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…

 

Mahalia Jackson – Take My Hand, Precious Lord (1956)

We’re back in the US today and have a real treat in store in the form of some gospel music. This one was written by Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey who penned the lyrics and adapted the melody from a 19th century hymn. Many artists would cover the song – Take My Hand, Precious Lord – but the one worthiest of this list comes from Mahalia Jackson aka the Queen of Gospel.

Take My Hand, Precious Lord was the result of grief when Reverend Dorsey’s wife died in childbirth while their child died soon afterwards. Being a gospel song there is a strong religious overtone here with the narrator pleading with the Lord to guide them. At first they are lost and weary and beseech the Lord to help them along the road. In the second verse the narrator is at the end of their life and turns once more to the Lord to steer them home.

This is a very poignant song from start to finish, all the more so for hearing its back story, and it is sung beautifully by Mahalia Jackson. The song has a bit of history about it as well. Dr Martin Luther King Jr is said to have liked this song better than any other and following his assassination in 1968, Mahalia Jackson would sing Take My Hand, Precious Lord at the funeral of the civil rights leader. When Jackson herself died in 1972, the song would be heard once more, but this time it would be Aretha Franklin singing it in honour of the late Queen of Gospel.

 

Favourite songs so far:

Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)

Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (1955)

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956)

Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)

The Louvin Brothers – The Knoxville Girl (1956)

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