Songs of Significance...some random thoughts

Hello everyone. We've got a small storm moving in and I think the dropping barometer has led to me thinking some thoughts I'd like to share. I'd love for this blog to become a place where people comment and discuss things after I throw them out there. Perhaps the reason it isn't is because I'm so right about everything that I've said it all.....I don't really believe that so throw out your thoughts.

As we're approaching MLK day, I read a cousin's post about MLK's assassination. He observed in a group he was in that very few people knew the name of the assassin. He felt that was a good thing. I thought about that for a moment and realized the beauty of that statement. As people who know me are aware, I am a wealth of useless information. I love, and I think everyone should, knowing random facts and names, especially historical ones. The more obscure the better. For instance, do you know the name of Alexander the Great's horse? I do. Why? I don't know, I picked it up along the way, probably in 7th grade history with Mr. Stipa, and it stuck. Ask me sometime about getting picked up in Mr. Stipa's class sometime, it's another great story, but I digress. Perhaps it's a Voldemort situation, remembering the names of horrible people who did horrible things. Maybe it isn't, maybe it's just an excuse that people use to justify not learning history so we can repeat the same mistakes and claim that they're original. More important is the sentiment. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a statement loud and clear, so loud and clear that we're still talking about it. The message was positive, a message that stressed coming together. A message that stressed the power of love over the power of hate. While the bullet that took his life was fueled by hate, Dr. King's message, a message fueled by love, carries on with a much louder, stronger sound than the crack of that murderer's gun. 

I really like songs of all kind, but I have a special place in my heart for songs of significance. Topical protest songs, metaphorical songs, even sarcastic songs with a message. I think that's why I like parodies so much. Parodies often poke fun and educate listeners about either the original song, or a current event. A good protest song does the same thing. So what is a song of significance? It's any song that I feel spreads a message I believe in, a song that moves me. My list isn't going to be the same as yours, and it shouldn't be.

Some songs of significance I believe in. Beethoven's Eroica Symphony (No. 3): Beethoven wrote this to honor Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven changed the name after Bonaparte declared himself emperor. I love that Beethoven had the wherewithal to stick to his beliefs and changed the name. The music's pretty good, too. 

Phil Ochs' All the News That's Fit to Sing. If you haven't listened to this entire album, go. Listen. Phil Ochs considered himself to be a journalist and this album is great. Ochs and Dylan were contemporaries, and friends. Many think Ochs was as good or better than Dylan for awhile. Every song on this album is a song of significance, especially I Ain't Marching Anymore. 

Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind. Yes, everyone's heard this a million times and many people think it was a war protest song. It wasn't, it was a civil rights song, even performed by Dylan and Joan Baez at Dr. King's 1963 March on Washington, DC. Dylan considers himself to be just a musician, not the voice of his generation as some claim. Whatever he thinks, he nailed it perfectly with this song. Dylan's friend Sam Cooke was apparently upset that a white man had written this song. I don't care who wrote it, it's great.

Pete Seeger's Bells of Rhymney. Seeger took the poem by Welsh poet Idris Davies (pronounced Davis, by the way, but don't get me started on that...) and put it to music. Not only does this song outline the greed that continues to corrupt our planet, but it mentions towns in South Wales being destroyed by the coal mining industry. I'm a descendent of Welsh coal miners and this song hit me hard when I first heard it (John Denver did a terrific cover of it, displaying not only his incredible voice but his incredible guitar chops as well). 

Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant Massacree. Every Thanksgiving, WBLM in Portland, Maine plays this song uninterrupted. They've been doing it for years and it's one of the reasons I love Maine. The song is a great protest song, even with its humor and sarcasm. The song makes you think, and I always imagine the characters in it, even after hearing it a thousand times. Blind judges, the group W bench, and VW buses all come alive. 

Tom Petty's Two Gunslingers. Great song with a great message. Tom Petty did another album called the Last DJ that you don't hear about much anymore. It's a great album, probably my favorite and if you haven't listened to it from beginning to end, you haven't listened to it. My favorite song on it is called Have Love, Will Travel. There's a great line in it: Here's to all those those bad girls, and all those boys who play that rock and roll. They love it, like you love Jesus. It does the same thing to their souls....Can't say it any better than that.

The Kingston Trio were often thought to have bastardized folk music but I still like them. Charlie and the MTA is a great song with a great message. I remember an ex-girlfriend looking at me strangely when I was excited to find that we were in the Scollay Square Station on the T in Boston. I tried to explain but she didn't get it. We didn't last long as a couple. Another Kingston Trio song that counts for me is Take Her Out of Pity. I had never thought much about the song, other than that I liked it and it was fun to play, audiences seemed to enjoy it. I was playing it one night at the Rose Garden in Eastport, Maine and there was an older middle-aged lady in the bag that was visibly distressed at my performance. She approached me later and admonished me for playing the song, claiming that it had set the women's liberation movement back 40 years. I always thought it was a song about asking the most beautiful girls out because if I didn't, who would? I still think that's what it's about and I still play it because it's a good song. That lady might be right but...

I could go on for hours about this but no one wants to read that. What songs do you think are your personal songs of significance? Leave them in the comments below. 

Stayed tuned to my YouTube channel. I'm going to start making simple videos of my interpretations of some of my songs of significance. I hope you'll dig them.