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!
Whitney Houston – How Will I Know (1985)
We’re leaving California today and heading across the US to New Jersey. Whitney Houston began singing in church before pursuing a solo career at the age of 19 and in the 1990s would be one of the biggest stars in the world. When we join her in 1985 it is at the beginning with the release of her self-titled debut album and from there 1001 Songs have narrowed down their selection to How Will I Know.
In this early song Whitney Houston takes on the role of a lovestruck narrator who is in love with a guy but it is too shy to find out if he feels the same. Apparently this guy is the stuff of dreams and she desperately wants to be with him but she is in a quandary. She could ask him out and if he feels the same then great but what if he doesn’t? Love therefore becomes a blessing and a curse here as Whitney speculates about this guy’s feelings. It’s a never-ending circle and she laments how “bittersweet” the experience is. That right there is love for you: cloud nine one minute, a punch in the stomach the next. Joyous. Why do we bother?
I am not well versed in the hits of Whitney Houston save some of the obvious ones and did not recognise How Will I Know when I first started listening. By the time the chorus hit I was familiar with the song but didn’t know it was Houston that sang it. There you go. The singer’s golden moment came in 1992 with a cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. Chart gold at that time, Whitney Houston was sadly beset by marriage problems later in life and drug use which contributed to her death in 2012 when she was found unresponsive and submerged in water in a bathtub. She was just 48.
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)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)
Don Henley – The Boys of Summer (1984)
The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)