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…
Chaka Khan – I Feel for You (1984)
We’re heading back to the US today, dear reader, and find ourselves in Chicago, Illinois. Chaka Khan began her career in the 1970s with the group Rufus before releasing her first solo album in 1978. When we join Chaka in 1984 she is riding high after the 1983 hit, Ain’t Nobody, which she recorded with Rufus. Now focused on solo material Chaka decided she wanted to record a version of a 1979 track by Prince – I Feel For You – but what should have been a standard cover became something else entirely. Chaka came to the studio and learned that another singer – Melle Mel from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – had recorded introductory vocals prior to Chaka’s. The rest, as they say, is history.
I Feel for You opens with Melle Mel singing about this woman called Chaka Khan and how he wants to rock with her and be with her, how great she is and all this and that. Sordid stuff really. The song then transitions to Chaka Khan’s cover of Prince’s song. The track itself is about a narrator deeply in love with another individual. They let their emotions come bursting out and tell their lover how important they are and how they want to be with them always. So strong are these feelings that our narrator insists they will do anything for this person, whatever they want or need. Now that’s a dangerous offer to make.
I Feel for You was notable not just for being a good cover of the Prince original but because of the inclusion of a rapper in the midst of what would otherwise have been a pop song. This wasn’t the first time this had happened but Melle Mel’s subject matter is not an appraisal of himself or telling us about fast cars, money and women, well, one woman but a bit more respectful. Instead, he name checks Chaka Khan, builds up this image of how great she is and that then leads to Chaka’s own vocals. It’s considered a milestone track with its use of hip hop blended with pop to create a winning combination.
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)