to influential people from lead vocalist Pete Townshend’s life: his spiritual advisor, Meher Baba and a highly respected minimalist composer, Terry O’Riley. But it sounds like a victory anthem right at the intro, regardless of how it’s seemingly overused in movies, television and sports venues. There’s a reason for said overuse: it has everything — from guitar, to an incomparable drum solo, to fiddle, to exceptionally relatable lyrics.

Changes (1971)
Ah, David Bowie. It’s only been a few months and you’re sorely missed. Back when I thought it wasn’t “cool” to listen to older music, I still found my way to Changes, and not the Lindsay Lohan cover as part of a medley from Disney’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. The lyrics are simple — time may change me, but I can’t trace time — yet powerful.

Born to Run (1975)
I heard my first Bruce Springsteen record as a kid, but wasn’t impressed as I was, like many millennials at the time, still in my Spice Girls phase. But once I was into my high school years, I abandoned my facade of hoping to impress the 14-year-old “popular” set and finally admitted that The Boss produced pure magic. Born to Run was (and is) special, from the first chord through the last chance power drive. And it spoke to the spirit of a teenager who needed hope way better than any 2004 top-40 track ever could.

Vienna (1977)
This list is not exclusive to ‘happy’ or ‘positive’ tracks. If you’ve never felt the overwhelmingness described in Billy Joel’s Vienna, you’re lying to me. And even if you don’t know that you know this tear-jerker, recall the scene from 13 Going on 30 where Jennifer Garner crawls into bed with her parents after not speaking to them for years, but returns home because she’s managed to screw up her imaginary life. Vienna speaks to all generations, not just to our parents, not just to millennials, but to everyone who has ever ran home to Mom and Dad when you just needed to feel better.

Who are the artists you were raised on? Let us know! And if you’re a fan of these tracks, check out the Spotify playlist below:

2 thoughts on “Not Only Your Mama’s Music: My Favorite Songs of Our Parents’ Generation

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