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…
Judee Sill – Crayon Angels (1971)
We return to the US today, dear reader, and our guest is unfortunately a tragic one. Judee Sill had a tough upbringing, losing both parents and her brother while still young. She spent time in a reform school after committing robberies with a man she had met and when later descending into drugs she turned to prostitution to fund her addiction. After spending time in jail, Sill set out to change her life and compose music. She was the support act for Graham Nash and Stephen Stills while on tour and this helped her on the way. 1001 Songs has selected a song from her 1971 debut album – Crayon Angels.
In Crayon Angels, Sill appears to be singing about a struggle with her faith. The song is made up of three verses. In the first verse she talks about things that are unsatisfying and how she is waiting for a train from God that will take her to the afterlife. In the second verse reality is falling apart around her but still she hopes for that journey to a different life beyond this one. The third and final verse seems to be Sills now having doubts with mention of “phony prophets” and the vanishing of “holy visions”. While the first two verses had her waiting for God, the final verse closes with her unsure what anything really means anymore. She seems irrevocably lost.
Judee Sill overcame some difficult personal problems and an early life of crime to discover a love of music which comes through in her rendition here of Crayon Angels. Her guitar playing is sumptuous and her voice is delicate and even angelic. She was clearly a talented singer but success would sadly elude her. Sill completed two albums and started work on a third but never finished it. She distanced herself from the music industry and drugs took over once again. This time there was no recovery and Sill sadly died from a drug overdose in 1979. She was just 35 years old.
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)
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)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)