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…
Sly & The Family Stone – I Want to Take You Higher (1969)
We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, and heading west to San Francisco. Yesterday, we dealt with the serious topic of racial disparity in America. Today, we have turned the tables with our guests – Sly & The Family Stone. This group led by Sly Stone, was one of the first popular groups to be made up of not just white and black members, but men and women as well. Partially a family affair, Sly Stone had brother, Freddie Stone, and sister, Rose Stone, among the members of the band. Specialising in rock, funk, soul and psychedelia, Sly & The Family Stone were hugely influential so 1001 Songs has dipped into their early work and come up with I Want to Take You Higher.
The premise to I Want to Take You Higher could easily be interpreted as a reference to drugs and it is…kind of. The drug in question though is not narcotics but music. In the song, the members of Sly & The Family Stone share out the vocals. We hear about the thrill of music, increasing in volume and intensity and the group use the refrain of wanting to take us higher. They want us to feel the beat and rhythm of the music, to sing and dance along and let ourselves go. This an invitation for us to get lost in the moment and it’s a hard one to resist.
I’ve heard a handful of songs by Sly & The Family Stone prior to this one and I do like how varied and inventive they seem to be. Apparently, the song went down a storm at Woodstock in 1969, though I suspect some may have taken the “higher” very literally. The song itself sounds simple but it is expertly crafted and performed and it’s easy getting lost yourself in the music. Sly & The Family Stone would hit problems in the 1970s due to internal friction and heavy drug use. In the end only Sly Stone remained with new band members but retired from the music industry in the 1980s after falling foul of the law for drug possession.
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)