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 Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1966)

Continuing in the US, dear reader, but we find ourselves driving on back to Detroit, Michigan where we are in the company of a group who dabbled in soul, doo-wop, jazz and R&B, to name just a few of their genres. The Four Tops were one of the key acts in the Motown sound of the 1960s and were the primary recipients of hits by songwriters – Holland-Dozier-Holland. Today we have one such example of that writing collaboration. 1001 Songs has gone with, perhaps, The Four Tops’ most famous song – Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

Reach Out (I’ll Be There) is from the perspective of a narrator who is pleading with another person to reach out to him. In a series of poignant verses he observes that this individual is struggling, feeling down, unloved and completely and utterly lost. He beseeches them to reach out for him and promises he will be there. Not only will he come to their aid but he assures them he will do all he can to take any darkness, pain and suffering away. He is ready to do what it takes to help this person and to offer them the love that they clearly do not have at this time. It makes me think of the wonderful Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel that would be released in 1970. 

I had a real nostalgia trip listening to this one. I distinctly remember a boyfriend of my mother’s played this frequently in the car. It was on a cassette, if you can imagine such a thing, so we’re talking many, many years ago here. Possibly even the 19th century, it seems that long ago. Even today, Reach Out (I’ll Be There) sounds amazing. Levi Stubbs took the lead vocal for this song and the story goes that he sang at the top of his vocal range where it sounded almost as if he was in pain, a pendulum between singing and shouting. The rest of the group provide beautiful backing that blends in perfectly with Stubbs’ flawless voice. It’s no surprise that this one is considered The Four Tops’ signature tune and even less of a surprise that it has graced this list.

 

Favourite songs so far:

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)

The Who – Substitute (1966)

The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon (1966)

The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)

The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)

The Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1966)

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