1001 Songs Challenge,  1930s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #9: Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl (1931)

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!


Bessie Smith – Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl (1931)

Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl

” Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” is a dirty blues song first recorded in 1931 by Bessie Smith and released by Columbia Records. It was written by Clarence Williams, J. Tim Brymn, and Dally Small. Owing to its sexually suggestive lyrics, it has been rated as one of the best double entendre songs of all time.

Lyrics (via Genius)


We stay in the US for our next song and it’s a second entry from the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith. Following the poignant Saint Louis Blues, we have another example of the blues genre in the form of Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl. Before I had even started listening to the song I had assumptions of poverty, deprivation and hunger. I was not right, dear reader.

Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl, befits the Blues genre but I’ve found from research that it may be called Dirty Blues as it is full of euphemisms. If you’re not quite with me yet, it’s a song of a woman longing for her lover and lyrics such as “Need a little sugar in my bowl” and “I need a little hot dog between my rolls” make you soon realise this one wasn’t intended for the ears of young children. It’s not being downright saucy for the sake of it though. Our narrator is desperately longing for her lover and there is a degree of sadness in the air at their absence, wherever they may be. 

This is my second song by Bessie Smith and as with Saint Louis Blues, she has a great voice. Personally, I preferred this one as although there was a hint of sorrow about it, it’s also quite fun with the ambiguity of the lyrics used. Many likely listened to this without realising the subtext but either way it’s a great song, even it does leave you a little hot under the collar!


Favourite song so far:

Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – Minnie the Moocher (1931)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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1001 Songs Challenge #8: Minnie the Moocher (1931)

Minnie the Moocher demands audience participation, with Cab Calloway’s use of scat lyrics that sound ...

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1001 Songs Challenge #10: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (1932)

Written by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and composed by Jay Gorney, Brother, Can You Spare a ...

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