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 – Stand by Me (1961)
We are continuing in the US today and it’s a third appearance from Ben E. King. His first was as part of The Drifters and the second was as a solo artist with Spanish Harlem. After recording that song, King had some recording time left in the studio and suggested an unfinished piece he had been working on. Songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, helped him flesh out the remainder of the song and King had yet another hit on his hands. That song was Stand By Me.
Unquestionably King’s most famous song, Stand By Me has a relatively simple message to it. King sings of troubled times and the imagery paints a bleak picture with mention of darkness and the moon being the only light, or mountains crumbling into the sea, it all sounds pretty harrowing. However, King has hope for he can face any predicament or obstacle that comes his way so long as an unnamed person stands by him and remains by his side. This gives the song some ambiguity for it could be a song for lovers, for family or for friends, all eventualities are catered for here, and that only adds to its universal appeal.
King would see Stand By Me hit the top 10 in the US in 1961 but it fared less well in the UK. However, 25 years later the song was reissued as part of the soundtrack for the 1986 film of the same name, based on a short story by Stephen King. The film was a big success and Ben E. King not only went back into the top 10 in the US but he saw Stand By Me top the charts in the UK. The song has been recorded hundreds of times by many artists and earned significant royalties for King. It’s a song I have lived with and loved since childhood, easily my favourite to feature on this list thus far and it will take 10 very special songs to remove it from my final top 10 list. There are plenty of years left to explore before we see if that happens. Kudos, Mr King, kudos.
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)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)