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…
Stevie Wonder – You Haven’t Done Nothin’ (1974)
We’re extending our stay in the US, dear reader, and leaving behind California so we can make a trip over to Michigan. It seems rude not to pay another visit to see Stevie Wonder and this makes three appearances from the music legend on our list so far. Will this be his last one though? Previously we enjoyed Superstition and Living for the City from Wonder, but today 1001 Songs have gone with You Haven’t Done Nothin’.
With You Haven’t Done Nothin’, Stevie Wonder delved into politics and made a less than subtle swipe at then US President, Richard Nixon. Wonder describes how Nixon’s decisions leave the masses “amazed” but they are also not “amused” by his actions. Wonder also references Nixon’s current plight of facing impeachment for the Watergate Scandal but he has no sympathy for the president whose actions were unquestionably wrong yet he carried them out anyway. In the chorus, Wonder uses the refrain of “you haven’t done nothin’” to sum up Nixon’s presidency. He even calls on the Jackson Five to throw in a bit of doo wop for us, which they duly oblige with. Incidentally, Nixon resigned just two days after this song was released as a single. You’d like to think it was because of Wonder’s song but the writing was already on the wall for the president.
I hadn’t heard this track from Stevie Wonder before but it had a powerful impact and also resonated with the current climate in US politics. Donald Trump became only the third President in US history to be impeached earlier in 2020 and though he was acquitted, he remains a divisive figure amongst American voters. Wonder’s song is a reminder that any elected official should be judged on their performance and held accountable for any wrongs or ill effects their time in power and their decisions have made. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ pulls no punches in criticising and lamenting Nixon’s presidency. Songs such as this that target political leaders will continue to materialise and be relevant, and so they should.
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)