With all the upheaval going on lately in my life, I realized I never quite got around to finishing the 30-Day Song Challenge over here on the blog! So, let’s lighten things up and take a look at the last songs of this challenge.
Day 22: A Song That Moves You Forward
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
How can one not have this song in their playlist? It’s the perfect song for getting all the negative energy and toxic relationships out of one’s life. It’s the ultimate “moving me forward” song.
Day 23: A Song You Think Everyone Should Listen To
“Taxi” by Harry Chapin
I think I’ve written about my dad’s love of Harry Chapin before, and this song is simply a *chef’s kiss* on top of an incredible career of one of the most underrated singer-songwriters in the history of popular music. It’s a bit of a long song, but the story it tells is kind of relatable (a taxi driver has a reunion with the one who got away when she hails his cab) and it probably brings up similar memories of ones who got away when people listen to it. The story goes that when Chapin was invited to perform it on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the reception was so incredible that Carson supposedly invited him back on the show to perform it again the following night…although the show’s archives do not show that it actually happened. But Carson did have him come back a couple of months later to perform another song called “Sniper”. Chapin ended up making 14 appearances on The Tonight Show between 1972 and 1979 (Chapin died in 1981). I remember watching Harry Chapin’s episode of Behind the Music and my dad was watching it with me. A bit of “Taxi” was played during the episode, and my dad actually said the line, “Harry, keep the change” along with the recording. The song proved so popular that Chapin released a follow-up single, called “Sequel”, in 1980. And one last thing about this song: the guy singing the bridge on this song (“Baby’s so high, she’s skying…”) also sings the bass vocals on another Chapin song, “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” (written about an actual truck accident that took place in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the 1960s) and also was the singing voice for Bluto in the movie Popeye (which stars Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall). His name is John Wallace, or “Big John”.
Day 24: A Song By a Band You Wish Was Still Together
“Monty Got a Raw Deal” by R.E.M.
A lot of my favorite bands overall are British, but my absolute favorite American band is R.E.M., followed pretty closely by the Eagles. Unfortunately, R.E.M. decided to amicably split up in 2011, but they left behind a catalog that really helped to define the sound of a generation. They were alternative before alternative was cool, they were game changers without the baggage and fad labels of grunge, and they made incredible music as a single unit, with lead singer Michael Stipe usually handling the lyrics, while the other three members (guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry) composed the music. R.E.M. has a lot of great songs in their catalog, but this album cut from Automatic for the People (possibly one of the best albums released in the 1990s) is one of my favorites. It’s a song about the actor Montgomery Clift, who was considered a sex symbol in his early career in the 1950s, but a car accident in 1956 left him severely injured and kickstarted an addiction to prescription painkillers and alcohol that ultimately contributed to his death from heart disease in 1966 at the age of 45. In addition, Clift was also closeted in his adult life, believed to be at the very least bisexual (although his friend Elizabeth Taylor would later refer to him as gay) in a time where being openly homosexual was not only discouraged, but often illegal. Michael Stipe might have used this information about Clift in writing the lyrics for “Monty Got a Raw Deal”, because a couple of years after Automatic for the People was released, Stipe came out as LGBT, although he did not put a specific label on his sexuality at the time. In a 2001 interview, Stipe would later clarify that he identifies as queer.
Day 25: A Song by an Artist No Longer Living
“Fashion” by David Bowie
David Bowie is another artist with an incredible catalog of songs, but I just absolutely love the groove in “Fashion”. It’s got a little bit of a disco element to it, but Bowie puts his own spin to it, and it’s got that coolness 😎 that he is so famous for showing on his records.
Day 26: A Song That Makes You Want to Fall in Love
“Angel Eyes” by The Jeff Healey Band
It may seem ironic that a blind singer (Jeff Healey lost his sight as a child due to a rare form of cancer, and it was cancer that would later take his life in 2008) is singing about making a woman’s “angel eyes” turning his way, but this song was actually co-written by John Hiatt (of “Have a Little Faith in Me” fame), who is sighted. But it was Healey who made this song famous. And every time I listen to it, my heart ends up aching because I want someone to feel the same way about me that he’s describing in the song.
Day 27: A Song That Breaks Your Heart
“Veronica” by Elvis Costello
I had picked this song for this challenge not knowing that my mom would pass away less than a month later. It’s been less than three weeks now since she died, but it’s already starting to feel like an eternity ago that she was here. It’s a void I’m learning how to live with. But Elvis Costello had co-written this song with Paul McCartney about Costello’s grandmother, Veronica, who suffered from the same disease that took my mom, Alzheimer’s. It’s relatable, at least to me, and it hits me in the jellies. I’m actually going to include both the music video and studio versions of the song, because in the music video he actually talks about what it was like being around his grandmother while she was living with the disease.
Day 28: A Song by an Artist Whose Voice You Love
“Cherry Wine” by Hozier
I think I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy listening to Hozier when I wrote about “Take Me to Church” in my post Losing My Religion. This song is another one from his self-titled debut album, and it touches on a subject rarely talked about: a woman abusing a man. (The music video also deals with the subject matter of abuse, but makes the woman the victim instead of the man like in the song.) The song itself is sad, but it takes true talent to make good art out of pain and suffering.
Day 29: A Song You Remember from Your Childhood
“I Can’t Dance” by Genesis
Seriously. This is one of the first music videos I ever remember watching. The music video is a spoof on fashion commercials and even works a little bit of the lyrics into the video (“…her dog’s talking to me but she’s out of reach…”).
Day 30: A Song That Reminds You of Yourself
“At Seventeen” by Janis Ian
The opening lines, “I learned the truth at seventeen / That love was meant for beauty queens…”, really resonate with me. I have something to confess about myself: I’ve never felt I was ever particularly beautiful, and the sad truth is that I’ve never had a man that I was attracted to ever tell me that I was “pretty” or “beautiful”. This is one of the few songs out there that really speaks out to the “ugly ducklings”, but unlike the story, I don’t think I’ve ever developed into swan…I’ve just become an ugly duck. Or, at the very least, a plain duck. It talks so much about how if you’re pretty, you get more advantages in life…but do they really end up happier? Whereas all of us plain girls get thrust into this world with nothing but dreams and we have to work for everything we have, from relationships to success and independence. And perhaps us plain girls end up happier than the girls who got by on their looks because we appreciate the effort it took for us to get there. “And dreams were all they gave for free / To ugly duckling girls like me…”
Thanks for sticking with me through all of this. And I hope you enjoy my song picks!