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…

 

James Brown – Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (1965)

Back to the US today and we’re in the company of a real musical legend: it’s the one and only James Brown. The Godfather of Soul was also a key pioneer in the development of funk music that fused soul, jazz and R&B into a new standard and Brown was among the best. It’s no surprise to see James Brown on this list but how do you choose a song from his vast collection? Well, the 1001 Songs selectors had that headache, not me, and they have gone with Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.

Now then, a bit of learning for yours truly here, dear reader. I have heard this song many times (you probably have too) but until today I wasn’t sure what it was about. Turns out it isn’t about a fancy new bag that papa has, well not one you carry over your shoulder anyway. Instead the phrase means that papa has a new interest or way of going about things. In this case, the brand new bag of the title refers to some new dance moves that papa is trying out. James Brown’s narrator looks on in admiration as papa struts his stuff on the dance floor. Maybe he isn’t the coolest in the place but he’s still one groovy guy for his no care attitude and fancy footwork. In hindsight, this actually sounds better than a guy buying a new bag! What was I thinking? 

It’s hard to listen to James Brown and not feel yourself energised. The great man simply oozes class and confidence in his recordings. That powerful voice sounds like he has been in the business for decades yet this was one of Brown’s earliest hits. He would go on to have a very long career, of course. It was great to get an insight into what a “brand new bag” is. Clearly my lack of linguistic ability and knowledge of different cultures and societies needs some serious addressing. I do love this one from Brown and many more of his songs which I hope this competitive list will find some room for.

 

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)

The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (1964)

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Bert Jansch – Needle of Death (1965)

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