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…

 

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

In Missouri in 2017 emergency services responded to a call where a 90 year old man was unresponsive at home. Sadly, the man died at the scene but he wasn’t just any man. He was Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock and Roll. Berry had already enjoyed some popular songs prior to 1958 but his greatest hit – Johnny B. Goode – was released in this year and became his signature number.

Johnny B. Goode could be considered somewhat autobiographical to Berry’s own career. It tells the story of Johnny who lives in Louisiana but doesn’t have much of an education. It seems he has little in the way of prospects aside from one talent: his ability to play the guitar. Berry sings of how Johnny plays the guitar and the locals begin to notice just how good he is. By the song’s conclusion Johnny’s mother is hopeful that one day her son will hit the big time and given his gift with the guitar that may well happen.

This is one of the classic rock and roll songs. Berry’s voice is almost superseded by his formidable guitar playing, the riffs so memorable they would influence legendary guitarists still to come. As with Little Richard, it’s a testament to Berry that in an America before the civil rights movement he did not hold back in pursuing his dream of a career in music, surely knowing the obstacles that awaited him. By the time of his death in 2017, Berry lived in an improved America albeit not a perfect one. As a side note, you may believe from watching Back to the Future (1985) that Berry got the inspiration for this song from Marty McFly playing it at his parents’ high school dance and you’d be right. Obviously!

 

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)

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

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