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…
Edwin Starr – War (1970)
We’re back to the US today, dear reader, after what was a brief stay in the UK. In the 1970s American disillusionment with the Vietnam War continued to rise and such feeling found its way into the music charts. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1969, War was first recorded by The Temptations for their latest album. Demand for the song to be released as a single gathered pace but instead of The Temptations risking alienating some of their their audience, the track was re-recorded by Edwin Starr and landed him a place on our 1001 Songs list.
War is a straightforward song to decipher. From the outset we have the question, “War, what is it good for?” Starr responds firmly and tells us, “absolutely nothing” and then goes on to deliver verse upon verse about why war is wrong. There’s the general devastation it brings, the grief of families whose loved ones don’t come home, the lament of those that return with their lives changed forever, and the pleading that surely it isn’t too late to try peace and diplomacy instead of taking up arms. Starrs refrain, asking what the good of war is, serves to hammer home the point behind this anti-war piece.
I saw the name of the artist and song here and assumed I didn’t know the track. As soon as it began though I recognised it immediately. Just from the lyrics covered above you yourself may be recalling this particular one. Starr’s vocals are superbly delivered here, conveying the anger against war but also the ludicrousness of it all. Released in 1970, Edwin Starr would top the US charts with War which tapped into the American psyche about the Vietnam War. That particular conflict would last another five years but the likes of Edwin Starr were continuing to turn public opinion against this terrible war.
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)