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!
Jo Stafford – Autumn Leaves (1950)
” Autumn Leaves” is a popular song and jazz standard composed by Joseph Kosma with original lyrics by Jacques Prévert in French, and later by Johnny Mercer in English. An instrumental version by pianist Roger Williams was a number 1 best-seller in the US Billboard charts of 1955.
We remain in the US today but leave behind the 1940s and enter the eventful 1950s which promises the likes of Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, to name just a few. At least I am assuming they will be on this list. Anyway, first up for our new decade is Jo Stafford, known as GI Jo for she was adored by soldiers during the Second World War. Her most famous song would be You Belong to Me in 1952 but for our list today we have her rendition of Autumn Leaves which began life in France before being reworked in the US.
This brief but elegant song sees Stafford singing of the autumn months which become a metaphor for her love who has now gone. As autumn descends Stafford reminisces about a lover with “summer kisses” and “sun-burned hands” and how the days are now long as she awaits the sorrow of the winter months still to come.
Stafford would go on to stun many by retiring early to focus on her family but also because she felt her voice was not as strong as it was. One can imagine how hard it must be to walk away from stardom but Stafford left an impressive body of work behind and this song in particular is beautifully sung and the imagery that comes with it his haunting.
Favourite song so far: