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!
Sufjan Stevens – Chicago (2005)
” Chicago” (” Go! CHICAGO! Go! Yeah!” on the vinyl edition) is a track from Sufjan Stevens 2005 concept album , released on Asthmatic Kitty. The song tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young man on a road trip, and his youthful idealism.
Welcome to 2005, dear reader. To begin this new year we are leaving the UK and returning to the US and to Detroit in Michigan. Sufjan Stevens began his career in 1995 with his debut album being released in 1999. We pick up Stevens’ story a decade on though in 2005 and he has released his fifth album, Illinois, which was a concept album concerned with people and places in the state of Illinois. From there 1001 Songs have gone with the track, Chicago.
Chicago is semi-autobiographical with Stevens taking on the role of a narrator who is travelling through the US and seemingly in search of something. They mention having been in Chicago but the experience does not sound like it was a pleasant one. Money is tight and the future is uncertain. Chicago is not the sanctuary our narrator needs. Later in the track the protagonist is heading for New York with a friend and though things continue to be hard they seem more optimistic in being in the Big Apple.
My previous familiarity with Sufjan Stevens was from his excellent work on the soundtrack to 2017 film, Call Me By Your Name. Chicago represents a much earlier stage in his career and being partly based on his life gives the song a greater poignancy. Both Chicago and Illinois were well received upon release and have led to a prosperous career for Stevens. He continues to this day with his ninth album, Convocations, being released in 2020.
Favourite songs so far: