1001 Songs Challenge,  1990s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #755: Unfinished Sympathy (1991)

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…


Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy (1991)

Unfinished Sympathy

” Unfinished Sympathy” is a song by English trip hop group Massive Attack, released under the temporary group name Massive. It was written by the three band members Robert “3D” Del Naja, Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, the song’s vocalist Shara Nelson and the group’s co-producer Jonathan “Jonny Dollar” Sharp.


Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about this song (via Genius)


We’re leaving Australia and making our way back to the UK, dear reader. To Bristol we are heading today. Formed in 1988 Massive Attack became one of the frontrunners of trip hop, a fusion of hip hop and electronic music. We join the group in 1991 with the release of their debut album, Blue Lines, and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track – Unfinished Sympathy.

Unfinished Sympathy is a collaboration between Massive Attack and vocalist Shara Nelson who also co-wrote this track. A persistent drum beat and orchestral backing accompanies Nelson’s vocals. She sings of a troubled love affair. This one sounds like unrequited love as she imagines being with someone and even kissing them at one stage but the void between them lingers and she is left feeling in the midst of despair and anguish. Similes of such absence as a body with no heart, or soul with no mind are used to convey the narrator’s pain.    

Massive Attack are a name I recall well from the 1990s when I was first enjoying music in school and college. I don’t know much of their material but Unfinished Sympathy does sound a smidgen familiar so I have probably encountered it on the radio at some point. The track would prove to be a big hit upon release and remains critically acclaimed to this day. It’s a moody piece with some great vocals and an atmospheric melody.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Doors – The End (1967)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Ultravox – Vienna (1980)

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)

U2 – One (1991)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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