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 Supremes – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1966)
Farewell to the UK and back to the US we are going, dear reader. After enjoying a dose of Cream, we are welcoming back The Supremes who make their second appearance on our prestigious list. A pleasure to have you back, ladies. Previously we enjoyed Stop! In the Name of Love, a Motown number penned by Holland-Dozier-Holland. Well, it’s the same writers again today (big show offs, aren’t they?) and their song that The Supremes did wonders with is You Keep Me Hangin’ On.
As with Stop! In the Name of Love, You Keep Me Hangin’ On has a narrator who has been hurt by a man and continues to be. In the previous entry the narrator was beseeching her lover not to cheat on her. In this song it sounds like the relationship has come to an end, for him anyway, but our narrator is struggling with the demise of their love. The problem is that this guy is still very much in the narrator’s life. He keeps coming over, he wants to be friends, he’s toying with her rather than giving her the space to move on with her life. Our narrator beseeches him to end this cruelty, to back away and to let her go so she can be free, but it sounds like he isn’t quite finished yet with this unnecessary emotional manipulation.
This is another terrific song from The Supremes but there is a hint of sadness here. The first part of the song is entirely sung by Diana Ross with Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson only joining in a few verses later. Already at this point it feels like Ross is shifting away from the group and edging towards that solo career that would continue her many years of stardom. This doesn’t stop the song being beautiful and when Ross sings it’s electrifying, but when Ballard and Wilson combine with her it is dynamite. It’s one of many reasons why The Supremes are so fondly remembered to this day.
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 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)
The Monkees – I’m a Believer (1966)