Archive for the ‘Sunday Song Lyric’ Category
The Kennedy Center will honor country legend Merle Haggard at the 33rd annual Kennedy Center honors this December. Now in his seventies, Haggard has had a remarkable — and remarkably influential — music career. Though he has a new album, I’d rather highlight one of his oldies, “The Bottle Let Me Down,” from 1966, a classic of country blues in the spirit of Hank Williams. Here’s a taste:
Tonight the bottle let me down
It let your memory come around
The one true friend I thought I’d found
Tonight the bottle let me down
I’ve always had a bottle I could turn to
And lately I’ve been turnin’ every day
But the wine don’t take effect the way it used to
And I’m hurtin’ in old familiar ways
Live’s “Overcome” was not written as a 9/11 anthem, but it became one for many anyway. It was written before the attack, and appeared on Live’s mediocre “experimental” V, released in September 2001. In the wake of the World Trade Center’s collapse, the song struck a chord. Here’s the first verse:
the world is bleeding
but feeling just fine
all alone in a castle
where we’re always free to choose
never free enough to find
I wish something would break
Cos we’re running out of time
It’s Labor Day weekend. I’m not ready for summer to be over, but it’s not like I have much choice in the matter. Death Cab for Cutie‘s “Summer Skin” seems appropriate. Here’s the second verse:
I don’t recall a single care
Just greenery and humid air
Then Labor Day came and went
And we shed what was left of our summer skin
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will no longer allow D.C. metro riders to exit the system with negative balances on their SmarTrip cards. Instead, riders will have to use the cash-only “ExitFare” machines to pay the remaining fare. Before, a rider could exit with a negative balance but could not use the card again before restoring a positive balance. More here.
This new WMATA policy reminds one VC reader of 1959 the Kingston Trio hit. “M.T.A.” (aka “Charlie on the MTA”). The song, written in 1948 by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes for Progressive Party candidate Walter O’Brien’s mayoral campaign, tells the story of a man trapped on the Boston MTA because he did not have enough money to pay the fare. It begins:
Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA
Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
“One more nickel.”
Charlie could not get off that train.
Here’s a site with the full lyrics and the history of the song, a Kingston Trio performance, and the Dropkick Murphys’ version, “Skinhead on the MBTA.”
Somewhere along the way former Fugee Wyclef Jean got the idea he should be the President of Haiti. And as the Washington Post reported just last week, he could have been a contender. Haiti’s electoral council had other ideas, however, disqualifying him for failing to satisfy the residency requirement. Although he was born in Haiti, Jean has not lived in Haiti since he was nine. Jean’s statement is here. Given his questionable financial and non-profit management skills, it’s not clear Haiti’s the loser in this. As President he could have made high-profile appeals for aid, but who knows where the money would have gone.
This wasn’t the first time Wyclef Jean thought about politics. He recorded the song “If I Was President” in 2008 which features this chorus:
If I was president
I’d get elected on Friday
Assassinated on Saturday
Buried on Sunday
Then go back to work on Monday
If I was president
I’ve never thought of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” as a political song, but given some of my recent posts I may need to reconsider. Co-written with Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, the song has been covered by acts from Herman’s Hermits and Art Garfunkel to Bryan Ferry and Rod Stewart, the song made Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest 500 songs of all time. Here’s how it begins:
Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be
Ellen has pretty good music tastes for a nine-year-old girl. That’s another way of saying her tastes extend beyond Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha, and the Jonas Brothers. One of her current favorites is Paramore, a band she learned to like even before the “Twilight” soundtrack made them cool. One of their recent singles is “The Only Exception,” which Ellen likes to sing with her 2-year-old sister in the car. (Madeline only sings the chorus.) It’s an affecting song, and looks to be Paramore’s highest charting single yet.
When I was younger I saw my daddy cryand curse at the wind
Broke his own heart and I watched as he tried to reassemble it
And my momma swore that she would never let herself forget
And that was the day that I promised I’d never sing of love if it does not exist
But darling you are the only exception
“Him’s now a real boy!” So exclaimed Madeline Joyce with wonder and excitement at the conclusion of Disney’s Pinocchio yesterday. The movie may have been made 70 years ago, but it still has the ability to capture the imagination of a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl. It’s nice to know the frenetic displays that pass for children’s programming have not dulled the power of classic films.
Pinocchio was released in 1940, and was its second full-length animated feature. (Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.) The film received the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year for “When You Wish Upon A Star,” written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, and sung by Cliff Edwards (playing Jiminy Cricket). Here’s how it begins:
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
What rock bands have the most consecutive gold or platinum albums? The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are obviously one and two, but would you believe number three is Rush?!? I was surprised (and maybe a bit gratified), but after watching the Beyond the Lighted Stage, an excellent new documentary about the 40-plus-year-old band, it makes some sense. (My wife, who hates Rush, actually liked the film.)
The band has a deep, devoted following — almost exclusively male — that’s probably just as quirky (and nerdy) as the bandmates themselves, with their sci-fi epic album sides, frequent time signature changes, and shout outs to “the genius of Ayn Rand.” Neil Peart, the Rand fan who writes their lyrics, is arguably the best rock drummer of all time. Geddy Lee is an incredible bassist too, and Alex Lifeson is no slouch. They are highly esteemed by musicians, if not by rock critics or contemporary rock fans. Among those who appear in the film to praise Rush’s influence are Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Kirk Hammett, Taylor Hawkins, Jason McGerr, Gene Simmons, and Jack Black. It also highlights Cleveland’s role in bringing Rush to American fans; WMMS added “Working Man” to its playlist as a “bathroom song” (a track long enough for DJs to take a quick break) before they’d even been signed in the U.S.
Like many others, I went through a Rush phase. They were staples on Philadelphia’s two AOR stations (WMMR and WYSP), and Exit . . . Stage Left was a part of my own regular rotation. My first high school band included a Rush song in our basic set. Big mistake (see the Rush fan demographic noted above). Our next band replaced Rush with cooler tunes (The Police, INXS, etc.), but more than a few rehearsals would devolve into YYZ jam sessions. Watching Beyond the Lighted Stage brought back a rush of Rush memories, including playing “The Spirit of Radio” at a high school dance. It was a poor choice, to be sure, but I still like it. Here’s a taste the lyrics:
All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted.
Not so coldly charted, it’s really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity.
I don’t follow celebrity divorces much, but one recent Hollywood split inspired a reader to recommend this week’s song lyric. He writes: “In the wake of Sandra Bullock’s marital betrayal by Jesse James, I was a little startled by this lyric to “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” (sung by Linda Ronstadt, not Warren Zevon, the lyrics’ author) when it came on the radio recently.”
Well I met a man out in Hollywood
Now I ain’t naming names
Well he really worked me over good
Just like Jesse James
Yes he really worked me over good
He was a credit to his gender
Put me through some changes Lord
Sort of like a Waring blender
Poor poor pitiful me
Poor poor pitiful me
Oh these boys won’t let me be
Lord have mercy on me
Woe woe is me
The song, written and first performed by Zevon was allegedly written to mock Jackson Browne. True or not, the song was somewhat successful as recorded by Rondstadt and, more recently, by Terri Clark. Here are the full lyrics, Linda Ronstadt performing in 1977 and for the Clintons, and Terri Clark’s more recent version.
And here’s a brief item for those, like me, who needed an update on the Bullock-James divorce.
Growing up in Philadelphia, it was probably inevitable that I’d prefer “God Bless America” over the “Star Spangled Banner.” The former became the de facto national anthem for the Philadelphia Flyers after their Stanley Cup championships of 1974 and 1975, at which the song was sung by Kate Smith. That it was written by Irving Berlin doesn’t hurt either. As sung by Smith, the song always included an introduction which is often forgotten:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
Happy Fourth of July!
Following on Ken’s post below, I thought I’d highlight a lyric from Blows Against the Empire, the first album released by Paul Kantner, et al. as “Jefferson Starship” (as opposed to Jefferson Airplane; I like to pretend that the thing called “Starship” never existed), and it includes appearances by a wide range of folks, including Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Graham Nash, and many others (more here). I was a wee infant when the album was released, but I remember some of the songs from the album-oriented rock stations I listened to as a tween and a middle school teacher who had a Jefferson Airplane obsession. (Remember when radio stations would play entire album sides uninterrupted? Remember actually listening to “albums”?)
Blows Against the Empire was a politically idealistic, counter-cultural, sci-fi concept album, but it also addressed some more mundane concerns. Several songs could well be about Grace Slick’s pregnancy, including (appropriately enough) “Child Is Coming,” co-written by Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and David Crosby (who also performs on the song), while also fitting in with the album’s broader narrative. The second verse sounds like something out of a Glenn Beck monologue (a thought that would likely give Kantner, et al. heartburn), but it’s still a good old song:
What are we gonna do when Uncle Samuel comes around
Askin’ for the young one’s name
And lookin’ for the print of his hand for the files in their numbers game
I don’t want his chances for freedom to ever be that slim
Let’s not tell ‘em about him —
Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” (written by Paul Jabara) won both a Golden Globe and Academy Award in 1978. So one might not expect it to provoke much controversy in 2010 — at least that’s what folks at Wendy’s thought when it included the song in a kids meal “Car Karaoke” music CD. Not so fast. The song’s early lyrics are tame enough, as were those included in the CD, but at least in some versions of the song, the chorus line “I’m so bad” becomes “I’m so horny” at the end of the song. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this upset some parents whose children received the giveaway CD, so Wendy’s pulled it. It seems someone should have read the full lyrics before distributing the song to kids.
It seems like a good day to dip back into the great American songbook, so how about Irving Berlin’s “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.” Said ABC Radio in 1945: “If the Ziegfield Follies glorified the American girl, it was Irving Berlin who painted her picture in music. Here’s a song that reflects all the beauty and charm of its lovely inspiration.” This one is old enough to be in the public domain, so I can post the full lyrics:
I have an ear for music,
And I have an eye for a maid.
I like a pretty girlie,
With each pretty tune that’s played.
They go together,
Like sunny weather goes with the month of May.
I’ve studied girls and music,
So I’m qualified to say...
A pretty girl is like a melody
That haunts you night and day,
Just like the strain of a haunting refrain,
She’ll start up-on a marathon
And run around your brain.
You can’t escape she’s in your memory.
By morning night and noon.
She will leave you and then come back again,
A pretty girl is just like a pretty tune.
Unlike some of the other songbook standards I’ve posted, this one has not been covered as much recently. But here is a classic recording by Mario Lanza. Fred Astaire also danced to the song in “Blue Skies.”