The stuff of great barstool debates

Rolling Stone magazine just came out with a new list that brought to mind a story about Boston Celtics great Larry Bird.

Just prior to the NBA’s first-ever three-point-shooting contest, Bird walked into a locker room full of the best shooters in the game and confidently inquired: "Which one of you guys is finishing second?"

The answer was Craig Hodges of the Chicago Bulls, but it hardly mattered. Everybody – especially Bird – knew who was going to finish first.

The same might be said for the recent list compiled by Rolling Stone of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time.

At the top of the chart was Bob Dylan, whose influence can be heard in the music of many of the people ranked below him.

Dylan would never be accused of having the world’s greatest singing voice, but he was an obvious choice to top the songwriters list.

There was also a certain logic to his selection: The magazine had chosen Dylan’s "Like a Rolling Stone" as the top song on the list of the best 500 songs of all time, and Dylan had the most songs on that list (13) of any solo artist.

Not that his selection was a total slam dunk.

The second and third slots on the list went to a pair of Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 were Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, the team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder.

It’s likely that nobody would have kicked up much of a fuss had those top few positions been switched around, but the order feels right even as it serves to highlight that the distinctions among immortals – be they Dylan and McCartney, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig or Bird and Magic Johnson – are often nuanced, if discernible at all.

And, of course, such is the stuff of which great barstool discussions made.