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…
Lloyd Price – Stagger Lee (1958)
We’re still in 1958 and in the US. What a year this was with some great songs to boot as well. Today we have R&B artist Lloyd Price who enjoyed many hits and today’s offering is one of his chart toppers. Stagger Lee began life as a folk song and first appeared in 1911. It was based on the true story of Stag Lee Shelton who got into an argument with Billy Lyons at Christmas in 1895 and murdered him. The song would go through various changes as the decades passed but it was Lloyd Price who enjoyed one of the biggest successes with it.
Stagger Lee retells the story of Billy Lyons’ murder. Lee sings of the two men gambling and how Billy seems to be getting the upper hand, so much so that Stagger Lee has lost his precious Stetson Hat. Stagger Lee decides to nip home for his .44 and upon his return he points it straight at Billy. Billy pleads for his life and insists he has a wife and children but Stagger Lee is unmoved and pulls the trigger. Harsh.
I enjoyed Stagger Lee and, in particular, reading about its history. It’s amazing how a song can come about from an isolated incident, albeit a tragic one in 19th century Missouri. Stagger Lee would be a no.1 hit for Lloyd Price and although his later career wouldn’t touch this period it still led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
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)
Cliff Richard & The Drifters – Move It (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)