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!
Chet Baker – My Funny Valentine (1954)
” My Funny Valentine” is a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms in which it was introduced by former child star Mitzi Green. The song became a popular jazz standard, appearing on over 1300 albums performed by over 600 artists.
We continue in the US today and join a popular jazz singer and trumpeter named Ched Baker. A handsome and gifted singer in his day, Baker’s life would sadly take a sharp decline and lead to an early death. Back in 1954 he released a version of My Funny Valentine which began life in the 1937 musical, Babes in Arms.
In the musical, My Funny Valentine was originally sung by the character Billie to her boyfriend Val. It’s an interesting love song in that it points out that the object of affection isn’t perfect. They are actually different to the other men in Billie’s life with her even suggesting that Val’s “looks are laughable” yet in her eyes he is “a work of art.” These seem strange contradictions but it attests to the idea of love being in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is subjective and we as individuals define it in different ways. This is the message of My Funny Valentine and with Baker’s vocals we can imagine a perspective change with him singing of someone who seemingly has imperfections about them but, to him, they are perfect in every way.
Baker’s singing is slow, emotive and even contemplative as he guides us through the song. He was at the height of his fame around this time and it is tragic to read what became of him. Baker’s good looks and talent would struggle under the weight of heavy drug addiction and sadly he would die in 1988 in Amsterdam at the age of 58 following an accidental fall from a hotel window. A tragic end to a talented singer and trumpeter but with songs such as this Baker built a fond legacy.
Favourite songs so far: