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…
Joe Henry and Madonna – Guilty by Association (1996)
Welcome to 1996, dear reader. We begin this new year by leaving New York and making our way to North Carolina. Joe Henry began his career in 1986 and specialised in alternative country and folk music. When we join him in 1996, Henry is contributing to charity album – Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation – involving various artists covering tracks by musician, Vic Chesnutt. Henry opted to cover a track known as Guilty by Association and ended up bringing in his sister-in-law on backing vocals. Said sister-in-law was no one important really, just a little known singer who went by the name of Madonna!
Vic Chesnutt originally wrote Guilty By Association about R.E.M. frontman, Michael Stipe, and the heavy burden that came with being famous. The narrator in the song looks on at their famous friend and what they have to endure on a daily basis. The song title – guilty by association – is ambiguous. On the one hand the narrator could be saying they too face the same problems being associated with their famous counterpart. On the other hand, they could be stating that they too are drawn up in the idolatry and euphoria that fans of this celebrity faces regularly.
I was not familiar with Joe Henry prior to this challenge and learning he is married to Madonna’s sister was also quite a revelation. I am familiar with a lot of Madonna’s songs, of course, but have never come across this one. Henry takes the main vocal here but Madonna is there in the background also providing vocals. It must have been quite a coup to convince her to support the recording but, being Henry’s sister-in-law, it might have caused a family rift had she not.
Favourite songs so far: