On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge 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 every day (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… legendary!
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Redemption Song (1980)
We’re leaving the UK behind and heading over to Jamaica today, dear reader. We are privileged to have a second appearance from Bob Marley & The Wailers, with the group having previously appeared in 1977 with Exodus. That year was a key one in Marley’s life for he learned he had cancer but opted not to seek treatment due to his religious beliefs. When we join Marley in 1980 it is with the release of the last album in his lifetime, Uprising, and 1001 Songs have selected the final track – Redemption Song.
Dispensing with The Wailers, Redemption Song is Bob Marley alone with an acoustic guitar, his body, by now, overwhelmedwith cancer. In the song, Marley draws on a speech from Marcus Garvey, beseeching the listener to “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.” The opening verse seems to talk of slavery in general but Marley digs deep into his faith and finds the path to freedom. Marley is calling on all of his listeners to also dig deep within themselves, to stand tall and to fight back for their rights, to have no regrets and to not be afraid even when fear threatens to take over. Being the last track on the last album Marley completed, it feels like a farewell message.
Redemption Song is considered to be one of Bob Marley’s finest songs even though he is alone here and there is little hint of the reggae for which he is well known. It’s remarkable to listen to the voice here and comprehend Marley sitting in the studio recording this while in immense pain from his cancer. In May 1981, Bob Marley was on a plane back to Jamaica from Germany where he had been seeking alternative treatment. He sadly did not make it home. Instead, Marley’s plane landed in Miami, Florida, where he was rushed to hospital but died at the ridiculously young age of 36.
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)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way (1977)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)