Within Joan Osborne’s voice, one can hear the heartache of country, the despair of the blues, the city-scapes of Jazz and the backstreets of film-noir. Each album Joan Osborne has recorded has offered the world of popular music something new. Like all great artists, Joan Osborne has never repeated herself, as her talent seems to grow with each release.
Joan Osborne is a Kentucky native. She moved to New York City in the 1980’s to study film at New York University. Like so many artists who move to New York City, the opportunities presented to the incredibly talented can be endless in the amount of performance venues available. The 1980’s had a thriving club scene in New York City. A scene that this writer was very much a part off. There were thousands of incredibly talented singers trying to get signed during the 1980’s in New York City. While some waited for major labels to come running to them, others started their own labels. In 1992, Joan Osborne started her own record label called Womanly Hips. She released a live album entitled Soul Show: Live at Delta 88 that showcased her stunning performances. Joan Osborne’s success as an independent artist eventually led to a major label deal in 1995 with the release of her album Relish.
Our Top 10 Joan Osborne Songs list looks to present to fans of all music, ten of Joan Osborne’s most essential songs. Like all our top 10 lists, our goal is to present great music to rock fans who may only know the hits, but not the deep catalog material.
# 10 – Match Burn Twice
There are so many great tracks featured on Joan Osborne’s Early Recordings CD. The abundance of fabulous material on the album made it difficult to choose one song to be represented on our Top 10 Joan Osborne Songs List. Out of all of Joan Osborne’s recordings, her Early Recordings CD defines her blues roots in her most spiritual manner. After the incredible success of her track “One of Us,” from her Relish CD. Joan Osborne’s record company quickly released a CD of her earlier independent recordings. The album was released in November of 1996, about eight months after Relish had been released in March of 1995.
The songs on the Early Recordings Cd were most live performances with the exception of a studio recording of Captain Beefhearts’s “His Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles.” Many of the songs had been released on Joan Osborne’s independent album Soul Show:Live at Delta, in 1991. Regardless of the mileage these songs attained throughout the years, Early Recordings is a standout presentation of the blues sound that Joan Osborne harbored early in her career. We think the track “Match Burn Twice,” is the ultimate representation of that early sound.
# 9 – I Know What’s Goin’ On
Songs of infidelity have become a common theme presented in some of Joan Osborne’s strongest original material. The song “I Know What’s Goin’ On,” was one of the few Osborne penned compositions released on her Breakfast in Bed album. The record which was released in 2007 consisted of various covers of 1970’s soul entrenched pop music. Osborne’s penned “I Know What’s Goin’ On,” bleeds a soulfulness that easily stands along sides some of the iconic 70’s soul tracks she covers on the Breakfast in Bed album. When she sings “I’m so angry , I can murder,” the chills become simply overwhelming. As that groove infused snared drum cuts through the Fender Rhodes sound, Osborne’s sultry vocals of betrayal capture the moment in complete earnest. Don’t miss this great album.
# 8 – Pretty Little Stranger
From the moment this great record opens up with the title track “Pretty Little Stranger,” you know Joan Osborne is going to nail this one. On “Pretty Little Stranger,” Osborne repeatedly sings “I wonder who the next fool will be?” Sung in a voice that straddles the lines between blues and country; Osborne’s Pretty Little Stranger is both haunting and seductive. While her gifted vocals always turned heads Osborne’s growth as a songwriter continued to mature with each album she released. The album Pretty Little Stranger was released on Vanguard Records in 2006
# 7 – Stand Back
Joan Osborne’s “Stand Back,” was released on the Raising Helen Soundtrack. We choose this song for our Top 10 Joan Osborne Songs lists because it’s simply a great melodic pop song. Joan Osborne delivered once again with her creative lyric writing. “The road is littered with the faint of heart, the fools who fell from stress It’s a fact of life that you can’t catch up, better learn how to love the mess.” The film featured Kate Hudson and John Corbett. The movie was released in theaters in 20o4. While so much of Joan Osborne’s catalog is filled with spirited rock, blues and soul recordings, the performance on Stand Back proved that Joan Osborne could also deliver the perfect pop music vocal. This one was a keeper.
# 6 – Righteous Love
The success of the single “One Of Us,” must have made life quite difficult for Joan Osborne. Being nominated for five Grammy’s while delivering one of the most popular songs of the decade can sure ad a bit of pressure to creating a follow up album. Well, without bowing to the pressure, Joan Osborne took five years to release her follow up record. Released in 2000 on a new record label, the Righteous Love album was a bit of a departure from her previous work Relish.
The album was produced by Mitchell Froom. While the record contained no big time hits like On Of Us, the material on the album showcased a host of various musical styles that Joan Osborne’s talented vocal spirit had no problem delivering. While we loved every track on the record, our favorite to make this Top 10 Joan Osborne Songs list was the record’s title track, “Righteous Love.”
# 5 – Work On Me
Every great artist delivers at least once in their career that song that seems to echo the sentiments and spirit of the Film Noir genre. On Bob Dylan’s 20010 album Together Through Life, the legendary artist released the Fim Noir inspired Forgetful Heart. Other examples would be Tom Waits, Singapore, Sting’s Sister Moon, and Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire. Joan Osborne delivered hew ode to Film Noir with her most recent work entitled Work On Me. The fabulous song was released in 2014 on her latest album Love and Hate.
# 4 – St. Teresa
The opening track to Joan Osborne’s 1995 album Relish may have surprised some people who had only heard Joan Osborne’ hit single “One Of Us.” The Relish album showcased the incredible talent of Joan Osborne and the albums opening track St Teresa made it instantly clear that Relish was an album that represented a true artist. It was not just an album of filler songs centered around a hit single. St Teresa’s Middle Eastern guitar lines trembled in time around Osborne’s distinctive voice carrying the listener away into a haunting and somewhat threatening landscape of images that simply could not be denied. For many longtime Joan Osborne fans, “St Teresa,” was the moment that hooked them along for the ride.
# 3 – Hallelujah In The City
Once again, the concept of infidelity fuels the lyrical concept of one of Joan Osborne’s most spiritual recordings. However, its not the infidelity that embraces the song “Hallelujah in the City,” but rather the power of forgiveness that Joan seems to celebrate in the chorus. Joan Osborne attributed the concept of forgiveness and healing to the power of the city. Osborne’s remarked on the influences of Walt Whitman on the songs’ chorus and identity of the city as a powerful healing force. The song was released on her Little Wild Ones CD. The album was issued in September of 2008. The song “Hallelujah in the City,” was written by Eric Bazilian, Rick Chertoff, Rob Hyman and Joan Osborne. This may be Joan Osborne’s most powerful spiritual vocal of her career.
# 2 – One Of Us
It has always been a matter of pride to me that my Armenian brother in nationality, Eric Michael Bazilian composed the song One Of Us. If you are of Armenian descent you would understand that since there are so few of us that walk this earth, we tend to celebrate the success of our people at every chance we get. Mannix(Chuck Connors) was my first hero and then Cher made me feel proud(yes she’s half Armenian). Eric Michael Bazilian hit the charts with his band The Hooters and Armenian music power was in. An there is no band that makes me prouder than System of A Down featuring four crazy intense brilliant Armenian musicians Sorry for the nationalistic ramblings, but it seems that sometime the only Armenians that most people have ever heard of are the Kardashians.
Joan Osborne’s recording of Eric Bazilian’s “One Of Us,” was a monster hit that rocketed the career of Joan Osborne into the global spotlight. It was a song that was constantly played on the radio and logged in heavy rotation on VH1 and MTV music television networks. While the songs was not a clear representation of all that Joan Osborne offered as a singer and artist, it inescapably offered her the opportunity to capture a fan bases that she may have never had the chance to foster without such a massive hit. In the end , that’s a good thing; at least that’s what we think.
# 1 – Right Hand Man
While “One Of Us,” may be Joan Osborne’s most popular song, her vocal performance on “Right Hand Man,” clearly defined the soulfulness and substantial rock spirit of Joan Osborne. On an album that featured so many great rock and roll tracks, the track “Right Hand Man,” soon became a favorite of the fans that would become hardcore Joan Osborne devotees. When listening to “Right Hand Man,” one can hear the many voices of Joan Osborne. From the first verse, to the pre-chorus, chorus and ending chorus hook, Joan Osborne switches gears while elevating each stanza with more passion, grit, sexuality and a no holds barred finale. This is blues, soul and rock at its finest from one of the most creative and talented rock and roll artists of the past thirty years.
Updated Nov 9, 2020