1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #123: Spanish Harlem (1961)

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…


Ben E. King – Spanish Harlem (1961)

Spanish Harlem (song)

” Spanish Harlem” is a song recorded by Ben E. King in 1960 for Atco Records. It was written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector and produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about the song (via Genius)


We’re back in the US today as we move into 1961 of this wondrous decade. Our artist today has already appeared once but as a member of The Drifters. By 1960 he had left the group and branched out on his own as a solo artist. His name was Ben E. King and you may know him for a very famous song that shares its name with a classic film from the 1980s. No, it’s not that song that we’re looking at today. Instead, we’re focusing on Spanish Harlem.

Spanish Harlem refers to a section of New York City and has a largely Latino community in residence. In the song, Ben E. King’s sings of the Spanish Harlem and in particular a rose that grows there. This isn’t your typical rose though. It blooms at night beneath the stars rather than reaching for the overhanging sun as many plants tend to do. King wants to take this rose from the Spanish Harlem and plant it in his own garden where he can watch it grow. The rose sounds like it a metaphor for a beautiful woman that King has fallen in love with and wants to spend the rest of his life with. Bless you, Ben.

I have limited knowledge of Ben E King’s career being the ignorant soul that I am but I do want to learn more. The beauty of this list is my eyes and ears are being opened to new songs and genres. This effort from King showcases those wonderful vocals that he had and the lyrics in the song are filled with some evocative images. This rose in the Spanish Harlem sounds very beautiful indeed.


Favourite songs so far:

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (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)

The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960)

Johnny Kidd & the Pirates – Shakin’ All Over (1960)

Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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