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…
Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey (1975)
We’re leaving Bulgaria behind, dear reader, and straight onto a plane we go away from Europe. Across the Atlantic we must travel before bringing our journey to an end in Jamaica. This isn’t our first visit to this beautiful island, of course, but this is a first appearance on our list for Burning Spear who specialises in reggae music. In 1975, Burning Spear released his third album, Marcus Garvey, and 1001 Songs have lifted the title track for our attention today.
Burning Spear was influenced by the activist, Marcus Garvey, in his youth and this song is an ode of sorts to the man who is considered a national hero in Jamaica to this day. Outside Jamaica, Garvey is regarded as a divisive figure with many of his views being controversial but Burning Spear seems to celebrate the man here. In the opening verse the narrator comments on society and laments that Marcus Garvey’s warnings have rung true for there is a distinct lack of food and money for the people. In the second verse the narrator calls on people to do the right thing for they know what it is and to not do so will equate to deserved criticism and even punishment. In the final verse, the narrator condemns an unnamed individual who is said to have betrayed Marcus Garvey by leaking information about him. The narrator seems to call on Garvey to get his revenge but we have no resolution by the song’s conclusion.
I am enjoying dabbling in so many different genres and reggae is an area of music I have remained largely ignorant of throughout my life. Marcus Garvey is an intriguing song but I suspect a lot of its impact will be lost on me due to my ignorance of Garvey himself and his exploits that have led to him being revered to this day, 80 years after his death. From what I have read, he seemed a flawed individual but my knowledge is so limited of him that it would be an injustice to go into any major detail on my thoughts of the man himself.
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)