1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #277: Sister Morphine (1969)

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…


Marianne Faithfull – Sister Morphine (1969)

We say goodbye to Australia today, dear reader, so hope you saw the Sydney Opera House during our visit. We are heading back to England to visit with a young singer by the name of Marianne Faithfull. She began her singing career in 1964 but we join her musical journey in 1969 when she is in the midst of a relationship with Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones. Along with Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards, Jagger and Faithfull wrote the song, Sister Morphine, which Faithfull recorded first before The Rolling Stones later did their own version.

Sister Morphine is the story of a man who is in hospital and in a great deal of pain. My initial assumption was that he may be a drug addict asking for “Sister Morphine” or “Cousin Cocaine” to come and relieve his suffering. The man describes doctors being faceless which could suggest hallucinations. Faithfull confirmed that the man has been in a car accident and it sounds like his life is slipping away in the song. I wasn’t sure if he had overdosed on drugs or was suffering with withdrawal symptoms, desperate for one last fix. The allure of drugs does come through strongly here. Perhaps he was in a car accident and is experiencing these powerful drugs for the first time. 

I had heard of Marianne Faithfull but again she is one of these artists who I would struggle to name any of her songs. The shame is becoming unbearable, dear reader. The collaboration here between Faithfull, Jagger and Richards produced a piece of gold in Sister Morphine. There is some ambiguity to the song which I believe adds to its appeal. I can see the car crash victim in there but also a drug addict as well. What’s not in doubt is the man in question is close to death and that Faithfull’s portrayal of his plight is harrowing and even poignant.


Favourite songs so far:

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 Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)

The Kinks – Days (1968)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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