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Picking Five Meaningful Songs.

My wife and Glorious Leader tagged me for this exercise. (I know, you have mixed emotional reactions to that situation now but just wait until it really soaks in!)

Here are her rules:
1. Each person who wants to join in has to write about 5-10 songs that had an impact on them in their life.

2. They should link back to me (Glorious Leader) as well as Michelle and Jeff.

3. Then, if so inclined, tag one to five more people.

This is a difficult assignment for a music lover. Most people regard “songs” as music with poetic lyrics. For them there is a clear meaning or interpretation for the listener, full of emotional springs and memory triggers. To a person who is a music lover, meanings and interpretations are present whether there are words or not. We feel the excitement, picture the urgency, when we hear the “Call to Arms” from Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” or the brief beauty and impending sorrow in Johnny Hodges rendering of Billy Stayhorn’s “Passion Flower”. Sometimes when we think about it, we are surprised that there are no lyrics to songs that meant a lot to us. We know what it says.
And oddly, though all music is considered important there are very few personal memories attached to any certain song; no “Our Song” and no “That’s what was playing when I found my dog, “Rollover Rover”. Music lovers are often too involved with listening to the music to notice what is going on in the world around them.

Learning to listen came in part from Miss Lindeman's 4th Grade.

To be more concise, most music has meaning for us. Ask any music lover, they’ll know what that means. Music lovers really like all kinds of music from everywhere. We hear things that the casual music listener does not hear. For example: the Beatles sing on the half beat in “All You Need Is Love” or the slight pause when Charlie Christian manually switches his 1939 amplifier from chord volume to solo volume during a Goodman Sextet number.

So it is a difficult challenge to pick just five or ten selections…when most music is meaningful to us. But songs with lyrics will be the priority. It is troublesome to look back to recordings that have been meaningful and realize that they had no lyrics. The meanings were so clear, the lyrics must have just been imagined.

So qualifying that if this list had been made last week or next month, it might be entirely different, here are the current few of meaningful choices.

1.) Rocky Raccoon. (McCartney) Yes, that one. This humanized the Beatles for me, taught me a bit more about looking behind the music to the composer and performer. The bit of reality mixed with fantasy and nonsense appeals to me.

“The doctor came in
Stinking of gin
And proceeded to lie on the table…”


“Rocky Raccoon he fell back in his room
Only to find Gideon's bible
Gideon checked out
And he left it no doubt
To help with good Rocky's revival.”

2.) Oh, It Looks Like Rain. (Hartburg-Ager) No it’s not from Grateful Dead. Well, number two and already we can see that some of the choices are going to be very obscure to the casual listener. This one is from July 31, 1931 by the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. The recording stands out because of a swinging solo by Coleman Hawkins.
The recording is important to me in that it connected me with the era prior to the famous swing era later in the 1930’s. I could see the origins of the Benny Goodman success. I grew to understand that decade better.

But the lyrics have always appealed to my sense of humor too. No other way to qualify it except to quote the lyrics. It occurred while typing this from the recording, that the verses are actually limericks. (The first line in the last verse is a guess.)

Oh, it looks like rain, oh oh.
But I won’t complain, no no.
What a break, oh gee
For Baby and me,
We gotta stay home tonight.

Oh, it looks like rain outside
So we just remain inside,
In a big arm-chair,
The weather is fair
We gotta stay home tonight.

Happy going places
But oh what things we can do
Getting down to cases:
We could play cards, but would you?

Have I need explain? no no
Well it looks like rain, oh oh.
You can get all wet
But brother I’m set
We gotta stay home tonight.

3.) Interlude (Pete Rugolo) Okay. This is one with no words. But anyone who hears the recording and can’t tell what the music is saying, just isn’t listening. This Rugolo composition has been recorded a scant few times, so far as is know, all by Stan Kenton. The best version is from the rather scarce Kenton Era album. It is just one of those numbers that is slightly classical in nature but not quite. It is known only to a kind of “in” group of music lovers. After a successful day while Glorious Leader and I were in London, we stopped for a drink in the hotel piano bar. The tinkling piano from the corner of the room was just background for the small chatting and laughing group that inhabited the bar and booths. A moment or two after we sat down, the familiar melody of “Interlude” came from the corner. It brought about an odd feeling. I knew I was the only one in the room, perhaps in the whole hotel, perhaps the whole London street that would recognize it. Well, me and the piano player. When he finished I clapped. The pianist gazed across the room at the only person who was paying attention, me, and nodded. I nodded back and we both knew that we were the only ones who knew. He continued on with a medley of other Kenton numbers. It was lovely. Music communicating. At the end, I gave him another thumbs-up and he again nodded. The conversation was over.

4.) Merry Minuet (Sheldon Harnick) Maybe I have a pattern here. The songs that I remember that have words are ones where the lyrics lead the music. This is one of those. This was probably a bit of poetic sarcasm with a tune written for it. The “Kingston Trio at Hungry I” version is probably the only known recorded version of it. Well, that’s me.

It was originally written in 1951. Odd, sad, how it is still a song for our times.

If you were not a conscious listener in the fifties, you have never heard this so here are at least, the lyrics. If you have never heard this performed, (as I have said many times before) you have my sincerest sympathy.

Oh, they’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans
The Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs
South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much.

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lucky day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away.

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

5.) The Boxer (Paul Simon) Simon and Garfunkle introduced this song on a concert tour promoting a new album. This song is important to me because I was at one of the concerts. That night I was overwhelmed already by the display of talent from these two boys and then they did “The Boxer.” And I will never forget it. I speak of it often. The sound of the bass harmonica still echoes in my mind. No, I’m not going to repeat the words here.

Back to you O Glorious Leader.

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