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…
Billie Holiday – Love for Sale (1954)
It’s a fourth appearance on this list for Billie Holiday, the most of any artist so far, and surely that’s going to be hard to top with the artists still to come. Today’s song was originally written by Cole Porter for the musical, The New Yorkers, in 1930 and was considered controversial in its time due to the content. The song in question is Love for Sale and though Holiday initially recorded her version in 1952, it wasn’t released until two years later.
Love for Sale is written from the perspective of a prostitute who is trying to sell herself to customers on the street. Holiday sings of the love she can give and that although she has been with many customers she still has a lot to offer, even comparing the experience to “paradise” at one point. Quite striking is reference to tortured poets writing of love and how our narrator eclipses them all for she has known all the kinds of love you can imagine in her business.
With only a piano accompaniment, Holiday’s voice is left alone to guide us through this moving song. You get the sense that the narrator isn’t necessarily content with this life she has and hoped for more. As a teenager Holiday herself and her mother worked in a brothel before she sang her way to stardom. Perhaps the song allowed Holiday to look back on her past and see what she had accomplished in the years that followed. It’s hard to know for sure but what isn’t in doubt is that this is another great song from a very talented singer.
Favourite songs so far:
Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)
Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)