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…
Folkes Brothers – Oh Carolina (1960)
From Macedonia yesterday, we’re taking a long flight across the Atlantic to the beautiful island of Jamaica, famous for Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, a bobsleigh team and many more wonders. From these distant shores we have the Folkes brothers (John, Mico and Junior). In 1958 John Folkes wrote a song named Oh Carolina which he and his brothers came to record in 1960 with the help of producer, Prince Buster. It would prove to be a big influence in the history of reggae music that was to follow. For people of my generation, Oh Carolina may well have pricked your ears up already thanks to an artist from the 1990s.
John Folkes wrote Oh Carolina about his girlfriend who was not called Carolina but none of us are perfect so let’s not criticise the man! In the song our narrator seems to be having a bit of trouble with Carolina. He loves her dearly, there’s no problem there, but it seems like Carolina may not feel the same. She’s only gone and left the narrator and he now feels lonely about the whole thing. Whether the whole thing works out we never learn. Why are most of these songs about heartbreak?
In 1993 when I was at secondary school a Jamaican artist named Shaggy topped the UK charts with his version of Oh Carolina, more than thirty years after the original. The Folkes brothers had little success after their original recording but the acclaim of Shaggy’s version resulted in a lawsuit between John Folkes and the song’s original producer, Prince Buster, with Folkes being recognised as the songwriter and entitled to the royalties, so a happy ending of sorts. It was interesting to hear where the Shaggy song originally came from and just how vital this number would be for Jamaican music that followed. There is one man in particular from Jamaica who I am curious about appearing on this list. We shall see as we work through the 1960s and into the 1970s whether he earns a place.
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)