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…
Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (1972)
We’re leaving Italy today, dear reader, and heading back to the US and to Chicago, Illinois. Curtis Mayfield was once a member of The Impressions and he wrote People Get Ready which previously appeared on our list. In 1972 we find Mayfield working as a solo artist and taking the gig of writing a soundtrack for a film, Super Fly, a blaxploitation movie about a drug dealer named Youngblood Priest who is trying to quit crime and go straight. Mayfield’s soundtrack ended up being more successful than the actual film and from that record, 1001 Songs have gone with the title track – Superfly.
Superfly played over the end credits of the film and has Mayfield describing the quandaries of the main character, Youngblood Priest. We hear how he makes his money on the mean streets and that everyday life is a gamble. One mistake and it’s all over because the game is a pendulum swinging between life and death. Our protagonist is ready for out though and they are trying to put aside enough money to break free but it won’t be easy for them.
Superfly has a similar background to Isaac Hayes’ Theme From Shaft but while Hayes’ song comes across as a celebration of a badass, Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack was highly acclaimed for the issues it addresses. Not content with just soundtracking a film, Mayfield painted a grim picture of life on the streets with poverty and drug abuse, while taking a harsh view of drug dealers and their trade, whereas the film Super Fly is more divided. These issues come through in Mayfield’s song which is more thought-provoking than the Shaft Theme. Mayfield would continue as a solo artist, even after being paralysed in an accident in 1990. He died in 1999 at the age of 57 following complications with diabetes.
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)
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain (1972)