Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2004/ 1 Teves, 5765
There have been many silly songs written throughout the years, we all know the obvious ones, Maresy Dotes is one that instantly comes to mind. There's the Little Fishies (itty bitty poo), Shirley Bassey's The Name Game, Papa, Ooh, Mau, Mau, and tons more. These are definitely silly songs, but they are not stupid. They are fun little ditties with no hidden meanings, no deep messages. Just silly songs that don't claim to be anything else.
But then there are the "stupid songs" that pretend to be more than they are, and those are the songs that have driven me nuts for years. Some of these particular songs are pretentious garbage masquerading as high art, some could have been okay but for a bad line or two which pushed them over into stupidville, and some are just plain bad.
I have my own personal list of stupid songs. These are all tunes that have been (and continue to be) enormously popular - much to my bemusement. I didn't get them at the time they first came out and I still don't get them now. Time can often clear up what once was baffling -these particular songs, I'm afraid, have not gotten better with age, at least not for me.
"Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" is on the top of the list. Go to the dictionary and look up "stupid song" and the book will tell you to "see Raindrops Keep falling on my Head." The song was featured in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" - that famous scene with Paul Newman riding around on a bicycle with Katherine Ross on the handlebars. That scene may very well qualify for another column I could write entitled "Stupid Movie Scenes." I always thought that movie was overrated anyway.
"That's Life" was recorded by Frank Sinatra, one of my favorite singers. Unfortunately Ol' Blue Eyes had his share of awful tunes among all the great ones and "That's Life" is one of them. This song starts off well enough with what seems to be a pretty uplifting message. "You're ridin' high in April, shot down in May. But I'm gonna change that tune when I'm back on top in June." In other words, sometimes things are good, and sometimes things are bad, but don't quit because the bad times will be good again if you persevere. A very positive outlook.
The song goes on in that positive way right up until the end - and that's when the tune turns into a stupid song. The last line Sinatra sings is "If I didn't think it was worth a try I'd roll myself up in a big ball and die. My, my." That last phrase is such a downer that it totally negates everything he sang about up till that point. One line louses up the whole song.
For the longest time I thought that "Moon River" was a stupid song since I couldn't understand that whole huckleberry friend thing. I also never quite got who the singer was referring to when he sang of two drifters off to see the world - but I get it now. It's a song about two friends; a person and a river and the huckleberry reference is to Huckleberry Finn … I think. It's still a bit too esoteric for me, but I wouldn't call it a stupid song.
However, high on the stupidity charts is "MacArther Park." Yes, it's melting in the dark, and someone left the cake out in the rain, and all the rest of that claptrap. Actually, this is even worse than "Raindrops." Matter of fact, it doesn't even qualify as a stupid song - it is way beyond that. This idiotic song deserves a category all its own. If I can ever come up with the proper designation for it, I'll let you know.
"Scarbough Fair" is rated stupid because it just really annoys me. A true 60's theme song with all those spice and herb references, this is hippy music at its most insipid. When you listen to it, you can almost smell the pot. Love and peace, man.
I also include as stupid just about anything ever written by Bob Dylan and most of the stuff written by the Beatles after 1968.
Maybe I can't appreciate these songs because I'm not smart enough to grasp all the subtleties and deep meaning that runs through them. Maybe these are songs that are too high-level for me, too erudite, too way over my head. Or maybe these are simply stupid songs.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a
letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2004 Greg Crosby