List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
White Christmas – Bing Crosby (1947)
We’re listening to this in the beginning of November, so this doesn’t feel as out of place as when this is going on the web. It’s one of those classic songs; I know a lot of these are, but this is the biggest selling song of all time so a major classic. Still weird to think that this isn’t the original Bing Crosby version; that this had to be re-done in 1947 because the 1942 version was just played too often and became damaged. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this song, but I can appreciate the vocals. The whistling bit always makes me think of an intrusive postman whistling through the window, to this day I have no idea why.
Good Rockin’ Tonight – Roy Brown (1947)
It’s weird hearing the original version rather than the Elvis cover. I’m not entirely sure what genre this would fall under. It’s probably the most danceable song on this list so far. There are definitely elements of rock n’ roll here as well as some blues. So I can see why Elvis would later cover this in the late fifties.
Nature Boy – The Nat King Cole Trio (1948)
Another song I know, this time it is odd to hear it not being sung by David Bowie or not being played in Moulin Rouge. Nat King Cole is my voice of Christmas, much more than Bing Crosby and his ‘White Christmas’. With his rich voice and the strings this story within the song becomes rather magical. Apparently a rare example of a black musician of that era trying out some white pop.
Saturday Night Fish Fry – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (1949)
Where ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ felt like it had rock n roll elements, ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ really feels like a further evolution. There is still that boogie woogie sound running through it though, so this isn’t quite there yet. Interesting insight into black culture and the ‘fish fries’ which would lead to police raids.
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams (1949)
The first country song that we have looked at since The Carter Family, which amounts to a 15 year gap. Where they had folk influences, this feels like a far purer form of country. I mean, it even has a fiddle break. I don’t think mournful quite covers the emotions expressed in the song, maybe despairing is closer?
Autumn Leaves – Jo Stafford (1950)
Here we are entering the 1950s. Her voice reminds me of Zola Jesus in the way that is was so clear. Where a lot of singers would have a trace of vibrato on some of the notes she hits on ‘Autumn Leaves’ she avoids them almost completely. The song itself is one of those mournful standards that many artists have tried their hand at. Like ‘Beyond The Sea’ this was originally in French.
Summertime – Sarah Vaughan (1950)
From the musical Porgy & Bess, ‘Summerime’ is one of those songs that can really show off Sarah Vaughan’s impressive vocal range. Originally this is an opera song and Vaughan really has no trouble in making this aria incredibly grand and emotive. It is weird listening to this when all I know her from is the From Mister Kellys live album where you get a glimpse into her more puckish personality (see: ‘How High The Moon’).
Goodnight, Irene – The Weavers (1950)
In 1950, this was the biggest selling song in America. It sounds like a suicidal folk song done to the tune of a waltz. This has been called a ‘prettied up’ version of a song by Leadbelly. Makes me interested to hear how depressing the original was…
Mambo No. 5 – Perez Prado (1950)
It’s instrumental! I never expected that. Now, we all know the Lou Bega version of this song where he sings about sleeping with every girl under the sun like a manwhore. This mambo is so much better without the lyrics. Maybe it would have been even better without the Hammond organ, but those were the times.
Rocket 88 – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats (1951)
Another song that people have opined could be the first rock and roll song. What’s more of interest to me here is the appearance of Ike Turner as an uncredited writer.
Cry – Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (1951)
I am either made of stone, or I just hate crooners. Since I always cry at the Christmas John Lewis adverts I will go for the latter. It just felt overblown; there was no subtlety, only drama.
How High the Moon – Les Paul and Mary Ford (1951)
Okay, that was different from the Sarah Vaughan version I mentioned earlier. I mean, in this version they actually know the lyrics and don’t try to scat sing. It makes for a very different song, then again these drastically different cover versions of the same were seemingly so common back in the 40s and 50s. In this version, the central focus really is the guitar playing by Les Paul himself.
London Is the Place for Me – Lord Kitchener (1951)
An interesting calypso song sung by a West Indian man who migrated to London. It’s so London that it copies the chimes of Big Ben using a piano. It’s a very hopeful song, especially when you consider how scary leaving home for another country is.