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…
Richard and Linda Thompson – Withered and Died (1974)
Farewell to the US today, dear reader, and hello to the UK and to London. It’s always nice to pop home on this musical journey, no matter how brief the stay may be. Our guests today were a couple by the name of Richard and Linda Thompson. Richard was previously a member of Fairport Convention who appeared on our list back in the 1960s. In the 1970s, Richard had left the band to pursue a solo career but in 1974 he teamed up with his wife, Linda, and they wrote and recorded music together. 1001 Songs has selected a track from this year in the form of Withered and Died.
In Withered and Died, Linda takes the lead vocal and the song itself seems to be from the perspective of a woman. She tells us of the past, of nostalgic and poignant moments when she was happy but now, all of those memories have “withered and died”, the song’s title being a refrain used throughout the track. The narrator laments the “cruel country” she is in and that there are only “sad stories” that exist here in her town. We hear mention of a boy she once knew and there are images of hide and seek, harking back to innocent childhood days, but this could also be a metaphor of some sort. The narrator does say that both this boy and all the rest are gone upon counting to ten. Are these other boys who have broken her heart or could their absence suggest all the young men going to fight in a distant war? The ambiguity leaves this one open to interpretation but what isn’t in doubt is the morose feel that is prevalent throughout the song. The narrator is full of sorrow and anguish. The future holds no comfort for her.
The title, Withered and Died, was familiar to me prior to listening to this song but it isn’t one I had heard before. It was interesting to come across another music narrative of a former band member going on and doing different things as Richard Thompson did here. His gentle acoustics perfectly complement the beautiful voice of Linda Thompson who depicts a truly heartbreaking tale for our ears. Sadly, the unity between Richard and Linda did not last and by 1981 they had separated both personally and professionally.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
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)
Stevie Wonder – Living for the City (1973)
Patti Smith Group – Piss Factory (1974)