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…
Jorge Ben – Taj Mahal (1972)
Wow! It’s the 365th song on our 1001 Songs list today, which means we have reached the first anniversary of starting this challenge. Still a ways to go yet, dear reader, so best push on. We’re leaving the sunshine of Australia and flying across the Pacific to South America. Plenty of great countries to choose from here but we are landing in Brazil where we meet with Jorge Ben. He was a big deal back in the 1960s and 1970s, working in a variety of genres and being considered one of the pioneers of samba rock. 1001 Songs has dipped into his collection from 1972 and unearthed Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal is an ode to the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal, the Islamic mausoleum, which is located in Agra, India, and remains a popular tourist attraction to this day. Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. She and Shah Jahan are entombed within. Jorge Ben’s song celebrates their romance and speaks of how he built this magnificent building in honour of her, a reflection of how much she meant to him. It is quite a gift for your late wife, I’ll be honest. I’d have settled for having my ashes scattered at sea but don’t want to come across as ungrateful.
Taj Mahal has minimal lyrics but plenty of music and sounds from Jorge Ben that you can sing along to. Though essentially a tragic love story, the song comes across as rather upbeat and hopeful. The music struck a chord with many, especially Rod Stewart who sampled it in 1978 for his massive hit, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? I imagine Jorge Ben may have enjoyed that song but I’m not sure what the 17th century Shah Jahan would have made of Rod’s work.
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)
Elvis Presley – Always on My Mind (1972)