Essential Videos for Your Life

YouTube and other video sites are often used for evil, but sometimes you find clips that you immediately can’t live without, specifically old or obscure musical performances that would otherwise never see the light of day, except for maybe on a more serious-minded VH1 nostalgia program. Also, tribute videos. In an attempt to curb my compulsion to write four or five individual posts about my favorite online video finds, I have complied the essentials for you. After the jump: Dolly, Stevie, hot Latinos.

Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You,” c. 1974I feel like you just don’t see this kind of stellar performance on TV anymore, except maybe on Austin City Limits. But in general, TV musical performances are relegated to crappy late-night talk shows or terrible award shows, and they definitely don’t have the kind of rockin’ special effects you get at the end of this one. I don’t know much about the technical aspects of music, but it seems that this might be a pretty tricky song to sing, and yet there’s Dolly, hitting every damn note with a downright chilling sincerity. Not to sound like a total coot, but maybe everyone who performed at the VMAs should have been forced to watch this video until they understood the merits of a quality live performance. It is better to have sung and not danced than to never have sung at all. Anyway, this is a near-perfect performance in every way, and for anyone who’s only ever heard the Whitney version, it is a must.

Fleetwood Mac, “Rhiannon,” c. 1975

This video’s got something for everyone: great vocals, great hair, flowing chiffon, and a rad jam session at the end. And this take, like Dolly’s, is actually superior to the recorded version of the song. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if I ever come into some money I will hire a full-time staff to maintain this incredible Stevie Nicks hairdo. Seriously, power hour of hair! What the hell? Anyway, she looks pretty coked out, but it doesn’t stop her from ripping through this song with an inspiring ferocity.

Rilo Kiley, “My Slumbering Heart,” c. 2003

(FF to 3:56 to skip their technical difficulty.)There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I traversed the great state of Texas to see Rilo Kiley perform live multiple times in one week. My favorite song of theirs to hear live has always been “My Slumbering Heart,” so I was excited to find this high-quality live video. This song is from their 2002 masterwork The Execution of All Things, a staggeringly beautiful album that will always, sadly, live in the shadows of their latter-day sins (I will never forgive them for this new album).

Diego Luna/Gael García Bernal tribute video

So this isn’t exactly essential, but it has long been one of my favorite tribute videos. Everything about it is right: the subject (seriously, you need to see Y tu mamá también), the song choice, the scrappy-but-determined editing. It’s very good-natured and always gives me hope when the tribute-video world starts to get weird.

And just for good measure…

Jimmy Buffett, “Come Monday,” 1974

This is for my parents. I’m not really going to explain anything here. Just enjoy the easy listening and try to forget that you’re too cool for Jimmy. And if you can’t unclench a little and just enjoy it, at least consider how ahead of the curve he was, music video-wise. That slo-mo fruit-eating sequence is seminal.