1001 Songs Challenge,  1910s-1920s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #2: Saint Louis Blues (1925)

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 – Saint Louis Blues (1925)

Saint Louis Blues (song)

” Saint Louis Blues” (or ” St. Louis Blues”) is a popular American song composed by W. C. Handy in the blues style and published in September 1914. It was one of the first blues songs to succeed as a pop song and remains a fundamental part of jazz musicians’ repertoire.

Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about this song (via Genius)


Our musical journey next takes us into the 1920s where we delve into the world of the blues and this very popular number. Penned by W.C. Handy who became very wealthy from the royalties, Saint Louis Blues is considered a staple of early blues music and has been covered by numerous artists over the last century. Even Hugh Laurie has had a stab at it.

The definitive version is considered to be this one by Bessie Smith who tragically died in 1937 at the age of 43 in a car crash. She is ably supported on the song by Louis Armstrong who provides the cornet accompaniment. While O Sole Mio was rejoicing about the beauty of an individual, this song is a woman’s lament about her husband who has been lured away by another woman and how she is struggling being left behind and alone. An apt subject for the blues, you might say. 

I’ll be the first to profess that my knowledge of the likes of blues music, jazz and a wide range of other genres is pitiful but I am hoping this challenge will help to redress that and help me explore different music. This particular song gets a thumbs up with Bessie Smith’s voice conveying the pain and sorrow of a woman abandoned by her husband. It’s a great shame she had to lose her life in such a tragic way. How many more great songs might she have recorded?


Favourite song so far:

Bessie Smith – Saint Louis Blues (1925)

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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