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…
Simon & Garfunkel – America (1968)
We’re continuing in the US, dear reader, and we get to partake of a road trip today. This isn’t quite Jack Kerouac and On the Road, but we’re still going on quite a journey. We’re in the company of Simon and Garfunkel, making their second appearance on our list after gracing us with The Sounds of Silence back in 1965. As with most of the duo’s songs, our chosen track today was written by Paul Simon and inspired by a road trip he took with his then girlfriend, Kathy Chitty, also notable for being in Kathy’s Song, but we are focusing instead on America.
America recaptures the road trip that Simon and Chitty took through the US back in 1964 and which lasted five days. In the song the narrator and Kathy are travelling around by bus, enjoying games at the expense of the other passengers and they are searching for America. What the search is for is open to debate but we could be considering the American Dream but also the pursuit of an understanding of what America is and has become at this time. The sixties saw major changes in the US and Simon seems to be tapping into that here. There is sadness to the song as the narrator expresses feeling lost but Kathy is asleep and does not hear his laments. The search for America goes on, for everyone it seems, but whether the narrator will find it or not remains a mystery.
I feel I’m fairly well-versed in Simon and Garfunkel’s back catalogue and this was a welcome entry on this list. For those who haven’t heard the duo’s 1981 Concert in Central Park, America is one of many memorable songs they performed to an estimated audience of 500,000 people, and all for free as well. It’s an amazing show. This track is up there with my favourite songs from the duo. It’s beautifully written and sung so well you feel like you are on that bus with Paul and Kathy. I always feel a great sadness that the romance the two had did not last but it lives on forever in songs such as this and that’s quite a consolation to have.
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)