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!
Lena Horne – Stormy Weather (1943)
” Stormy Weather” is a 1933 torch song written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Ethel Waters first sang it at The Cotton Club night club in Harlem in 1933 and recorded it that year, and in the same year it was sung in London by Elisabeth Welch and recorded by Frances Langford.
We remain in the US for today’s song and to make things a little interesting this one was used in a film of the same name – Stormy Weather. This popular musical was a rare instance where African-American actors were the principal performers. Given that this was the 1940s I can imagine that was quite a feat. The song, Stormy Weather, was written years before but found a home in the film and in the voice of Lena Horne.
The song itself has the narrator singing of their pain and longing for her man to come home and be with her. To make matters worse the song uses an extended metaphor with the dark clouds and rain emphasising the pain of the singer and this striking image that when her man left, he took the sun away with him. The days of endless rain are proving hard to bear and the narrator longs for the chance to walk once more in that sunshine that had made her feel complete.
I have not seen the film, Stormy Weather, nor was I familiar with the song that gave its name to the movie. It’s a film I will certainly keep an eye out for in future and due to the risk of spoilers I have not ventured to learn too much about it. Lena Horne is one of many artists to have taken on this song, Billie Holiday being another, but I imagine few will be able to deliver it as well as she does. Another sombre song for this list but a beautiful one nonetheless.
Favourite song so far: