1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #141: Harlem Shuffle (1963)

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…


Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle (1963)

We’re heading back to the US today and as we’re here it makes sense to have a bit more soul music, right? Hard to resist really is the old soul stuff. Our song today was written by Bob Relf and Earl Nelson and also performed by them with their act being Bob & Earl, in case you haven’t guessed already. The song wasn’t a success initially. That would come later and it would also gain better traction in the hands of another group. However, 1001 Songs has acknowledged the song in its infancy and deemed it worthy of inclusion here.

Harlem Shuffle is sung by the duo of Bob & Earl and concerns a particular dance. The Harlem Shuffle was a popular kind of dance in the 1950s and 1960s with its name coming from Harlem, a part of New York City, where the population was primarily black Americans. Interestingly, we had Spanish Harlem earlier on this list from Ben E. King which concerned East Harlem. Definitely something going down in New York City. Anyway, Bob & Earl’s song is all about dancing, moving from the left, back to the right, scratching like a monkey and then shaking that tail feather. Sounds like a lot of work to this anti-dance blogger. To each their own. 

Harlem Shuffle does what it says on the tin. It’s catchy and you can imagine it being just the tonic to get people onto the dance floor. Present company excepted of course. The Rolling Stones would record a version of the song in the 1980s which increased its popularity even further. Although the dance moves within the lyrics sound too dangerous for me, the mere mention of tail feather got me thinking of one of the dance routines in John Landis’ The Blues Brothers, again not the sort of thing you’ll ever catch me doing. I’ll sit on the sidelines, good reader, and just enjoy the music.


Favourite songs so far:

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)

The Contours – Do You Love Me (1962)

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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