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 – Sir Duke (1976)
We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, but leaving the east coast and heading inland to Michigan. Would you believe it, we have Stevie Wonder back on our glorious list, making his fourth appearance. That’s some achievement given the competition we have had in the 1970s. When we join Wonder in 1976 he has released his latest album – Songs in the Key of Life – and from that record 1001 Songs have gone with Sir Duke.
Written by Stevie Wonder, Sir Duke is a personal song for the singer, a nod to those musicians that influenced him as a young man. The song begins with a general acknowledgement of the power of music, how there are no barriers to those performing it and appreciating the medium for what it is. Music is for everyone. In the chorus, Wonder references people lost in the music, be it dancing or just vibing out to a decent tune. We’ve all been there. The second verse is more personal, with Wonder identifying the key names he considers pioneers, which includes Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong, the latter having appeared on our list very early on. Special mention is made to Sir Duke who was Duke Ellington, who led a jazz orchestra for six decades but he sadly passed away in 1974 a the age of 75. Wonder dreams of Ellington’s music, along with the other pioneers and throws in the beautiful voice of Ella Fitzgerald to round off the dream team.
Not only was Stevie Wonder frighteningly prolific in the 1970s, he was also consistent in the quality of the music released. We have enjoyed some great songs from Wonder on this list and Sir Duke slots in nicely with the trio of other tracks featured previously. It’s a lovely tribute to Wonder’s heroes and a celebration of music in general which many of us can relate to, regardless of our favoured genre(s). Sir Duke isn’t as strong as Living for the City but it’s still a great song, showcasing Wonder’s undeniable talent.
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)