Top 10 Victory Songs
Rock history is loaded with millionaires, legends and icons, so it should be a breeze to come up with the Top 10 Victory Songs, right? Turns out that these people with piles of cash, tons of fans and enviable love lives often avoid singing about those things. And if they do, it’s typically sardonically, as you’ll hear in some of the songs below. For these people who essentially “won life,” angst, struggle and loss tend to be the favored subjects (which is why our Top 10 Loser Songs list could have gone on forever). Still, we found a handful of classic artists who decided to sing when they were victorious on this list of Top 10 Victory Songs.
‘I’m Still Standing’
A sizable hit, aided by an early MTV staple shot in the South of France, ‘I’m Still Standing’ finds Sir Elton getting over a former lover in victorious fashion. Bernie Taupin‘s lyrics show resiliency in the face of heartbreak: “Did you think this fool could ever win? / Well, look at me, I’m coming back again.” Love might have been the inspiration, but the song has become something of an anthem for Elton John, who remains a mega star around the world. Of course, as a piano player, he does his best work sitting down.
As John Lennon once ventured into the Beatles‘ past via a ‘Glass Onion,’ Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine name checks his band’s former glories on the punishing final track to ‘Youthanasia.’ Mustaine did it as a joke, but ending up relating something a bit more personal. The choruses to ‘Victory’ emphasize the singer/guitarist’s triumph over addiction (“Had fingers in my eyes / Had needles in my veins“) and, perhaps, a nod to his firing from Metallica (“A knife right through my heart“). In the end, Mustaine wails, “I am a victory.” He sounds as grateful as he is defiant.
How could ‘Winning’ not make the Top 10 Victory Songs list? Argent alum Russ Ballard wrote the tune, and included it on his 1976 solo record, and in 1981 it became Santana‘s last big hit until the late ’90s. This synth-stuffed single features vocalist Alex Ligertwood, who traces the trajectory of a man who goes from rock bottom to the top of the world. “I’m winning,” his keening voice cries out, “And I don’t intend on losing again.” As a band, Santana couldn’t deliver on that until almost 20 years later, when Carlos became ‘Supernatural.’
‘Paths of Victory’
Back in his folk singing days, Bob Dylan heard ‘Wayworn Traveler’ by the Carter Family, then wrote new lyrics to the melody to create ‘Paths of Victory.’ Not long after, he wrote a completely new set of words, altered the time signature to 3/4 and delivered ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.’ As such, ‘Paths of Victory’ and its vague tales of overcoming the political battles of the ’60s, got left behind, only to be scooped up by fellow folkie Odetta and, later, the Byrds. Dylan’s demo version finally saw release on the first edition of ‘The Bootleg Series’ in 1991.
‘Long Distance Winner’
This Stevie Nicks ditty is one of the only tracks from the vaunted ‘Buckingham Nicks’ album to be re-released in the digital era (as part of Stevie’s ‘Enchanted’ boxed set). It’s a moody gem in which she wraps her sweet and sour voice around poetic lines about a lover she admires, sometimes from a distance. Nicks sings, “I come running down the hill but you’re fast / You’re the winner, long distance winner,” as her real-life lover at the time, Lindsey Buckingham, weaves circles around her with his prickly and chiming guitar.
Between standing on the shoulders of blues giants, beating dicey altercations with the law and embracing corporate-sponsored mega tours, the Rolling Stones have been winning ugly for much of their career. So it’s all the better that they wear it well, with a sneer and a smirk, on this track from the much-maligned ‘Dirty Work.’ The production is bombastic, but the sentiment is interesting as Mick Jagger compares his band to a scheming sports team: “I’m never wrong at all / I always fight the call… And we’re winning ugly.” With Mick’s tongue planted firmly in his cheek, the message is still clear: Winning ugly sure beats losing.
‘One Little Victory’
The propulsive opening track from Rush‘s ‘Vapor Trails’ album contains an unmistakably positive sentiment. As with a great deal of this band’s songs, drummer Neil Peart wrote the lyrics, which indicate that small victories can become major breakthroughs. In the chorus, singer/bassist Geddy Lee declares, “The greatest act can be one little victory.” As with many songs on this list, sports references abound (“another chance to score“), but so do greater themes of tolerance, imagination and determination — which Rush appears to suggest are all elements of notching a victory.
‘Life’s Been Good’
Very wealthy Eagles member. Solo star. Mind-blowingly great guitarist. Life’s certainly been good to Joe Walsh, who drew on his dry sense of humor for this classic send-up of the rock star lifestyle. Walsh, somewhat lovingly, lays waste to aloof success stories with couplets like “My Maserati does 185 / I lost my license, now I don’t drive” and “I live in hotels, tear out the walls / I have accountants pay for it all.” It’s funny because it’s true. And Walsh’s crunchy guitar only makes it better.
The Boss has spent the majority of his career chronicling the struggles of losers — or people who tend to come out on the losing end, at least. But on the ‘Born to Run’ LP, there was still the promise of escape, of a narrow victory in the final seconds as the clock wound down. That’s what happens on ‘Thunder Road,’ with a protagonist that “ain’t no hero,” but can still offer a chance for a better life via a long car ride into an uncertain future. That’s about as close to victorious as Springsteen songs get, hence the famous kiss-off line, “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.”
‘We are the Champions’
And the most victorious song in the Top 10 Victory Songs List is this Queen epic. You can’t do much better than declaring yourselves “the champions of the world.” Written by Freddie Mercury with anthemic aspirations, ‘We are the Champions,’ has become exactly that — a song that rings out consistently in sports arenas around the globe. Additionally, in 2011 some scientists declared that, mathematically, it was the “catchiest song” in music history. In terms of sing-alongs, Queen wins every time.