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!
Youssou N’Dour – Immigres/Btim Rew (1984)
We’re taking a break from the US today dear reader and making our way across the Atlantic to Africa. It’s not our first visit to this continent but I believe it is the first time that we have found ourselves in Senegal. Youssou N’Dour is our guest today and his place on this list owes a lot to him being a key figure in the development of Mbalax, a fusion of Senegalese dance music with other genres. N’Dour began as part of bands well versed in this genre before branching out and working with a series of artists during his solo career. We join him in 1984 when N’Dour is working on his sixth album, Immigres. From there 1001 Songs have gone with Immigres/Bitim Rew.
The story goes that N’Dour wrote the song for Senegalese taxi drivers working in Paris but its meaning is extended to all Senegalese people who are working abroad and long for their distant home. Bitim Rew translates as being outside one’s country and N’Dour’s music is an ode to Senegal and a bridge between home and to the far away lands that his compatriots find themselves in. From what I have read Senegal is not a wealthy country so it makes sense that people would emigrate in search of better work for themselves and their families.
I wasn’t able to find a translation for the lyrics to Immigres/Btim Rew but this one feels like it is more about the music than what is being said. It is full of energy and hope and I can imagine it would be comforting to Senegalese people who are homesick yet forced to work overseas. Youssou N’Dour would thrive on the international stage and work with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and Tracy Chapman. However, his most famous collaboration would be 7 Seconds, a duet with Neneh Cherry which was released in 1994.
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)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)