On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Lydia Mendoza – Mal Hombre (1934)
Lydia Mendoza (May 31, 1916 – December 20, 2007) was an American guitarist and Spanish-language singer of Tejano, conjunto, and traditional Mexican-American music. Historian Michael Joseph Corcoran has stated that she was “The Mother of Tejano Music”, an art form that is the uniquely Texas cultural amalgamation of traditional Mexican, Spanish, German and Czech musical roots.
Today’s song sees us spread our wings a little to take in a US-Mexico combination in the form of Lydia Mendoza. This multi-talented artist sang and played a 12-string guitar to accompany her songs and favoured American-Mexican hybrids as her genre. Mal Hombre was one of her earliest recordings and is considered the most famous.
Mal Hombre translates to Bad Man and Mendoza sings of a serial womaniser whose charms she has fallen for but who ultimately has broken her heart. Not only is this man “bad”, he is a “scoundrel” and a “villain” as well. Mendoza certainly doesn’t hold back in conveying her dismay and outrage at this man whose ill deeds are worth this memorable song.
Lydia Mendoza has a great voice and although – once again – I had to seek out a translation to fully comprehend the message of the song, I didn’t feel it was in any way diminished. Mendoza’s guitar deftly supports her vocals throughout and the song just races along. It’s angry and sad in equal measure. What a shame today’s news talks of a wall between the US and Mexico when you have a collaboration such as this.
Favourite song so far: