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…
Big Brother & The Holding Company – Piece of My Heart (1968)
As you’ve already guessed, dear reader, we’re in the US once again and find ourselves back in California. We’re in the company of a rock band known as Big Brother & The Holding Company who first formed in 1965. They’re still around today, would you believe, but our primary focus is during 1968 when two years prior they had taken on a lead singer from Texas by the name of Janis Joplin. In 1967, Erma Franklin, sister of Aretha (wow!), had released the song, Piece of My Heart. The following year Big Brother & The Holding Company did their version and it was good enough for our 1001 Songs list.
Piece of My Heart was originally written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, and is from the perspective of a woman who is being treated pretty badly by her lover. I mean, this guy is the worst. Even The Supremes would sing about him, that’s how bad he is! Anyway, Joplin takes on the narrator in this version of the song and describes how she has given this man everything and yet it seems like he is losing interest, even looking for love elsewhere. I mean, seriously! Undeterred, our narrator battles on and during the chorus urges this man to take more of her heart and to continue to break it. She doesn’t want to lose him, she still feels love for him and the pain that comes with this passion is something the narrator simply has to bear. Sorry Janis, but this guy sounds like a right cretin.
Big Brother & The Holding Company’s version of Piece of My Heart is different to Erma Franklin’s, the guitarwork making it heavier, but it prove the more popular of the two versions in terms of chart success. Janis Joplin’s is equally tortured in her rendition and both songs deserve credit though I think Frankin’s, for me, is just a smidgen better if I was forced to choose, though I love both. Joplin would begin to outshine the band she sang with and by 1968 she had left to pursue a solo career. It all looked so promising but, sadly, in 1970 and less than a month after the death of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin was found dead at her home, the result of a suspected heroin overdose. She was just 27 years old.
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)