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…
James Taylor – Fire and Rain (1970)
Our stay in the US continues, dear reader, and this time we’re over in Massachusetts for a spot of folk rock. In 1970 James Taylor attempted to break into the music industry as a solo artist, having failed with his band, The Flying Machine. He achieved a major breakthrough with the song, Fire and Rain, which has been selected for our 1001 Songs but this piece came at a great cost in Taylor’s personal life.
Divided into three sections, Fire and Rain is an autobiographical piece concerning three different elements of Taylor’s early life. The first verse was written in response to the death of his childhood friend, Suzanne Schnerr, who committed suicide while Taylor was recording in England. The second verse captures Taylor being in a dark place of heroin addiction and feeling lost in the world. The final verse was the result of him spending five months in rehab and overcoming his addiction and coming to terms with fame and the demise of The Flying Machine. Each verse is followed by the chorus where Taylor talks of the good and bad days he has seen and also, presumably, a reference to Schnerr once more and the belief that he would see her again. However,reality shows him otherwise and it’s hard to come to terms with such a truth.
I’ve heard Fire and Rain before and it’s a classic folk rock piece from the US. The song would propel James Taylor into the top 3 of the US charts. It was just the start of a successful career lavished with record sales and awards. Fire and Rain is another example of how beautiful music can be composed and born out of tragic circumstances. It must be an emotional for Taylor to play even to this day.
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)