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…
The Isley Brothers – Fight the Power (Parts 1 & 2) (1975)
Farewell to Alabama today, dear reader, and hello to Ohio. We check back in with The Isley Brothers. They first appeared way back in 1959 with Shout and as we join them 16 years later a few things have changed. The trio of brothers – O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald – have now been joined by younger brothers – Ernie and Marvin. Rudolph’s brother-in-law, Chris Jasper, is also on board to create a fully rounded band rather than a trio of singers. The Isley Brothers were also experimenting with new sounds at this time and 1001 Songs have lifted one such track – Fight the Power (Parts 1 & 2).
Often interpreted as a reflection of the black experience in America, Fight the Power is actually a generic outcry against authority. In the track, The Isley Brothers lament the impact of authority on their lives. This filters down to seemingly mundane things such as their music being too loud. They are expected to conform to society’s expectations and to not do so means being beaten to the ground. There are no choices here evidently. At one point, the track talks of wanting to have fun but in order to do so one must be on the run. It paints a negative image of authority figures, controlling the lives of others and demanding they behave in a specific way.
The Isley Brothers remarked on their song, Fight the Power, that it meant something different to each and every member of the group. This also applies to those that listen to it. It allows one to tap into their own negative experience of authority and this will vary from one individual to the next. The song was also notable for its use of the word “bullshit” which limited its appearance on radio stations at this time. I think I have heard the track in the past but was certainly familiar with the phrase, “fight the power” before. It remains a powerful statement 35 years later.
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)
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)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)