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My Favorite Popular Song

Forty years ago this spring, the Beatles announced they were breaking up. This anniversary made us think about popular music and storytelling, so we asked Red Roomers to blog last week about their favorite pop songs. We had an overwhelming response, and think a compilation of these songs would make a great iTunes playlist. What do you think of a party where the DJ plays:

"Mack the Knife," as suggested by Jim DeFilippi

"Gimme Shelter," as suggested by Cara M. Lorello and "Satisfaction (Can't Get No)," by Mary F. Burns

"Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night's song, not Isaac Watts's hymn) Page Lambert

"Where The Streets Have No Name" Robert J. Bullock

Pearl Jam's "Breathe" Len Boswell

"Nice Work if You Can Get It" Reynold Joseph Junker

"Love Will Keep Us Together" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart"  Your own editor

"Me and Bobby McGee" Linda Morrison Spear

"Venus in Furs" John Parker Oughton

"Unchained Melody" Michael J. Olsen

...and the entire Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which led Mailrangam Venkataraman to poetic heights!

Two blogger' entries especially stood out for us this week:

Sezin Koehler

Red Room member Sezin Koehler had never heard a Lady Gaga song and was one of those who derided her as a no-talent hack. Hearing YouTube sensation Greyson Chance's version of "Paparazzi," however, drove to take another look at the pop phenom. Sezin's entry, "Intertextuality and Irony in Lady Gaga's PAPARAZZI," might lead you to question what you think you know about mainstream pop music.


Jack Shakely


We loved member Jack Shakely's reminiscences of his time in a 1950s dance band. For an evocative trip back to a simpler era, don't miss "We're Number Five in Fort Worth."


 White Light/White Heat

Country Joe and MeThese two will receive books by Red Room authors. Richie Unterberger's White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day is described by MOJO magazine "an impressive means to reflect on the conundrum of what could be the ultimate cult band...detailed and anecdote-packed." Ron Cabral's biography of Woodstock star Country Joe McDonald, Country Joe & Me, arose from Ron and Joe's friendship and from Ron's years managing San Francisco bands in the late 1960s.


Other blog entries we especially enjoyed:

  • Marta K. Szabo remembers one song from Top of the Pops that made an impression on her as a child in "A Song to Live By."  
  • Any hook-filled ditty captures Jessica Barksdale Inclán's attention. Read "Savant of Beautiful Lines."
  • Don McLean's "Vincent" has recurred again and again in the life and work of Jacquelyn Mitchard. Read "Starry, Starry Night."
  • Since childhood, music has acted as a sort of "crawl space" for Shari Bence. Read how "John Lennon's 'Mind Games'" did that for her.
  • Jennifer Gibbons's appreciation of Tracey Ullman's cover of "They Don't Know" made us want to sing in front of a mirror holding a hairbrush.
  • Whenever accordionist-turned-author Blair Kilpatrick writes about music, we take notice. Her memory of "Coal Miner's Daughter" illustrates why.

You can read all the favorite pop song blog posts here. I hope you'll choose your favorite, and leave a comment letting the blogger know why you enjoyed it. See all of Red Room's past blog topics listed on here, and suggest a few more in the comments. Thanks as always for blogging!

Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room

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Blog Topic of the Week: Luck

Luck, for me, is a combination of intuition, gut feeling, astrological aspects, and the courage to follow through when I feel lucky. I've gotten out of bed at 2 in the morning, driven to a casino, walked up to a Keno machine (I knew which one), and played it for about fifteen minutes and won $14,000. If I'd stayed in bed and talked myself out of it, I'd have been the loser. Being open to my hunches and following my feelings has created endless opportunities. So in some respects, I think we make our own luck. Persistence in the face of apparent failure, an optimistic attitude, and being open to novel suggestions can bring incredible luck, and expecting people to offer you good things can bring jobs, money, and people to you that you knew nothing about. I think some people are born under a lucky star, but if they don't take advantage of it and don't recognize luck when it hits them in the head, they never know it.

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My favorite pop song - At Last

"At Last" has figured into so many important times of my life that when I hear it, whether it's played by Glenn Miller or sung by Etta James, I get chills. Once I recorded a tape featuring nothing but "At Last" done by various artists, and I loved it. I danced with my first husband to that song, listened to it when I'd broken up with a long-time love, sang along with it in the car on road trips, cried along with it at night when I was feeling sad, and felt the elation of it when I'd found someone new. The melancholy and bittersweet tune is the one I'd choose to take with me to exile on a desert island - I'd never get tired of those throaty opening words, the essence of supper club, the mournful torchy deep-voiced sighing of every broken dream and hopeful tomorrow wrapped in the sensuous smoke of the unknowable future, all summed up in those two triumphant words: "At Last!"

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Favorite popular song

"In my Life" Beatles...

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Blinded by the Light

It's hard to beat the poetry & musicality of this one. Manfred Mann's version is the most popular, but Bruce Springsteen's original is just as heartfelt. Dig those lyrics if you can keep up with them! There are few songs that make me feel as free and loose as this one. You can dance to it, you can drink to it, you can feel it if you really listen.

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Favorite American songs

Old McDonald had a Farm so we could all be interactive would be fun, but if you really want to rock the house you have to dance and sing the Hokey Pokey.

Oink, oink Ruth :)

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Just about anything sung by John Lennon

... especially "Twist and Shout" (quite possibly the greatest rock vocal ever recorded) and "Slow Down" (I defy you to keep your feet from tapping).

I also agree with Katherine McWilliams' suggestion of "Blinded By The Light": not only a great song, but Manfred Mann's version is killer. (BTW, I saw the Manfred Mann Earth Band perform that live in London back in 1981 and they NAILED it -- not an easy arrangement to pull off live.)