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The Song Is The Thing

My sister and I were talking on our way home from dinner tonight about how certain places owe much, if not all, of their fame–notoriety–to the record industry or particular artists within the industry.

We began brainstorming for all we could think of in five minutes time and this is what we came up with. The song on the radio was “We Built This City” by Jefferson Starship. Now I remember this song well, but just couldn’t put artist to it. It was the title and second line of lyrics that began our discussion.

I happened to say that in many ways Liverpool, England had been built in a very modern sense by the bands that emerged from the area in the sixties after the shipyards closed down. Without the Beatles and others after them, few in the U.S. would ever have heard of Liverpool or cared about it or its people.

All of which brought us to Detroit less than a decade earlier. Motown did for a later Detroit what Ford did for its earlier version. The names became synonymous. You couldn’t even think about the one without the other after a few years.

Nashville placed itself squarely on the map because some country western enthusiasts built a music hall there and called it The Grand Ole Opry and filled its stage with singers and musicians who played Blue Grass, Country Western, and Gospel. The music made the town what it is today and the money just keeps rolling in.

Memphis would still be a sleepy little river town if a boy named Elvis hadn’t settled there after hitting it big in Rock & Roll. ‘Course, the same could be said about the little burg of Tupelo, Mississippi. Without Elvis and his song, how many would know the name of that town.

The surfer scene didn’t become a piece of household trivia until the Beach Boys immortalized it with all of their songs. How many of those Iowans, Nebraskans, or Hoosiers would really have known or cared about “Surfin’ USA” without the band to tell ‘em all about it. I can still remember my mom dancing around the kitchen singing their songs with the radio.

Chicago took its toddling self out for a walk and made it all the way to the Big Time. Kids in school learned all about its broad shoulders and the stock yards, but the song really solidified its position in people’s minds.

And let us not forget Muskogee, OK, put on the map by one Merle Haggard. There might not have been a Country Music Hall of Fame there without him. Everyone knows about the Okies from Muskogee. The song went all the way to outer space.

Glen Campbell brought Wichita home for everyone to think about and coupled it with so many other towns and small cities of the southwest that it became a classic sung by many. Kids everywhere discovered what linemen were, too, which was an educational experience.

Don’t ever say that Winslow, Arizona is obscure. Everybody knows about its famous corner which, by the way, does exist and remains a popular camera shot.

New York, New York has its Broadway and extended theater district. The song has guaranteed that it will never be forgotten. The song states the theme, the attitude, and the multitude of possibilities within that city.

And think about it. Boston was once known for its Tea Party. Now it gets more press because of its POPS.

Isn’t it marvelous what a few musical notes, coupled with catchy words, can do for a place? I think each town, each group, should have its own song–a song that reflects its members, philosophy, and future. What do you think?

See you all soon. A bientot,




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