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…

 

Esma Redžepova – Chaje shukarije (1960)

We’re leaving the US today and heading not only to a different country but we’re sampling some very varied music as well. In Macedonia, in the Balkan peninsula of southeast Europe, there is the Romani people who make up a small proportion of Macedonia’s overall population. From this community came Esma Redžepova who is regarded as the Queen of the Gypsies, a prolific performer of Gypsy-folk music, a passionate humanitarian and foster mother to dozens of children, she was an extraordinary woman by all accounts. Redžepova took her music overseas and it would be embraced by impressed audiences. From her repertoire we have Chaje shukarije.

Chaje shukarije which translates as Beautiful Girl in Romani is a tale of unrequited love. The narrator sings to the beautiful girl of the title and beseeches her to not walk behind him, pleads with her to turn and look at him but it sounds like she does not. This girl simply doesn’t feel the same way as our tortured narrator. There is some striking imagery in here with Redžepova, at one point, singing of a heart burning so fiercely it needs water to be brought to douse the flames. Intense stuff indeed.

I’ll be honest, I was blown away by this. It sounds more upbeat than the lyrics would suggest and, yes, before you ask, I had to seek out a translation to help me along here. The background music is sumptuous with an accordion player really going for it while another maestro pounds away on the hand drums. Add to that Redžepova’s beautiful voice and you have all the criteria here for a truly memorable song. Redžepova would entertain the world for five decades before her voice was sadly silenced in the dark year of 2016 when so many great celebrities were lost to the world. Redžepova, 73 years old, would join the famous names in December of that awful year.

 

Favourite songs so far:

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956)

Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

Cliff Richard & The Drifters – Move It (1958)

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

Esma Redžepova – Chaje shukarije (1960)

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