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…
Don McLean – Vincent (1971)
It’s back to the US today, dear reader, and once we touch down we find ourselves in the sprawling city of New York. Our guest today has a very famous song by the name of American Pie which told a long story across many years, beginning with the Day the Music Died. That would have been a good song for this list but 1001 Songs is not always predictable. Instead of American Pie, they have gone with another well known track by Don McLean – Vincent.
Don McLean wrote Vincent after reading a book about celebrated but troubled artist, Vincent van Gogh. The life of this artist is most notable for his mental illness and cutting one of his ears off, either deliberately or in a duel. McLean looks to dispel the negative tales of van Gogh and celebrates his work and his life. He describes beautiful and colourful scenes that van Gogh paints, marvels at his genius and laments those that did not understand his message. McLean reflects on van Gogh’s death and tells the artist that he was too good for this world and that we really weren’t worthy of his mastery. It’s a song full of love from one artist to another.
Don McLean has released many songs but American Pie is the one that he will be remembered for. It remains his best song by far, however, Vincent also has some really good qualities. The lyrics are stunning with colourful imagery that captures the mood and scene of van Gogh’s work. McLean paints the artist as a unique man here, not one who should be dismissed as an eccentric madman as some have done when considering him. I do believe that many artists suffer mentally for their talent, it’s a high price they have to pay, and van Gogh was no exception.
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 Kinks – Days (1968)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks (1971)