My Old Kentucky Homesite

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Earworm Saturday #3

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/20/2010

Sometimes, earworms can be enjoyable. I’ve had one rattling around my head all week, and every time I “listen” to it, I return to my teenage years with a big goofy smile on my face. This particular song was one that I used to play on the guitar and sing to every girl I was hoping to entice into my bed through my imagined ability to sound like Paul McCartney. Unfortunately, my bed was in a crowded three-room Bronx apartment I shared with my very loud family, and I sounded no more like a Beatle than any other pimply Jewish kid. So, to tell the truth, the song was no more effective at attracting nubile young females than my Brylcreem was. (FYI: It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned what women really want. Eat your heart out, Sigmund, because the simple answer to your question is: a couple of Entenmann’s Chocolate Donuts. Who doesn’t love those?)

Anyway, it never dawned on me that I needn’t struggle to sound like a Liverpudlian genius. I didn’t realize that there were dozens of ways to sing Paul’s tune, and any of them would work equally well at driving girls away.

So this particular “Saturday Earworm” is not a song I dislike. Instead of hunting for funny versions, I’ve decided to play serious DJ for this entry in the series, and I’ve tried to pick out some interestingly odd renditions. In fact, I’ve discovered that this Beatle hit has been played in every style known to Man. Most of the following interpretations are pretty good. I realize that you’ve got only limited time to spend on my blog because you’ve got to get to the grocery before it runs out of aphrodisiac baked goods. But if you like this little ditty, you might seriously want to sample every variation here. Some of them will pleasantly surprise you.

[Addendum: (03/20/10 at 3:25 p.m.)  The list below has been revised to include four new styles.]

The Original
Jazz
Reggae
Island Stoner
Baroque
Motown
Fingerpickin’
R&B
Choral (a cappella)
Salsa
Bluegrass
Funk
Folk
Flamenco
Hip-hop
Cumbia
OK, not to disappoint you: What Was This Person Thinking?

If you do wind up with an earworm, you’d be well advised to love it … because it will never die. In fact, you might want to sing your earworm to your earworm. As for me, though: I’ll be changing the title’s singular pronoun to a plural, and crooning this classic to my donuts. [Note to Self: Try to sell that idea to Entenmann’s.]

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Posted in Earworms, Music | 56 Comments »

Don’t Take Manhattan

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/12/2010

[NOTE: This is sort of a follow-up to “Unborn” Again. But I apologize in advance that you’ll have to read most of this post before you find the “stupid Kentucky” connection. Trust me, though … it’s here. ]

The New Yawk Background

Back on November 20th, I must have been lulled to sleep by the sun shining so bright and the people shining so dumb. Or, more likely, that was one of the many days when the only things I read in the newspaper were the Jumble and Zits.

So I was surprised to learn today that  nearly four months ago, a group of hate-mongers issued The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.  (Warning: Don’t click on the link if you have a sensitive stomach.)

Among the nearly 430,000 (!) signatories can be found the usual exemplars of loving kindness, people like Charles Colson, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and hundreds of other so-called leaders of Catholic, Evangelical, and Orthodox churches. The declaration’s “celebrity” supporters include Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, and other such conscience-driven types.

The Web site summarizes the Declaration this way:

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

If the summary doesn’t get you gnashing your teeth sufficiently, go ahead and read the whole thing.  But do that only if you don’t want to keep your hair — because you’ll be tearing it out of your head in anger as you work your way through the document. (I’m  already balding, so losing a few more of my curly locks wasn’t such a tragedy.)

Obviously number (1) is about opposing abortion, although it’s dishonestly couched as protecting the lives of “the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly.” Besides abortion, the Declaration also singles out for God’s wrath “embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia.”

We pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.

In other words, the Pro-Forced-Maternity forces will continue fighting for the souls of good, Christian blastocysts.

Number (2) expresses concern that “the institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted.” Watch out, you god-hating homos!

Number (3), though, is the slickest, slimiest, and most deceitful of all. Under the guise of promoting “religious liberty,” the Declaration urges civil disobedience among Christians if laws are not in keeping with numbers (1) and (2) — or, basically, anything else the churches dislike. That’s a pretty broad category, but it could well include a call to disobey environmental regulations, violate fiscal policy and controls, and teach whatever nonsense Christians choose to disseminate in publics schools. In its not-so-subtle wording, it could be used to justify clinic-bombing, gay-bashing, and the murder of science teachers who dare to inform their students about evolution. To put number (3) another way: if America refuses to become a theocracy, its laws are invalid.

The Eagerly Awaited “Stupid Kentucky” Connection

Thanks for your patience.

So yesterday, Kentucky’s House Resolution 232 was introduced and after what must have been whole seconds of debate it passed today by a voice vote on the floor. What is that resolution? Can you guess?

A RESOLUTION recognizing and honoring the efforts of those who have inspired thousands of Kentuckians with the Manhattan Declaration.

There’s a lot of pious blah-blah for a few paragraphs before the document actually states what those numnuts are seeking to resolve:

NOW, THEREFORE,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

  • Section 1. The House of Representatives recognizes and honors the efforts of those who have inspired thousands of Kentuckians with the Manhattan Declaration.
  • Section 2. The House of Representatives further wishes great success to those who are committed to the principles upon which our Commonwealth and indeed the nation at large were founded, and appreciates the heartfelt motivation of those whose calling it is to minister to others even as they declare and advocate for truth.

This resolution had 45 “yea” (or “yay”) votes— yup, you read that right: forty-five — from among the state’s 100 elected representatives. That’s nearly half of the chamber, all of whom were listed as sponsors, not merely supporters, of this drivel. And, amazingly, there’s not even a single reference to “hoops.” In case you’re wondering what happened to the other 55 members, they were recorded as “not voting.”

It’s now going to be really dangerous driving on Sunday mornings. Thousands of Kentucky Christians, hurrying to get to church, will feel obliged to disobey those ungodly traffic rules.

There oughta be a law against the legislature wasting time and money on nonsense like this. But, of course, good Christians would just continue to ignore it. Now that HR 232 has passed, they can even cite their own resolution as justification.

[Frivolous Appendix for Earworm fans:
Much to my chagrin, the Manhattan of the Declaration is not the one in Kansas. I was shocked to discover that Kentucky representatives would admit to loving anything that referred to New Yawk. But I guess I wouldn’t be surprised now if they select this as their theme song.]

[Addendum: 03/13/2010, 2:55 a.m.:
It appears that some of my facts about the “Stupid Kentucky” Connection were not correct as originally written. Apparently, everybody is stupid here, including me. I’ve edited the material to conform with the truth — which is still as scary as what I errroneously wrote.]

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Music, New to Kentucky | 21 Comments »

Earworm Saturday #2

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/20/2010

Be careful how you choose your adjectives. If you’re unthinking, as I was a few days ago, you can wind up with an earworm.

Here’s the story in brief: Because the citizens of Kentucky (an aggregate that now includes me) are constantly besieged by god-pushers, I found myself doing something that’s antithetical to my nature. Looking for like-minded people who are as fed up with our would-be theocracy as I am, I recently attended a few meetings of freethinkers’ organizations. At the last one I went to, the subject of a stupidly innocuous Humanist billboard (e.g., “Are You Good Without God? Millions Are.”) came up. A coalition of Lexington skeptics is planning to erect such a sign, ostensibly to energize the ungodly community in a nice way. I suggested that, if we had to put up a touchy-feely message at all, we should do everything we could to make the unveiling a big media event: knock on doors to collect friends and acquaintances for a gigantic photo op or even a parade, light a fire under the media’s collective ass to get them to show up, and make sure that everyone who attends is prepared to answer questions if a microphone is shoved under his or her nose. The only problem is: some of the people involved in Lexington’s so-called freethinking community are closet atheists, afraid to be seen on TV without their metaphorical crucifixes. Naturally, the expression of that fear sent me into a diatribe about how useless a dumb sign is when there are self-defined atheists who are unwilling to identify themselves as being among the millions referred to on the billboard. I guess that here in the Bluegrass state, it’s bad luck to come out openly against superstition.

One of the sharpest members of the group responded with a resigned smile: “This is not New York; it’s Kentucky.” Most of the others agreed that “we have to go slowly.” And maybe they’re right, assuming that the total of recorded time so far hasn’t been long enough. Perhaps if we freethinkers are patient and accommodating, we’ll have to wait only two or three measly millenia more before we can have a small say in public policy.

Later that night, when my wife asked me how the meeting was, I said — without pausing to notice any warning lights — “It was a little too Kumbaya-ish for my taste.”

Augggggh. The word was scarcely out before that goddamned tune was urging the various parts of my brain to form a circle and hold hands. Talk about a headache.

But why should I reserve this experience strictly for myself. “Kumbaya” must be shared, because it’s the godmother of all earworms, the sine qua non of gaggiosity.

If you don’t know what I mean, check out the song’s true essence, flawlessly captured here.

In this peppy version, the mere singing of the song by a Great White Father magically creates peace and dancing — and the sudden appearance of bikini-clad women — among warring African tribes.

Who could resist a bunch of Polish women in funny hats? Not me! The group doesn’t seem to have learned the exact tune, but it’s close enough to still be annoying.

Christians can co-opt anything and make it specifically about Jesus. This video takes the song, usually interpreted as a plea for universal unity, and turns it into an evangelical message: In the beginning was the word, and the word was “Kumbaya.”

At about this point, you’re probably asking yourself: “Hey, how would that flatulent ditty sound as an instrumental?”

Yes, that shitty song is heard everywhere.

All that Kumbaya-ing may make you worried about having nightmares. Perhaps you’re afraid that the minute you get into bed, the monsters under your mattress will get all New-Agey on you. But that could happen anyplace you try to relax, as this poor victim found out.

Still, I’m not the only person who finds the number offensive. The German chick in this extravaganza definitely has the right idea.

I wish happy psycho-listening to all my readers. But don’t forget: Someone’s retching, my Lord.

Posted in Earworms, Freedom from Faith, Music, New to Kentucky | 31 Comments »

Three Videos

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 02/15/2010

My friend Srsny told me that Channel 13, the PBS station in New York City, gives viewers an opportunity each week to vote for the short film they’d like to see broadcast on Saturday night.

Since I’m still a New Yawker at heart, I thought I would check out this week’s choices. Obviously, none of the offerings have anything to do with basketball, religion, bourbon, coal-mining, and/or horse-breeding, so I’m fairly certain that a concept like this would not work in Kentucky. But, jaded New Yawker that I still am, I enjoyed all three of these little gems, even though they seemed irrelevant to my new life in Lexington.

Surprisingly, each selection reflects, in some way, my feelings about music-as-life. I won’t reveal which one I voted for, or write anything further about my reactions — right now. Instead, I’m hoping that you’ll leave comments saying which short you would have picked, and why.

Here are the videos, in order from shortest to longest. Have fun watching them.

1) El Pianógrafo

2) Be Like a Duck

3) Comme Un Air

If you’d like to  influence what New Yawkers get to see on their TVs, you can vote here.

Posted in Music, New to Kentucky | 20 Comments »

Earworm Saturday #1

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/30/2010

An earworm is an annoying song that, no matter how much you bang your head against the wall, you can’t get out of your brain. Earworms may pop up out of nowhere, for no discernible reason. Often, though, there’s a trigger. For example, whenever I find myself in the cereal aisle at a grocery store, I can’t help hearing

Kehhhhhh-lahhhhhhhhg’s sugarcornpops (clap clap), Sugar Pops are tops.

I’m sure that some of you other old farts will sympathize with my plight.

Earworms can be songs you like, songs you used to like, or – more commonly in my case – songs you can’t stand but that just won’t go away.

My latest earworm is a little number that’s about 230 years old. It was written by an Englishman, a former slave trader turned curate, named John Newton. He was moved to create this song, among dozens of others, in praise of his god – the very deity who, a few years earlier, had smiled on the buying and selling of human beings.

I’m plagued by this particular earworm because at almost every damn musical event I’ve attended here in Lexington, a performer has been “moved” to sing it. The hoot-‘n’-holler version rings out loud and clear, and the audience always joins in as if it’s the city’s secret anthem. Since I, myself, am descended from New Yawk’s “wretched refuse,” I guess I should think it appealing that there are so many self-proclaimed wretches in my new home. As an atheist, I find the words both revolting and stupid, but the tune won’t leave me alone. I’m speaking, of course, about “Amazing Grace.”

So, in order to pass my earworm along to all those who claim that they get nothing from reading my blog, I’ve collected a few choice samples of some of the worst versions of this ditty. You may find them funny, but – believe me – you won’t be laughing tomorrow. I guarantee that the sound will not be sweet after it has lost its way in your cranium.

First, here’s the definitive awful rendition. An industrious you-tuber (or should I say “ouch potato”) supplied the lyrics, for those Kentuckians who’d like to sing along.

This next version has evidently been recorded by parents hoping to cash in on the saccharine show-busy piety of their young daughter. I don’t think you’ll be able to stomach the entire ride, but do tool along for the first few seconds, at least until you can fill in the blank: “that saved a ___________ like me.”

I’m not a Christian, but f’Chrissake! I’m pretty sure that this interpretation isn’t what the song is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, here’s “Amazing Grace” as a horrifying tribute to our death machines in Iraq.

The video says this guy is from Georgia, but I don’t believe it. He’s gotta be from Kentucky, because he just won’t quit singing that song. Truthfully, I’m glad he didn’t choose the Sugar Pops jingle, or I’d never be able to digest breakfast again.

I’m pretty much in agreement with Drake in this short piece. Far more articulately than I can, the kid expresses our mutual attitude toward this irritating hymn.

Finally, here’s a version that you actually might enjoy. It won’t cure you of that wriggly critter leaving its slime all over your hammer, your anvil, and your stirrup, but it will at least put the song in perspective. So when you find “Amazing Grace” sloshing around and around and around inside your skull, just pour yourself a cold one and hum along.

Posted in Earworms, Freedom from Faith, Music | 68 Comments »

O Come, All Ye Faith-free-ful

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/19/2009

So yesterday afternoon I was sitting at the ol’ piano, playing tunes from a collection called “The Every Christmas Song You Can Think Of and Then Some Fake Book.” For me, as a faith-free person, the melodies – not the lyrics – rule. Lots of those songs are really catchy, and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t sing or play them just because they have words about imaginary entities and events. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is a much better tune than “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and no more offensive. To tell the truth, I never believed that the itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout, either.

I was practicing my own ragtime version of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and trying to work out how to swing “The Little Drummer Boy” in 5/4, when the mail arrived. Nestled snugly among three or four scroogy bills was a greeting card with an illustration of the manger scene and the caption “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Now, that’s of course nonsense, despite how many underlines it has. The winter solstice was the inspiration for cold-weather celebrations and gift-giving long before Christianity was even a gleam in its father’s eye. Not only that, but there’s absolutely no gospel evidence for the time of year in which the protagonist was born. None. The early church fathers piggy-backed their big guy’s birthday onto various other seasonal festivities and called the day “Christmas.” Later, they adopted the yule log, the decorated tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the stockings, the overeating, the giant inflated snowman, and the chipmunks. Even the sending of cards has no biblical authority. So Jesus certainly isn’t the reason for the season; rather, the pre-existing holidays are the reason for the church’s usurpation of the season.

But I wasn’t annoyed merely because our senders had not gotten their facts straight. What irked me was their audacity. It’s harassment to mail a highly religious card, particularly one with a not-so-covert agenda, to people who may not agree with its message. The card was a solicitation, a political advertisement, not a sincere greeting. It irked me that some people would want to ram down my throat their own narrow interpretation of a universally enjoyable holiday.

For about fifteen minutes, I took my anger out on my own taste. I closed the songbook that was so entertaining to me, and I went into my office and put Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, one of my most beloved books, back on its shelf. I refused to take part in the same holiday that our sender was celebrating. Maybe I’d pull out my songs and my story again sometime in February, when Washington and Lincoln and Cupid, not Jesus, were the combined reason for the season.

But then I thought: the hell with that. I’m not going to let Christians ruin Christmas for me. So, glorying in the snow falling outside my window, I re-bookmarked Stave 2 in Dickens, bit the head off a chocolate reindeer, and returned to the piano to see if I could turn “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” into a scary Schubert lied: “Der Weinachtsmann kommt in die Stadt.” Eventually, I also managed to feel pity for the people who so strictly limit their seasonal cheer – and, out of a veiled malice, would like to force me to likewise limit mine.

Posted in Christmas, Freedom from Faith, Music | 6 Comments »

Happy Chanukah, Orrin

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/09/2009

Most of my readers will already know that many of our most popular secular Christmas songs were written by Jews. (See the link on my sidebar.)  But this year, the big news is that Senator Mormon Hatch (R-Deseret), as you’ve probably heard ad nauseam by now, has written a Chanukah song, which was recorded in Indiana by a woman of Syrian extraction who doesn’t know how to pronounce the name of the holiday. (You can listen to the performance, if you must, by clicking here.) How ecumenical, eh?

Still, as someone with an ethnically Jewish background, I can tell you: All the songs in the world, even if they’re written by duly elected representatives from heavy-duty goyish states, are not going to make Chanukah into anything but a third-rate Yuletide. The Jews’ seasonal holiday just can’t hold a candle to Christmas.

As far as I know, no one has ever written a song specifically about that fact. Until now.

[A pretentious note on the metrics: Although I have composed a tune for this song, you don’t know what it is. I assure you, however: trying to make the words fit “Frosty the Snowman” or “Adeste Fideles” or even “Yankee Doodle” will not work. So just read the following as if it’s a really bad poem. However, if you’d like to recite the thing with any kind of musicality, you must keep in mind that the lyric is written basically in secundus paeon tetrasyllables: short LONG short short. (All right, I wasn’t aware of that when I wrote it; I looked it up and include the information here to make you think I knew what I was doing.) But to complicate things even further, some lines end in a trimeter with only one short syllable at the end; usually, but not always, the “fourth” short syllable is carried over to begin the next line. The last couplet of each verse,  … ah, screw it. I’m just gonna put all the accented syllables in boldface, OK? If that drives you nuts, just think of what a pain in the ass it was to type. Then ask yourself: Would Orrin Hatch go to this kind of trouble for his readers? I doubt it; he won’t even vote to give them health care, f’Chrissake.]

I love to light the candles on the Chanukah menorah,
And to spin the little dreidl hardly ever is a bore. A
Bit of gelt is always welcome to a kid; it’s just sensational!
“Buy anything you want (athough it should be educational).”
But here’s a question, Mom, for you, since Christmas season’s here:
Will Santa Claus be visiting the Jewish kids this year?

It’s fun to be a Hebrew ‘cause you get a big bar mitzvah,
Even if you scorn religion, can’t see what the devil it’s f’.
But you have to wait till you’re thirteen until you get your kicks,
And that’s very little comfort to a kid like me, who’s six.
So I must admit I’m worried and I ask you, Mommy dear,
“Will Santa Claus be visiting the Jewish kids this year?”

I’m proud that we are Jewish. Please believe me; I’m not fakin’.
I can live without their crosses. I can live without their bacon.
I love Purim with its groggers and delicious hamantashen.
Yom Kippur would be fine, too, if they would let you do some noshin.’
And at Pesach, if you’re smart, you find the matzah and get money
(While the Christian kid at Easter gets a lousy choc’late bunny).
So I’m not condemning Chanukah; I think it’s really great!
But, Mommy, can’t we have a little Christmas till I’m eight?

For when the other kids sing “Deck the halls with boughs of holly,”
Please excuse me if I can’t help wishing I could be as jolly.
I would love to watch for Rudolph; it would thrill my heart to pieces,
Even though I couldn’t care less about that other fellow, Jesus.
So I’m asking you again (please try to hear me loud and clear):
“Will Santa Claus be visiting the Jewish kids this year?

Next, maybe I’ll run for the U.S. Senate.

Posted in Christmas, Holidays, Music | 4 Comments »

Fa La La La La, Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/28/2009

Yesterday, I did what I do every year on the day after Thanksgiving. I scoured the Internet for Christmas songs, the weirder the better. Over the years, I’ve amassed dozens of  jazz interpretations, latino renditions, r&b versions, rock adaptations, pop readings, and even the occasional variation in country style. (I’m talking, of course, about the countries of Norway and Rumania.) My stockpile also includes plenty of novelty tunes and new won’t-be standards.  I love Christmas songs.

But I hate having the same twenty of them rammed down my throat while I’m shopping. “Do you hear what I hear?” Yes, please shut it off. When the chipmunks croon, the only thing I want to dig into my pockets for is rodent poison. I’ve got big news for the people running the country’s malls: In my entire life, Johnny Mathis has never talked me into buying anything.

And why does store Christmas come in only two musical colors, Presley blue and Crosby white? Aren’t blue and white more appropriate for Chanukah? What about some other colors for the holiday once in a while? How about it, Bing?

May your days be merry and stellar,
And may all your Christmases be yeller.

Why not complain in a different shade, Elvis?

You can follow that star, enj-
Oy Christmas of orange,
But I’ll have a mauve, mauve Christmas.

I get tired of the same ol’ Bing and Elvis, Johnny Mathis and chipmunks every year. How many times can Grandma get run over by a reindeer before we wish that she’d just lie there for good?  Just once, I’d like to hear that Burl Ives and his holly, jolly got run over by a trolley.

I keep hoping each year that I’ll walk into a store and hear something new and different. But that never happens. Which is why I began buying Christmas songs, years ago at $7.99 for a sale-bin album, now at 99 cents per iTunes ditty.

Most of the numbers in my musical library are not played in national chains. You won’t hear, for instance, “Don’t Give Me No Goose for Christmas” by the Korn Kobblers or “Santa Lost a Ho” by the Christmas Jug Band. I’d be very surprised if Target or Walmart piped in “Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year” (“once with Mom and then again with Dad”) by the Hollytones, “St. Stephen’s Day Murders” by Elvis Costello and the Chieftains, or “Santa Claus Is Freaking Me Out” by Lord Weatherby. If you visit the restroom during your spree, you won’t find Dr. John (“Toyland”), or Elton John (“Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas?”), or Peas (“Angels We Have Heard on High”). Even some of the seasonal oeuvre of the most popular Yuletide artists is ignored by vendors: Where’s Nat King Cole’s “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree,” Duke Ellington’s “Arabesque Cookie,” and Frank Sinatra’s “There’s a Flaw in My Flue”?

I refuse to go dashing through my dough in stores that don’t offer the best cuts of “Jingle Bells,” like the ones by Lena Horne, Bela Fleck, Fats Waller, and the Puppini Sisters. I laugh at Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and call it names; it doesn’t compare to the terrific recordings by Pony Poindexter, Billy May, Jesse Colin Young, or the Gypsy Hombres. No salesclerk ever says, “Shall I play for you?” the “Little Drummer Boy” of the Ray Brown Trio or Cassandra Wilson, of Ringo Starr or Brave Combo.

My intention here – and I think it’s nice, not naughty – is merely to whet your appetite for all the great holiday music you’ve been missing underneath the mistletoe.  Maybe you’ll hitch up your sleigh, and go for a ride (with Bootsy Collins, the Ronettes, or Jane Monheit) to find some of these underappreciated treats. But before you traverse afar, I’ll mention just six more great pieces that make me smile, whether I have my front teeth in or not: (1) “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” by Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, (2) “Mr. Heatmiser” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, (3) “Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus?” by Charo and the Salsoul Orchestra, (4) “Christmas in Killarney” by Linda Rutherford and Celtic Fire, (5) “Winter Wonderland” by Jason Mraz, and (6) “Feels Like Christmas” by Cyndi Lauper.

If any of my readers owns a retail establishment, please take the hint.

Posted in Christmas, Music | 4 Comments »

Sorry, but Nothing Rhymes with “Cranberry Sauce”

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/24/2009

My wife and I are in a mixed marriage: She’s a baked potato person; I’m mashed all the way. Although neither of us is a Crispian, we do have some friends who are. So a few years ago, I decided we needed to find a Thanksgiving song that, while favoring no particular peelological system, still acknowledged the greater glory of Spud.

However, after hours of research, I couldn’t come up with a single holiday tune that included root vegetables at all. Or any other type of food, for that matter! What gives? The fourth Thursday in November is not just some non-pecktarian celebration. It’s a time specifically set aside for us to fill our plates to the brim with tasty vittles of all kinds. We need to put the tang back in Thanksgiving.

So I borrowed an old ditty, and changed the words ever so slightly, making sure to mention potatoes in passing. (And please, while you’re at it, pass the gravy, too.) I now gladly share this with all my readers, in hopes that it will help them better understand the true meaning of this week’s festivities. Sing along, why don’t you?

We gather together to ask for more dressing,
Potatoes, tomatoes, and turkey piled high,
And plenty of vino.
Let’s end with cappuccino.*
Sing praises to the cook,
Who forgets not the pie.

*Feel free, if you must, to replace this line with: “Then pass around the Beano.

Posted in Food and Drink, Holidays, Music | 5 Comments »

It’s Never Cloudy in Kentucky?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/17/2009

In 1853, a New Yawk sheet music company published a song called “Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night!” by Stephen Foster. The first line of that song was:

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home.

Whether or not Foster had actually seen a Kentucky home, old or new, is disputed, but the song was a hit. It was the “Thriller” of its day, minus the zombie outfits.

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day.

Seventy-five years later, (in 1928, for those whose arithmetic is shaky), the Kentucky legislature adopted Foster’s work as the official state song. The first line was transformed, not officially, but by most singers, to:

The sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home.

Suddenly, the place was no longer some vague edifice; it was the singer’s very own house. He or she might even try to buttonhole you, grabbing your attention at the very beginning:

Oh, the sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home.

That’s the way I always heard it. Until I moved to Kentucky, I hadn’t really thought much about that song. What I didn’t know was that in 1986, the Kentucky legislature voted to remove the offensive word in the second line, changing the lyric slightly to:

‘Tis summer, the people are gay.

Fair enough. That worked for about twenty years. But recently, the song has run up against the legislature once again. The social conservatives, not wishing – even indirectly – to appear as if they support marriage between homosexuals, are urging another change to the problematic phrase. They want it to read:

‘Tis summer, the people are cheerful.

Well, that ruins the rhyme scheme and scansion of the verse, doesn’t it? So the further suggestion has been made to change the last line to:

While the birds make music all the yearful.

However, a science professor at the University of Kentucky has pointed out that (a) the year has other seasons besides summer, and (b) in most avian species, only male birds sing. As a result of these observations, a group of academics at U.K. is lobbying to change the second line to:

All seasons, the people are cheerful.

And the last line to:

While male birds make music all the yearful.

This, as you can imagine, does not sit well with everyone. Some people think that all birds – males, females, and transsexuals – should get equal time in the state song. So, given that Nature has not seen fit to make all creatures equal in their music-making capabilities, the egalitarians insist that the fourth line should be:

While birds of every gender make merry all the yearful.

That should be an end to the controversy, but a consortium of allergists is concerned about the third line. The doctors point out that many Kentuckians have sensitivities to either corn, or meadows, or both. It doesn’t seem right, the allergists say, not to warn citizens about possible dire consequences of cavorting around near potentially hazardous plants. So the allergists have posited the following third line:

You may need to take Claritin if the meadow’s in the bloom.

OK. That would seem to be that … if the song had just one verse. But unfortunately, it doesn’t, and the second verse is dynamite! A number of evangelicals are up in arms over its first line, which they claim encourages sinful behavior in teenagers:

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor.

As soon as the preachers come up with an alternative, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I hope you’ll excuse me if I just whistle “I’ll Take Manhattan.”

Posted in Music, New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ... | 6 Comments »