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…
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (1970)
Continuing in the US, dear reader, and we’re back in the company of Crosby, Stills & Nash who previously appeared in 1969 with Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. As we join the trio in 1970 they have been joined by Stephen Stills’ former bandmate in Buffalo Springfield – Neil Young. Young came on board for a lengthy tour with the trio now becoming a quartet. While touring Young heard a headline about a shooting in the US and immediately wrote the song, Ohio, which was good enough for our 1001 Songs selection.
The shooting that Neil Young heard about in the news was the Kent State shootings which took place on May 4 1970. The Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The students were protesting against Richard Nixon’s decision to bomb Vietnam’s neighbour, Cambodia, that had remained neutral during the Vietnam War. The shooting lasted just 13 seconds but by the end, 4 students lay dead and 9 more were injured. The song, Ohio, offers an immediate response to this appalling moment. The group voice their horror at the news coming out of Ohio and call for change before more innocent people are killed in the streets.
It’s quite remarkable that this song was recorded less than a month after the Kent State shootings. Neil Young clearly felt strongly about the incident, as would millions of Americans in the aftermath. It added to the growing resentment against the war in Vietnam. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young perform together and share in the vocals here. The result is a powerful song and it would become an iconic one for the counterculture movement at this time. It’s considered the ultimate protest song and also another example of a moment of musical magic being born out of a truly terrible event.
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)