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…
Stephen Stills – Love the One You’re With (1970)
We’re staying in the US, dear reader, and in the company of Stephen Stills today. We have come across him already with both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash but this is Stills on his lonesome as a solo artist, and why not? In 1970 Stills released his debut album, Stephen Stills, and the lead single from the record is the one that 1001 Songs has selected today – Love the One You’re With.
The song was inspired by the words of Billy Preston, who famously worked with The Beatles on Get Back, along with many other artists. Preston’s motto was “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” Stills heard the expression and Preston gave him permission to use it in a song. Stills’ song has a narrator who is addressing someone thinking of another woman far away. They recognise their plight, their hurt and their nostalgia but remind them that longing for the past or someone/something out of reach is a waste, especially when they have another woman in their life. This person has chosen to be with this guy and he is neglecting them. They might not recapture the same love they felt for another person but they should at the very least focus on this other individual now for they deserve better than what they are being put through at the moment.
Having written Suite: Judy Blue Eyes for Crosby, Stills & Nash, Stills once again demonstrates his songwriting skill here. Love the One You’re With is an interesting premise but not the easiest one to embrace depending on how you look at it. It kind of feels like the woman this guy is with is made out to be second best to the lost love he still longs for which is a bit cruel to be honest. On the other hand, I do agree that he should be forgetting about the past and immersing himself in the present with what sounds like a great woman by his side. I’m sure many of us don’t forget a particular love but it has to be recognised as something from the past and in the end, there is a lesson in the song about being grateful for what we have now.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
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)
King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)