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…
The Impressions – People Get Ready (1965)
We’re staying in the US and today are sampling a group who specialised in R&B, doo-wop, soul and gospel. In other words, people of good taste. In 2018 The Impressions retired after a career spanning 60 years. That’s quite an achievement for any group and as a result they have quite a back catalogue. However, which song to go for was not a difficult one for the 1001 Songs list. Written by Curtis Mayfield, one of the early members of The Impressions, People Get Ready is our featured song today.
People Get Ready was embraced by Martin Luther King Jr. as the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. The song has the narrator telling us of a train, one that they beseech people to board. Forget your belongings and do not worry about a ticket. Hop on the train and have faith in the Lord that it will take you somewhere better. There is a strong religious overtone here, a sense of community and belonging. The image of the train is also said to be in reference to the Underground Railroad, a pre-Civil War route (not a railroad but a path you walked) from the Confederate South to the North where freedom and safety from slavery could be found. It would sometimes be sung on Civil Rights marches and demonstrated Curtis Mayfield’s awareness of the changing climate in the US at this time.
People Get Ready is a great song on its own but its historical significance can not be ignored here given its part in the Civil Rights Movement. Mayfield himself said that the song transcended race and was open arms for the downtrodden, a song to be embraced by a wide range of people. The vocals are delightful here and the message to be found is one that other artists from Bob Marley to Eva Cassidy and Rod Stewart to U2 have all either covered or been inspired by with their own versions. That’s quite an accolade.
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)
The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (1964)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)
The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)