Category Archives: Songs


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Relationship watchers across the galaxy are deeply upset and universally disappointed over the unexpected break-up of asteroid P / 2013 R3.

“I’m devastated”, said Haley Stalker, a pop culture romance maven who got word via Twitter that there had been another major parting of ways.

“After TomKat and Bennifer split so suddenly I promised myself I was done following stars. “They’re so unstable! P / 2013 R3 wasn’t flashy, but solid as rock, or so I thought”.

Friends of P / 2013 R3 were equally nonplussed. Telesto, speaking for all the moons of Saturn, said “We’ve all seen comets dissolve and meteors just vaporize, but asteroids have always represented commitment and solidity. We thought P / 2013 R3 was literally set in stone.”

The dramatic dissolution was caught on camera by a paparazzi named Hubble S. Telescope, who has a history of taking photos that show heavenly bodies in a brutally realistic light.

We may never know why P / 2013 R3 couldn’t hold it together, but the pain of parting has been captured over and over again in songs like this one:

What are some of your favorite break-up songs?

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Finally, something to bring us all together – the searing pain of wintry weather. It seems like just about every part of the United states is experiencing some form of frostbitten misery this week.

It’s enough to make even the most self-indulgent winter-smug Minnesotan finally feel understood. And while we’ve been trained not to say it, the temptation is irresistible. Especially if it can be sung:

Though the weather outside if frightful.
Winter suffering’s insightful.
Don’t believe us? Well now you know!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

While it’s true we don’t get typhoons here,
and we’ve just a few baboons here,
there’s calamity in the snow!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

Though we surely complain enough,
You’ve reacted like you didn’t care.
Mother Nature has called your bluff.
Now there’s frostbite everywhere!

Feeling sympathy’s not verboten.
We are all part Minnesotan.
Hypothermia leaves a glow!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

Ever say “told you so”?


Keeping the Customer Satisfied

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden at Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

Me and my buddies were talking last night about how weird it is that Bob Dylan’s electric guitar from the 1965 Newport Folk Festival sold for almost one million dollars.


Believe it or not, we studied this in class – how revolutionary it was to play a plugged-in instrument at a folk festival and how Dylan got booed for doing it. Our history teacher, Mrs. Barbary-Allen, said Dylan was a traitor and she hoped he spent the rest of his days tormented by remorse for the horrible thing he had done. Then she went on for a while about how Dylan couldn’t feel any remorse because he was the Devil and he killed Buddy Holly and threw his body off the levee from the back of a Chevy and there was no justice in the world and then told us to read chapter 7 and put her head down on the desk and wept.

It was kind of awkward.

We found later that Dylan left the guitar on a plane and ignored the guy who tried to give it back to him, so that guy’s family finally sold it and got all this money.

I bet someone’s feeling remorse now!

As high school sophomores, whenever some kind of real-world surprise comes along we’re always told to “let that be a lesson to you.” But in this one, we’re not sure what the lesson is. That’s why I’m writing to ask for you help.


Sugar, Um, High

So now there is research to suggest that people with lower blood sugar levels have better memories and superior brain health compared to those with high blood sugar. That’s serious stuff, and a great cause of concern for someone with an incurable sweet tooth (like me)!


But the comforting news is – I’ll forget all about this alarming food-health connection after I polish off these delicious frosted brownies.

There is a cliche that those who are disappointed in love can find some solace in a sweets binge. Maybe now we know why. Or as the famous Nat King Cole could have said:

Unforgettable, that’s what you are
Or at least until I eat this bar.
Chocolate chips that whisper ‘Yum’ to me.
Now your name does not quite come to me.
In a few bites, you’ve dropped from my sights.

Unforgettable, make no mistake.
That’s what you were ’til I had this cake.
A delight I used to share with you.
Now I’m stuffed, and unaware of you.
And that means there’s more dessert for me too.

What is your “comfort” food?


Music: The Most Powerful Art Form

Today’s guest post comes from Chris in Owatonna.

How many times have you been to an art museum, looked at a certain painting or sculpture, and started to choke up or cry, feel joy or triumph?

I certainly don’t recall any extreme emotional moments looking at art.

How many times have you looked at a photograph, read a book or a poem, watched a play, or experienced any other art form, and been moved to tears or other powerful emotions?

Once or twice? I’ll admit I’ve done that on rare occasions. A few years ago, I surprisingly choked up at the climax of The Help by Katherine Stockett. And yes, it was the book, not the movie.

Now, how many times has music brought you to tears of either extreme joy or great sorrow?

For me, dozens of times.

Right now, I bet some of you are saying, “Wait a sec. What about movies? Lots of movies make me cry. What about the ability of the filmmakers and actors to elicit such powerful responses?”

To that, I say try watching the movie with the sound turned off or the music edited out somehow. Example: the scene at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life where Harry makes the toast to “My big brother George, the richest man in town.” Everyone singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing sets up that line. Without the music, it’s just a happy party. The song signifies the town coming together for George and the apparent miracle that saves him. That’s why my waterworks start. The old cliché, “Cue the violins,” rings true because without an effective musical score, most movies would carry much less emotional impact.

This leads me to my point. I’ve stumbled across another one of those rare moments: a song that is arranged and sung so powerfully, so perfectly, that it stunned me into silence, then brought tears to my eyes. The last time that happened was the first time I heard Eva Cassidy sing Over the Rainbow on the Morning Show way back in February of 2000. I remember that day as vividly as September 11, 2001. It was just before 8:00 and I was cleaning up my breakfast dishes. Through the whoosh of the water, I heard this sweet voice and simple accompaniment. Mesmerized, I turned off the water, went to the living room, turned up the volume, and listened attentively. When she hit the last high note, then finished with that gorgeous chord progression and final arpeggio on the guitar, I melted. I couldn’t buy the CD fast enough, and when I got it, listened continuously for days. I’m sure I listened 100 times that first day, putting it on endless replay. By now, I’ve listened to Eva sing Over the Rainbow THOUSANDS of times. It can still make me cry on occasion, at the right moment for whatever reason.

This young man’s name is Sam Robson, and the performance I’ve linked of him belongs in the rarified strata of Eva’s best singing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I only wish he’d put it onto a CD so I could buy a copy. In the few weeks since I first heard this, I’ve listened at least 100 times and can’t get it out of my head. Please listen on your best speakers, or better yet, with a good pair of headphones. And no distractions or multitasking. Just soak up this most beautiful noise.

What music moves you to tears?


Waves of Blame

Frantic last minute maneuvers in Congress may yet avert a financial default by the U.S. Government.

Here’s hoping.


But anyone who cannot pay her bills should be prepared to offer an explanation. In the 1930′s, Popeye’s friend, J. Wellington Wimpy, had such an excuse as his catchphrase.  Though “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” would not convince many people to float a loan in 2013.

But I think a disappointing message is received better when it is sung, and it just so happens that Wimpy’s signature dodge fits perfectly into the lovely, lyrical almost-our-national-anthem “America the Beautiful.”  I couldn’t resist, although it feels like sacrilege to replace “purple mountains majesty” with what amounts an empty promise.  But I contend that these are only song lyrics, and they are not nearly as awful as what is about to happen to our real national finances.

Some party bull. Some outright lies.
Recurring waves of blame.
Our fingers point to other guys
And they point back the same.
America! America!
Has self-inflicted ills.
A deadbeat now. A bum, somehow.
Defaulting on her bills!

We’ll gladly pay you Tuesday
for a hamburger today!
We have to be selective
which expenses we defray.
America! America!
The budget is a tool!
Each party hopes the other dopes
will seem the bigger fool!

A manufactured crisis
is something that we still make.
The part that isn’t nice is
that it takes so long to break!
America! America!
I hope we can agree
next time to skip the brinkmanship,
and please don’t furlough me!

The original “Boy Scout” version of America the Beautiful has eight verses. I couldn’t come up with that many, but everything has been downsized since the sequester took effect.

In this case, that’s probably for the best.

Should some songs be off-limits to parodists?   If so, which ones?  

The Ballad of Bo Xilai

China is beating us in the race to build a high speed rail network – a contest many of us did not know we were in, not to mention losing. But there you have it – Chinese trains go faster on an ever expanding network of rails with robust growth among passengers. Before long they’ll be schlepping more people around their country on steel wheels than we do in ours using the old standbys – rubber tires, wings and airport rage.

But no matter how advanced they become in the bullet train department, one area where China will have a tough time overcoming us is in the realm of grisly railroad legends, particularly folk songs like “The Wreck of the Old 97″ and “Casey Jones.” Don’t get me wrong – I believe the Chinese people are capable of any achievement, but they’ll need a sudden surge in faulty equipment and careless operators to catch up to the standard we’ve set for putting the throttle down and saying “to Hell with it all” if it means the train will come in on time.


We are still the world leaders in Reckless Bravado.

The most recent Chinese character to emerge with that Casey Jones brand of swagger isn’t a railroad man at all, but the convicted, disgraced politician Bo Xilai. Apparently he embezzled, lied, bribed people and tried to cover up the fact that his wife murdered a British businessman. Driving a train into the ditch is apparently the only thing he didn’t do.

Come all you peasants if you wanna chat
about a reckless guy and a bureaucrat
Bo Xilai was that fellas name
And the party hierarchy’s where he played his game.

The Party people told him “You’re the man”.
He had proletariat in the palm of his hand.
He had the charm and skill and a rockin’ wife
with political ambition and a sharpened knife.

Bo Xilai. What an up-and-comer!
Bo Xilai. Indulging every urge.
Bo Xilai. Getting busted is a bummer
It’s a drag to be the loser in a party purge.

What’s your favorite tragic ballad?


Goldfish Bowl on Head

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano has written a blog post about the experience of having his helmet begin to fill up with water during a space walk. I think it’s fair to say this is a sensation most people will never know – the feeling that you are floating 240 miles above the Earth’s surface, moving at 17,000 miles per hour, and drowning.

It’s definitely not one anyone’s top ten list of things to worry about – or at least it wasn’t. Though I have this vague recollection that I’ve seen a cartoon where an astronaut’s helmet (Bugs Bunny?) fills with water and he watches goldfish swim in front of his eyes. Could that have happened?  Probably.


At any rate, it’s not hard in the year 2013 to find an image of someone with their head inside a goldfish bowl. Thanks, Internet!

In his account, Parmitano describes reluctantly informing mission control that something wasn’t right, suspecting (correctly) the ground controllers would respond by deciding to end the space walk early. He is told to head directly back to the airlock while his partner, Chris Cassidy, attends to some other details before joining him. At this point water is floating inside Parmitano’s helmet.

“… the Sun sets, and my ability to see – already compromised by the water – completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose – a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid.”

Parmitano has to wait for Cassidy to return to the airlock so pressurization can begin, and then he has to wait a few minutes more for the process to complete before he can remove his helmet. All the while the amount of moisture increases and he is losing communication with those outside his space suit.

“The water is now inside my ears and I’m completely cut off.”

I’m not sure how a person could manage to stay calm in such a situation, though one possible technique would be to sing a song.  Any popular song would do as a distraction, but the disc jockey in me wonders which song would be most appropriate for waiting to see if one will survive an outer-space helmet flood.

Here’s one possibility:

What song calms your nerves?

Sandy Samba

Ten years ago no one would have guessed that cheesy Wisconsin would become known for it’s abundant supplies of frack-ready sand.


The geology of the western part of the state (and southeastern Minnesota) features reserves of silica sand, with fine, tough, spherical grains that are perfectly configured to work in the process of hydraulic fracturing, or Fracking. The sand is mixed with water and chemicals and injected into deep shale under high pressure to force open fissures that release oil and gas – a dirty, violent process that stands in stark contrast to the charming images Wisconsin is known for – gentle big-eyed cows casually secreting dairy products.

If you are an excavation specialist or a fracking contractor, the Wisconsin you see has a special allure that has nothing to do with ice cream and curds. The western part of the state is a sandy beach littered with dollars.

For some reason it made me think of this famous lustful samba, done here by the tune’s author, Tom Jobim, and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.

This classic song transports me to a sweltering beach in Rio, which is odd because I’m not a big fan of beaches or sweltering, and I’ve never been to Rio. But with just a few word changes, perhaps it can get across a hint of the desire excavators feel when they consider places like Onalaska.

Stout and wide and slow and brown-eyed
The cows of West Wisconsin go walking
It makes me shudder
beneath each udder
there’s … sand.

Sand with grains so small and touchable
round and hard and so uncrushable
All from nature
It’s made by glaciers
this … sand.

Sand so abundant and fine it
makes me feel desperate to mine it
Here is a contract please sign it!
But I can’t tell the Mayor my goal.
He’s on someone else’s payroll.

Warm and tempting, nothing lacking
This raw material for fracking
I’ll make a killing
Each truck I’m filling
with … sand.

If you could have complete control over one natural resource, which one would you choose?

A Voice in the Choir

There was just one time when I looked up from my desk to find a movie star standing there waiting to talk to me.  Only once, but that was enough. It was Ned Beatty, whose birthday is today. He’s 76.

 Ned Beatty Sings
Ned Beatty Sings
Beatty is a character actor, and a good one.

He spends part of his year in Minnesota and somehow managed to get into the habit of listening to a daily radio program I worked on. He was in the office to talk to some other people about a film project and wanted to stop by to say “Hello”.

That was very kind of him, and memorable too. Obviously, since I’m still flaunting it today. Beatty’s “hello” resonated across the wide-open room, which makes sense because he claims in his bio he got into acting because he has such a loud voice.

Although his first show-business love, and his career focus now, is singing. Apparently, after several hundred film and TV roles as a character actor, Beatty has come full circle to the place where he started.

Beatty’s online bio says: “Singing was probably his favorite subject in school . He also sang in church, at weddings , in a quartet, ( they sang for their supper), the Louisville a cappella choir, and received a scholarship to Transylvania University to sing in their excellent a cappella choir, under the direction of Harvey Davis, a gifted musician and composer of modern Liturgical music. Ned loved to sing in that choir, but wasn’t particularly interested in attending classes in other subjects.”

And when I listen to him sing, I understand why he enjoyed to that show, since his music would have easily fit into our playlist. In other words, it’s not chart-topping material. He sounds like a straightforward singer, not one to add lots of showy embellishments. He sings like someone who got a kick out of singing in a choir – a singer interested in honoring the song and blending with the others, not necessarily in being in the center of attention or creating a spectacle.

Kind of like a character actor.

Are you a pop star, or a voice in the choir?