Readers recommend: songs about overturning the odds – and a new theme

RR regular George Boyland (sonofwebcore) has picked this week’s playlist, which you can read about and listen to below as we kick off a slightly tweaked format

  • Your new theme is songs about knives – nominate in the comments now

Here is this week’s playlist of songs on a theme of overcoming the odds – results picked from comments on last week’s blog. Thanks for all of your suggestions. The theme for this week is songs about knives. See below for more details of the new weekly format of Readers Recommend and make your suggestions in the comments.

Here we go, then, with Curtis Mayfield’s Back to Living Again. We thought he was a goner. A slack technician might have led to his demise (he was hit by a falling lighting rig that left him paralysed from the neck down) but somehow he pulled himself together for one final push. Move on up, Curtis.

The Overcoming the Odds YouTube playlist. Prefer a Spotify playlist?

Joan Armatrading next, with Bottom to the Top: this lady’s take on the tortoise and the hare. It’s simply a case of getting there in the end, however long it takes.

Fitzroy works his mountain fields in in Handcart Bwoy’s Perfect, bringing his fruit and veg down to the market on his cart. His beautiful lady (as DaddyPig says, “a young lass from above his humble social standing”) attracts the attention of the local dealers, in their Mercs and Beemers. They flash their wedges and try to tempt her away. But no, she can’t be swayed – and against the odds Fitzroy keeps the girl.

Rory Gallagher will Walk on Hot Coals: this guy has lost everything dear to him – his job, even his shirt in a card game – but you have to admire his positive attitude. Just go out and do it all again.

I can’t imagine anyone laughing at Ella Fitzgerald, with that cut-glass voice. But They All Laughed. RR reader StillSinging references the song’s beginnings in Shall We Dance (1937) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

From 1937:

"The odds were a hundred to one against me.
The world thought the heights were too high to climb.
But people from Missouri didn't incense me.
I wasn't a bit concerned.
For from history I have learned
How many many times the worm has turned....."

Fred Astaire intriduced it but here's Ella:

In Buck Rogers, Feeder are trying to start all over again, with “a brand new car”, and sensibly prioritising the CD player.

The LurkersLucky John may or may not be based on truth, but who cares. It’s about a fella who gets away with messing about, and is a ton of fun. What more can we ask for?

Ok, got one.....

If you are deaf, dumb and blind, I don't think anyone would argue that you have been dealt a pretty rough hand in life.

I would say your odds of excelling in most things would be slim at best.

But our good Tommy here, is a pinball wizard.

Pinball Wizard - The Who

Yes. One of the great rock songs, one supposes. To be a champ against all the odds: I can think of one or two more like the Who’s Pinball Wizard.

Athlete’s Wires. Holy smoke. This one’s about the singer’s newborn baby overcoming the odds. Have a listen.

Some country rock to sign off with, and Amanda Marshall’s Dark Horse. Reminds me of a kinda personal story ...

New theme – songs about knives

This week’s new theme was chosen by sonofwebcore. You will have until 11pm on Monday 22 February to get your nominations in!

Next week’s playlist will be curated by our new guru, Shoegazer. If you would like to volunteer to become the person who compiles the playlist from readers’ suggestions, please email or make yourself known in the comments.

Here’s a reminder of the guidelines for RR:

• Tell us why it’s a worthy contender.
• Quote lyrics if helpful, but for copyright reasons no more than a third of a song’s words.
• Provide a link to the song. We prefer Muzu or YouTube, but Spotify or SoundCloud are fine.
• Listen to others people’s suggestions and add yours to a collaborative Spotify playlist.
• If you have a good theme, or if you’d like to volunteer to compile a playlist from readers’ suggestions, please email
• There’s a wealth of data on RR, including the songs that are “zedded”, at the Marconium. It also tells you the meaning of “zedded”, “donds” and other strange words used by RR regulars.
• Many RR regulars also congregate at the ’Spill blog.

  • We’d like to learn a bit more about you and what you love. So each week, alongside RR, we’ll be asking you to tell us more about the songs you’ve nominated through our GuardianWitness page. We want to hear the stories, see the photos – of gigs, of moments, of your record sleeves – that you associate with the songs you have nominated.


George Boyland

The GuardianTramp

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