Happy Birthday Michael Stipe! What is R.E.M.’s Greatest Single?

it’s been over 30 years since the release of R.E.M.’s debut album Murmur, introducing many of us to what would be known as “College Music.” Over the next few decades, R.E.M. would become one of the great rock bands in music history, thanks in large part to the charisma, eccentricity, and talent of frontman Michael Stipe.

Always a sexual enigma, he eschews the labels gay, straight, and bisexual, and prefers to be known as queer.

Michael turns 54 this weekend, so let’s take a trip back and name our favorite R.E.M. song. Do you prefer the early sound (“Fall On Me”), the mainstream success (“Stand”), or something more obscure? Here are my top five.

5. The One I Love

Their first top 40 (and Top 10) hit, it brought them into the mainstream in a big way.

4. Losing My Religion

Their biggest hit single, it launched them into a new level of mainstream success. This may be the most “90’s” song of the 90’s.

3. Everybody Hurts

If “Losing My Religion” is their signature song, this is a close second. And cows love it.

2. First We Take Manhattan

1991’s Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m A Fan is noteworthy for two reasons: It’s one of the crappiest tribute albums ever made (for a true Cohen tribute, check out Jennifer Warnes’s stellar Famous Blue Raincoat), and it features R.E.M.’s dark and moody version of “First We Take Manhattan.”

1. So. Central Rain

The first R.E.M. song I ever heard, it was my introduction to “college music,” and I was fascinated by how … indecipherable … it was.

Okay, your turn! And just in case you haven’t seen it …

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.