Ritland Daily Ramble #6
Quote of the day
Which do you prefer, music or art?
– Will Farley
Elvis and Bowie
Yesterday was the day of birth of both Elvis Presley and David Bowie. To celebrate I wrote about three of each of their “lost classics.” Read it here.
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Unfortunately today I heard the Four Seasons’ song “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Sure, it’s got that classic ‘60s sound, and I’d rather listen to it than all those new bands with stupid names that try too hard to be different, but it’s so lame. Songs can be lame and still be tolerable, or even good, if they have something else to go along with them (a great arrangement, solo, vibe, etc.). But the cheese of this song overshadows any of its redeeming qualities.
I do appreciate the quirky, girly falsetto of Frankie Valli’s voice though. In the early 20th century and before this type of vocalization was called using a “trick voice.” People would do fun stuff with their voices to entertain crowds. They’d make animal noises, imitate noises of trains and other objects, and do impressions and the like.
Sometimes this spilled on to record. The last of the blackface singers, Emmett Miller, used his trick voice to great effect over the dozen or so singles he released in his lifetime. If you think that blackface is simply a racist throwback to a backwards era, read Nick Toches’ brilliant book Where Dead Voices Gather to get a broader perspective.
Each of Miller’s songs are fun and worth listening to but his all-time classics are “Lovesick Blues,” which Hank Williams, a big Miller fan, made famous, and “Anytime,” his signature song. They’re fun throwbacks to a by-gone era and his chilling falsetto alone make them worth listening to.
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Contemporary (actual spelling CONtemporary): the current false (con), impermanent (temporary) beliefs, trends, and fads of a culture.
Example: Universities, TV shows, movies, music, the press, and the people that submit to them worshipped at the altar of the contemporary.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.