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…
John Jacob Niles – Go ‘Way from My Window (1964)
After an overnight stay in the UK, we’re back on a plane and heading west to the US once more. These Americans are pretty good when it comes to music, aren’t they? Today we have an artist who sang traditional ballads but was influential in folk music circles which enjoyed a revival in the 1950s and 1960s. John Jacob Niles wrote our featured song – Go ‘Way from My Window – when he was just 16 years old but did not perform it until he was in his late thirties. Such a shame.
Go ‘Way from My Window is not remotely subtle in conveying the sheer sadness that the narrator is feeling. Niles takes on the protagonist who is telling their lover to not only get away from their window but wants them out of the door and definitely away from their bedside. Niles goes on to tell us that this person has hurt him deeply, so much so he wants to return letters they sent him and also a ring (engagement maybe?). He seemingly wants to jettison everything about this person from his life but at the same time he is honest in saying he won’t forget them. There might be ambiguity later on in that he tells this person to go and be at rest, which could allude to death, but he reminds us his conscience is clear for he gave this relationship everything he could. Is this a relationship that has ended or is had the person died? I believe it to be the first option. This is the anguish of heartbreak in full flow and Niles does not hold back.
Prior to today I had not heard of John Jacob Niles and I had certainly never come across this song either. Go ‘Way from My Window is sung beautifully but at times it is sometimes painful to listen to for you hear the desperation in the narrator’s voice. Niles’ work would influence the likes of Bob Dylan who would perform some of his songs. That’s quite an accolade to have as your legacy. Niles would live to the ripe age of 87 and has a welcome place on this list.
Favourite songs so far:
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)
Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)
The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (1964)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)