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…
Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976)
We kiss goodbye to 1975 and offer a warm embrace to 1976 today. We saw the curtain fall on 1975 in Jamaica and now we watch the sunrise over 1976 back in the US and over in New York. What a treat we have to start a new year. Founded in 1967, Blue Oyster Cult enjoyed their biggest success in the 1970s and it’s no surprise with the track that 1001 Songs have selected. You might find yourself suddenly a bit on edge, dear reader, but (Don’t Fear) The Reaper.
Written by Donald Roeser, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper was born out of Roeser’s contemplation of dying young and the significance of a short life. In the song, the narrator is singing to his lover, beseeching her to savour their moments together however brief they may be. He uses the refrain of not fearing the reaper, insisting that to do so would be to waste life worrying about the end when there is so much to be enjoyed right here and now in the present, in these days that they share as lovers. References to Romeo and Juliet led some listeners to speculate that the song was in relation to suicide pacts but Roeser has always insisted this is purely a passionate love song and the suggestion of dying young was never in reference to suicide.
1976 has got off to a great start and with Blue Oyster Cult we have an absolute diamond of a track. From that opening guitar riff to Roeser’s soft but emotive vocals, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper stands the test of time as a terrific rock ballad more than 40 years after its original release and how awesome it is to have it on our list here. Blue Oyster Cult continue to this day with Roeser and Eric Bloom leading the way, though other members have come and gone over the years. The Reaper was not available for comment on his own opinion of the track but I suspect he would have approved, but might have taken exception to people not being afraid of him.
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)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)