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…
Ray Charles – What’d I Say Parts 1 & 2 (1959)
” What’d I Say” (or ” What I Say”) is an American rhythm and blues song by Ray Charles, released in 1959. As a single divided into two parts, it was one of the first soul songs.
We’re in the US again and today’s artist was dubbed “The Genius”. He spearheaded soul music, merging R&B, blues and gospel, and had a memorable career to boot as well. This well sung hero today is Ray Charles and from his collection we have What’d I Say Parts 1 & 2. It has a memorable story behind it too. Charles was playing a club one night and there were around 15 minutes to go. No problem, right? Well, unfortunately, Ray Charles and his band had completed their entire repertoire and had no songs left to play. Undeterred, Charles began playing, his band joined in, everyone improvising, but the crowd really got going as the music unfolded. What came out was so good that it was recorded soon after, become a closing number at future shows and is considered one of Ray Charles’ greatest songs.
What’d I Say Parts 1 & 2 does have the sound of improvisation, lyrically, and trying to decipher the words isn’t overly straightforward. Charles gives us a series of unrelated images, singing about women in elaborate dress one minute, before changing the perspective to being in misery the next. I soon realised trying to delve too deeply into this song is pointless and it is best just sitting back and enjoying the music.
For a song that Ray Charles and his band improvised at the end of a show this is a remarkable achievement. Okay, the lyrics do come across maybe a little mish-mash at times but that isn’t the point of this one. What we have is an example of the enigmatic Ray Charles saying to his group “I’ll take the lead, the rest of you follow” in a moment of spontaneity and follow they certainly do. Rolling Stone magazine placed this no.10 in their 500 greatest ever songs’ list. Not bad for an impromptu piece of work. Kudos, Mr Charles.
Favourite songs so far: