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When I was in college, I had a friend who had an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock bands. Play a song, and he could tell you which album it was on, what year it came out, and pretty much anything else you wanted to know about it.

As much as I enjoy the genre, my knowledge about it is admittedly sparse. But perhaps that’s part of the beauty of music: though there are times when an understanding of music or knowledge about the circumstances of a song can deepen our appreciation for it, it is also possible to enjoy a song, an album, or artist without knowing much about it.

I can’t tell you the names of the individual members of REO Speedwagon or Kansas, nor do I know enough to say which guitar solos are best from a technical standpoint. But I can tell you this: this is a selection of songs filled with passion. There’s an intensity of emotion behind the singing, whether about love (Chicago’s “You're the Inspiration”), heartbreak ( Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice”), or something else entirely (like faith, in Styx’s “Show Me the Way”). Paired with solid lyrics and strong instrumentals, it’s really no wonder these songs have such staying power.