Van Morrison Saint Dominics Preview

The Best Song Named Gypsy

Despite almost unlimited access to music with a Spotify subscription, I’ve maintained a collection of files on my computer, burning my CD collection onto it. Among the tens of thousands of songs, it’s notable that my library features four songs named ‘Gypsy’, and all four are excellent. “Gypsy” is a great word to build a song around – it’s enigmatic, conjuring images of travelling and dancing. With apologies to other artists with songs named ‘Gypsy’, like Lady Gaga, Dio, Shakira, and Uriah Heep, here are the four artists with a song named ‘Gypsy’ in play:

  • The Moody Blues, from To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)
  • Van Morrison, from St. Dominic’s Preview (1972)
  • Fleetwood Mac, from Mirage (1982)
  • Suzanne Vega, from Solitude Standing (1987)

Three of these four songs were released as singles and all four are excellent, but which is the strongest?

The Best Song Named Gypsy

#4 Gypsy by Van Morrison

Van Morrison’s strongest period as an artist is the string of albums he made between 1968’s Astral Weeks and 1974’s Veedon Fleece. On these early solo albums, his Caledonia soul blended folk, jazz, R&B, and blues, with more acoustic textures than he’d use later in his career. 1972’s St. Dominic’s Preview is one of his strongest records. Van Morrison’s released so much material, and so much strong material, that ‘Gypsy’ is largely forgotten – it slipped out as the third single. But it exemplifies what Van Morrison did so well in the 1970s – a punchy, horn-driven tune. The “lye-lye” chorus is folksy, while the verses, in 3/4 time, are bluesier.

#3 Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac

The 1975-1987 edition of Fleetwood Mac boasted three talented songwriters, with Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. ‘Gypsy’ is written about two different events in Nicks’ life. “So I’m back to the velvet underground/Back to the floor that I love” is a nostalgic reference to her simple life with Lindsey Buckingham when the young couple would sleep on a mattress on the floor. The song is also written about Nicks’ best friend, Robin Snyder Anderson, who would pass from leukemia a month after the song’s release – Nicks was the “gypsy that remained.” ‘Gypsy’ also features a great finger-picked outro from Buckingham.

#2 Gypsy (of a Strange and Distant Time) by The Moody Blues

Birmingham’s The Moody Blues started as a blues band, with hits like 1965’s ‘Go Now’. But they quickly morphed into an art-rock band, who built richly textured songs around Mike Pinder’s Mellotron. From my favourite Moody Blues’ album, 1969’s To Our Children’s Children’s Children, ‘Gypsy’ was never a single but it became a live staple and fan favourite. It was probably a missed opportunity not to release it to radio because it showcases the classic lineup’s strengths. It’s both pretty and rocking – a great guitar riff and some excellent harmonies.

#1 Gypsy by Suzanne Vega

Born in Santa Monica, American singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega started playing live in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1980s. Her best-known material is featured on her second album, 1987’s Solitude Standing – the portrait of an abused child on ‘Luke’ and the a capella ‘Tom’s Diner’. But the first single from Solitude was ‘Gypsy’, a song that Vega wrote as a teenager for a boy from Liverpool whom she met at summer camp. It’s gorgeous, especially the descending chord sequence and Vega’s beautiful lyrics.

Which is your favourite song entitled ‘Gypsy’?

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  1. I didn’t know Vega’s or Van’s. Both sound good. I think that of the two I like Van’s better. But of the four my favorite is Moody Blues. Love that album.

  2. Great idea for a post!

    A few years ago, I made a playlist and realized that three songs had exactly the same name – “Demons”.

    So I decided to put the three songs – by The National, Guster, and Imagine Dragons next to each other on the playlist.

    All three are good songs, IMO.

    • The only song named Demons in my library is by Super Furry Animals.

      I’ve only dipped into The National a little – sometimes I struggle with baritone voices.

  3. There is a song call Gypsy Eyes by Jimi Hendrix. From Electric Ladyland. Not his best but always good coming from him.

    • Yup, I’ve just been reviewing Hendrix recently so I had that in my head. I just went with songs named Gypsy (although The Moody Blues one has a subtitle).

  4. Fun idea for a post! Obviously, none of these tunes is bad.

    Van Morrison is in my dog house these days, having crossed over to the loonies spreading crazy conspiracy theories. Nuff said here.

    I guess my favorite is between the Mac and Suzanne Vega. While I taped “Solitude Standing” on MC at the time and played that tape quite frequently, I did not recall “Gypsy”.

    I will say the Moodys tune sounds pretty cool as well.

    Tough choice!

    • It’s annoying about Van – he had more than 20 years of great music, 1990’s Enlightenment is pretty strong. But he’s certainly expressed some views I don’t agree with recently. Same with Clapton, but I don’t really have the same attachment to Clapton past the very early 1970s.

    • Thanks for writing in! It’s crazy Vega wrote it when she was 18 and didn’t record it for almost a decade.

      I limited the ranking to songs named Gypsy that are in my Itunes library, but enjoying that Mike Campbell song now. His vocals aren’t that dissimilar to Petty.

    • Yes, I would have assumed that! It wasn’t eligible since it wasn’t in my Itunes, but listening now it sounds pretty good. I actually quite liked the Lady Gaga one too (sorry!).

    • Yeah, it’s weird that it wasn’t a single – it packs a ton of ideas into a short running time and it’s hard edged enough that it might have helped update their image a bit.

  5. Van is my favorite Gyspy song out of these…the first time I heard it in a song was Cher’s Gypsy Tramps and Thieves…but I will take Van’s song.

    • Thanks for reading. I might try it again sometime but I don’t think I know another title with such a good hit rate.

  6. Does it have to be just gypsy or could it have other words in the title? Cuz my favorite is Gypsy Woman by the old ’60s teen idol Brian Hyland, but Gypsy Woman is from the 70s. It’s one of those story songs that were big pop hits in the ’70s, sort of along the lines of Gypsies Tramps and Thieves, which I also think is great. I was also going to say Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen by Santana, but it’s really just the second part of the song and Black Magic Woman is really the great one.

    • Just songs named ‘Gypsy’ – I’ve always loved all four of those songs. Don’t think I can think of another title with such a consistent lineup.

      • I was never crazy about the Fleetwood Mac Gypsy. It always sounded to me like she was just imitating herself by that point. And she had already written one too many songs about gypsies. And there were even more still to come.

        • These are the songs I can think of named Time that are great and were actual hits, but there’s even more that weren’t very great.. But these ones are.

          Time – Pink Floyd
          Time – David Bowie
          Time – Alan Parsons Project
          Time – Hootie and the Blowfish
          Time – Culture Club

          • I got pretty sick of that Hootie song when it was on the radio – always loved that huge chorus for Hold My Hand though.

          • Well, not necessarily gypsies but gypsy types. Like witches and moon goddesses and all manner of mystical women and all their magic and crystals and everything. There’s a lot of them on her solo albums too. I love one of her greatest hits albums cuz it’s got all her best songs all in a row and they sound great like that.

          • Women in long flowing dresses is a common theme. I’ve never liked her solo stuff that much, but I only know the singles.

  7. Several years ago, Van M was touring Canada. We had tickets to see him in the country’s most famous venue (Massey Hall).

    A co worker went to see him the night before in Montreal and she warned me : “ go early cause there’s no opening band and also no encore “.

    All true, and he never spoke to the audience. Only worse one was Billy Corgan

    • Yup, he seems like a bit of a grump. He has some good live albums though – I liked the reworked Astral Weeks from about 2008.

  8. Children’s Children used to be my least favorite of The Moody Blues main albums but now I love it. The only song I used to like was Watching and Waiting but I learned to like just about the whole thing. And I think Gypsy is the best one.

    • I think it’s a pretty common choice for fans, even though others like Days of Future Passed and Seventh Sojourn are better known.

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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person. It features album reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

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Graham Fyfe has been writing this website since his late teens. Now in his forties, he's been obsessively listening to albums for years. He works as a web editor and plays the piano.

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