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This is a large, fun reference book that you can open anywhere and read something interesting. Beginning with the 1920's and ending with 2010, this survey tries to be many things to many people, and it partially succeeds. It was designed and produced in England, so if you're a North American reader you may not be familiar with many of the artists, which include non-English speakers. But that's a selling point. Go to YouTube, open the index at random and start listening. In no time you will have discovered music you would never have encountered otherwise, because it's after or before your time, or comes from another country.
Some of what you hear you'll like a lot, while some of it will make you wonder what the authors were smoking. But then, that's the nature of "best of" collections. For sure, you will be annoyed by the omission of some of your personal favorites. I found many such omissions. Here's just one as an example: there is mention of only one song by Hall & Oates, in the "music to download" index, and that song is an obscure, just-okay tune called "I Don't Wanna Lose You." Considering that Hall & Oates is the best selling duo of all time, they could have worked a little harder to include several of their gigantic hits (my favorite would be "She's Gone," although "One on One," "Private Eyes," "Rich Girl," "Sara Smile," "Wait for Me," "Method of Modern Love," etc. etc. would have been fine too).
Another glaring failure is the paltry representation of vocal harmony groups (doo-wop) in the 1950's section. With the exception of a few standouts, e.g., "Blue Moon" by the Marcels, this genre is almost entirely missing. Maybe doo wop wasn't big in England, I don't know. But any best-of music survey that covers the 1950's and leaves out the Spaniels, the Five Satins, the Channels, etc. is just incomplete. Also there's a preponderance of songs and artists that have come to prominence in the past decade, many of whom I believe will not stand the test of time. This is understandable, but makes the choices less credible. On the other hand, if you're like me and not particularly impressed with the direction of pop music in general in the 2000's, you will find that things are not as bad as you thought, and your range will be expanded.
To be fair, the authors cover much of the great stuff, and often they get it just right. Included in the "1001 songs you must hear before you die" are some great but obscure tunes like "Piss Factory" by Patti Smith and "River Song" by Dennis Wilson. Overall, this is an eclectic collection, covering not just rock and pop but standards (Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald) and country (Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash) as well.
Yes. Many of your favorite artists and/or songs will be missing. How could they not be? Just don't take the title too seriously, and you'll get a lot of pleasure from discovering new artists and songs and learning some back story about those performers and songs you already know and love.