By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
“To me, art begets art,” wrote Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue. “Painting feeds the eye just as poetry feeds the ear, which is to say that both feed the soul.”  If you’ve choreographed an impromptu dance routine while listening to a favorite song, for example, or illustrated a beloved poem in watercolor, then you’ll know what she meant.
Sometimes those creative links span decades and genres. Who could have guessed that an “art pop” song based on the plot of a gothic tragi-romance would sweep the music charts in 13 countries and both hemispheres? But that’s exactly what happened when teenaged English artist Kate Bush released her first single, “Wuthering Heights,” in 1978.  That song – and its gloriously, theatrically, beautifully weird music video – has been running through my head for weeks, so I decided to find some more examples of popular music based on literature.
Countless acts, from Radiohead to Dead Kennedys to Stevie Wonder, have found inspiration in George Orwell’s 1984. David Bowie even aspired to produce a musical based on the dystopian novel. Orwell’s widow denied Bowie the rights, but some of the songs ended up on his Diamond Dogs album (“1984,” “Big Brother,” “We Are the Dead”). [3, 4, 5]
Musicians mine Middle Earth – the setting for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, among other stories – for ideas, as well. Led Zeppelin indulged their Hobbital tendencies in such classics as “Ramble On,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and “The Battle of Evermore.” Rush, Genesis, and Nickel Creek are some other acts who’ve referenced Bilbo et al. Comedy nerdcore duo Lords of the Rhymes exists solely to rap about Sauron and such. The fantasy epics are a favorite of metalheads, too: Blind Guardian, Summoning, Battlelore, Isengard, and Rivendell lead the way in the “Tolkien metal” genre. (Yes, that’s a thing.) [6, 7, 8, 9] But may we never forget the gold standard when it comes to Tolkien-related songs: Leonard Nimoy’s “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” (Trust me: that video is a lot to take in, but you have to watch it.)
Many of the literary songs I’ve come across are much more subtle about their inspirations. Some of them quite surprised me, in fact. Listen to a few tracks from this list and see if you can figure out the connections for yourself. Then, check the links at the end of this post to read more about their bookish origins. And if you’re interested in books that were inspired by famous songs, check out this blog post.
ABBA, “The Piper” (The Stand by Steven King)
- Alt-J, “Breezeblocks” (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak)
- The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows” (The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert)
- Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kwali), “Thieves in the Night” (The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison)
- Kate Bush, “Flower of the Mountain” (Ulysses by James Joyce)
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand” (Paradise Lost by John Milton)
- Chance the Rapper, “Same Drugs” (Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)
- Devo, “Whip It” (Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon)
Celine Dion (but really Meat Loaf), “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë)
- Manic Street Preachers, “Motorcycle Emptiness” (Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton)
- Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” (The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank)
- Katy Perry, “Firework” (On the Road by Jack Kerouac)
- REM, “Disturbance at the Heron House” (Animal Farm by George Orwell)
- The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil” (Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov)
- The Roots, “Act Won (Things Fall Apart)” (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe)
- The Strokes, “Soma” (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley)
- T’Pau, “China in Your Hand” (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)
- U2, “Shadows and Tall Trees” (Lord of the Flies by William Golding)
References and Further Reading:
- 1 – https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/susan_vreeland_726633
- 2 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuthering_Heights_(song)#Chart_performance
- 3- https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/10-songs-inspired-by-george-orwells-1984.html
- 4 – https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/may/20/10-songs-inspired-by-literature
- 5 – http://www.openculture.com/2016/04/david-bowie-dreamed-of-turning-george-orwells-1984-into-a-musical.html
- 6 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_inspired_by_J._R._R._Tolkien#Rock_music
- 7 – http://ultimateclassicrock.com/top-10-the-hobbit-lord-of-the-rings-songs/
- 8 – http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Category:Bands
- 9 – http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Tolkien_metal
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
My boys, ages 9 and 13 love to sit down on a rainy day and watch Help!. The goofy antics of the four Liverpudlian lads have an entertainment value that transcends the decades. It’s not odd that people like the Beatles today, but it is an interesting change in the mindset of Americans. Most people do not listen to, let alone become avid fans of, the music of their grandparents. While I do enjoy big band and swing music, I would consider myself more exception than rule, even with the millennium era revival of Swing. My parents’ generation certainly did not listen to ragtime. So why do my kids, and many other of today’s children still love the Beatles? The answer is simply because they suffer from the epidemic that was called is Beatlemania.
The Fab Four started out as a fab five: John, Paul, George, Pete and Stuart, and were originally known as the Quarrymen, then Johnny and the Moondogs before moving through several variations of the name we all know and love, before settling on just The Beatles. They got their start in Liverpool, but played in Hamburg, Germany for a time before they all had to leave for one reason or another (Harrison was an unaccompanied minor, Best and McCartney were deported over an arson charge, and Lennon left of his own accord.)They played Liverpool and acted as a backing band and even returned to Hamburg before returning to England and starting to record their own music. Stuart Sutcliffe returned to his art, and the other three replaced Best with a drummer named Richard Starkey, Ringo. The rest of the story is known to music and pop culture fans the world over. They took England by storm in 1962 and 63, then America later that year followed by their first visit in 1964. It was the spark of the British Invasion, and the moving of a phenomenon from Europe to American shores. Beatlemania had made its beach head in the United States.
The outpouring of affection and devotion dedicated to the Beatles took the world by surprise. It was never observed before and really has not been repeated since. Many bands have been called the next Beatles, from the Bee Gees to Oasis to One Direction, but no one has ever lived up to the name. No one had or ever has caused wholesale hysteria among fans like the Fab Four, although Elvis had come the closest. The best explanation that anyone can seem to come up with is that the Beatles tapped into a confluence of factors that hasn’t occurred before or since. The large number of potential fans brought about by the baby boom, the safe appearance (despite the scruffy band stories we all hear their androgynous haircuts, suits, and simple movements while playing meant they were far less threatening than the overtly masculine and sexual Elvis), and the unsure world brought about by the height of the Cold War and death of President Kennedy, made teens everywhere ready to latch on to something. They fell to that with a will. Screaming, fainting, panicking and occasional rioting were more than just a trope from the beginning of A Hard Day’s Night, they were the reality of day to day life for the guys.
The lasting effect of the Beatles, in my opinion, is not the pop culture phenomenon. It is what they brought to music and more importantly musicians. Many people make fun of the Monkees as a manufactured Beatles rip off, but what many people don’t realize is that many bands were structured in the same manner. Even the Beatles were told they were going to play certain songs and not others. Rock and Roll was very much like today’s country music where songwriters made the songs that would sell and musicians played what they were told to. The Beatles began playing songs that were commercially viable. This meant basic formulaic songs and covers. As they increased in popularity, they gained more bargaining power so that by the time Help! (the album) came out, they only had one cover and were able to add more experimental songs like “I Need You”, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, and “Yesterday”. The greater their popularity, the more control they had, and it’s evident as you go through Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The experimentalism of The Beatles (more often known as “The White Album”) shows the power they had been able to amass. They were the first major band to tell a big label that they would play what they liked and make it stick. This changed the way rock and roll worked from that day on. That’s not to say that the manufactured band had ended, but it meant that a band with good songwriting chops and a strong following was more important than record executives market analysis, and bands have used this to innovate ever since.
I really think that the best testament to the power of Beatlemania is that the 55 years of fanaticism it caused is only based on seven years of collaborative work. Four Generations have grown up with the Beatles’ music and they are loved by members of all of them. Bands like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and U2 have been playing together for a much longer time and released a great many more albums, but have not reached the iconic stature of the Beatles. They have changed the state of modern music for their era, but still had less impact than the Beatles. Their fans and their impact stem from the inroads made by the Beatles and, while their impact is not cheapened, it is diminished by the fact that the Beatles had already planted their flag in those lofty heights first.
- Dreaming the Beatles: A Love Story of one Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield 782.4216 SHE
- The Beatles: All These Years by Mark Lewisohn 782.42166 LEW
- Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World by Steven D. Stark 782.42166 STA
- Beatles ’66 The Revolutionary Year by Steve Turner LP 782.42166 TUR
- How the Beatles Changed the World by Martin W. Sandler J 782.421660922 SAN
- The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull J 782.42166092
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Did you grown up singing along with the cast recording of Broadway musicals? If you are of a certain age, perhaps you did. My mother had many of them, and I enjoyed singing along, whenever I knew the words. Home was so very far away from New York in those days, so the cast albums (I’m talking old 78s and 33 1/3s) were the closest you could get to the plays themselves. This was before the internet, when many areas of the country only got three television channels. This was before cable. Yes, I am old. But I always remember how much fun I had listening to the musicals. And I know I am not alone.
So what musicals have been the most popular through the years, popular enough to keep bringing them back, that is?
1. Porgy and Bess (music by George Gershwin, book and lyrics by Ira Gershwin , based on the book by Dubose Heyward)**
Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935 on Broadway, and has been brought back to Broadway seven times! Part of the popularity is the story and part, possibly the larger part, is the music by George and Ira Gershwin. And it is the most revived musical on Broadway.
2. The Threepenny Opera (music by Kurt Weil, book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht)
The Threepenny Opera premiered in 1933; it has been revived six times. This play was adapted from the book The Beggar’s Opera written in 1728. This musical may qualify as being from the oldest extant source!
3. Show Boat (music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)
Before Hammerstein teamed up with Richard Rodgers he was famous in his own right. He just became more so in the famous partnership. This musical has also been revived six times. “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” are always show stoppers.
4. Peter Pan (music by Mark Charlap and Jule Stine; book and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)
Peter Pan is the fourth most restaged musical. I’m sure you thought it would be on the list somewhere! It’s a perennial favorite for all ages, and those of us old enough will remember that Mary Martin starred as Peter in the first show in 1954. She was the mother of Larry Hagman who became a star in I Dream of Jeannie, and became a megastar in Dallas.
5. Guys and Dolls (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows)
This musical premiered in 1950. Some from younger generations may be surprised that Marlon Brando starred in the film adaptation, singing and dancing. Nathan Lane starred in the 1992 revival. I’m sure that was a good one.
6. Fiddler on the Roof (music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein)
Next is one you probably thought should have been higher up on the list. The book was based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, telling the story of the Jews living in the Soviet Union and how they lived there. It first premiered in 1964 and was an immediate hit. The movie was wonderful, too.
7. Carousel (music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)
Now we come to the famous pairing of Rodgers and Hammerstein. This was the second play in their partnership. Oklahoma was the first, and it changed the way musicals were written and performed. Carousel only cemented their fame, and they were even nominated for a Tony award.
8. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents)
West Side Story is the eighth most popular revival. I’m surprised it’s not higher on the list. But perhaps because it was based on one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays was what made it so popular (aka Romeo and Juliet). You can’t go wrong with Shakespeare… It premiered in 1957, and was so popular it came back to Broadway three years later.
9. Pal Joey (music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Lorenz Hart, based on the book by John O’Hara)
The character and stories from this musical were based on short stories by John O’Hara that appeared in the New Yorker; he later published these stories as a novel. The play received mixed reviews from the critics, but ran for ten months, so it was popular. Not smash hits like with Rodgers and Hammerstein…
10. Oklahoma (music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)
Speaking of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma is the next most revised musical. This one was the first by the duo. This musical broke the mold. The singing was part of the dialogue, not just song and dance numbers interspersed in between dialogue.
Some people in the business aren’t sure all of the old favorites should be revived. Some of the shows continue stereotypes, while others deal with abuse or misogyny. And what about the revivals taking away room for new musicals to come to town; others have concerns about this possibility too.
In a November New York times article, Georgia Stitt, a composer, lyricist and musician, posted this on social media last fall as the 2017 season was being announced:
“With respect to the creatives who will be employed by these projects, I will say I’m concerned about a Broadway season that includes PRETTY WOMAN, CAROUSEL and MY FAIR LADY all at the same time. In 2017 is the correct message really “women are there to be rescued? It’s frustrating that the material people seem to want to throw their energy into is old properties where women have no agency, and then there is the real scarcity of women on the creative teams.”
–Georgia Stitt (@georgiastitt) November 22, 2017
Creative teams have sought to rework problematic classic musicals, either by changing wording (only possible with permission from the writers’ representatives), or by rethinking staging.
Critiques of My Fair Lady have focused not only on the show’s final exchange, but on the Pygmalion narrative itself. “Oh gosh, it is very, very sexist,” Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Eliza on Broadway in 1956, told an interviewer last year. “Young women in particular will and should find it hard.”
Pretty Woman, which will be staged for the fall 2018 season, faces different challenges, as a new musical with no pre-existing book or score. It will have a production in Chicago this spring and is then scheduled to open on Broadway in August.
Some artists think that there are a few musicals that need to be revived. What about Funny Girl, 1776, Titanic or A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum? Grand Hotel, anyone??
A few final words about musicals: This year Love Never Dies will be shown in North America for the first time. The sequel is set in New York, ten years after the ending of the Phantom of the Opera ends. It started in Detroit and now is coming to TPAC. And yes the music and lyrics are by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
** So what exactly do these musical terms mean? The music itself, often called the score, is often written by a different person than the person who writes the lyrics, (a.k.a. the words in the songs). Think of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Then think of Andrew Lloyd Webber or Stephen Sondheim. Both of these men often wrote the words and music for their productions. The book is the words, the actual story of the musical, sometimes based on a book, as in Phantom of the Opera.
- The 23 Most-Revived Musicals in Broadway History Since 1927
- 10 Musicals Due for a Broadway Revival
- The Problem With Broadway Revivals: They Revive Gender Stereotypes, Too
- Do Revivals Inhibit New Broadway Musicals?
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
We all know that Nashville is called “Music City” with all the concerts and venues that take place all over Nashville and Davidson County, covering so much more than country music these days, too. But, Williamson County is catching up and has quite a few venues that may interest you. From the annual Pilgrimage Festival to summer concerts to weekly and daily music venues, Franklin and Williamson County have much to offer!
If you want to relax and have a meal while listening to music, try out these restaurants in the area:
The Bunganut Pig does have a strange name but it has good food. It’s been in Franklin for over twenty years; there’s a sign out front that boasts the “best burger in town.” It is a laid back place to eat, with a varied menu. There is live music on the patio in the summer, and dance bands perform on the weekends.
Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant started in Leiper’s Fork as a small restaurant in the 1950s; word spread and now there are six area restaurants. The original one is still in in Leiper’s Fork, and next Franklin, then spreading out to Nashville, Columbia and Murfreesboro. Franklin also boasts Puckett’s Boat House, which is actually in a refurbished boat house. All of the locations have live music most days of the week.
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, is more than just a place to enjoy a good meal. It’s a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. With mismatched tables and chairs and an eclectic clientele of tourists, farmers, songwriters, and country music stars, it’s a restaurant serving up a dining experience unlike any other. It is even on the National Register of Historic Places in America! Founded by the Puckett family in the 1950s, Puckett’s served as a country store to several communities in Williamson County. From fresh groceries and a good southern meal, to a tank of gas and a place to catch up with friends, Puckett’s has become a staple in the Leiper’s Fork community.
Puckett’s in Franklin is focused on providing friends new and old with great food and Southern hospitality. They built a name on hosting live, local musical acts and serving Southern staples. They offer live music Tuesday through Saturday.
Puckett’s Boat House is in Franklin’s old Boat Locker at 94 E. Main Street; they offer by-the-shore dishes that are reminiscent of the Gulf coast and the Big Easy, plus Southern staples. They also offer an oyster bar and a wine bar. Every Tuesday through Saturday they offer live music.
Kimbro’s opened in 2005 as a pickin’ parlor by songwriter Ron Kimbro. In 2007 Will Jordan became a partner and changed it to a music venue. In 2014, Jordan became the sole owner. In 2013, Kimbro’s won second place behind The Ryman Auditorium for “Best Live Music Venue” in The Tennessean’s 2013 reader’s pole and second place behind The Bluebird for “Best Open Mic” in The Nashville Scene’s reader’s pole. In addition to incredible music, Kimbro’s also offers a fantastic menu of homemade foods from specialty salads to gourmet burgers, delicious sandwiches and fantastic sides. It also features more than 30 different varieties of imported and domestic beer and draft options are all made by local brewers; they also have a complete wine selection, mimosas, sangria and ciders.
The Whiskey Room at King’s Bowl at the Galleria is a relative newcomer to the area. Kings Bowl was founded in 2002 as a mission to create a new dining and entertainment experience that revitalizes the charm and nostalgia of bowling and other social games that have faded in America since their heydays. Not your average bowling alley, Kings Dining & Entertainment takes a restaurant-first approach with amazing scratch dishes from its chef-driven, award-winning kitchen in a classic retro environment. At King’s Dining & Entertainment, you can dine in one of three premium bars, on a 60-seat patio with fire pit and beer garden, or right at your bowling lane.
The Whiskey Room LIVE, part of the King’s Bowl complex, is a 120-seat entertainment stage with state-of-the-art audio and lighting. “Music is part of our DNA,” the owner said, and the Nashville area just seemed like an ideal location to introduce our first Whiskey Room and music venue.”
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers was established in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia as a single pizzeria; the headquarters are still there. This downtown restaurant has live music in the summer on the square. Sixty-Four, a Beatles cover band, will be playing every second Saturday!
The Gray Drug Co. was a landmark pharmacy here for nearly a century. In 2013, after careful restoration, the three-story Gray’s on Main was unveiled, honoring Tennessee’s cultural heritage through fresh spirits, flavors and sounds. The menu reflects the best of the South in food, with a focus on locally and regionally sourced ingredients. The second floor bar and music hall features live performances from the best musicians in the area.
The Pond is a local neighborhood bar with music; they also offer happy hour daily from to 7 p.m. The bar is for 21+ and they do allow smoking. And for those who like late nights, they are open until 3:00 a.m.
Arrington Vineyards opened its doors July 1, 2007. Since then, we have been providing a “wine country experience” of award winning wines set among the picturesque rolling hills of middle Tennessee. Arrington Vineyards hosts Music in the Vines every year from April through October every Saturday and Sunday. To view the entire schedule, check the event calendar. They offer two live music locations on the property; they host live jazz groups in the courtyard and live bluegrass bands by the Grand Barn. Both music events are free!
The Franklin Theatre was established in 1937, but time caught up with the theatre and in 2007 it closed. Thanks to a community wide effort, headed by the Heritage Foundation, the theatre was restored. It now shows standard movies, recorded music and now also has live music. Featuring well known groups and singers, the theatre has reclaimed its place in downtown.
Music City Roots, Live From The Factory is a weekly, radio show and webcast that revives the historic legacy of live musical radio production in Nashville. Broadcast on Wednesday nights from 7pm to about 9:30 pm, CST, Music City Roots showcases Nashville’s astonishing music scene, from country and Americana to more progressive interpreters of tradition — a “roots and branches” format that brings together fans of different tastes and generations. The show is broadcast live over WMOT/Roots Radio 89.5 FM from Middle Tennessee State University and webcast in Livestream.
Graystone Quarry in Thompson Station is just beginning to be an outdoor music venue and there will be outdoor music concerts coming soon!
And we can’t leave out the big annual music festival at Harlinsdale Farm! The Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival is become a well-known outdoor music concert. 2018 will be the 3rd year, and it continues to grow and have popular musicians.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
On more than one occasion, usually to no discernible effect whatsoever, I’ve admonished my own children as well as library patrons for seeing the movie before they read the book. I can’t do that with the titles in this blog, for the simple reason that a different medium preceded the book; to wit, this is a list of children’s books that were inspired by rock, pop, or folk songs. Turn it up, y’all . . .
It was immediately clear to me which book/song I wanted to start this blog with, for a couple of reasons. Bob Marley, the enigmatic and often misunderstood Jamaican singer-songwriter who achieved international acclaim before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 36, has long held a spot in my heart. His daughter Cedella has written five books to date, all based upon or inspired by her iconic father’s life and music. One Love and Every Little Thing (J E MARLEY) are both delightfully inspirational, and emphasize how one person can make a difference in this world, and that of course “every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Next up on my songs-to-books list is another transformative song that was also written and published in an era of revolution, war, and enormous historical and cultural changes to the American landscape. “What A Wonderful World,” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and recorded by Louis Armstrong, was not initially a hit in the United States; it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the president of ABC Records did not like the song and therefore did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart in 1967. The eponymous children’s book illustrated by Tim Hopgood (J E HOPGOOD) is just as sweet, hopeful, and uplifting as the song. (Author’s note: my very favorite writer of books for grownups, Michael Connelly, takes inspiration from this song for his complex protagonist Harry Bosch, and his next novel is entitled Dark Sacred Night, which is of course a line from this beautiful song.)
The brave and persistent Itsy Bitsy Spider from the children’s finger-play nursery rhyme is back, and on an even bolder adventure in this charming book written and illustrated by Iza Trapani (J E TRAPANI). She manages to survive encounters with a fan, a mouse, a rocking chair, a cat, and a gigantic maple tree, and is finally able to build her web and relax. Trapani’s rich watercolor illustrations and playful rhythm transform this simple song into a delightful journey to be enjoyed again and again.
Also from the fabulous Iza Trapani is her brilliantly illustrated Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (J E Trapani). While we have several different versions of the song-to-book rendition of this sweet little song, Iza’s is far and away the best of the bunch. (Pete the Cat’s version comes in second, because I love him so.) Just as in Itsy Bitsy Spider, this modern spin on the traditional classic will yield many hours of reading pleasure.
Last on this list is Puff, the Magic Dragon (J E YARROW) by Peter Yarrow, an American singer-songwriter who was one-third of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Yarrow once said, “Puff has appeared to me both childlike and wise, a king but also a willing follower of just about any bright spirit that inspired him. Puff gives his whole heart and soul to one special friend…One day, as you can see at the end of this book, a new and special friend comes to Honalee…In this way Puff and Jackie’s friendship continues through new children like you.” Both Yarrow and co-writer Leonard Lipton have adamantly and repeatedly stated that “Puff the Magic Dragon is not about drugs.” He has also said of the song that it “never had any meaning other than the obvious one” and is about the “loss of innocence in children,” and dismissed the suggestion of association with drugs as “sloppy research.” So, disregard that urban legend. The book is comprised solely of the lyrics to the song with no additional text, but the lush illustrations imply a new twist to the sad final stanza.
Come visit the rock star librarians at WCPL to check out these and many more music-related titles to enjoy during our Summer Reading Program—which is not coincidentally themed “Libraries Rock!” Happy Reading—
Librarian by day, aspiring fiction writer by night, and enthusiast of rock and roll 24/7/365, the author lives with her two children and four cats, not all of whom share her taste in music.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Library
Music and movies were two of the best and least expensive forms of entertainment during World War II. Ballrooms were packed as people got together to listen to music, dance, and forget about the Depression and the War for a while. Music pulled communities and nations together, and could be used symbolically to remind everyone what the soldiers and armies were fighting for.
Remember, there was no television yet, only radio, and people gathered around their radios to listen to news and radio programs, and the music they loved. Sometimes groups of people danced in living rooms, “cutting a rug,” others danced at school dances, in ballrooms and clubs. The famous Savoy Ballroom opened in 1926; it had a huge dance floor and a raised bandstand and was an immediate hit—that’s where the song “Stompin’ at the Savoy” came from. Prices were low; everyone was doing what they could to contribute to the war effort. It was a release to have fun and dance.
Many in Europe used Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as a secret code to show support for the Allies. The first five notes of the symphony are exactly the same at V (for victory) in Morse code – dit dit dit dah. Even though Beethoven was a German, he was known to have stood up for individual rights and was against Napoleon’s empire-building, which was enough for many Europeans. The Germans, under the leadership of Hitler, were big fans of Wagner, which made Wagner’s comeback after World War II take much longer than normal.
World War I vets had fallen in love with Paris, and the “Lost Generation “of the 1920s followed suit. Many soldiers had fond memories of Paris and wanted to remember France in better days. Starting with “As Time Goes By” (by Max Steiner) in Casablanca to “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein) showed that men fighting abroad and other Allied countries mourned the Nazi occupation of France.
As for popular music, Hitler was rumored to detest jazz – perhaps because it was played (written and sung) by non-Aryans? The response to this belief was definitely to listen to more jazz, jive and swing music. Big bands and swing music were popular before World War II, and continued to be popular throughout the war. It was a nice diversion from thinking about the war and worrying if your special someone would be coming back. This was the time of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman and their orchestras. Also included in this popular craze were Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. “Swing, Swing, Swing, Swing” was a popular song, instrumental with lots of brass. “Deep Purple” (not to be confused with the band that came later!–guitarist Richie Blackmore named the band after the song because it was his grandmother’s favorite) was such a popular piano piece that words were quickly written for the song. Other popular swing music songs were “Begin the Beguine”, “In the Mood”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Sentimental Journey”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Midnight Serenade”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.
Big bands became less and less big as there were fewer and fewer men to play the instruments. Glenn Miller was rumored to have been a spy for the United States. He was flying over the English Channel when his plane went down in bad weather in December 1944. No one on the plane was ever found. So we’ll never know if he was a spy or just a musician going to another USO gig to remind the GIs of home. The music of the 1930s and 40s will always be remembered as a background to war, and a time when all people of the Greatest Generation were connected by music and patriotism. The fact that swing keeps coming back is a testament to its beat, its popularity and a true sense of nostalgia. Read the rest of this entry