Over the years, countless music lovers have debated the issue: what is the single greatest song of all time? In retrospect, I think we all wish that all those lovers had stopped all that fighting, and simply done the right thing: ask me.
The greatest song of all time has been sung by Julius LaRosa and Judy Collins, Nina Simone and Claudine Longet. The greatest song is both devastatingly beautiful and fantastically heartbreaking. In short, the greatest song of all-time is "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" written by Randy Newman.
The song is the kind of musical statement that everyone can bring something too, and many have, quite literally from Jack Jones to Norah Jones. Major stars have paid their respects to the song, including Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, Joe Cocker and Bette Midler. Arguably the ultimate version of the song came from Newman himself - namely, his own fantastically lived-in 2003 recording of the song for The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1. It's just one man singing and accompanying himself at the piano, and it's probably the most powerful and shaded piece of music I could ever imagine.
Now Newman has re-recorded "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" again backing Irma Thomas, the remarkable artist who has earned her official title as Soul Queen of New Orleans. Newman's own connection with the Crescent City goes back to childhood, and few will forget the way that Newman's classic "Louisiana 1927"spoke all too eloquently to our post-Katrina times.
Irma Thomas has been recording since the early Sixties, and even cut a few Newman songs early on in her career. Yet the extraordinary singer who brought us such classic recordings as "Time Is On My Side," "Ruler Of My Heart," "Wish Someone Would Care" and, yes, "It's Raining" has never sounded better than she does on her new, stripped-down version of "I Think It's Going To Rain Today." The track closes Thomas' upcoming album called Simply Grand that finds her singing with assorted piano greats. It's one hell of a way to end an album -- with the sound of two genuine living legends actually meeting for the first time and finding common ground on what you have been officially notified now is the single greatest song of all-time.
So buy it, burn it into your consciousness or risk burning in hell. And while you're at it, buy Harps and Angels, Randy Newman's first studio album of new material in nearly a decade. Based on my first few listens, this is one of the best ever albums from the modern musical master who gave us all the greatest song of all-time. It comes out Tuesday in a music store perhaps no longer near you.