Go tell that long-tongued liar. #PlagueSongs, no. 25

This week’s plague song goes out to that long-tongued liar, his regime, and all who have enabled it over these past four years — whether actively or via silent complicity. The earliest recording of the song is from the Golden Gate Quartet in 1946, but it’s been recorded in many genres, by many artists, and under…

What’s that sound? #PlagueSongs, no. 24

This one’s for U.S. Election Day 2020, in which we address two key questions. Will the U.S. continue down the path of autocracy? Or will it commit to the work of rebuilding democracy? When 21-year-old Stephen Stills wrote (and his band, the Buffalo Springfield recorded) “For What It’s Worth” in 1966, America was in tumult….

This Mix Kills Fascists

I am posting to inspire those fighting for democracy in the United States, and anywhere else where liberty is in peril. It has two parts: Part I: This Mix Kills Fascists Part II: 3 Quotations to Keep You Fighting Part I: This Mix Kills Fascists Here is my annual “RESIST!” mix, featuring many genres of…

Banish sadness and strife. #PlagueSongs, no. 22

Bringing you the words of Buddy DeSylva and the music of Jerome Kern to — as the song says — “banish sadness and strife.” Written in 1919, this is the earliest in my Plague Songs series and the last regular weekly Plague Song. Appropriately, perhaps, this song dates to the pandemic of a century ago. Written for…

Mann, wer hätte das gedacht, dass es einmal soweit kommt #PlagueSongs, no. 21

The balloons are not red, and there is no toy shop. The narrator doesn’t dream of red balloons either. But, like its English-language counterpart (“99 Red Balloons”) Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (1983) is about an accidental, apocalyptic war triggered by 99 balloons. Luft means air, and ballon means balloon. So, literally, a luftballon is an air…

4′ 33″ #PlagueSongs, no. 20. AND 43 notes on silence, time, & the corona era

1 There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. — John Cage, “Experimental Music” (1957), in Silence: 50th Anniversary Edition (Wesleyan UP, 2011), p. 8 Philip Nel, guitar and vocal, Manhattan, Kansas, 26 July 2020. 2   John Cage’s 4’33” was first performed…

Can’t control my brain. #PlagueSongs, no. 19

Only five chords — in fact, the same I-IV-V chords played in two different keys (E and F#). Two and a half minutes. In sum, classic Ramones. I chose the song because it combines boredom and urgency: “Nothing to do, nowhere to go” and “Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane.” I think many of us…

Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline. #PlagueSongs, no. 17

When I started assembling my COVID-19 Spotify mix (at Boston’s Logan airport, 13 March 2020), R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” led the playlist. It still does. At that time, I didn’t think I would actually try to learn it. The music isn’t difficult, but what…

Live to see another day. #PlagueSongs, no. 16

This week’s #PlagueSong is more uptempo than last week’s, and not written for the acoustic guitar. Yes, it’s… the Bee Gees’ disco classic, “Stayin’ Alive.” This is one of the earlier songs I remember. As a child, I checked the Saturday Night Fever record album out of the library, and then made a cassette of…