A music post, for something different

The other day at lunch a bunch of us headed out for a bite at the local Co-op salad bar. A late season fly was lazily turning circles around our table to the delight of the kids who were with us. Their mother called out, “Shoo fly, don’t bother me,” as she tried to wave it away from her face and shoulders and, me being me, I continued by singing the rest of the tune as I knew it:

Shoo, fly, don’t bother me
Shoo, fly, don’t bother me
Shoo, fly, don’t bother me
‘Cause I belong to somebody!

Someone else who with us was surprised by the end line. “I thought it was, ‘Cause I belong to Company G!” That led to a bit a head-scratching and shoulder shrugging moment since I’d never heard her version before. I know tunes often wind up with different lyrics over time; a couple good examples being Greensleeves/What Child is This (something I’ve written about before) and the American anthem which was once the tune to a drinking song. There was another recently in a Myrna Loy/Clark Gable film I watched called Manhattan Melodrama where the tune was “Blue Moon” but the song itself was called “The Bad In Every Man,” and the history of that tune winds up being interesting all on its own. Which brings me back to “Shoo Fly” and Wikipedia’s entry about that song, which has all the lyrics nobody sings anymore because they’re the opposite of politically correct.

There’s an opinion piece at the Huffington Post about music called Do We Care About Lyrics Anymore?

With modern pop still chock-full of singles about being in love, being angry at boys and/or girls, going to clubs, putting your hands in the air, and the weekend, (certainly not has much has changed there since the 1950s), it’s never been where wordsmiths go to stand out. But music, in general, might be missing its lyrical heroes. Who are our real poets in 2011? With Occupy Wall Street and the recession and the slipping middle class, it seems like the right time for a new icon to emerge. One that speaks more directly to us, without hiding.

He puts forth Kanye West as a possibility but I can’t say I’ve heard anything by him; I tend to avoid every radio station that plays what’s considered modern pop, preferring to find the acoustic guitarists that get no airtime, or the classic lads and ladies of old. The Man avoids much of what’s considered popular, too, preferring to fill my ears with psychedelic ’70s bands or troubadours and folk singers from the distant days of vinyl. I’m totally out of touch in terms of what’s hot and hip.

the lyricists are out there, but the weight placed on their lyrics has shifted. They’re harder to access and often harder to understand. Lyrics used to be what pushed an artist over the edge, giving him or her that mix of critical and fan appreciation they once needed to stand out. Now, however, the fan has to make an effort to know what it is they’re actually trying to say.

What do you think? Is the shift away from lyrical importance inevitable, as more and more musical genres emerge? Or did life-altering lyrics die along with the CD booklet?

He’s talking in the pop world. One of my favourite artists right now is Diana Braithwaite, a fantastic blues singer. You can hear every word she sings just fine. I think lyrics will still matter to people who want them to matter, the ones who understand that words have power and that whatever music gets put with them should add to the power, not block it out or get in the way. Not everyone cares about getting a message out with their lyrics, though. Do they have to? No. “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah” is sometimes good enough.

We should have more people like Gil Scott-Heron though. The Man introduced me to his music a while back, particularly this one:

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3 Responses to A music post, for something different

  1. Dr. Jim says:

    Diana Braithwhite is now top on my Christmas list!
    I remember my high school buddy’s older brother had a Gil Scott Heron album “Have you Heard the Word about Johanessburg” or something like that. Great stuff!

    With the OWS protests, I’m wondering why old Bob Dylan tunes aren’t hitting the top 40 again?

  2. Laurance says:

    The way I heard it when I was a little kid back in the 1940’s, it did end with “I belong to somebody”. I would suspect the Company G stuph was something from World Wars I or II.

    And then came the chorus, “I do, I do, I do…oh yes indeed, I do. Yes I belong to somebody, yes indeed I do.”

    Thanks for the Blast from the Past.

  3. 1minionsopinion says:

    Thanks for the comments, too.

    I’m quite fond of Dylan and I’m enjoying his stuff quite a bit. I also have a fondness for older folk tunes although not much in my actual music collection. I found a neat album at the library a while back called Classic Labor Songs and it has a nice variety of tunes on it, some old ballads, some pro-union, some telling stories from history (Woody Guthrie’s 1913 Massacre is on it) and all in all it’s a good album.

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