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…
Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (1968)
After our Anglo-US fusion yesterday, we’re heading back to the US, dear reader. We welcome back Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, and one of the greatest singers our ears have ever had the privilege of listening to. Today’s song – I Say a Little Prayer – was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach and originally recorded by Dionne Warwick. However, Bacharach was never completely happy with the song even when it was a success for Warwick. The song was picked up by Aretha Franklin and storms onto our 1001 Songs list.
I Say a Little Prayer was intended as a woman’s lament for her lover being overseas and fighting in Vietnam. In the song, Franklin’s narrator is home and going about her everyday life such as getting ready on a morning and going out to work each day. This routine existence does have one difference to what it was like before though. The narrator continually says a prayer for her lover, for she is deeply in love with him and wants nothing but the best for him. This could easily be a woman missing her lover gone to war but it could apply to anyone that has been separated from their partner for a significant amount of time.
I wasn’t familiar with this song prior to taking on this challenge. For shame. I also haven’t heard Dionne Warwick’s version but will be seeking this one out for comparison. As for Aretha Franklin, well, her version is unsurprisingly sung beautifully. The backing vocals are restrained but terrific, giving way to Franklin’s stunningly powerful voice. She conveys so much emotion in those vocals and you really feel her love for the man she sings about and longs for. Bacharach would hail this version as his favourite for this song. Franklin truly was one of the best.
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 Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)