On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging 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 everyday (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…
The Prisonaires – Just Walkin’ in the Rain (1953)
We remain in the US today and find ourselves in Tennessee for a song that would become a huge hit but whose origins are rather peculiar. The song was written by Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley who were prisoners in Tennessee State prison. The story goes that Bragg came up with the song but was unable to read or write so had Riley write the lyrics down for which he was credited as co-writer of what became Just Walkin’ in the Rain. During a supervised day release from prison, Bragg with a group of friends in support recorded the song as The Prisonaires before returning to jail.
Just Walkin’ in the Rain is a song of regret with the narrator being the one alone and walking in the rain. He is drenched by the heavy downpour and people look on perplexed as he refuses to seek shelter. The rain is of no impediment for his thoughts are miles away and remembering a girl he once knew. It sounds like she has long since left his life, in what capacity is not entirely clear, but the narrator has not forgotten her and on he wanders with no respite in sight.
The background to this song is pretty sad. Johnny Bragg was serving 90+ years in prison for rape though this was a crime he denied. Whatever the truth is, we had here a group of prisoners with no real hope of release that tasted one day of freedom and with it recorded a song that would prove to be a big hit. It was also later recorded by Johnnie Ray who would enjoy further success but this version captures the sorrow of the lonesome narrator in a constant cycle of longing for someone he has lost long ago.
Favourite songs so far:
Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)
Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)