List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Fred Astaire (1952)
I always forget that Fred Astaire also sang, when I think of him it is always dancing, usually with Ginger Rogers. It’s a bittersweet song about the ending of a relationship. Astaire never had the strongest of voices, but in his lightness there is also a great deal of grace and sincerity. Of note is the first minute of a three minute song with no singing. It made me think we got the wrong file to be honest since it is a lot of instrumental for a three minute song.
Dust My Broom – Elmore James (1952)
Wow, possibly the first song we have heard that makes such heavy use of an electric (although somewhat tinny) guitar. I don’t know the song, but I really recognise THAT guitar riff. Must be one of those things that has become sampled by later artists or at least become a staple in the electric blues genre. I fact… I think it’s a Loretta Lynn (as produced by Jack White) song that I recognise it from.
Foi Deus – Amalia Rodrigues (1952)
Meanwhile in Portugal, there’s fado singing. A type of folk music that is probably more closely aligned to music I would listen to instead of the last two songs. I only have limited French, so I have no idea what she is singing about. It sounds mournful. Like the sort of music someone would sing on a street corner with a band and (in my head) a lot of roses.
Le gorille – Georges Brassens (1952)
Okay, so I looked in the 1001 Songs book for this one. It’s not everyday you come across a song called ‘The Gorilla’. I then had to find a translation of the song that talks of an authority figure (aka the gorilla) that sodomises a judge thinking that he is an old woman… and it’s pretty graphic. It was obviously controversial and was banned from French radio for 3-4 years. The song is playful in tone and, apparently, reflects Brassens views against the death penalty. The central image, is hard to shake though.
Singin’ in the Rain – Gene Kelly (1952)
I never liked the film Singin’ in the Rain. Just need to get that out of the way. I did, like everyone, love the sequence that featured the titular song. It doesn’t work as well as a song if you know the dance sequence. This recorded version by Gene Kelly leaves some rather obvious dance breaks and sweeping strings which would have been impeccibly timed to his choreography. It’s also an interesting co-incidence that in the same blog post we have a Fred Astaire and a Gene Kelly song – I’m Team Astaire all the way.
Just Walkin’ in the Rain – The Prisonaires (1953)
Well done Mr/Ms. Editor for putting these songs back to back. The song itself is fairly standard, but it has an interesting story. The song list two writers when in fact you had the singer, Johnny Bragg, come up with the lyrics, but since he was illiterate had to have someone else physically write it down. It’s a sensitive song written by someone who had been put into prison with 6 99-year sentences for rape’s that he did not commit. His sentence was commuted, but a harrowing story just the same.
Please Love Me – B.B. King (1953)
We’re back again to a blues song that makes heavy use of an electric guitar. It’s a crossroads between rock and roll and blues with some interesting guitar picking during the vocals.
Crying in the Chapel – The Orioles (1953)
With the exception of some really Christmassy bells floating between the verses (seriously thought it would start on some ‘Jingle Bells’) this song is almost completely acapella. Personal preference here, but God and acapella don’t quite do it for me when mixed together.